Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sunset at Le Phare des Baleines - the Lighthouse on Ile de Re

Sunsets - most beautiful from the Island
This post contains a lot of photos - but hopefully you will enjoy the beauty of this evening as much as I did, when I was there breathing and experiencing this amazing sunset.  As the lighthouse - Le Phare des Baleines is located on the western side of the island of Ile de Re, we decided that it would be most profitable to go there in the evening and watch the setting sun.  This particular evening turned out to be one of the most beautiful skies I have seen in a long time.
A little about Le Phare des Baleines (Le phare - French word for lighthouse).  Like most lighthouses, this one is very impressive and proudly stands on the rocky shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean.  This lighthouse of Ile de Re is situated in the small commune of Saint-Clement des Baleines and is the second oldest lighthouse in France.  The word, Baleines means whales in French.  The nearby point has historically been a place where whales have been stranded or beached-thereby eventually coming to be named Pointe (Point) des Baleines, giving inspiration to the town's and lighthouse's name.  

The lighthouse is a very popular tourist attraction with it's 257 step - spiral staircase and stunning views.  On a clear night one can see the distance of 27 nautical miles or 50km from the 57 meter tall tower.  It was designed by architect Leonce Reynaud in 1854 and has been a working lighthouse ever since.

We were more interested in viewing the sunset on the other side than climbing the steps inside, so we took a few family photos in the front and then walked around to the rocky shoreline to see the ever changing light.
You can get an idea of how beautiful this structure is and with the fading sunlight and sky full of blues, reds, purples and oranges - the light reflecting off the stone made it even more stunning.
I loved this backdrop of the horizon, the clouds and the colors to take a few photos of the girls.  The lighting was just so special and unique, I felt the need to take advantage.  Note the wispy clouds as they fade into the distance.
As we stood there watching the colors change, I couldn't tell you which was more beautiful...the sunset itself or the layers of wispy clouds that were filling the sky.  As time passed, a sense of peace washed over me and the colors became richer and then softer.  A beautiful place to be for the evening and a time to feel re-centered and in-tune with nature.
From these panoramic photos, you can see how vast and different the sky appeared as the sun itself dipped below the horizon.  The waves washing in along the shore added to this dramatic but peaceful feel, as we stood along the shore, breeze blowing through our hair breathing in the cool salt air of the evening.
Then one turns around and watches the colors wash over the front side of Le Phare des Baleines - the yellows, the golds, the reds - making the building softer in appearance but still so strong in function as the beaming light warns boats about the nearby shore.
And the sun went down and the colors continued to change.  We walked along the stone covered beach and watched as the skies got darker and darker.  Such a peaceful time of evening and a special time to relax and breath in nature at it's finest moment.
And a final look at this beautiful lighthouse shimmering in the evening glow as the purple lights show off this majestic tower.  I loved the beacon light on top and just the fact that it's named after all the whales that swim nearby, makes it a great place to explore.  A perfect way to see a stunning sunset and to end another summer evening on Ile de Re.

One more final post will be coming up shortly about Ile de Re sharing about the fortress town of Saint Martin en Re.  This may be a small island, but hopefully you can see there are some interesting places to see and of course great trails to cycle.  Have a great day!


Friday, August 14, 2015

More Ile de Re - Biking & the quaint village of Ars en Re

Good afternoon - It's Friday and it's raining here in Bordeaux.  It's a great day to re look at our week on Ile de Re which was full of sunshine and beautiful weather!  If you visit Ile de Re, you see that biking is the main mode of transportation on this island.  They have done a great job with creating bike paths through the vineyards, salt marshes and connecting all the towns. At times these bikes routes seem like mini-highways often crowded with cyclists.  

On Tuesday that week, we decided to bike to Ars en Re.  A small village located on the South Western coast of the island.  Remember that we were staying up on the Northern central peninsula, so this ride meant leaving Loix, cutting across the salt marshes and vineyard and heading back toward the main part of the island.  The ride was beautiful.

After about an hour of riding, we arrived in Ars en Re.  This ride could be done a bit faster but with a 7 year old and one who loves to stop and take pictures (yes, moi!) - it took us about an hour to cover about 12 kilometers.
We locked our bikes up at the port in Ars en Re and walked into town to find a restaurant for lunch.  The girls were all very hungry.  All the restaurants along the port were both expensive and full, so we walked further into the village.  Happily we found a great little cafe that served salads, hot dogs and bagel sandwiches.  It was both extremely reasonable in price and delicious!!

This was a great find and the servings were large and the food really delicious. I loved my Cobb salad - a French twist on the American version.  This one included boiled eggs, bacon, chicken, blue cheese and avocado. Tasted delicious after the bike ride.
My "American" girls enjoyed the hot dog and potatoes.

Also want share that a very refreshing drink here in Southern France for the summer is what's called a Monaco.  A Monaco is an equal mix of beer and Limonade (French equivalent of 7up or Sprite) with a little grenadine added.  It's both refreshing and cool on a hot summer day!

After our delicious lunch, we walked around the village and enjoyed the architecture.  The church especially is unique with it's black & white steeple - which can be seen from miles away!  Funny, side story, the girls spotted it as we left Loix and it seemed so far away that they thought it was the lighthouse on the island - Phare des Balienes.  I think if they had known it was really the church steeple and it was where we were riding, then they wouldn't have agreed to ride so far!!
After a leisurely walk around Ars en Re, enjoying the now common white buildings and sea colors, we got back on our bikes and headed back to Loix.  I had two stops to make on the way back.  The first - to buy some salt and fleur de sel (flower of salt) - and some gourmet salt mixtures - all wonderful for someone who loves to cook!

The second stop was to of course buy some Oysters (Les Huitres) to bring back to the campground for dinner.  One can purchase a dozen for about 6/7 euros, depending on the size.  They are super fresh and so delicious!  
The older girls decided to ride on back to the campground themselves, not wanting to indulge in the two stops but my almost 8 year old was happy for the breaks on the way back.  She certainly has tons of energy and did really well on the ride.  I was so proud of her!!

video
You can see on the video, how pretty the ride is through the salt marshes and even along the bay in the lower photo - it's just a really picturesque area!  For me there is just something so relaxing to breathe in the salt air and feel the cool breeze from the Atlantic Ocean.  It's definitely invigorating but at the same time so peaceful.  Each time I went out riding, I kept falling more in love with the beautiful natural surroundings and the pictoresque views of the island.
After our long ride - about 25 Kilometers/15.5 miles round trip - we all spent some quality time in the pool!  A great place to cool off and enjoy ourselves!  The kids had all made friends at the campground so were thrilled to meet up at the pool that afternoon.

And how did I end our evening?  With a glass of rose and those delicious oysters!!
A couple more posts will be following shortly - another great port town to show-called Saint Martin en Re & our beautiful sunset visit to the Lighthouse on the western coast of the island.  Wishing everyone a great weekend!!

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