Jersey – banking and cows come to mind. A Channel Island, dependent on the UK for protection but not officially part of it, it is self-governing and has its own international identity. Its location is actually closer to France—14 miles to be exact. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when we decided to escape there this past August bank holiday weekend but was pleasantly surprised.
The Bailiwick of Jersey (an old term meaning the area of jurisdiction of a bailiff) was the perfect blend of French and English culture and landscape. The island itself is green and lush with soft white sandy beaches and steep cliff faces. It was very sophisticated and charming with contemporary French style homes on narrow winding British lanes enclosed on each side with quaint ivy covered stone walls. Homes had lovely well-manicured gardens, giving us the feel of being on a movie set. It was all just so perfect that it felt unreal. I would venture to guess there isn’t an area of derelict on the entire rock. Lovely farms of corn, Jersey royal potatoes and Jersey cows decorated the landscape inland while the coastal villages nestled around the sprawling beaches.
We stayed in St Brelade (Jersey is divided into 12 parishes and each is named after the saint that their ancient church is dedicated to) directly on the beach which was voted as one of the top ten beaches in the UK. After many beach holidays within Great Britain I can safely say they were right on. The water was crisp and clean, the sand soft and white and the waves gentle for swimmers of all abilities to enjoy.
I was so surprised to find we weren’t inundated with touristy shops and traps. It never felt to me like we were on an island at all (besides the relaxed attitude and the beach). Jersey has been so tastefully built up that around each corner there seemed to be more restaurants and activities to explore. Water sports are a main attraction but horse-back riding, hiking and cycling are other very good options. On an island roughly 45 square miles there was an unexpected feeling of civilisation and not isolation.
It was incredibly family friendly with little people everywhere, even at the more upscale hotels and restaurants. It was refreshing to travel with our children and other like-minded families who enjoy an adventurous and full life without the glaring eyes of the less reproductively inclined.
We focused our weekend on rest and relaxation, spending much time on the beach digging holes, making sand castles and swimming, mixed with a couple hour hiking excursion each day. We avoided all things touristy and left feeling quite refreshed and peaceful. It was perfect!
There were two routes to get to Jersey from London that seemed most practical, one of which was a 35-minute flight from Gatwick. We, however, chose the alternative which allowed us to take our car from Poole to St Helier by ferry (Condor) which is around 4 and 1/2 hours (197) miles. It was a leisurely and easy ride that provided us a glimpse at Guernsey as we stopped to load and unload more passengers.
If you enjoy the outdoors, traveling to a place less travelled and enjoy “proper” island life, head to the Channel Islands for a special holiday you won’t soon forget. Our kids haven’t stopped telling us how much they miss it already.