The Ile de Ré is just off La Rochelle, and we asked our friendly coffee-roaster what we should be sure to see there if we only had one day. Don't miss the Phare des Baleines, he said; the whale lighthouse, so off we went and made this our first stop, and drove to the far North-West tip of the island.
The lighthouse is so called because of the number of beached whales that used to arrive there, not for any whaling station or the like. The museum in the lighthouse is interesting enough, and the views from the top are spectacular. These pictures show the general view back down the island, and the old, shorter lighthouse that was superceded.
We stopped off for lunch at La Flotte, a small town that must surely be inundated with tourists in high season. Most of it was pedestrianised, the streets being mostly too narrow for two vehicles, and the roadsides were lush with flowering plants growing from whatever space they could find between the pavement and house walls. I was particularly impressed by the Hollyhocks. They grow like weeds at my place, but I have to spray them against rust. Here, they were free of disease; I wonder if the salt air has something to do with it?
The island generally is flat; it might be the perfect place for a bike-based holiday and a more intimate, slower exploration.