Before I get slaughtered for my proofreading, the title of this post is a deliberate play on words and not merely a typo. Ile d’Aix is in the Poitou-Charentes maritime region of France and at least when I visited in September was very peaceful indeed. Stepping off the late afternoon ferry which most people were clambering to board had me wondering for a moment why they were all leaving, did they know something I didn’t?
Most visitors arrive by ferry for a day trip. They come to enjoy the small town, which has few recognised attractions but this is the appeal. A visit to the Napoleon or African artefacts museums, the mother of pearl exhibition and the ex-prison of Fort Liédot are unlikely to delay for long. However it is the solitude, the peace and quiet which are the real joys.
Strolling or cycling along the pretty coastline, grabbing a bite of lunch and maybe even dinner before catching the return ship back to the mainland are the main attractions of the island.
It is in the evening when most have left and the small island is quiet except for the locals and a few wise tourists that it genuinely shines. It allows for a more leisurely tour, to really explore on foot or bike, dawdling among the colourful hollyhocks, expanses of mudflats and secluded bays. For those that feel even this is too active a horse-drawn carriage tour is can remove even the slightest hint of effort.
This is the smart decision is to arrive late and stay overnight, so that the crowds are avoided. There are a couple of comfortable hotels, a number of holiday cottages to rent and some excellent restaurants, including a little ‘shack’ sited right on the edge of the mudflats which serves lovely fresh oysters.
Sunset on the island will rival any that previously witnessed. Watching the fiery orb descend is always a blissful moment. When it silhouettes the twin lighthouses of Ile d’Aix it can feel almost magical, a joint shock and awe statement being made by the sun and island. After silently watching this serene scene, it will be time to search out some oysters or other fresh seafood and a bottle of wine, enjoyed in a relaxed atmosphere. There is not any need to hurry, there is nowhere to go, the last ferry has long since departed….. perfect.
With a full belly and after several drinks an early retirement will allow a dawn start. Witnessing the stunning sunrise may even surpass the pleasure of the previous evening. It will leave plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast and still be able to get to the museums before most day trippers set foot in the harbour.
Getting up with those skylarks will also allow a quick escape, after an early lunch and before the hordes arrive in full force. The benefits will be a quiet trip back to the mainland and more importantly the memories of Ile d’Aix will be of a peaceful haven far from the madding crowds.