| 9.8°C Dublin

The great escape

The great eswartime memories and modern dare-devil adventures go hand in hand in Jersey

Don't mention Bergerac. You can, however, talk about the war. Jersey's famous son, John Nettles, has recently filmed a series documenting the Channel Island's occupation, the only part of the British Isles invaded by Germany. Jersey was the last territory in Europe to be freed in 1945. The grim years are captured in a sensitive museum on the island, which is well worth a visit.

The 'war tunnels' stretch for more than a kilometre through which visitors find exhibits detailing life on the island for both Germans and natives. Built to house 12,000 soldiers and their arms in an impregnable fortress, it now holds poignant reminders of the personal memories of local people.

On arrival, visitors are handed an ID card similar to those issued to islanders. I became "Louisa Gould" for my journey, a widow born in 1891 who was murdered in 1945 for harbouring a Russian slave.

Back in the daylight, Jersey's image may be of a sleepy, slightly twee retirement spot, but it's upping the ante with new adventure holidays designed to attract the dare-devil tourist. Certainly the war term 'going over the top' takes on a new resonance when abseiling down a former German observation tower.

Luckily, I was in the safe hands of Jersey Adventures which provides the blood-pumping activities including kayaking, x-sailing and caving -- they have a new adventure centre opening shortly.

A stunning walk along the north coast with a Blue-Badge guide was both informative and fun. David Le Gresley took us on a ramble from Rozel to Jardin d'Olivet pointing out the island's beautiful scenery and fascinating history. A 'moonwalk' can be taken when the tide is out. Tickets are just £5 (€6.10).

For families, a visit to the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust is a must. Set in 31 acres, it is a unique sanctuary and breeding centre set up to attempt to save almost extinct species. It was founded by Gerald Durrell in 1959 and his wife, Lee, still lives on the estate.

After all that activity you'll want to relax, and a massage at the Radisson Blu's Waterfront Beautique salon is just the thing. The hotel is ideally located within walking distance of capital St Helier and offers accommodation and adventure packages.

It has spacious, well-appointed rooms and an excellent cocktail bar; Radisson is a byword for luxury you can rely on. Here you have three room choices -- standard, business class or a sumptuous suite -- with a choice of sea or town views.

There's also a big, heated pool area and gym with all the latest fitness equpment and, for the less energetic, a top-range spa.

The Waterfront Brasserie offers great views of the Marina, and it's also very child-friendly, with a separate buffet for the kids, as well as toys, games and films on offer in their own special area of the restaurant.

Away from the hotel and also worth a visit is the Jersey Museum which is currently housing a Marilyn Monroe exhibition until September.

A local collector bought up dresses and personal effects belonging to the tragic star, including the famous sequinned dress from Some Like it Hot in 1993 for $38,500.

Marilyn's personal bits and bobs are a mish-mash of plastic gew-gaws and tacky accessories -- they have a sad resonance, even now.

charming

Tucked away in the corner of this charming museum are the original Millais and Poynter paintings of King's mistress and Jersey Lily, Mrs Langtry. It also houses a history of the island and a 19th-century interior.

Jersey is a delightful hybrid -- street names are in French but the people are unmistakably English. It is a VAT-free island, so a few purchases before you leave are worthwhile.

If you have the time, you can also head to nearby St Malo in France on the regular ferries, and it's worth checking out the restaurants in what is a rarity: a truly beautiful ferry-port town.

But you could be forgiven for staying put on Jersey.

Although it spans a mere 116 square kilometres, Jersey has got it all -- extreme sports, great golf courses, long empty beaches, dramatic clifftops and a warm welcome that'll bring you back to a place where the pace of life is that bit more laidback and all the better for it.


Privacy