Friday, September 04, 2009

Interlude on the Ile De Re

Yes, I know. It's been a while. I've been busy with other things.

But we have just come back from a holiday on the Ile De Re and, knowing that it is a popular place for families, I thought I'd share some tips on staying there.

We have stayed at the Camping Interlude site in 2007 and 2009. The first time was with Eurocamp, the second with Canvas. Both times were in the standard tents. Prices are generally pretty similar between the two, but it's worth checking if you plan to go at the start or end of high season as their cut-off dates vary. This time round (19 August to 1 September 2009) we saved £100 by switching to Canvas.

Although both companies offer similar tents, we had a slight preference for the Canvas ones; they had the kitchen area in the back corner of the tent and separated the double-bed sleeping area from the single bed one so we weren't right next to the kids at night. The tents have camp beds (so you sleep raised off the ground), a fridge, crockery, clothes airer, grill and four-burner hob, 2-3 lights, and one spare (continental) plug. Outside there is a table and chairs, a couple of sun loungers, and a gas barbecue.

There's a tap on every pitch for drinking water, for hot water and toilets you need to walk to one of two sanitary blocks on the site. The one nearest reception (Ariane I think it's called) is bigger, older, busier, and smellier - it's cleaned 3 or 4 times a day but gets a lot of use in between. There are two sets of showers and toilets; the ones towards the back of the building are generally quieter. They sometimes run out of toilet paper and hand soap so it pays to take your own. The other block (Clair Matin) has bigger shower cubicles with more hooks and heating. Both blocks have laundry facilities - machines for washing and drying were 4 Euros a go in 2009.

There are two swimming pools on the site, one indoor and one outdoor. The indoor one is pretty deep (except for about a foot round the edges) so small children will need armbands unless they are confident swimmers. The outdoor pool has a larger shallow areas, but it is cold (about 21 degrees celsius vs. 28 degrees for the indoor one). Neither pool is supervised by lifeguards. Note that there's an unusual French law making it compulsory for men to wear speedos-style trunks (rather than looser bathing shorts) in pools. The campsite didn't appear to be enforcing this, so if you don't have a pair of tight trunks you may want to chance your luck.

The onsite shop carries a reasonable range of food - they bake their own bread and pastries (from frozen dough) throughout the day. However the prices are one and a half to twice as much as the Shopi in the nearest village (Le Bois Plage, about a 20 minute walk away either along the beach or turn right out of Interlude and then first left into Raise Maritaise - location of Shopi here). Likewise bicycle hire (an essential part of the Ile De Re experience if you haven't brought your own) is more expensive on site. There are three of four places that hire bikes in Le Bois Plage and prices between them are pretty similar. We'd recommend the outfit near to the Shopi, but you have to pay in cash.

Most people drive to the Ile De Re from the UK, but it's possible - as we have done - to fly to La Rochelle on the mainland from a number of UK airports including Stanstead (Ryanair) and Gatwick (Easyjet). We paid £270 for a family of four on Easyjet but booked well in advance. A Taxi from the airport in La Rochelle to Interlude cost 37 Euros in 2009 if booked with a company based on the island e.g. Beatrice Taxis ( email beatrice dot taxi at orange dot fr - in french ). Island residents don't have to pay the toll on the bridge linking the Ile with the mainland, so if you take a taxi based in La Rochelle they will add the (substantial) toll to the fare making it closer to 50 Euros. Alternatively there are regular buses from the airport to the Place Verdun in La Rochelle, from which you can change to a Ligne 3 bus to the Ile (the Carrefour Gros Jonc stop which is the roundabout at the top of the road where Interlude is sited). The first bus cost 1.20 Euro in 2009, the second 4 Euro (per person, one way. Meagre child discounts apply but only to day return fares). The Ligne 3 starts from the SNCF Railway station, which makes travelling by train feasible.

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