I have been many times to Le Senechal.
My first visit was as a young professional between jobs, enjoying my "garden leave" at the end of August up until early September. The hotel had just been acquired and renovated by its current owners, and it was well before it became the place to be in the island. In fact, it was even before Ile de Re became fashionable.
A word about the island: white sand beaches, over 100km of cycling slopes punctuated by oyster farms that serve the most divine platters on the spot for a dime, secluded villages often featuring a restaurant worth a stop...and in a nutshell, away from it all. It was there that I proposed to my wife. It was there that I took my eldest son to its first beach holiday when he was 3 months old. And it is there where my fondest holiday memories remain.
Le Senechal is on Ars en Re, the prettiest village of the island, with its black and white church tower, fruit and veg market, amazing restaurants, beach and country feeling, removed from modern civilization but close enough to get to.
The hotel was renovated in 2000 into a laid back, whitewashed walls and climbing plants, sunny yet secluded gem featuring a small swimming pool and many living areas small enough to provide intimacy to its occupants. The place doesn't look anything much from the outside, but the magic starts as you walk in: terracotta tiles, sisal or timber wood floors grace your feet as your eyes are enchanted by the typical decorum of the French Atlantic style: simple yet subtle furniture found in flea markets mixed with deep, comfortable seatings and beddings, dimmed lighting either in the bedrooms, or in the patio, lit with leds that form a patchwork of stars on the cobbled courtyard, climbing plants carefully chosen for the enjoyment of the sight and the scent.
My favourite room is suite 22: large enough with a living room benefiting from a working fireplace (nights are chilly in Ars except in July-August), large bathroom with bath and shower, bedroom with a 150 sf terrace overlooking the pool (and, as you would expect, protected from everyone else's gaze).
Staff is generally accommodating: breakfast served in bedroom if you wish, good tips on what to do and see around, where to go and what not to miss. Breakfast in the courtyard when sunny is also very enjoyable, reading the island newspaper or the Figaro, both available in high season from the local newsagent.
Many Parisians owning a house in the island prefer to check into Le Senechal rather than open their own house if visiting the island on a short break (I guess it is always a good problem to have when you need to set significant time aside to "open" your holiday home).
You've never been, you want the island experience, you don't want to be disappointed: book yourself into le Senechal.
Best period to go: first week of September. Everyone is back in Paris - however, restaurants, shops and hotels are still in full service, just recovering from the peak of the season. The weather is at its best: hot during the day, 28-30c, with the Gulf Stream warming the waters of the southern beaches of the island to 22c, but chilly enough in the evenings to light a small fire for the fun of it, or wear a thick woolly jumper to enjoy dinner al fresco, on a terrace overlooking the harbour.
When NOT to go: mid July and whole of August. Anything and everything you do not want to meet or see during your time off.
So a very enthusiastic reviewer.
Now the small print:
- Some staff can seem a little off-putting. After many years of going there, it is probably due to excessive shyness than intentional offence. This has been a laid back beach resort up until 10 years ago, and it still is off season, which explains the lack of international standards despite the internationally standardised pricing of rooms and suites..
- Room prices have gone up to what I consider over and above the reasonable limit. It is cheaper to rent a 3 bedroom house in the same village than a medium-sized bedroom if going for a week. Given that the place does not offer the full array of hotel services (no concierge, no room service safe for tea and breakfast, no laundry, no restaurant except breakfast and tea, no cable, no gym, etc), might as well rent a house and ask for daily cleaning service from local cleaning ladies.
- the island has become a French and to some extent international phenomenon. Crowded with tourists, easily accessible through the main viaduct, it has somewhat lost its past appeal during the peak season. That problem is reflected in the hotel clientele and less personalized service. Hence the importance of your timing...
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Charming hotel in the middle of the village, rooms are all different, patios full of flowers, a little heated swimming pool, a fire place, a hearty staff, an ideal place to spend a wonderful stay in ile de Re. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Le Senechal Hotel
- Hotel Le Senechal Ile De Re/Ars-En-Re, France