The charming Île de Ré—often called France’s version of Nantucket—beckons with its windswept beaches, fresh seafood and breezy bike paths. The mastermind behind two of Ré’s top hotels, the Hôtel de Toiras and Villa Clarisse, Olivia Le Calvez has an innate talent for preserving a property’s sense of place while also imbuing it with contemporary flair. Here, the stylish Parisian shares her island picks and tips.
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What made you fall in love with Ré?
Its beauty, purity and very preserved landscape, with over eighty percent protected. Also, my husband Didier is from here [his mother was the mayor for years], so we love to take our three children. There are plenty of activities for the entire family.
What is your vision for the hotels? De Toiras, located in a 17th-century ship-owner’s mansion, was restored in a traditional local style, very cozy in winter, with great views on Saint-Martin’s harbor. Villa Clarisse, meanwhile, is extremely peaceful with an all-white design scheme. It occupies a former monastery, so has an ultra-serene ambience but is still located in the center of town.
Le Bistrot du Marin
, in Saint-Martin, for delicious fresh oysters; La Baleine Bleue, a landmark for many years; and Le Taxi Brousse, near La Couarde, in the woods by the sea. I also love the nine-hole golf course at Les Portes en Ré and many boutiques in Saint-Martin (don’t miss Comme Ça Les Filles). Off-island, the Musée du Nouveau Monde in La Rochelle is worth a visit.
What should first-time visitors do? Bike along one of the 100-kilometers of bicycle paths, stopping to sample oysters directly from the producers in the salt marshes with, of course, a glass of our own wine, Château Clarisse.
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