Our trip to Guernsey was really a spur-of-the-moment decision and if the weather had been iffy, we would have never gone. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited Guernsey on a last-minute whim too! In 1846, they had been visiting the south coast of England and, as one of her engagements fell through, she decided to set sail unannounced for Guernsey! Islanders saw her ship coming and quickly decorated the entire harbor area in her honor! It was the first time a sitting monarch had visited the island! Two years later, construction started on Victoria Tower in her honor. The tower is located close to Candie Gardens where Gill left us. Before leaving, Gill encouraged us to ask for the key to the tower at the Guernsey Museum (located in the Gardens) and see the view from the top.
I think this is the first time I’ve ever been entrusted with the key to a historic public building! The view from the tower is worth the climb! On a good day you can see the French coast. It wasn’t that clear for us but we could still take in Herm and Sark across from us as well as a bird’s-eye view of Saint Peter Port. We also managed to get a good look at the Guernsey flag from the top. The flag is recent–it was adopted in 1985. As you can see it has the red cross of St. George (as found on the English flag) with an additional gold cross within it. It was nice to see it flying in several spots around St. Peter Port. We took turns going to the top leaving Laura sleeping in her stroller down below and Elise in charge of the key.
We ate a quick-lunch at Pasty Presto in town. I had seen Cornish pasties on a TV show about England before but had never eaten them. As we wanted something hot, fast and filling to eat, pasties were the perfect choice. Laura, Elise and Anthony ate traditional pasties–potatoes, swedes, onions, and chuck steak enveloped in flaky pastry. I decided to try the Thai Chicken version, a bit spicy but also good. We were in hurry as we had to get back to the harbor to catch the 12:15 ferry to Herm. Both Gill and the Tourist Information center told us about Herm’s Christmas Shopping promo–free tickets to the island on the Trident Ferry to do some shopping! While not on our original list of things to do, we immediately jumped at the offer.
Herm is the smallest of the Channel Islands open to visitors. The island is only 1 1/2 miles long and 1 mile wide! It’s a 20-minute ferry ride from Guernsey but it feels much closer. The ferry was packed! I don’t think there was any free space available when we left and I doubt it gets any more popular in the summer high season. As it was low-tide, we had to carry the stroller down several flights of stairs to reach the boat. I have to say that every single time (coming and going) we had multiple people offer their help getting the girls and strollers up and down. Elise spent the trip across playing peek-a-boo with two teenage boys and their family. Laura preferred looking out the window at the waves.
We spent our time in Herm wandering along the footpaths that cross the island. Herm is a walker’s paradise. The views are stunning, the paths are accessible even to strollers and one is spoiled with beaches for swimming, sunbathing or just relaxing. We walked for an hour before heading back into “town” (one pub and a couple of souvenir stores) for some shopping and a drink. While Laura ran around exploring everything she could see or touch, Elise slept through the entire visit! We sat in the sun on the terrace in front of the souvenir shop, ate a snack, wrote postcards and just took in the views. Our tickets back were on the 14:35 ferry. We could have gone back at 16:00 which would have allowed us the time to walk around the entire island but two hours was enough time for us. The sun was already beginning to go down when we left and the wind had picked up considerably.
When we got back to Guernsey it was a bit after 15:00 and we decided to head back to the Candie Gardens for a trip to the museum and tea. Unfortunately for us, the museum’s winter hours meant that it was only open to 16:00. We didn’t want to feel rushed so we opted to have a traditional tea instead at the museum’s cafe (open until 17:00). The tea was perfect and it came with enough to eat to feed an entire family–cucumber sandwiches, ham sandwiches, little cakes and scones all for a little less that 14£! Gill had pointed out a hotel offering the island’s best (and fanciest) high tea but it didn’t seem like a good idea with kids; maybe we’ll go there on another trip. The atmosphere in the museum café was very relaxed and the girls didn’t bother anyone. They even spent a few minutes playing with the couple at the table next to ours. After tea time, we let the girls run around and play in the park for a bit.
With dusk truly setting in, we went back into town and window shopped for an hour or so. The High Street/main shopping area is pedestrian only after 10 am and we took in all the Christmas displays. Shops close at 17:30, early by French standards but apparently the norm for the island. We continued to take in the decorated windows until around 6pm when it was time for an early dinner. We chose to eat at an Indian restaurant right on the waterfront. Indian food is not something we can easily get where we live in France and the menu looked promising–we were not disappointed. I chose the Taj Biriyani while Anthony went for the Chef’s Surprise set menu. Laura and Elise got a tasting menu based on our food. Elise turned out to be far more adventurous than Laura–she ate everything we gave her, Laura had rice. The meal was excellent but it was another reminder that neither Laura or Elise is ready for anything fancier than a pizza parlor for the time being. The long day was also beginning to show (I think Laura would have fallen asleep under the table if we had let her). That said, the meal made for a tasty end for our day away.
Our return ferry left for Saint Malo at 21:00, and, as in the morning, we had to be at the terminal 45 minutes early. We chose to walk to the terminal after dinner. It was only 7:30 pm when we arrived but the waiting room was already full of people ready to board. Instead of two hours, the return trip took closer to three and a half due to engine trouble. To be honest, we were all so exhausted that we slept most of the way back to Saint Malo. We crawled into bed at 1:30 am….I’ll let you guess what we did all day Sunday! LOL And I’m still feeling tired today, nearly two days later! It was worth it though! Guernsey was a wonderful experience and I can’t wait to go back and see more of the island. We didn’t do half of the things on our list or even leave the capital, yet the day was full of wonderful people and experiences! Definitely a place to recommend!