Overcrowded Île de Ré

We left booking our island hopping campsites rather late and then couldn't get the last three islands in their order from south to north. So we ended up on Île de Ré, the island in the middle, first.

We booked Huttopia 'Wild Coast' as our campsite because we've been to nearly half of their sites and you know what you're getting. I think this site is a recent acquisition and I have been a little disappointed. The beauty of most Huttopia sites is that you get to pitch on a natural piece of land, pitches spread higgledy piggledy as they'll fit into nooks and crannies of the landscape. On this site a flat piece of land by the sea has been artificially divided into rectangles by privacy hedges. It's not how we like to camp.

Of course the site facilities are exactly up to the usual standard, as was the service and efficiency of checking in. A nice touch is that we were presented with a 20 euro gift card to use at the bar/restaurant to welcome is back and thank us for our loyalty.

This is our first time on Île de Ré, the smaller sister island to Île d'Oléron where we've been four times before. It has much in common with the larger island: buildings are small, usually one-story dwellings in narrow streets of small villages, the landscape is flat, and you can get about easily on the network of cycleways. The biggest difference we noticed was just how rammed full of tourists Île de Ré is. While you can cycle around Oléron and barely ever pass anyone else, here the cycleways are gridlocked with bikes. Our first-day cycle up to the northern tip of the island took two and a half hours instead of the one and a half suggested by Google Maps. The cycleway is big enough for two directions of cyclists but the sheer volume of bicycle traffic means it's near impossible to pass slow moving families, of which there are many.

And then when we arrived at the two beaches we've tried so far, they too are heaving with tourists, in stark contrast to the easy-to-find empty stretches of beach on Oléron.

Île de Ré is considered the more upmarket of the pair of islands. Prices are higher and you have to pay to cross the bridge to get there - a huge 18 euros. And yet, for me, it's the poorer relation. I can't wait to be on lovely quiet Oléron next week.

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