St Martin de Ré is St Tropez minus the footballer’s waives, where the women are dressed in Dorothée Bis and the donkeys wear gingham culottes.
Owner Olivia Mathé has restored a row of 17th century houses with hard graft and exquisite taste. It would have been easy to have raided Ile de Ré’s cutesy antique shops but instead she has gone in for the real thing. Guestrooms are more Paris than seaside, but even the smaller ones feel fresh.
Open the shutters in the Madame de Sévigné suite and the town is at your feet: daytrippers, housewives, fishermen and boats everywhere you look. In fine weather you eat in a tiny courtyard filled with geraniums, roses and sweetpeas.
Chef Thomas Urbanek used to do his shopping in Harrods Food Hall, but now he has the whole of the Charente at his disposal – even better.