Jersey: 'I've always wanted to go there...' So why not now?
Jersey is one of those places that we have all heard of and yet, have we been? Do we actually know anyone who's been?
I had always wanted to visit, don't ask me why, but when I mentioned to people that I was going, the universal response was "Oh, Jersey! I have always wanted to go there!"
Just like Ireland, Jersey has a mystique about it that draws people. And it doesn't disappoint. The island is small but perfectly formed, and is ideal for a mini break.
Long weekends either have to be carefully planned sightseeing trips, or uber luxurious and relaxing destinations. I wanted the latter.
Longueville Manor, independently owned by Patricia (who is Irish) and Malcolm Lewis, is the only AA Five Red Star hotel on Jersey. The hotel's website descriptions of the 14th Century house with a unique wine cellar, a 16th Century oak panelled fine restaurant, and boutique spa that offered sumptuous sounding treatments, convinced me that Longueville Manor was all about relaxation.
Aer Lingus flies direct from Dublin to Jersey. The flight takes only 80 minutes or so. Even the section of Terminal 1 (accessed from Terminal 2) from which you depart is quiet and peaceful. It was all a good omen for things to come.
The temperature in Ireland at the time of my trip (mid-April) was around nine degrees with a wind chill factor making it feel more like five degrees. Jersey, on the other hand, offered a balmy 18 degrees, with no nasty wind chill.
The reason for the difference is Jersey's location. It sits just 30 miles off the coast of Brittany, north of St Malo (you can take a day boat trip to it from Jersey) and the Gulf Stream runs right by.
When I arrived, Longueville Manor was fragrant and pretty with spring, its rhododendrons and camellias were in full bloom and the hedgerows everywhere festooned with dancing daffodils.
Hannah, one of Longueville's lovely front of house staff, is a Jersey Bean, meaning she is a native islander. It was Hannah who would put up with my daily interrogations about island life, tell me about her grandmother - who spoke Jersey's native language of Jerriais - and let me snoop around Longueville.
As we explored, Hannah introduced me to several friendly colleagues and from that point on, no one forgot my name, nor my preferences. It was as if as one went through Longueville's door and a magic wand had been waved that removed all potential headaches. Hannah told me later that regulars, of whom there are many, call it the 'Longueville bubble' effect; people walk through the door and forget their lives, their cares.
The grounds of Longueville Manor are landscaped to a gentle wildness. The bird song in the early morning is incredible.
The building has only 30 bedrooms and suites so it is never crowded. Rooms are unique and individually decorated. Mine featured a ceramic double-ended bath on an elevated platform that overlooked trees and garden. I loved it.
Longueville has a serious culinary reputation. Chef Andrew Baird is passionate about fresh and local. The hotel grows as much of its own food as it can in its Victorian kitchen garden and sources locally for the rest. The manor has its own forager and its wine cellar, a thing of beauty, includes a large collection of rare vintages, more of which you can read about on the website (longuevillemanor.com).
Breakfast at Longueville is as luxurious as everything else. On my first morning, I explained to the staff how I liked my coffee and eggs. I never had to again. I had never experienced such natural, relaxed service.
My treatment in the boutique spa, The Cottage Garden, was what made the trip even more special. I chose the REN Moroccan Rose Ritual treatment, two and half hours of heaven. I am a bit of a massage-as-therapy-treatment connoisseur and know a little about essential oils. Ania, my therapist and worth her weight in (costly) rose oil, did an incredible job. What Ania did with her rose oils was nothing short of miraculous. If you do go for it, do not schedule anything afterwards, beyond room service. For at least 24 hours.
With a fantastic meal in the restaurant the night before and my stunning massage and dopey day following it, I then got a bit of Catholic guilt going about coming to Jersey but not wanting to leave my 'Longueville bubble', so I had a look at Jersey's tourist website (jersey.com) and bullied myself into doing a coastal day tour of the island with Jersey Bus & Boat Tours (jerseybustours.com) who also offer bicycle hire.
Our tour took us right around the island, filling us in on history, historical sights, Jersey property, tax, celebrity, farming, military museums, food and insider information such as the fact that not only is St Aubin's a lovely seaside harbour and village and where they shot hit 1980s TV series Bergerac, starring John Nettles, later of Midsomer Murders fame (come on, admit it, you love Midsomer Murders, too) but it also has great cafes, restaurants and quirky boutiques, including designer fashion consignment store Glad Rags.
From the tour I realised Jersey really is a beautiful place with lots of gorgeous coastline, silver sand beaches, as well as dramatic, rock-filled vistas that combined with the unique light that can be luminous and opaque at times, turns it into an exotic, near alternative world. Dramatic and beautiful small castle-like buildings and Martello towers dot the island's peaks.
Jersey has a hugely reliable, excellent bus service (and app) so you can get around without a car but it is a slow option. Just to warn you.
Jersey became somewhat notorious in World War II when half its people left when they knew the Germans were coming, and then Winston Churchill decided to leave those who stayed behind to their fate, considering it was not worth the resources it would take to protect the island, that could be 'better' used elsewhere.
A bitter historical legacy resulted, consisting of stories of collaboration and cruelty, not only by the Nazis to the Russian POWs whom they used as slave labour when mining the island, but also of Jersey islanders selling out neighbours and so on. Of course, every situation has many sides, many versions. A visit to the brilliant Jersey War Tunnels (jerseywartunnels.com), an interactive museum dedicated to this time, gives you a feeling of just what life must have been like for the people of Jersey and for the German soldiers.
There are heartbreaking tales of heroism and humanity such as those who risked their lives to hide Jewish neighbours and escaped Russian slaves, and managing to do so for several years, until they were all caught and sent to concentration camps. Radios were banned. People were so hungry they ate their pets...
Jersey is a paradise of walking, cycling and horse riding trails because when they took up their railway lines, they cleverly made use of the cleared space for the public interest.
If you decide to look around St Helier, the capital, wander behind some of the old quarter's French-influenced streets and buildings where you will come across some quirky shops, with especially unusual interiors. Fashion is limited though some of the richest people in Europe live here.
Because of its tax breaks, multi-millionaires are attracted here and you will never see so many high-end luxury cars in one spot. I accidentally discovered that pottering around the second hand car dealerships weirdly turned out to be rather fascinating. I love Top Gear and this is Top Gear car nirvana.
Jersey and Longueville Manor are dog friendly. Next time I am bringing my dog with me. Then I will have the perfect holiday.
TAKE TWO: Top attractions
Founded by conservationist and author Gerald Durrell (yes of those Durrells), it is fascinating, mainly outdoors, has a restaurant and a cafe, and is easily accessed by public transport. See durrell.org
La Hougue Bie
Neolithic, equinox-celebrating burial chamber upon which a church was built in the 15th Century. There’s also a small but interesting archaeological museum of Jersey, showcasing Celtic treasure trove.
Aer Lingus Regional (aerlingus.com) operates seasonal flights between Dublin and Jersey between now until October 7. Flights operate four times a week increasing to six times a week during peak summer schedule. Lead in fares start from €44.99 one way, including taxes and charges.
Longueville Manor is the only AA 5 Red Star hotel and member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux association in Jersey. Nightly rates at Longueville Manor start from €225, based on two sharing on a bed and breakfast basis. +44 (0)1534 725501 or longuevillemanor.com.
Read more:Jersey: Channelling island life
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