The 'Other' Jersey
The Bailiwick of Jerseyby Cheryl Pendry, PassPorter Featured Columnist
Last modified 05-12-2011
Think of the word Jersey, and probably for any American reader, there’s an immediate temptation to add the word “New” in front of it.
That’s understandable enough, but there was another Jersey that came first.<
Jersey - St. Helier
St. Helier's Central Market.
The Bailiwick of Jersey, to give it its proper name, is a British Crown Dependency. It’s a small island located about 12 nautical miles from France’s Normandy coast and 87 nautical miles from the British mainland. It’s an interesting contradiction in terms, in that it’s part of what’s defined as the United Kingdom, but it has its own identity. While the UK is part of the European Union, Jersey isn’t, although the UK remains responsible for defending Jersey. As I say, it’s an odd mix.
Even stranger, Jersey uses a version of the British currency, but different coins and notes. Traditional UK currency is accepted anywhere here, but Jersey currency isn’t readily accepted in the rest of the UK. For starters, they still have a one pound note, the same as the dollar bill, whereas the rest of the UK phased that out a couple of decades ago. We were fascinated by the money, which has a Jersey cow watermark on it, as one resident pointed out to us!
Before we headed out for our first visit to Jersey, I had some very definite ideas about what I thought it would be like. Because it’s so close to the French coast, I assumed that we’d hear a lot of French spoken there or at least English with a French accent, something I’m very familiar with having had a French grandmother, but not a bit of it. I was actually amazed by how many foreign accents we heard, particularly Eastern Europeans, but very few French voices.
As you’d expect from its location, Jersey has had a chequered history throughout the years, coming under French ownership until the early 13th century, when it became self-governing. Jersey did indeed give its name to the new American state, and it started out as recognition for support given to King James II by islander Sir George Carteret. The King gave Carteret a large chunk of land, which was promptly called New Jersey.
Jersey is a small island, measuring roughly five miles by eight miles, but despite that, you still need a car to travel around, even if you’re only there a short period of time, as we were. During the summer months, I can imagine that walking and cycling are very pleasant, but in November, when the weather’s much more changeable, it wasn’t an option for us. The weather here is very interesting, and in fact, they’ve now got an advert out on British TV, saying that Jersey’s the warmest place in the United Kingdom – and it’s true. When we were there, the temperatures were probably a good couple of degrees warmer than anywhere else.
During our stay, we visited a fair amount of the island, starting off with what’s generally regarded as the island’s premier seaside resort, St. Brelade Bay. I’m not surprised it’s so popular, as it’s a beautiful setting and very tranquil. The beach spreads round a lovely cove, overlooked by hotels, fishermen’s boats, and churches. Of these, one, the Fishermen’s Chapel, is Jersey’s oldest place of worship, as it was built in the 11th century. It got its name because it was used in its early life for worship by fishermen’s guilds.
Another lovely resort along the south coast of the island is St. Aubin’s Bay, which runs for literally miles along the coast, from the village of St. Aubin all the way into the capital, St. Helier. We were lucky enough to be staying in a hotel room with a view over the bay. Even in the winter, it still looked a charming place, albeit a bit cold for a walk on the beach!
Jersey - Bouley Bay
Stunning fall colors at Bouley Bay on the northern coast, with the French coastline in the distance.
The northern coastline is generally regarded as the most stunning in Jersey. As soon as we made our first stop out there, at Bouley Bay, I could see why people talk about it in such terms. The fall colours were just beautiful around the bay, and despite the time of the year, there were still sets of divers, enjoying time in the water. A little further along the coast we found another charming bay, Rozel Bay, which is a quintessential fishing village, with boats everywhere in the harbour.
As we headed along the east side of the coast, we were amazed to see the French coastline in the distance. You really don’t realise how close you are to the continent when you’re here. The coastline changes dramatically as you move around the island. By the time you get to the southeast, it looks like an alien landscape, with rocks and reefs everywhere, and coastal defences keeping a watching eye over people’s safety.
As well as the scenery, Jersey is also known for its beautiful Jersey cows. I was delighted, as a cow lover, to see fields of them. They’re also prominent in souvenirs throughout the island, and nowhere more so than at Jersey Pottery. It’s a free-to-visit attraction where you can watch people at work creating some beautiful items. There’s a little display of the company’s history, and you can also see the old factory, complete with historic photos of Jersey life.
When we visited, sadly many of the island’s main attractions were closed for the winter, outside of the capital of St. Helier and the Jersey War Tunnels, both of which will be the subject of upcoming PassPorter news articles. Obviously realising that this diminishes the attractiveness of Jersey as a place to visit in the winter, tourisim chiefs sensibly came up with ways of enticing people to the island. One of those is Tennerfest.
Essentially, Tennerfest is a celebration of food, offering visitors the chance to enjoy good food at rock bottom prices. It gets its name from the fact that you can get meals from as low as a tenner (£10), although often the set meals on offer are £15 or £20. Still, no matter, even at those prices, you’re getting amazing food for a real bargain. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner and lunch while we were there for reasonable rates, and both agreed that we’d happily return again at the same time of the year to enjoy Tennerfest again. It’s a great initiative, especially for those of us who enjoy their dining out.
With beautiful scenery, excellent food at a good price, and a decidedly warmer climate than we’re used to in the rest of the British Isles, Jersey is a wonderful get-away during the winter months. We loved enjoying a slice of Jersey life and hope to head back there again for another slice sometime soon.
Jersey is located an hour’s flight from the British mainland, with flights from all over the country, including London’s Gatwick, Stansted, and Luton Airports. Tennerfest runs annually from the start of October to mid November.
Updated 05-12-2011 - Article #637
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