Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A belated postcard from Jersey

Colin and I had a wonderful holiday in Jersey at the end of August.

I was telling my friend Claire all about it last night and she asked me whether I had mentioned it in my blog, and of course I hadn't so I shall do so now.

What you need to know is that Jersey's tourist figures are in free-fall. A few years ago a million and a half visitors were recorded, last year only half a million and this year, as late as the end of August, the Parliament was refusing to say how few people had visited in 2006.

The newspapers were full of woe and wailing and questions about why people have stopped going.

If they only paid me a modest commission I could sort it all out for them in a flash.

Jersey is a wonderful place and if no-one goes it is because no-one knows anything about it

Have you been to Cornwall? Well Jersey is similar, only smaller and much less busy of course now that no-one goes any more.

It has beautiful coast lines, possibly the best beaches I have ever stepped foot on, lovely little fishing villages, lots of interesting tourist attractions, friendly people, the same currency as us(albeit with different pictures on the notes), the same shops (although with some extra designer stores thrown in), they drive on the same side of the road, everyone speaks English and you can be there in less than an hour from most English airports (which makes it a lot nearer than Cornwall too in travelling time.)

It is abroad without being disconcerting, the street names are in both English and French so there is a sense of being overseas, as of course you will be, but also England abroad for those occasions when that is exactly what you want.

It is fabulous for those who like walking or cycling, it is family friendly and most places are easily accessible to those with physical disabilities.

What else is in Jersey's favour?

There are great buses if you want a day pass or a week's pass - we spent our first full day on the Island having a full tour so that we could identify where we might want to spend longer in the week to follow. It gave us a great itinerary.

For example we spent time in a wonderful church where the widow of Jesse Boot (founder of Boots the Chemist) had paid Lalique (the world famous French glass designer) to recreate the altar, font and side chapels in glass as a memorial to her husband.

For a short while Colin sat on a bench outside the police station in St Aubyn where apparently Bergerac, that famous Jersey policeman, operated from. (He has since bought me a video of the series where I can become very excited while recognising the background....)

Our most moving and emotional day came at the caves of the German Invasion. Thousands of prisoners of war from across Europe spent years building tunnels under the island to house various facilities the Nazis thought they might want if the islands were to be recaptured by the British. The occupation had terrible effects on the local population, to begin with the Germans thought they had the best billet in Europe, by the end they were eating seagulls to stay alive. It is very important story we all need to hear.

For at least 25 years I have ensured that my birthday is celebrated by a boat trip and this year was no exception. I have long wanted to visit Sark because I knew that there were no cars allowed and no planes could fly overhead or land. What manner of island was this?

I can tell you that on the day we visited it was first and foremost a feudal state, I doubt if there are any others now left. There was a Lord of the Manor and about 40 tenants, everyone else was a serf or a villein, in the pay of and the living of the Lord. There are three main modes of transport on Sark, bicycle, horse and trap or tractor, and that is it.

I read today in the newspaper that the island inhabitats have, by a small margin, now voted to become a democracy.

I have spent time wondering about why people dont go to Jersey, I have also surveyed my friends and neighbours about why that is, and the conclusion I have come to is this; too many people do not know what Jersey is, why you should go there or why you would want to. According to my mother it became, in the 1960s, a destination for honeymooners. And then they stopped advertising. So the only people who go there now are people who are on their 40th wedding anniversaries.

When I told people where we were going on holiday, they did not know it, or know anyone who went there, "Why are you going there?" they asked.

So I have to say that poor advertising, particularly on British TV, would appear to be the main problem.

So if I can end where I left off, Jersey is a fabulous holiday destination. It is true that most visitors seemed to be pensioners and occasionally with their grandchildren but the people in the service industries were young. There is no reason why anyone should not consider Jersey for their holidays, I am certainly convinced and at 41 I am not yet past it!


Cath said...

You have made it sound a lovely place to visit - we shall have to add it to our ever increasing list of places to go and see before it is too late!
Love Cath

Anonymous said...

Hummm it is even appealing to me. I think my Mum went on her first girly holiday there age 18 bless! Sx

Zigerist said...

Read about Norman Le Brocq
and the Jersey Resistance Movement in WW2