Jersey reflections

I’ve only been to Jersey once before. That was more than 50 years ago, when Dad was close to accepting a job  on this charming Channel Island. Our lives could all have been so different….

This was definitely Gill’s first visit to Jersey, so close to Gatwick airport that we had barely buckled up our seat belts before we were on our way down again.

We were here for a 4-night Secret Escapes break, at a bargain price but packed full with luxury. Here are just a few reflections of a fun and interesting few days.

Coastlines:

Wide sandy beaches seem to encircle the island, with the exception of the more rugged north coast. A nice contrast, although one of the greatest tidal ranges in the world can catch you out, wherever you are on the island. We’re talking close to 40 feet….be warned!

Food:

This turned out to be a real foodie trip. We were staying at Longueville Manor, Jersey’s premier hotel and also top-rated restaurant, thanks largely to long-serving and renowned chef Andrew Baird.

The Secret Escapes deal included two dinners at the hotel, one table d’hôte, the other à la carte. Both were outstanding, as were the gargantuan but well-balanced breakfasts on all four mornings. Stand-out dishes? Gill’s seafood platter, fresh seafood swimming off the vast plate into her lap. And a beef dish I had, the meat meltingly soft and served with an unctuous sauce that should probably be illegal.

We never made it as far as the cheese course, served on a trolley designed by master carpenter Remi Couriard from 180 year-old French oak, and groaning with dozens of pungent cheeses in various stages of evolution.

Walks:

There’s no better way to explore this compact island than on foot.

On our first full day, we set off from the hotel on a bright November morning, heading south towards the beach of St Clement, just east of St Helier. The extreme tide had well and truly ebbed, peeling back an interesting beachscape of hard-ridged sand, lunar-looking rocks and brightly coloured buoys, fastened by rusting metal rings and waiting patiently for the water to return.

10 miles and several hours later, we had explored the south-east corner of the island, past Le Hocq to Grouville, before heading north to the sheltered harbour of Gorey, watched over by historic and protective Mont Orgueil Castle.

The following day we enjoyed a shorter, and very different, walk. The central north coast is more rugged and quieter than the south, and the coastal path zig-zags high above the sea. We followed it as far as Devil’s Hole – a blow-hole eroded into the rocks and steeped in island myth after the shipwreck of a French boat in 1851 – before heading inland, through quiet villages and farmland, home of Jersey cows and Royal spuds.

Jersey Zoo:

We were reluctant to visit Jersey Zoo, despite encouragement from friends and positive reviews from everyone online. Wild animals aren’t meant to be caged, are they?

But we’re very glad we went, because this is much more a conservation project than a traditional zoo, inspired by the legendary Gerald Durrell more than 50 years ago.

It focuses on endangered species from around the world – go to the Education Centre to enjoy some excellent films about certain species and projects, understand the challenges involved and then see some of these well-fed and much-loved animals in environments that are as natural as possible in the circumstances.

Overall impressions:

  • the island has a gentle – and genteel – feel about it, with an overall sense of affluence and insulation. It exudes an aura of peace, and relative lack of stress
  • someone told us the population of Jersey has increased by 50% – from 70,000 to 105,000 – in the last 20 years or so. Away from St Helier and the more developed south, the island still seemed quiet and empty to us, but hopefully that rate of population growth doesn’t damage Jersey’s intrinsic charm and equilibrium
  • we couldn’t fail to notice the significant proportion of foreign voices in and around St Helier, with a strong presence of Portuguese and Poles working in the hospitality industry. Where does that leave young Jersey natives, when agriculture is under pressure and if they’re not excited by financial services, I wonder….

Thanks, Secret Escapes and Longueville Manor for a very enjoyable – and great value – trip to Jersey. I have a feeling we’ll be back before another 50 years have passed….

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