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krisek Saint Helier - A travel report by Krys
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Saint Helier,  Jersey - flag Jersey
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krisek's travel reports

Forts, yachts, lobsters and a lighthouse. Jersey.

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The Bailiwick of Jersey, a small island off the coast of northern France, is one of Europe's micro states. It is not part of the UK or the EU, has its own, unique language and is a great place to visit. It is elegant and tax free shopping is an extra plus.

Lighthouse at the Corbiere in the setting sun.
Lighthouse at the Corbiere in the setting sun.
Seyiz les beinv'nus a Jèrri, means 'Welcome to Jersey' in the local Jèrriais language. Visitors can see plenty of writing in the local language everywhere across the island. I am not sure if many people speak the language (large proportion of the inhabitants are foreigners, in fact) but it is so great to see that it is being used at least on signs, official instructions, announcements of the authorities, etc.

Interestingly, there is a considerable amount of confusion what Jersey actually is. Is it an independent nation? Is it part of the United Kingdom? Does it belong to the European Union? Well, it is most definitely not part of the UK. In fact, when you land at the airport, a taxi driver will likely ask you 'Have you just arrived from the UK?'. The Bailiwick of Jersey, as it is formally known as, is a Crown Dependency, a possession of the British Crown, and therefore not a sovereign state. However, the UK does not govern them directly, and legislation affecting the bailiwick's life is passed locally only. The exception is the regulation regarding nationality. For this purpose only, Jersey is part of the British Isles, so the residents of it can obtain British passports. The British Crown has two other dependencies: the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

I went to Jersey out of curiosity. First, it was the very old criminal TV series Bergerac set on the island, and which I was allowed to watch when I was a small kid. Then, there were a few brilliant photographs that I saw in one of the travel magazines. I decided not to stay overnight, and the bmi schedule allowed for an early start and late finish of the day trip out of London. This suited me very well. I landed just before breakfast time, and departed well after sunset, which I could observe from one of the island's western cliffs.

Favourite spots:
Lé Vièr Châté (the Old Castle) at the Mount Orgueil.
Lé Vièr Châté (the Old Castle) at the Mount Orgueil.
My favourite spot on Jersey was the Mont Orgueil. It was a castle in the eastern part of the island. It was located overlooking the harbour of Gorey. The stronghold was also called Gorey Castle by English-speakers, and lé Vièr Châté (the Old Castle) by Jèrriais-speakers. The site had been fortified in the prehistoric period, but the construction of the castle was undertaken following the division of the Duchy of Normandy in 1204. The castle is actually depicted on the 2010 issue Jersey 50 pound note.

I went to see it twice. First, right after I landed. I took a public bus (green route from the Liberation station in the capital) and saw the Gorey harbour full with sea water at the high tide. I had breakfast at one of the restaurants, and strolled a little. Then, I went back to see the harbour in better weather (as it improved considerably) in the afternoon and I saw how the yachts and boats rested on the seabed, as the low tide took all of the water away.

What's really great:
One of the buses of a company offering vintage tours.
One of the buses of a company offering vintage tours.
Moving around the island independently and without own transport was easier than easy. There were only four bus routes designed for visitors called myExplorer: red, green, blue and yellow - all departing from the central Liberation station in Saint Helier. The blue route was running west, along the southern and western coast. The green route was running east, along the southern and eastern coast, and all the way to the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. The red route was connecting the capital with the north-western corner of the island, crossing it diagonally. The yellow route was like a circle line covering the central part of the island. Most of the new fleet had easy access for wheelchair users. Explorer tickets were available for 1, 3, 5 and 7 days and allowed unlimited travel.

The myBus network of buses, also covering the colour routes, had 23 lines, criss-crossing the entire island. The buses were not terribly frequent, about one every hour, but still very convenient.

the Elizabeth Castle
the Elizabeth Castle
Jersey had castles and forts, and that was what I liked. Apart from the aforementioned Gorey Castle (13th century, in perfect condition), there were also the Elizabeth Castle (16th century, in an excellent condition), the Grosnez Castle (14th century, ruined), and the Kempt Tower (19th century, in perfect condition).

La Corbiere lighthouse, completed in 1873, was the first in the British Isles to be made of concrete rather than stone. It is the most photographed building on the island.

St. Matthew's Church, aka The Glass Church due to extensive glass work including the font, altar rail, cross and pillars, was created by René Lalique of Paris.

I hate zoos, so I did not venture there, but Jersey was famous for the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Apparently, it was wrong to call it a zoo. It was created some 50 years ago to protect endangered species. Some of the animals one could see were: bears, boas, gorillas, flamingos, and orangutans.

Moorings Hotel & Restaurant - the yellow widest building below the castle.
Moorings Hotel & Restaurant - the yellow widest building below the castle.
The best and cheapest accommodation could be found in Saint Helier. It was the island's capital and the choice was obviously widest there. The majority of the venues were a bit dated, but perhaps this was the whole ambiance of it, to be accommodated in a slightly leaning old Victorian or Georgian house with squeaky and uneven wooden floors and windows, which simply would not open. Overall, the island had over 50 hotel and hotel-like accommodation options and three campsites. I checked on a few, out of sheer curiosity.

The Atlantic Hotel near the beach along the western shore of Jersey, received good reports.

The Dolphin Hotel & Restaurant in Gorey was a well established and handsome hotel with good service and clean rooms.

The Pontac House, on the south-eastern corner of the almost rectangular island, was located near a small beach at the Saint Clemens Bay.

One of the pubs in the capital
One of the pubs in the capital
I did not sample any of Jersey's nightlife, as I did not stay overnight and left the island about two hours after sunset. However, I heard from a couple of young bartenders in St Helier and Corbiere that there was some night time action available. Apparently, there were over 15 nightclubs in Jersey, which usually stayed open until 2.30 am.m (so not too late, in fact). The most popular were located on the Esplanade in St Helier, however there were two located close to one of the island's largest beaches, the five mile-long St. Ouen's Bay, famous for its surfers and those, who want to watch them in action. The drinking holes there were The Watersplash and Sands, and both came highly recommended.

Low tide rode fishing
Low tide rode fishing
St Helier had a truly handsome marina, where one could go and look at the very expensive yachts that were either resident or visiting the island. Excellent for a stroll, watching how local fishermen threw their fishing rods at low tide, too.

Jersey had 30 beaches and bays. Some of the best were:

- Gorey Beach - with very good facilities, toilets, shop, cafe and a great view of Mont Orgueil Castle.

- Havre de Fer - a small bay, next around from Anne Port, quiet with almost no beachgoers at all, very secluded - a real deal for hanging out alone, a place to reflect on life, the universe and everything.

- Rozel Bay - with own small harbour, popular with local fishermen and tourists.

- Greve de Lecq - lovely sheltered bay, excellent when windy, so popular with tourists and locals, good facilities and good walking tracks.

- St Aubin's Bay - a large beach with many different cafes and shops along the way, at its own harbour, St Aubin's Harbour, there was the pub which featured in 'Bergerac'.

One of the restaurants in the capital. This one was serving Italian dishes.
One of the restaurants in the capital. This one was serving Italian dishes.
The Dolphin Hotel & Restaurant, and in fact its restaurant, with tables in the pavement overlooking the harbour, was the first venue I had a grab to eat. It was breakfast. An early breakfast, in fact. I went for the 'house special Jersey brekkie', which resembled a traditional all-fried English breakfast. It was heavy and there was plenty of it. The service was great and the conversations with the 'local' yachtspeople was fascinating.

The second, and the last place, where I sat down for a meal was La Capannina in the capital, which was famous for its fresh seafood. I had grilled lobster, because I thought I could afford it. Hardly! But it was superb and the staff were very efficient, professional and friendly. I had a half bottle of nice Italian wine, and when they swiped my credit card, I immediately received a call from my bank manager. Well, not really, but the bill was slightly eye-watering. At least my meal was mouth-watering!

Other recommendations:
Main shopping street in Saint Helier
Main shopping street in Saint Helier
The Bailiwick of Jersey was very well connected by air with the UK, Ireland, Isle of Man, the Bailiwick of Guernsey and France, and a few other cities on mainland Europe in range of a small aircraft, including Antwerp, Brussels, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Luxembourg, and I think also a couple of places in Switzerland.

By sea, one had a choice of at least three ferry companies. Condor Ferries connected Jersey with Guernsey, Poole, Portsmouth, Weymouth, and St Malo. The Corsair Ferries sailed to St Malo. And the Manche-iles-express ferries linked Jersey with Guernsey, Sark, Carteret, and Granville. Trips to France and to the Bailiwick of Guernsey were taking from 45 minutes to an hour and a quarter, depending on the point of departure within Jersey; St Helier or Gorey. Sailings to the UK, lasted much longer. To Pool it was taking 4 hours and 10 minutes, to Weymout - 3 hours and 40 minutes. Portsmouth was even longer trip away, and for non-motorised visitors it was cheaper to fly.

Published on Monday June 7th, 2010

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Wed, Jun 09 2010 - 04:33 AM rating by pesu

Very well written report (as expected ;-)), a lot of detailed information, great pictures....

Mon, Jun 07 2010 - 08:36 PM rating by rangutan

Cute place, secret tip!

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