By: Helen Pearse, Plymouth Herald on 06/08/2012
Aged eight, I stood at my school gates, having just learned my Dad was taking my Mum to Jersey for a surprise birthday weekend. He wouldn’t tell me before in case I leaked the surprise. Ever since
that day, I’ve always wanted to go to Jersey. Now rather a few years later, I’ve finally made it. And boy am I glad I did.
Whatever type of holiday you’re looking for, there is something in Jersey for you. I knew little about the island before going but now can’t wait to go back and spend more time there. Whether it’s a family week away, or a romantic weekend break, you’ll be hard
pushed to fit it all in. We opted for the romantic break, and had an amazing time.
Situated 100 miles south of mainland Britain and 14 miles from the Normandy coast of France, Jersey is the most southerly of the Channel Islands, and consequently has the best sunshine record in the British Isles.
Go in the summer and your average temperature will be 20 degrees Celsius, and even if you visit in winter, temperatures rarely drop below freezing.
So June was a perfect time of year to go and see what Jersey had to offer. And we weren’t disappointed. We stayed in the village of St Aubin located in the corner of St Aubin’s Bay, on the south coast.
This charming and picturesque spot has a sleepy old world atmosphere, but with its mixture of restaurants, hotels, shops and galleries, it can be lively too.
The old town crowds around the harbour, with three different granite churches adding a certain grandeur, as well as 18th century merchant houses. St Aubin is said to be one of the most popular village venues in Jersey, and a great rendezvous point for boat owners, foodies, culture vultures and lovers of the great outdoors.
Therefore it was perfect for a couple of travellers, set on making the most of their time in Jersey, seeing what night time delights are up for grabs, taking in a bit of history, and also relaxing overlooking the sea.
We were lucky enough to stay at the Somerville Hotel, which nestles on the hillside overlooking the harbour and bay beyond. It boasts breathtaking views and we couldn’t take our eyes away from the window, they were so beautiful.
The four-star Somerville is said to be one of the finest country house hotels in Jersey and is well known for its warm welcome and excellent reputation. The receptionist told us about one group who have been meeting there for their holiday for 25 years!
The Somerville has 59 bedrooms, all individually designed and furnished. We were in a classic bedroom at the front of the hotel, overlooking its award winning gardens, heated swimming pool and pool terrace.
Ideal for me to watch my boyfriend Marko put in some lengths before dinner, whilst I sipped on a chilled glass of Sancerre.
All the hotel rooms offer complimentary wifi, tea and coffee making facilities, bathrobes, and satellite television. The hotel has a mixture of classic and bigger superior rooms and has now just opened for 2012 three exclusive superior garden sea-view rooms which are the largest and most luxurious at the hotel.
The hotel’s Tides restaurant is one of the most popular on the island, and with two AA red rosette awards, an extensive wine list, a head chef who uses the freshest of seafood in his innovative dishes, coupled with panoramic views, it’s easy to see why.
But if you fancy checking out what the other restaurants in the area have to offer, you have a fantastic choice in St Aubin and just five minutes walk down to the harbour from the hotel. We went to the Boat House Restaurant and Bar, a contemporary two storey timber and glass building with terraced areas, on the North Quay, perfect for taking in the views of the harbour and the bay. (It’s all about the views in St Aubin). And the Saturday night we went, it was buzzing.
This is obviously one of, if not THE place to be in St Aubin at the weekend. The Quay Bar downstairs was packed, with drinkers spilling out onto the terrace to make the most of the evening sunshine.
With families, large groups of friends, and couples looking for a touch of romance, the Sails Brasserie upstairs catered for all. We enjoyed a superb meal – with finest fresh Jersey fish headlining the menu, attentive staff, and THAT view, we couldn’t have asked for anything more.
As easy as it would have been to relax and go from restaurant to café to bar in St Aubin, we wanted to see as much of Jersey as we could during our weekend. After flicking through the dozens of leaflets and directory for the Jersey Pass (a brilliant card that allows you entry into the islands top attractions, and an absolute must to buy if you’re spending a few days here) we made a plan.
The La Mare Wine Estate and Distillery was calling us (for obvious reasons), so we decided to leave the car at the hotel, and bus it to the north side of the island for a spot of wine tasting. Buses and public transport are brilliant in Jersey.
We planned to head for the capital of St Helier, then change buses to La Mare. But instead of a conventional bus from St Aubin, we hopped on a little train, ideal for tourists, which took us right along the seafront, complete with running commentary.
Okay, so it’s dearer than a bus, but I learnt a lot from the commentary and it was one of those things that you only ever do on holiday – I liked it! We spent an hour wandering around the shops of St Helier, but it was so busy, we were glad to head to the bus station and be on our way to the vineyard, wine tasting, and a cream tea.
Travelling by bus in Jersey is an ideal way to see the island. It might only be nine miles east to west, by five miles north to south, but its landscape changes depending on where you are. It all feels very French. An obvious thing you might think, considering it’s proximity to France, but something I’d not really thought about or expected before visiting. All Jersey’s road names are French, many house names too, and according to the commentary on the little train, a lot of people’s surnames in Jersey are French.
Driving across the island we went past idyllic countryside cottages, farmhouses, and coastal retreats. All beautiful, and many for sale. Although I’m not sure who buys them as the rules state you have to be either born in Jersey or have lived here for 11 years to buy a property. Unless you are a ‘high value resident’.
I’m guessing they are people like Nigel Mansell, golfer Ian Woosnam, or Alan Wicker who all apparently live here. An average four bed house in 2011 cost £658,000 though, so maybe slightly out of my reach.
La Mare Wine Estate is a definite must if you’re in Jersey without children. We really enjoyed the tour, and of course the tasting, and were introduced to two new products we brought home. Jersey Black Butter – a unique conserve of apples, Jersey cider and spices – made at the vineyard; and Jersey Apple Brandy Cream, made at the estate’s distillery, and simply delicious. Other places worth visiting are Devils Hole, just down the road from La Mare on the coast, for breathtaking views of the rugged coastline. If you fancy a bit of history, the island has numerous museums, and if walking is your thing, then head to the west coast. We went to St Brelade Bay for a wonderful walk on the beach, and went to the Les Mielles Nature Reserve. But if you have more time, there are some amazing coastal walks all over the island. Cycling, kitesurfing and sand racing are also popular here.
I read online before I went that Jersey is an island made for romance, but to be careful as you may find yourself falling in love with it.
It’s a little jewel, a magical place to get away from it all, and a stunning backdrop for anyone wanting to spend a romantic holiday or weekend break together. I fell in love with it in just two days, and my only complaint is that I couldn’t stay longer.