UPDATE JUNE 2005: Yes, it is Porte de Toiras !!! --> Still can't say exactly the name of this gate. I have a doubt but I think it is Porte de Toiras. It's either "Porte de Toiras", either "Porte des Campani". The difference... La porte des Campani is an entry to the Western area of Ré (towards La Couarde) whilst La porte Toiras enables you to head to Eastern area (whose main town is La Flotte). Check my scanned map of Ile de Ré...
I doubt it still serves its initial design. Looking at it, you could understand (without explanation of a guide) it was an important element protecting the access to the territory.
Look at the following pic, this was taken from the cobblestone paths in front of the gate.
Fondest memory: This seems to be a simple gate but backside is quite impressive... with a kind of grill and huge screws... again, because I was sent back in old times, imagining the past, I didn't take any picture of those elements.
Now, enter the gate and you will find again the Saint-Martin picturesque villages... white chalk houses with green shutters and doors.
We parked our cars near the gate and went seeing it. I think there was a plaque.
Also pay attention to not making too much noise, seems like we were there at 6 pm, but a lady in pajama opened her shutters to see us parking our cars. Was she sleeping already? Anyway, the village was really calm.. quite desert.
I felt the serenity of the place... I was taken back in time looking at it and seeing the remparts in St-Martin area, seeing the "fosses" in following picture.
Probably time to tell you about the whole military architecture in Saint-martin.
The portes, Toiras and des Campani, were in fact the entries to the territory in the past. They are part of fortifications that had been built centuries ago. Because he knew about the English authorities' intention to invade La Rochelle or Rochefort from Ile de Ré, Louis XIV decided in 17 century to strengthen the forts and remparts on the island. Vauban was then in charge of this mission. However, because it would have taken 70 km to fortify the whole island, it was decided to fortify Saint-Martin en Ré only. Still, some 12 kms to build.
Works began in June 1681. Supervision by engineer Augier, following the plans drawn by Vauban and Ferry. Ending in 1692. Thousands of persons were reported to have participated in the works.
Only when you look at a detailled plan of St-Martin military architecture, you can see the enclosure walls, the forts. I only saw the portes when touring St-Martin... not the forts. The portes are the sure sign of evidence of their presence. Here, you have the semi-circular areas in front of the gates.
Also, don't miss the citadel, part of the fortifications Vauban and clique undertook. In fatc, you would surely miss it... It is a place not to visit. Even, you wouldn't notice it from the road. My cousin showed it to me, as a prison... but it sure served as a place where to gather convicts who were to be sent to Guyane and Nouvelle-Calédonie.
Seems that guided tours are possible, better contact Office du tourisme de Saint-Martin de Ré: + 33 (0)5.46.09.20.06 (phone) OR
OK, you may check this too (in French):
Fondest memory: VAUBAN: Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban (1633-1707) was Commissaire général des fortifications under the reign of Louis XIV. He was a military engineer.
OK.. this link wouldn't help you unless you speak French but it does interest me... so I keep it here: http://echo.levillage.org/205/3176.cbb
And even, in case, you read French, you may not be interested in knowing about Vauban at all. Oh well! I am interested in it, so....
This would be the only scanned postcard in my pages. I found it important to locate Ile de Ré.
It is a small group of islands that is linked to La Rochelle mainland thanks to a bridge. The bridge is 3 km long and was built in 1988. The bridge is built from the trading port of La Pallice. I drew in fuschia pink the link between the two regions. Enlarge the pic to see it.
The islands that are linked to each other are Ré, Loix, Ars-en-Ré and Les Portes.
L' île de Ré is rather small with its 32 km length and 5 km width. At some points, it can be of only 100 m width (Martray area for instance). L'île de Ré is edged with sandy beaches to the southwest, salt marshes and oyster beds to the northeast.
Villages that spread out on each side of the coast have one thing in common: the narrowness of their streets. Those alleys go through the villages, the residential areas.
Fondest memory: A bit cliché but it's still the white walls and green shutters as well as this bright light.
Some charming white houses with light green shutters and windows. Also, they have this particular plant in those alleys: the hollyhock. Most of time, some hollyhock plants are the only ornaments in front of those white walls given the narrowness of the alleys. For me, this is the charm of "urban" Ile de Ré. For that reason, bicycle seems to be the most appropriate transportation means while browsing those alleys.
As for the beach side, desert beach if you go there during low seasons.
I loved the pinewood forests too. They are, on Ile de Ré, really protected. I know people who bought plots of land on which are pinetrees, grass. They can't build house there, either even camp there. The only thing they can do is pick-nicking... but auhtoritiesare very strict about preserving this foliage and greenery.
Also, unbelievable and really atmospheric: l'abbaye des Châteliers...
My stay in Ile de Ré was very short, one day.. but I ensure you it was delightful. The archipelago is small enough to be browsed in few times. Yet, I would recommend some days to taste local life in those villages, to have excursions in salty marshes, to visit wineries, to lay on desert beach (on low season), to try green oysters.... Many things for pampering, relaxing, some sport (cycling, hiking, swimming, beach activties incamping sites.
Above all, walk along the beach, or go there with a book and enjoy calm, serenity.
St- Martin is the island's capital. It is a North coast fishing port. As for landscape, it has some whitewashed houses that are clustered around the stone quays, La Poithevinière for instance. On mornings, flat-bottomed oyster boats download their cage-like devices used for "growing" oysters, from the quays of the harbour.
This capital has some boutiques with international brands (Versace,...), is packed with prettty good restaurants. In fact, it is a destination for the wealthy ones. Not that it is really expensive, it's more related with the media hype the island has.
Fondest memory: Strolling on St-martin quays, have some drinks on terrasses... Also seeing the entry of the harbour, the remparts and imagining the past of this area.
Walking on the dam, sitting there to hear the lapping of the waves when touching the pontoon. With those yachts, with the bright young things around, making their pic group... And not that far, some kind of fishing boats in nearby... Pleasure and work in same area..