By: Tony Attwater, Express and Star on 25/01/2013

No place like Herm

There's the beautiful countryside and beaches, the wildlife,the food and the people. We were there for a week and although the islands are small they are packed with heritage,culture,sport, festivals and fun.The issue is not finding things to do but how to fit everthing in.

We headed out to  the largest island Jersey,from Poole on Condor Ferry's catamaran.It takes four- and- half hours. When we disembarked in the Jersey capital St Helier it took just five minutes to drive to our hotel.

Another plus to driving on Jersey was the price of fuel, I paid just £1.17 a litre for diesel.Our stay in Jersey was in the Hotel de France,which has an elevated view over the town with its two church spires and the bay beyond.A useful move before you start deciding where you'll be going is to buy a Jersey pass.They start a £39 and give entry to 16 listed attractions.The first visit we made was to the War tunnels just outside St Helier. The award-winning exhibition Captive Island

The definitive Story of the Occupation tells how Nazi forces took over the islands during the Second World War. The conflict is etched deep into the hearts of Channel Islanders because it was the only part of Britain which was occupied

But enough of the serious stuff, that night we took a trip round the coast to The Oyster Box restaurant at St Brelade’s Bay.

The food was superb with most of the fish, lobster and crab caught within a couple of miles of where we were sitting.

St Helier is like Cornwall but with a Gallic twist. Walking round you are likely to hear conversations in English, French and Jersey Norman French. After all, Jersey is just 14 miles from Normandy but 100 miles from England’s south coast.

Links with Britain stretch back centuries Elizabeth Castle which stands at the mouth of the harbour in St Helier was named after Elizabeth the First when the islands stayed loyal to England rather than switch back to French control.The Maritime

Museum is not far away and kids love the interactive displays on waves, ships and folklore.Other activities for children on Jersey include Segway scooters, the aMaizin! Maze,sea kayaking and the Living legend Village with a multi-media theatre and go-karting.Another winner for a family day out is the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. There are gorillas, bears, giant jumping rats and my personal favourites, fruit bats which silently fly on huge leathery wings.For a shopping fix, there are plenty of brand name stores and individual shops. Later on, it’s time to sample the lively bars and restaurants down by the harbour.

But wherever, you go on Jersey, people are so friendly. My wife and I would be standinglooking at a map pointing in opposite directions when someone would ask if we were lost and show the right direction.We split the week by heading off on the hour-long trip to Guernsey’s capital St Peter Port. A short walk along the coast takes you to the Guernsey Aquarium where you can virtually touch noses with fish and get up close to lizards and scorpions.

St Peter Port has the German Naval Signal Headquarters as it would have been in the 1940s with an operations room housing an Enigma coding machine.As with Jersey, travelling on Guernsey is very easy. A bus ride around the whole island costs just £1.

As you drive around you soon notice a local custom – veg on the hedge. Locals just leave potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and fruit out at the front of their homes and money is collected in an honesty box.Guernsey Museum and Art Gallery features temporary exhibitions.

The one running while we were there was Aah! Meanz Pop – the Art of Brands. It brought memories flooding back for anyone over 40 with a recording showing old TV ads including Strand cigarettes and Joan Collins and Leonard Rossiter spilling the Cinzano again.

We also took the chance to visit one of the smaller Channel Islands. Herm is just a 20-minute boat trip from Guernsey.

It has no cars and people go there to escape the pressures of modern life and to wind down in the peace and quiet.

It has breathtaking cliff walks along with secluded beaches.So, overall there are a thousand and onereasons to visit the Channel Islands plus as much sunshine as Portugal. But it’s the warmth of the people we will remember and their unbreakable link with the rest of the British Isles.


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