By: Steve Shaw, Daily Mirror on 20/08/2013
Taking to the sea
To be honest, it was not a mode of sea transport my wife Cathy or I had ever considered. But here we were with daughters, Ella, 15, and Alexandra, 13, about to go kayaking on a gloriously calm and sunny spring day.
Guernsey had its biggest snowfall in decades a fortnight before we went, so the sea, how shall we say, was freezing.
Our only protection against the elements was a wet suit, a lifejacket and a plastic boat that you sit on rather than in... nothing that looked like it would stop a little wave from tipping you in!
After a brief lesson (ie, how to hold a paddle, where to sit and what to do should you capsize), we headed down to the beach. The girls went first and with squeals of nervous excitement were 50 yards out before you could say “drop anchor”.
I’d like to say Cathy and I were naturals but we didn’t sink and slowly but surely we paddled out into the bay. We steered backwards, round in a circle, left, right, etc and only when our instructor Ant was satisfied were we allowed to go exploring.
This really is a must-do activity if you want to see some sights, have fun and expend a little energy at the same time.
Our short break had started when we boarded the Condor ferry from Poole. Car stowed safely below decks, we were able to relax in our seats, and just over three hours later our super-fast ship pulled into St Peter Port.
The island is diamond shaped, roughly 24 miles long by 12 miles wide and has a magnificent coastline, crystal clear waters, friendly people and, during the summer, a glorious climate.
We were staying in Waves, a three-storey apartment hotel barely 100 yards from Vazon beach on the island’s north-east coast. In our case, it was better than a home from home... all en-suite, the biggest beds we’d ever slept in, a modern kitchen and magnificent sea views.
An added bonus was that within walking distance we had the superb Vistas Beach Cafe, excellent for a reasonably priced evening meal out or just for popping in and relaxing with a coffee or ice-cream (and our girls loved their variety bucket of deep-fried fish).
For a small island, Guernsey has a lot of history and I’m not just talking about the Second World War and the German occupation. Apparently, 10,000 years ago Guernsey was connected to the French mainland and to find out a little more we booked local historian Gill Girard to give us a short guided tour.
From neolithic burial chambers to why islanders nearly starved, despite being surrounded by plenty of seafood during the occupation (it was because the coast was heavily mined by the Germans and the islanders were unable to go fishing), there was little that Gill couldn’t tell us.
We even put Gill to the taste test. Where best to eat out without spending a fortune?
Her choice was the Perelle Bay Hotel. Well, locals know best. The steak, chicken and scallops were delicious. The only problem was we just couldn’t finish our generous portions of dessert.
Guernsey really is lovely. The main roads are but country lanes amid gentle scenery, but should you wish to get even closer to nature then you need to head to Herm, an island a mile south of Guernsey.
“We’ve been to Paradise before,” said Ella. It’s where, as a 13-year-old, she had declared: “I want to get married here.”
A natural paradise in summer, spring brings a different experience.
Gone are the crowds of tourists and sunseekers. The only noise we heard while walking round the island came from the sound of waves crashing on the shore, the local wildlife and the wind whistling through the grasses.
We met a musician on the Trident ferry – the only way of getting to Herm – who was renting one of the holiday cottages with his family. He’d popped over to Guernsey to do the shopping.
There’s no Wi-Fi and no TVs and obviously no big shops on Herm and it’s gloriously peaceful as a result. I wonder if it’ll catch on? I do hope so.