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Ile de Ré

Île de Ré (formerly also Île de Rhé; in English Isle of Rhé) is an island off the west coast of France near La Rochelle. Administratively, it is part of the Poitou-Charentes région and in the département of Charente-Maritime.

The island is 30 Kilometers long, 5 Kilometers wide and connected to La Rochelle on the mainland by a 2.9 Kilometer bridge, completed in 1988.

The area is a popular tourist destination. It has about the same number of hours of sunshine as the famous southern coast of France but always has at least a light breeze blowing and the water temperature is generally cooler. All around the island are gently sloping sandy beaches which is a real treat for families with kids.

The island has about 16,000 residents in winter and about 160,000 in summer but as they are distributed all over the island it never gets too crowded. The island is covered by bicycle tracks which contributes towards the fact that a large number of families hardly use the cars that they came over with. Camping grounds and hotels abound and with a few large supermarkets and all modern amenities, it leaves you wanting nothing. Most families do not get off the island until the end of their vacations.

Night life consists of going to Saint Martin, the main port, or La Flotte to walk along the quays, potter around the shops that are open very late, watch the buskers, have a drink, and above all enjoy the delicious artisanale ice cream -- and you can do it with all of the family. The island has its fair share of celebrities including Lionel Jospin, Prime Minister of France (1997-2002), who goes there regularly for his holidays.

Oysters, fresh fish and the tradition where the fishermen sell a small quantity of their catch directly on the quays when they get back, to buy a drink. Markets on a daily basis in the main towns where you go not just to buy but to look, taste, chat. Even the vendors in the markets come here on holiday because they work only in the mornings and then enjoy themselves the rest of the day. Comics, African articles, clothes, artefacts, food, tools everything for all tastes.

Nearby Fort Boyard, an ancient maritime fort, is nowadays used for a television game show series of the same name.

Saint Martin was fortified by Vauban in 1681 and used to be the depot for convicts on their way to New Caledonia. In 1627 the island repulsed an English invasion force after a siege of three months.

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