Ile de Re – Poitou-Charentes, France

Nantucket with a French Accent

A recent mainland invasion of this small French outpost in the Atlantic— just 20 miles long and in some places only 200 feet wide—has done little to taint its unspoiled charm. You’ll see mostly local island people and in-the-know Parisians pedaling around the vineyards and potato fields, past oyster parks, vegetable gardens, and the local bird reserve. Genteel, old-fashioned, slow-paced, and surprisingly friendly, in this corner of France doors and bicycles are left unlocked, the bar­tender knows your name and preference, and young families fill the uncrowded beaches digging for cockles and relishing the island’s other petits plaisirs.

The architecture is plain, the outdoor markets every morning’s high­light, and irresistible seafood shacks serve mussels from their backyards, perfumed by a fire made with pine needles, Ile de Re’s cover was temporarily blown a few years ago when the aging French rock star Johnny Halliday abandoned St. Tropez for the scene-free low profile of lie de Re; islanders were relieved when boredom soon drove him back where he came from.

Outsiders will find characteristic blissful low-keyed do-nothingness at the Hotel L’Ocean. This small, simple, but stylish place offers the island’s newest and most charming accommodations and has an excel­lent restaurant. Pick your lobster from the tank, sit outside, and make plans to extend your stay indefinitely.

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