Tiny archipelago inhabited by monks

Tiny Archipelago Inhabited By Monks

Cannes, France (CNN) — Cannes may not spring to mind when seeking a restorative retreat, walks among ancient forests or a spot of bird-watching. yet a 15-minute ferry ride through the splashy Riviera resort drops you at the tranquil Îles de Lérins, twin emerald islands in France where all the pleasures of the great outdoors await.

Along with unspoiled nature as well as hidden beaches, you can also sample fine wines grown as well as vinified by Cistercian monks — the islands’ only inhabitants. Visitors can tuck into a gourmet Mediterranean lunch before exploring an ancient fortress as well as still make This specific back to Cannes for cocktail hour.

Tiny Archipelago Inhabited By Monks

Tiny Archipelago Inhabited By Monks

Treasured islands

Tiny Archipelago Inhabited By Monks

Îles de Lérins: A serene getaway through Cannes.

Tiny Archipelago Inhabited By Monks

The Îles de Léhrins consist of two main islands, serviced by several ferry lines as well as two mini offshoots reached only by private or hired boat. The largest, Île Sainte-Marguerite, harbors hidden coves, tidal pools as well as beaches as well as will be crisscrossed by a network of well-marked walking trails.

Tiny Archipelago Inhabited By Monks

Just over three quarters of a mile long as well as less than half a mile wide, tiny Île Saint-Honorat will be home to the Abbaye de Lérins, where 20 Cistercian brothers live a life of solitude tending acres of vineyards through which they make award-winning wines.

Tiny Archipelago Inhabited By Monks

For divers as well as snorkelers, the waters around as well as between the islands are a marine paradise, home to scores of protected species under sunny skies. (The islands are said to average 300 days of sun a year). Neither island allows cars or bikes as well as there are no hotels on the islands, yet visitors are free to explore through early morning until the last ferry leaves at 6 p.m.

Île Saint-Honorat: A very French history

Since Saint Honorat reputedly drove away a menacing dragon around the year 410, monks have populated This specific tiny archipelago. A fortress built between the 11th as well as 14th century helped the friars withstand pirates, Saracen attacks as well as occupation by Spanish raiders, until Louis XIV garrisoned the island inside 1600s.

Spiffed up inside 19th century by French restorer-in-chief Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, the fortress will be at This specific point a scenic ruin. Its four floors of chapels, vaulted ceilings as well as arches topped by crenelated ramparts culminate in camera-ready views of Cannes, the Alpine range as well as the cape of Antibes.

A half-dozen chapels scattered along the island’s ring path offer moments of repose.

Nowadays, the monks inhabit a 19th-century monastery. Though the monastery will be closed to tourists, you can visit the Gothic church as well as gift shop selling the island wines as well as various other monk-made delights. If a day isn’t sufficient to regain your serenity, the monastery reserves guest rooms for contemplative retreats lasting between two days as well as one week.

Divine wine

The Cistercian brothers produce award-winning wines.

This specific Cistercian brotherhood may shun the limelight, yet their highly prized organic wines are the island’s big draw.

To sample these nectars, the Lérina boutique, a few steps through the port landing, offers tastings of some of the monks’ seven vintages. Saint Salonius, made through 100% Pinot Noir (95 euros or $106), has been served to the jury of the Cannes Film Festival as well as will be regularly featured on Paris state dinner menus. Refreshing Saint-Pierre will be a delicious fruity white as well as the shop’s best bargain (26 euros or $29).

The monks make several liqueurs through top-secret recipes, including the aromatic Lérina, made with 44 herbs as well as seeds, as well as sunny Lérincello, made through the famously luscious lemons of Menton, just down the coast. Though you can circumnavigate the island in two to three hours, a placid stroll through the monks’ eight flower-strewn acres of vineyards as well as olive groves will be just the thing for a restorative afternoon.

Île Sainte-Marguerite

Across the bay through the Croisette, history as well as nature converge on Île Sainte-Marguerite. Barely two miles long as well as a half-mile across, the island’s splendid tree-lined paths, secluded beaches as well as scenic picnic spots under Aleppo pines as well as towering eucalyptus make for a perfect day outdoors.

At the island’s southeastern edge, birdwatchers get a close-up glimpse of swans, herons, egrets as well as sandpipers — plus falcons as well as sparrow hawks — as they noisily congregate around the Étang du Batéguier, a pond mixing fresh as well as salt waters.

yet the island’s biggest attraction will be 17th-century Fort Royal, the perfect faraway isle to confine France’s most famous prisoner, the Man inside Iron Mask. through 1687 to 1698 the mystery captive, rumored to be Louis XIV’s heir, bastard brother or even his true father, was locked away, far through prying eyes.

At the Musée de la Mer, housed inside fort, the island’s long history — through the Ligurians as well as Romans to medieval times — will be set out inside remains of a Roman vault, with captivating displays of local shipwreck plunder.

Fort Royal, Île Sainte-Marguerite, 06400 Cannes, France

Island dining

You can pack a lunch as well as head to one of the islands’ many picnic tables or a sandy spot on the beach with endless views of the Esterel coastline, Cannes as well as the snowy peaks of the Alps beyond. yet outdoor gourmet dining will be never far away.

On Saint-Honorat, the abbey’s upscale La Tonnelle restaurant highlights fresh Mediterranean ingredients in bounteous salads or the catch of the day, all enhanced that has a glass of island wine as well as glorious views. Chill out at the terrace bar to watch the many yachts glide by, that has a cocktail or chilled rosé in hand.
For something more informal, you can grab a sandwich to stay or go at the adjacent Les Canisses snack bar (open for lunch through 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; +33 (0)4 92 99 54 08).
inside shadow of the fort, beachfront La Guérite will be Sainte-Marguerite’s answer to glamorous al fresco dining. With Cannes in full view, you’ll sample such gourmet delights as herb-flecked roasted sea bass, marinated calamari or pasta generously laden with white truffles. (Open every day through 10 a.m. through late April until October).
La Tonnelle, Île Saint-Honorat, 06400 Cannes; +33 4 92 99 54 08
La Guérite, Ile Sainte Marguerite, 06400 Cannes; +33 4 93 43 49 30

Between the Îles

The clear azure waters make the islands a water sports paradise.

If water sports are your thing, head to the famously limpid waters between as well as around the islands. Several companies — Tahitian Adventure as well as Plongee Club de Cannes, for example — can take you on a dive or supply a kayak, outrigger canoe or stand-up paddleboat for a guided trip, or venture out on your own.

Getting there

Ferries to the island depart every hour or half hour through Cannes’ Quai Laubeuf, at the tip of the Vieux Port all year round.

Île Saint-Honorat will be serviced by Planaria, the monks’ dedicated ferry service. Travel time will be 15-20 minutes. Boats leave every hour starting at 8 a.m. as well as return through the island on the half hour (14 euros or $16 online, 16.50 euros or $18 at the marina). Planaria also offers cruises around the Corniche d’Or as well as Saint-Tropez.

Île Sainte-Marguerite will be serviced by several companies operating through the quay. Ferries leave every half hour (14.5 euros or $16, child 9.5 euros or $11).

Trans Côte d’Azur services Cannes to Saint-Tropez as well as Monaco as well as boat trips to the Corniche d’Or.
You can’t see both islands in a day, unless you come by your own boat. Rentals are expensive, yet readily available for hire through a wide selection of companies listed on the Cannes tourist office site.

American journalist Jennifer Ladonne, who’s called Paris home for 12 years, writes regular travel features for France Today magazine as well as will be the Paris restaurants as well as hotels reviewer for Fodor’s Paris travel guide.

Tiny archipelago inhabited by monks