If you want to rediscover life’s simple pleasures, head for the Ile de Ré. Laura Fowler gets a kick out of horse riding, cycling and fresh air on a short break to France’s favourite holiday island. As you cross the bridge that arches over the Atlantic from France to the Ile de Ré, the air changes, becomes clearer, brighter, luminous. A land with photogenic villages, old ports and sandy beaches – is small enough to cycle round, or to explore on horseback.
It is a picturesque place. Elegantly weathered buildings are arranged around a star-shaped port, outside on cobbled streets, old bikes and 2CVs are parked, and restaurant tables are set out for dinner. (This picturesqueness has been carefully cultivated by the local council: no overhead cables or new construction are allowed. Shutters can be painted one of 16 shades: eight of which are blue, and eight green. Everything is protected: the entire town is a UNESCO World Heritage site.)