I know the state schools have only just broken up, but my daughter and I had the luxury of finishing for the year on July 5th, and so we’ve been on holiday and come back already. (BTW, our school day is a full hour longer, so that’s 5hrs per week x 36 wks = about 6 wks of state school – can you guess I get fed up of answering that question about long holidays?!)
We’ve holidayed in the UK exclusively for the past few years, so I wanted to go a little further afield, but had the constraint of me never having driven on the other side of the road (my ex always did the driving on holiday) – I felt too nervous without another adult present. My daughter expects seaside in the equation, so a citybreak was also out of the question…
The solution was to go to the Channel Islands! They’re not in the EU; we could fly so it feels different, and they drive on our side of the road. So off we went to Jersey…
We flew in a little 19 seater prop plane out of Southampton on Blue Islands Airways, and could see into the cockpit – a real thrill. Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands at approx 9 x 5 miles. Surrounded by beaches, famous for its potatoes, cows, its low taxes, having been heavily occupied by the Germans during WWII, amongst other things, and not forgetting the TV series Bergerac with John Nettles back in the 1980s, (below).
Although little, there is plenty to do in Jersey.
On our first full day, we drove to the Corbiere lighthouse on the SW tip, made a sandcastle on St Brelade’s beach, went to the Lavender farm and back to our apartment in St Helier to go to the beach again.
The next day, we played mini golf and went to the Jersey War Tunnels featuring the German Underground Hospital which is a fantastic museum of the occupation of Jersey in WWII. The scientist in me was fascinated by the bottles of chemicals in the surgery – Chloroform and Ether, (how sad is that!). It was fascinating, and being underground, cool too.
What was disappointing there though was the gift shop – there was a choice of about six WWII books, boring tea-shirts, a boring mug, and tins of biscuits. The rest of the shop was standard giftshop stuff you could buy anywhere by the seaside (bear in mind this museum was in the middle of the island). I asked the lady at the till about the poor souvenir choices – and she said the shop used to be really good but got franchised out! I didn’t see many people buying the standard stuff. We would see the same standard giftshop stuff all around the island. What a lack of imagination.
We then spent a day in Guernsey – catching the ferry over for the 1hr journey. St Peter Port was charming – much less commercial than Jersey, which is full of the same high street shops as the UK. I even found an indie bookshop (there are none in St Helier) – but sadly it was shut!
The highlight of the whole holiday for me was going to Victor Hugo’s house in Guernsey where he lived in exile for 15yrs from 1865. This is run by the Musée de Paris – and admission is by guided tour only. We’d missed the earlier English one, so I opted to practise my French. Poor Juliet was a little bored only catching the odd word, but wouldn’t be left behind.
It was amazing. Hugo was an abundantly creative individual. He made furniture from doors, bits of churches, whatever – a master of brocante, shabby chic techniques, but making them opulent instead. Even when he used a normal piece of furniture, he had to put his personal touch onto it – adding an inscription, his family crest, or other embellishments. He overdecorated his bedroom/writing room so much he couldn’t sleep or work there – retreating to the attic.
We also visited two castles. Mont Orgueil in Gorey in the East which has centuries of history and is full of contemporary artworks (see left – Family tree of Henry II and Eleanor of Acquitaine, sorry I can’t remember the artist’s name). Elizabeth Castle in the bay at St Helier, was strategically important in protecting the island, and when the tide is in accessible only by amphibious ferry.
Then we went back in time to La Hoque Bie Museum, which combines a neolithic passage grave 6000 yrs old with a later pair of chapels built on the top of the mound, and archaeological/geological museum on the side. The chapel was shrouded in scaffolding – but it wouldn’t be a typical holiday if at least one sight wasn’t! It was a very peaceful location though. Apparently the passage is aligned with the spring and autumn equinoxes.
The undoubted highlight of our week for my daughter though, was our visit to the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. The only shame was that it was so hot that many of the animals like the orang-utan mother with her baby weren’t very active. But enough of these endangered creatures like our favourite otters and merekats were up and about to make it a real treat.
We had a good week, apart from the last evening when we were invaded by flying ants – they came in through the conservatory skylight and clustered in the lounge – we had to abandon watching TV – there were hundreds of them – but next morning they were almost all gone!
So we packed up and left the island and the park next door to JLS who were doing a gig there the next day.
I tend not to read much on holiday, but this time I finished two books – so there will be bookish posts soon!