A weekend on the Île d'Yeu
Cast off and head for this pearl of the Vendée, with its wild beauty and amazing variety of landscapes. The little suggested programme below should ensure you have an idyllic weekend!
9 am: Set sail for the Île d'Yeu!
As the cotton-wool clouds in the sky dissipate to reveal beautiful blue sky, a joyful excitement comes over the boat as it glides towards this little speck of land in the ocean. The crossing takes 30 minutes to an hour, leaving from Fromentine or Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie for the promised land. After a few minutes' cruising, passengers crane their necks to see the craggy coast that appears on the horizon. The ochre-tiled roofs of Port-Joinville soon appear...
9.40 am: Exploring the little streets of Port Joinville
Terra firma at last! Now you're in the island's "capital", so take advantage of the early morning to explore its little streets as the white houses with their blue shutters slowly come to life. The large number of art galleries and studios comes as a pleasant surprise. We recommend stopping off at Pélagie, which exhibits artworks especially by local artists, which include Janine Bonamy's papier-mâché animals and Jean Mercier's seaside paintings. It's a peaceful place to linger over a coffee and even buy a second-hand book for a snip.
Les Amours de Pélagie, 7, rue Georgette
11.15 am: Gourmet stroll through the market
How about a stroll through the Port-Joinville market? Among the profusion of colours and smells that flood the quayside every morning, a must-visit is pâtisserie Mousnier to stock up on tarte islaise, a top local speciality that's been made for centuries, with prunes, rum and cinnamon, which sailors once brought back from their travels. It's served as a dessert at every wedding on the island.
12.30 pm: Lunch at Crêperie Bleue
With a bit of luck you'll be able to grab a seat on the little terrace at this institution that has stood opposite the port for over forty years. In the kitchen, the batter is whipped up by hand, then left to rest for 24 hours to give the galettes an unparalleled lightness. A special mention goes to the Gégé, which combines mizotte cheese from the Vendée, onions, bacon and potatoes with cream, as well as the Coup de Foudre, with goat's cheese, chorizo, chilli, honey and green salad.
La Crêperie Bleue, quai de la Mairie, Port-Joinville
2.05 pm: Tour the island by bike!
Time to go where the wind takes you, on a bike hired from one of the island's many rental shops, and explore its varied landscapes. The ideal is to do the full tour, in around 5 hours, which fair-weather cyclists will find easier on an electric bike. Start from the West and tackle the spectacular wild coast. You'll come across little coves, escarpments of rock, the Grand Phare (large lighthouse) and the Vieux Château (the old château that inspired Hergé for The Black Island), before arriving in the South. Here, pause for a few moments at the charming little port of La Meule, before heading up to the chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle, which overlooks the scene and resembles ones you might find in the Cyclades! Finish your circuit along the wide sandy beaches of the east coast.
5.50 pm: A nautical jaunt on a kayak
Just before completing your tour of the island and returning to Port-Joinville, you can stop off at the Marais Salé or salt marsh at Caval Kayak to hire a stand-up paddleboard, a wave-ski, sea kayak or even a Polynesian dugout canoe. You can then spend an hour exploring the coves and caves! The place also organises tapas tours, with a gourmet stop-off, upon reservation.
Caval Kayak, 11, chemin des Borderies
7.40 pm: Dinner cooked by a star chef
The cosy Le 09 serves up a gastronomic concerto by candlelight, with a focus on products from the sea that the place snaps up from local fishermen whenever possible. At the stove is Patrick Leray, a master restaurateur who has work in highly recommended establishments such as the Royal Monceau or Le Procope in Paris. The menu boats monkfish with cider, caramelised apples and sautéed courgettes, or scallops in vanilla cream, among others.
Restaurant Le 09, 9, rue Goergette
10.15 am: Wild safari through the island landscapes
The Île d'Yeu boasts incredible biodiversity, which Sandrine Desmaret knows by heart. Throughout the year, this lover of nature takes tourists, on foot or by bike, to see the many varieties of birds (almost 300 in total) that flourish here. These include the European herring gull, the Little egret and the Meadow pipit. Also worth discovering is the local flora, with over 760 species such as crithmum, whose carrot flavour you're invited to taste, or the shrubby everlasting, which gives off a curry scent. Perfect to whet your appetite.
1 pm: Lunch on grilled fish at La Plancha du Pêcheur
Jean-Philippe and Anne-Charlotte met in Tahiti, but chose to drop anchor on another island instead... On the griddle at their cute little restaurant, they grill fresh fish from the local fish auction to perfection, including sardines, mackerel and hake, with perfectly pearly flesh that just melts in the mouth. Also enjoy the rillettes of the day they prepare, such as tuna and chorizo, as well as high-class fish and chips.
La Plancha du Pêcheur, 13, place de la Norvège
2.15 pm: A magical sailing trip
Local boy Stéphane has spent his life in the world of sailing. This skipper, his face weathered by the sea spray, has already crossed the Atlantic, and now takes visitors on sailing trips of the coast of the island. He offers various formats, from half day to full day, as well as a tour of the Île d'Yeu or a sunset sail. Aboard the Te Ara, his habitable sailing dinghy, this enthusiast provides an informative demonstration of the rudiments of sailing such as the gybe, change of tack or handling the tiller. A timeless moment.
Voile Yeu, +33 (0)6 62 69 40 00
6.30 pm: Back to the continent
As your weekend comes to an end, take a last glance around the picturesque finery of Port-Joinville before heading to the Gare Maritime to board. You'll be making a promise to yourself to return!