Oh Guernsey, you’re a funny little island full of funny little people. Having been here for a couple of months now it’s fair to say it’s been an interesting experience observing how the country operates and what the people do, as I discussed in my last post ‘Getting to know the locals’.
Having spent the past 6 weeks in Guernsey, I’ve begun to notice some of the endearing and peculiar traits of the local people…
- They reply to most statements “Is it?” (pronounced “iz-et”) or “eh”
- The first 10 minutes of a conversation with a Guern will revolve around finding out who your mutual friends are and then following up the inevitable surprise of having friends/ acquaintances in common with “Small world eh!”
- They like to know where abouts on the island you live pretty much immediately
- They like to make/grow things to share with their colleagues and friends
- They have their own legal tender (The Guernsey Pound) and their own variation of the French language (Guernsey French, which the local news station recites their news out in on a Saturday morning)
- Some of them, mainly the elderly, have a slight intolerance for foreigners, outsiders and accents which extends to accents from the British Isles! We have a friend from Manchester and some of her elderly colleagues refused to speak to her until she, “learned to talk properly”
- The island is so safe they leave their houses and cars unlocked (I even saw that someone had left their door open on their Mercedes, and when I returned to the car park two hours later it was still there, with the door still open!)
- There is a resistant to change: the current big debate is whether shops in the town centre should open on Sunday. The locals are not happy.
- People swim in the sea 365 days a year
- They say “Cheery” when they say goodbye
Tennerfest is an ingenious, sociable and tasty marketing strategy, laid on in Guernsey (The Channel Islands, Great Britain) by local restaurants. It is a month-long event where restaurants varying in standards and size offer a speciality three-course menu for just ten pounds to promote their business and encourage the people of Guernsey to eat out during the winter months.
It had been a long, and expensive, summer in London, which had delayed and diminished my hopes to jet off far afield for a summer holiday. However, Pete and I could not pass up the opportunity to go and visit my parents at their new home in Guernsey for a long weekend! Most of our trip was graciously covered by my parents, which I’m fully aware cheats the premise of my blog. Nevertheless I intend to share with you the most cost effective way to enjoy the Channel Islands.
Guernsey (which is officially part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey), as well as the collection of other Channel Islands are a beautiful extension of the British mainland on the offshore of Normandy. At only 24 square miles, the tight-knit community boasts both beach and countryside which is similar aesthetically to Cornwall while simultaneously reminiscing it’s French heritage. Occupied throughout the Second World War by the Germans, the sleepy, simple Island defended the British honour by resisting Nazi control which has left behind original German defences as well as a bad-ass historical story.
There are two ways (ignoring the option of swimming) to get to the Channel Islands: Sailing or flying. We opted to fly with the local charter airline Aurigny. At a modest price the service exceeded our expectation. The flight departed prematurely (believe it or not), we recieved complimentary drinks on board, and was topped off with the pleasure of being on dainty propella plane which cruised low enough to pin-point villages. However, depending on how many are travelling, the cheaper option may be to travel by boat: the only difference is having the ability to drive around on arrival- although this is also a hinderance as the country rounds can be very twiddlely for unsuspecting drivers. In Guernsey there is an efficient bus service which can also double up as a mini tour, for the main roads offer coastline and countryside views for only £2! Click this link for the bus timetable as well as other transport options: http://www.visitguernsey.com/-buses
For someone on a student budget, or with a traveller agenda, Guernsey is perhaps lacking a little in activities. However, if you’re up for a typical British beach holiday with all the trimmings then you have certainly gone to the right place: we were spoiled by Mediterranean beaches with the ‘home’ comforts of ice-cream, fish & chips and dressed crab. Don’t go with big expectations: take pleasure in cycling around the island (in under 2 hours!), wondering around the marina and perhaps a little retail therapy amongst the cobbled streets of St. Peter Port. Perhaps my most favourite excursion was a small cycle trip (and i should emphasise that I am in no way an avid cyclist) along the west and east coast of the Island. The route runs parallel to the sea so the views are spectacular, and the roads have no hills which makes it more pleasurable, and endurable for the likes of me! However, I am under the impression that our fortune with lovely weather gave us more entertainment options- should it have been raining or over-cast the island is limited with things to do.
There is still visible evidence of war time and Nazi activity on the Island, with look out stations, bunkers (which now host raves to island-crazy teens) as well as the German Underground Hospital which we visited one morning. The entrance fee was only a couple of quid, and once you’re in you are left to your own devices to explore. REMEMBER TO WEAR WARM CLOTHING- it was bloody freezing! The hospital takes about 25-45 mins to walk around and read some of the new paper articles in their archive. Overall I did find it interesting but it’s not something i was riveted by- then again history was never one of my strong points. The tunnels are very similar and emit a very creepy atmosphere; i half expected a Nazi zombie to appear from the shadows. I was impressed and interested by the local and German new paper articles relating to the occupation duration. I find it fascinating that all of this happened within our grandparent’s generation!
The purpose of our trip was a little jolly to spend some time out of the city and with my family. Guernsey under these circumstances is the perfect retreat. The 4 day/4 night time frame was ideal for balancing relaxing with activities without being bored, although this balance may be harder to achieve if you were to visit for a longer amount of time, without doing some island hopping.