First of all I would like to recommend the website produced by the tourist board for Ars- en- Re because it probably paints a better picture of the village than the one I am about to. It is at http://www.iledere-arsenre.com/accueil.php
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not going to say anything bad about the village, but I do not think it merits the accolade of being one of the most beautiful villages in France. It is pretty and it has the sea and the harbours, the marshes and a very distinctive church, but so do many other places. We stayed in St Martin de Re which I thought had the edge on Ars en Re, and I will put out a post on that village shortly. I am also aware that to qualify as one of the most beautiful villages in France the population should not exceed 2,000 and St.Martin has a population of 2,500 ish.
I should also point out that we visited it on a very cold and windy Saturday at the end of October 2012 so that might have downgraded it in my mind by a few percentage points.
The church is quite spectacular and it’s 15th century black and white gothic spire can be seen from various parts of the island. It also has a very impressive Romanesque (12th century) arched door though as is often the case much of the sculptured figures that once adorned it have now been eroded . It is called L’Eglise St Etienne and when we visited there was a small gathering of locals attending a service so I had a quick look inside but did not disturb the gathering by taking photos, except for one of a tapestry which was in the entrance. The interior of the church is quite ornate and you can see more photos by visiting Ile-de-Re-Saint-Etienne. I took some photos from the village square and others using a telephoto from across the water at the wild life reserve.
In the village is the 16th century Maison de Senechal which is the residence of the Governor of Ile de Re and which looks quite attractive and little white houses with brightly painted shutters and doors. There was even a hollyhock still in flower in late October. I expect that in the summer it is awash with them. There are two ports and lots of yachts and the marshes are a haven for wild life especially birds. Salt is produced in this region and I would have liked to have got out and visited some of the salt pans. These can make for very interesting photos
I am sorry Ars-en-Re but I visited on a bad day and was not greatly inspired. I will have to come again.
To see our posts on other villages that are designated as the most beautiful villages in France click here.