Lodge ranking: The Lodge Toiras, Ile de Ré in France

Words from Nicola Ferlei Brown

The Ile de Ré is a relaxing oasis on the west coast of France, just hours from London. With a flight from London to La Rochelle and a short drive over the Ponte de Ré connecting bridge, you can order fresh oysters, drink local white wine and discover many hidden luxury goods in no time. It’s the St. Tropez of the West, so a rich niche in the Charente Maritime department.

It’s an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and feels like a country far away. Local families ride bicycles, with no rush or fast cars, it’s a slow pace, and aside from two wheels, walking is the preferred mode of transportation wherever possible. In St. Martin de Ré, the island’s capital port and most popular spot on the Ré, your car is not allowed to enter the port without a pre-established code in order to take you past obstacles. Although parking at this point is free for about an hour for tourists and locals living at or near the port, they do have access codes.

Photo credit: Hotel Toiras

It’s no surprise that it’s a hot spot for discerning Parisians chilling out in their second homes, given that you get about as many hours of sunshine here as on the Cote d’Azur, the French Riviera. Along the quay, stylish locals sip coffee and cocktails, soak up the sunshine, and a handful of Anglaise stroll around, and it’s not overcrowded or touristy as the majority of visitors are French.

The idyllic and untouched island is steeped in history and full of old streets. In fact, England and this island go way back. The English nobleman George Villiers, also known as The Duke of Buckingham, attempted to capture the fortress of Saint-Martin-de-Ré in 1627, which opened the conflict of the Anglo-French War. A French royal force of 1,200 infantrymen and 200 riders under the Marquis de Toiras, the island’s governor, opposed the landing. After three months of fighting, Toiras managed to fend off the Duke of Buckingham, who was forced to withdraw defeated.

It was not his first victory, Toiras had fought against Soubise during the conquest of the island of Ré in 1625. For this he received the title of count and became governor of Il de Ré, which bestowed the highest military award on the Marshal of France.


Photo credit: Hotel Toiras

There is a five-star luxury hotel on the island, named after the heroic Count The Hotel Toiras. Ideally located overlooking the harbor, near the fortress (UNESCO World Heritage Site), it was once owned by the historic Gabaret family and has its own Rapunzel-style tower from the 17th century.

The owner Olivia le Calvez takes pride in the “art of hospitality” and invites you to experience her “art of living”. It’s always a good sign when you stay in a hotel and see the lily symbol, a major seal of approval from the Relais and Châteaux hotel association that has been assigned to hotels that not only stand out for their luxurious hospitality, but also focus on local ones Roots and history, with a focus on the sustainable Slow Food movement.

The interior style here is historical luxury. Le Calvez immerses its guests in the revival of leading historical figures, artists and explorers through fabrics, colors, antique furniture and local artisans. So it feels like you’re on some kind of big tour. If you fancy a good read, relax in the lounge with a burning fireplace and a cognac in hand and leaf through the history and art books of the Ile de Ré.

The sister property also has a spa with luxury beauty treatments, hammam steam rooms, a Norwegian bath, and a heated counter-current pool (open April through September).


Photo credit: Hotel Toiras

The interior of the “Maison du Port” was designed by the renowned architect Pierre-Yves Rochon. The suites and deluxe rooms are all curated with great attention to detail. Each room has its own bookstore, illustrated by the owner herself, with a bit of local history. For example, the Louis Suire Room is named after Louis Suire, a local painter from the Rochelaise School who lived in the nearby hamlet of La Rivière in Portes en Ré.

Connecting rooms and suites, ideal for families, have large soaking tubs, walk-in rainfall showers, Clarins products, and comfy beds made with Ralph Lauren fabrics. The Aziyadé Suite with a view of the harbor can be connected to the Loti Apartment, which offers a total of 110 m². The Duke of Buckingham is an opulent, red, 85 m² deluxe suite.


Photo credit: Hotel Toiras

Breakfast is a relaxing affair with soothing classical background music and serves international culinary options of a continental or American breakfast. There is also a garden area for the summer months. The ingredients didn’t fall far from the tree: Bellevaire butter made from locally harvested salt from the Atlantic Ocean, organic honey from local bees from the Ile de Ré and freshly squeezed breakfast juices made from oranges that were grown on the island.

The kitchen – the basket market – offers an inviting ambience and the details to feel good. You bring a wicker basket from the hotel to the port fish market and on your return the chef cooks your choice of ingredients. Another cute idea is Luncheon on the Grass, where the hotel serves snacks such as seafood platters or a selection of fresh goat cheese from the Ile de Ré region in the nearby gardens of the sister hotel Villa Clarisse from April to October.

La Table d’Olivia is the on-site restaurant. Chef Thibaut Peyroche d’Arnaud, who loves the sea, celebrates local ingredients and campaigns for “a cook an ingredient” and “slow food for change” to combat climate change. Wines and champagne come from Chateau Clarisse’s own organic vineyard, which specializes in herbicide-free grapes. 70% Merlots, 27% Cabernet Franc and 3% Carménère, Petit Verdot and Malbec, all grown in the prestigious Saint-Émilion region.

All in all, this hotel offers a lavish slice of luxurious island life in a great location with quaint craft shops selling local specialties and a selection of great wine bars on your doorstep. The icing on the cake is the late check-out.

In a nutshell

If you are looking for fantastic French cuisine in a historic setting with friendly locals, Ile de Ré has it all. The island is surrounded by sandy beaches and offers horse riding, sailing, surfing, golf, great boutiques and, for cyclists, a network of bike paths (Yélo bike rental or your own). An ideal option for a vacation in spring / summer 2021. And if you love fresh oysters, the Ile de Ré is the place for you!

Fact box

Rooms can be booked from £ 250 pppn.
Address: 1, quai Job Foran 17410 Saint Martin de Ré, Ile de Ré, France
Phone: +33 5 46 35 40 32
E-mail: contact@hotel-de-toiras.com
Website: hotel-de-toiras.com

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