Having lived in France for five years I had heard about the Ile de Ré and La Rochelle as tourist destinations for rich Parisians with second homes, but had never had the opportunity to see for myself what was so special about this area of France. I was not disappointed.
The aim of the trip was to find out what the Poitou-Charentes region had to offer in terms of eco-friendly tourism. Let’s be honest environmentally-friendly usually rhymes with Yurts, earth toilets and the infamous French campsites. So, as you can imagine, the idea of the trip may not appeal to all. But I would like to say to those sceptics – You are wrong!
Our trip was a mix of gourmet restaurants, high standard hotels and fun activities, all with an eco-friendly link. Our transport around the town of La Rochelle was electric cars and walking and on the Ile de Ré we tried some of the 130km of cycle paths = green travel. The restaurants showcased organic, locally-grown produce with an emphasis on their wonderful seafood. And our European Eco-Label hotel (Le Peu Breton) in Sainte-Marie-de-Ré was like any
other high-quality hotel, except they take the environmental impacts of the establishment very seriously.
Our activities included sailing – a must anywhere around those parts – horse-riding, walking, climbing (up a lighthouse) and cycling (to the market). But the highlight for me was definitely the aquarium in La Rochelle. Home to over
12,000 animals, their educational and awareness programmes, mean that this is a business which is trying to make a difference.
So, what do I think of La Rochelle and Ile de Ré now? Are they still only for rich Parisians? Do you need to go back to basics, just to be eco-friendly?
Me, I loved the area, and not only because of the fabulous weather. It oozes that holiday feeling. It’s beautiful, relaxing, charming and easily accessible from the UK. No, you do not need to break the bank to go there. And, no, you
certainly don’t need to use earth toilets and sleep on the floor just to be environmentally aware.
It gets my vote for France’s best green destination, but does it get yours? Think you know somewhere better? Post your comments below.
For more information about the Poitou-Charentes area visit: holidays-france-atlantic.
I travelled by Eurostar to Paris, then TGV to La Rochelle (only one change in Paris). Trips can be organised via Rail Europe: raileurope.co.uk.