The largest of the Channel Islands
Jersey is the British ‘French Connection’ from tree lined streets to the French language on every street sign. You are ‘abroad, but not abroad’ – strange – but when you have flown for only one hour across the English Channel it does feel as if you are ‘abroad’. Similar shops, good restaurants and bars, people speak English, drive on the ‘right’ side of the road. It feels very familiar, but a “‘Continental feel with a British twist!”
It is 45 years since I set foot on the Island of Jersey. the reason then was to go to the Battle of the Flowers which is held in August each year – well Jersey has seen its fair share of Battles. Occupied in 1940 by the German Army that has left scars amongst the beauty of the Island, but scars we must never forget, the bravery and fortitude of the Channel Islanders was astonishing, starved, beaten and humiliated but many still live to tell the story.
We stayed at the Mayfair Hotel – a good hotel in a very convenient position, within easy walking distance to the town centre. This hotel is used by many coach tour operators so big parties of people are to be expected. It has a good reception with helpful staff, a large restaurant, coffee lounge and bar, all modern and inviting to sit in. There is a gym and a swimming pool and in the evening entertainment is provided in the restaurant area which has a stage for groups, bands and singers. The food is good and the set meal or the a la carte are priced well as are the very acceptable wines on offer. If you are on a B&B basis there are many restaurants and pubs in St Helier to enjoy Michelin Star Food or just pub grub which is also very good.
I took my sister who has learning difficulties and my husband accompanied us. Our accommodation was a suite with three beds in, a family room, which wasn’t ideal but the ‘ladies’ could use one room and my husband had the adjoining room comfortable enough, but not easily accessible for disabled people. There are disabled facilities which have walk in showers and lower beds for wheelchair users, but overall the hotel was disabled friendly and very helpful.
We flew from Manchester and organised a transfer from the airport to the hotel. There is a booth that you go to on the left of the airport exit and you just tell them your hotel and they send you to a coach for the drop off. Many people prefer not to fly and the ferry boat that leaves from either Poole or Portsmouth can take up to 4 and a half hours, but for non-flyers the boat is a comfortable stress free way to travel. After that we hired a car, much easier than going on buses with a disabled person. However, the bus tours around the island are extremely good. Open Top Tours, Island Coach Tours, Vintage Bus to War Tunnels and Durrell Shuttle Bus. The Char-A-Banc open top tour is great for people on a short stay. The Coastal Tour is very popular once you have been around the island you can go back to your favorite places. Prices vary but you do get value for money – ask for concessions – it is a chance to see Jersey’s hidden gems!
Driving in Jersey is an experience – not always a good one! The lack of road signs is a problem, get a good map before you start and study it before you set off, also get a scratch card for payment for parking – yes it is a pay card system in Jersey. You buy a card from a local shop and when you park your car you scratch of the time and date of your parking, leaving it on the dash board. For maps and information go to www.jersey.com or visit Jersey’s Visitor Services Centre at Liberation Place, St Helier, just around the corner from Liberation Square where the famous sculpture of the freedom from occupation stands. Liberation Square is opposite the harbour where you can join South Coast Cruises to take you around the island to see the shore from a different perspective and maybe, just maybe you will see dolphins and wildlife that surround this shore line.
However, on dry land for a disabled person the islands tourism council is getting more aware of the needs of people in wheelchairs, but the Disability Act is not applicable within Jersey. For loved ones that need support when going to the beach, contact Beach Ability and they will help you get the disabled person in the wheelchair into a state of the art wheelchair – big blue wheels and an airline sort of seat will make the disabled person and carers visit to the beach an enjoyable experience. Beach Ability can be contacted on 07797 935 088 but give them 24 hour notice because this charity is run by volunteers and doesn’t charge for the hire. Donations are most welcome, but instead of the disabled person not being able to get down to the beach, now they can. For the ‘fitter’ Silver Traveller that likes to go walking then Jersey is the place to go contact the Jersey tourist office and they will provide you with a walkers guide to Jersey and Jersey does have an Autumn walking festival. The guides are knowledgeable and very informative whether you want to walk alone or with a group this is catered for in the brochures www.jersey.com/walking.
Jersey has a succession of saints, St Hellier, St Brelade, St John, and many more, all beautiful bays and areas from the soft gentle beaches to the rugged cliff top walks. Jersey attracts the Silver Traveller because of the short distance to travel either by air or sea and is English speaking but Jersey is ‘upping its ante’ and catering for everyone young or old. The German War Tunnel experience is better than I remembered and has been up graded over the years with new technology – well worth a visit – the Durrel Wildlife Park is for the young and young at heart, beaches for wind surfing or surf boarding are very popular. The Jersey Pearl Centre is a treat, whether you are spending on precious pearls or just perusing and then calling at the lovely cafe it is well worth the visit. The Botanical Gardens, The Glass Church, the La Mare Wine Estate (don’t forget the Black Butter – gorgeous), The Jersey Lavender Estate, so many things to see and do and if you do run out of things to do take a boat ride to Guernsey or one of the other Channel Islands such as Sark, Herm or Alderney, and of course a short hop over to France – I am saving those for another time.
I loved the familiar, comfort of Jersey, it is good to not have to worry about the language and the currency, and generally the weather is better being further south and of course the French connection. The cafe culture is a treat. This article does not cover in depth the attractions of Jersey but if you just want to go and relax and take in the warmth and peaceful ambiance and have a Continental aperitif or a British ‘twist’ of lemon in a gin and tonic, sit awhile and enjoy this fascinating, lovely island.