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Les Portes en Ré, a village to discover…

The last village on the island, its origins go seemingly back to the 11th century, though the entirety of its archives were destroyed in 1793. The creation of the salt marshes brought about a rapid build-up of the population during the 15th century. The settlement of Portes d’Ars, so-named because of its natural access to the Island of Ars, then separated from the Ile de Ré, became a parish in 1538 and retained the name until the 17th century. Les Portes acquired the status of a mayoral commune in 1790 and reached its peak population in 1851 with 1203 inhabitants, falling to 365 inhabitants in 1946.

  • The Church of St Eutrope
    In the heart of the village, the church of St Eutrope, dating from the Middle-Ages, has retained its simplicity and purity of line.

  • The Redoute Chapel
    Built in 1674, it is located on the site of an ancient Vauban redoubt.

  • The Redoute Chapel
    Typical Rétais village, visitors will wont to stroll along its alleys and lanes, where hollyhocks grow beside houses with green shutters.

  • L'impasse du Gorgebleue
    One of many village flowered alleys and cul-de-sacs; the ‘bluethroat’ bird, related to the robin, is to be found in the salt marshes in spring.

  • La place de la Liberté
    Unmissable, the village centre and meeting place is La Place de la Liberté with its several shops and restaurants. There is a popular daily market in summer, well worth a visit.

  • The Wells
    There is a great number of old private and public wells that once played an important part in the life of the community. With their varied sizes and unusual construction, they add to the charm of the village.

  • The Lilleau des Niges Nature Reserve
    Situated in the centre of the Fier d’Ars bay and the northern salt marshes of the Ile de Ré, the Lilleau des Niges nature reserve hosts one of the most remarkable flora and fauna of the wild life heritage of the Atlantic coastal marshlands.

  • La Maison du Fier
    The Maison du Fier (Nature House) is located in the long-standing salt barn of the old port of Les Portes. It is run by the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO). It houses a ‘living museum’ dedicated to nature, with numbers of exhibitions, film sequences, organized educational activities and children’s workshops. It offers guided nature tours and observation sites.

  • The Patache Beache
    To be found beyond the forest of Trousse-Chemise, the word ‘patache’ derives from the customs boats that controlled the comings and goings of the salt-laden craft.

  • The Salt Marshes
    Areas devoted to the production of salt by the evaporation of seawater under the effects of sun and wind; in recent years apprentice workers have been trained to revive this hitherto abandoned trade. Salt is once more a prime regional product.

  • The Forest of Trousse Chemise
    Celebrared by a song of Charles Aznavour, the forest of Trousse Chemise derives its name from the tradition that inhabitants would pull up their trouser legs in order to cross over from Les Portes to Loix at low tide.

  • Tidal Fish Pens
    These are fisheries that work on the principle of trapping the fish as the tide goes out. They are built of horse-shoe-shaped dry-stone walls. They represent a vestige of the fragile constructions of historic Rétais heritage.

  • The Rivière Maritime Landmark
    Implanted at the summit of a sand dune at the hamlet of La Rivière, this unique and unusual edifice once served as a landmark for navigation.

  • The Cycling Paths
    Enjoy a tour of the extensive cycling paths that wind their way through villages, marshes and woodlands - the ideal way to discover and appreciate the diversity of the countryside, in peace.

  • La Maison de la Dune
    At one time known as the Cabane des Fontaines, built in 1852 and restored in 2009, the Maison de la Dune has become an information centre for the flora and fauna of the sand dunes.

From 1970 the reputation of Les Portes as a restful and picturesque coastal resort resulted in a rise in the number of visitors. Holiday-makers became second home owners and permanent residents. Celebrities frequenting Les Portes built houses there. Today, even if there has also been a certain re-exploitation of the salt marshes, the tourist trade has had a profound effect on the aspect and social structure of the village. The bridge, which has transformed the island into a peninsular, has worsened the situation and being at the far end of the island, has made Les Portes, hitherto its poorest village, a sought-after destination.

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