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Ile de Ré is a charming island off the Atlantic coast of France that is four and a half miles long, connected by one bridge. Although cars are allowed, bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation. The island is made up of multiple seaside villages that are easily accessible by biking on winding trails through vineyards. The first thing that hits you are the cool ocean breezes and the smell of salinity in the air. Your blood pressure drops the minute you step foot on the island. It’s a slower pace, but remarkably has an electric energy from the sun and the breeze. In July, the sun doesn’t set until almost 11:00pm.

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We were fortunate to stay with dear friends at their house and we felt like we had the inside scoop. Each morning, their kids would ride bikes to get fresh baguettes and pastries that would be accompanied by a soft boiled egg and an expresso. A absolutely perfect way to start the day.

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The island is known for its Fleur de sel, seafood, markets and donkey soap. Donkey soap is made by the milk of a peculiar long-haired species called the Poitou Donkey ...

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... that appears to be wearing dreadlocks. Originating from the Poitou region of France, they are one of the largest donkey breeds. Because of their size they were used as working mules in the island's sea salt industry.

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I took the opportunity to wake up early and ride my bike to explore the cobblestone streets and villages, taking pictures before it got too crowded.

There was a low hum of mankind getting ready for the day; the sweeping of the sidewalks, clinking of silverware at the sidewalk cafes, the unmistakable smell of bread baking and of course the fragrance of the hollyhocks and roses that grow out of every available crack. Belle!

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