St Martin de Re named for the Patron Saint of Tours is the capital of the Ile de Re. It must be one of the most complete and well preserved walled cities on the French Atlantic seaboard, not excluding La Rochelle. It's defences were designed and built almost 400 years ago by the great military engineer Vauban because of the English marauders of the day. In the centre of the harbour, which is now a yacht marina with local fishing boats, is a little island reached by a causeway. The harbour is completely landlocked apart from one fortified exit, and lined by cobbled quays and traditional restaurants, ship chandlers, up-market ladies' dress shops, even coutouriers and low rise luxury hotels in ancient buildings. Apart from the lack of mountains in the background the whole scene could have been plucked from one of the more intimate, less well known harbours in the Cote d'Azure. The sunshine record here is almost as good and the local fish and sea food much more prolific and fresher. Le Belem is on the landward side of the harbour facing the little island and intervening yachts and fishing boats. The Carte ranged from enormous Moules Frites, through wonderful salad dishes, to mouth watering and visually appealing whole fish dishes. My wife and I having dined too well for several days were happy to lunch on 2 different salad dishes and a litre of San Pellegrino. My wife's was thinly sliced smoked duck with slices of delicious goat cheese. I chose the Salade Belem, crab meat, large chunks of lightly grilled salmon fillet and chunky but peeled crevettes with a vinaigrette dressing on a green salad base. We are both big but selective eaters and felt satisfied. Our waiter spoke moderately good English but flattered me with a French discussion as to the merits of fish in the Med and the Atlantic. Not surpringly we heard more English speech here than in some parts of the world, possibly 10% of the clientelle, the remainder seemed to be French with some Dutch visitors or expats.
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