In a residential corner just off ‘centre ville’ is an 18th-century retreat, perfect for all St Martin has to offer. Step through the front door, then the courtyard – a ‘room’ in itself – to enter a haven of peace. There’s a big olive tree in a pot, a summerhouse for bikes, a wall in soft green… all fresh and charming in vintage style, mirroring the chic-ness of the town. Find a hall with a glass ceiling, the kitchen a mix of creams and old French pink, a white staircase to romantic bedrooms above, and an airy sitting/dining room with beautiful windows onto the street; if you stand on tiptoes on the top storey, you can just glimpse the sea. We loved the round white dining table, the cow hide rug on the waxed floor, the fat beams painted white, the pellet-burner for winter stays. Iron bedsteads are in keeping with the history and mattresses are brand new. The owner lives in the UK but the kind key-holder tells you all you need to know. Cycle paths abound, so sally forth to unspoilt sand beaches, ridiculously pretty villages, and gorgeous markets for oysters and samphire. If you care to pay the toll, you can be in La Rochelle in half an hour.