There’s an island off the Atlantic coast of France that’s a favorite destination of weekending Parisians. Just a few miles from the pretty port of La Rochelle in the Poitou-Charentes region, the Ile de Ré is ringed with more than 18 miles of sandy beaches that bake in the sunshine more than 300 days of the year. The island is flat, so it’s ideal for biking, and as you peddle the network of bike paths, you’ll pass historic lighthouses, the salt marshes, and villages with hollyhocks planted next to the whitewashed houses with their distinctive colorful shutters.
St Martin de Ré—the island’s major village, and a picturesque one at that—is surrounded by fortifications built by Vauban in the 17th century. There are some excellent restaurants and boutiques here, not to mention one of our favorite hotels in the region. Le Clos Saint-Martin is set in beautifully landscaped gardens fragrant with flowers. With white walls and tiled roofs, the hotel’s architecture is distinctive of the region.
Under new ownership since 2006, the hotel has been expanded and renovated. You’ll find two pools (one for adults, one for families), a bar area, and a gorgeous spa by Clarins. The 33 guest rooms are decorated in the island’s neutral colors (like white and beige). We particularly liked the suites with terraces directly next to the pool. There is also a private, six-bedroom villa that is ideal for a large family or groups of friends. A four-star hotel, Le Clos Saint-Martin is cherished by clients who come back year after year. For more information, visit www.le-clos-saint-martin.com