Jersey Part III–Museums and a Pot of Tea

Beach in Saint Helier

My Mother was teasing me that we sound like we’re so well-off when you read about everything we see and do.  We’re not–we’re just very good about prioritizing, budgeting, and making choices.  We also pay attention to free admission dates, special deals, and children’s discounts.  Jersey is full of things to do without breaking your budget.  The Jersey Pass while expensive at first sight, allowed us to visit a variety of museums and castles while remaining within our set sight-seeing budget.  Many of our favorite activities are free–window-shopping, hiking, walking the coast and hanging out at the beach cost nothing but your time.   The entire island is full of beautiful landscapes, green lanes, hiking paths and, of course, beaches.

Wave Machine at the Maritime Museum

Using our Jersey Pass to its fullest, we went to the Maritime Museum and Occupation Tapestry Gallery.  While two very different themes, the tapestry and Maritime Museum are grouped together in the same building.  If you’re not using the Jersey Pass, admission to the Maritime Museum costs £8.40 for adults (free for children under 6, reduced rates for older children and seniors).  Any successful vacation involves balancing everyone’s interests.  While Anthony was not impressed by the Maritime Museum, I can whole-heartedly recommend it for families with children.  The museum is full of hands-on, interactive exhibits geared towards children.  Learn about the tides, gale force winds, sailing ships and sea life in a relaxed atmosphere!  I could practically hear the girls thinking, “Finally a museum where you can make a little noise!”  The museum is also relatively compact so Laura and Elise were able to enjoy everything without getting worn out.

The Occupation Tapestry Gallery has its own specially designed room opposite to the gift shop and Maritime Museum entrance.  Admission costs 4£, however, it is “free” to Jersey Pass holders.  While referred to in the singular, there are actually twelve tapestries in total, one for each of the island’s parishes and worked on by its inhabitants.  Three hundred different people helped sew the tapestry and many of them lived through the occupation itself.  The tapestries were designed and sewn as part of an island-wide commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Jersey’s liberation.  Each panel tells part of Jersey’s history.  Starting with the outbreak of war and ending with liberation, the panel illustrate the everyday story of occupation life from school and work to restrictions and deportations.  The tapestries make for a concise and visually stimulating overview of the occupation.  If you’re looking for a more in-depth look at WWII and the island, however, the Jersey War Tunnels are a far better choice.  Since both attractions were covered with the Jersey Pass, I saw no need to choose between them.  Those on a budget, with limited time and/or varying degrees of interest in the period should choose between the Tapestries (overview) and the Tunnels (in-depth).

Art Installation, Merchant's House

Our last stop using the Jersey Pass was the Jersey Museum and Art Gallery.  If Anthony had mixed feelings at the Maritime Museum, I had them here.  I suppose I could sum up my thoughts by saying that if you have a rainy day, some spare time and the Jersey Pass come here otherwise enjoy being outside.  I would not spend 8.40£ on admission fees here.  Basic exhibits cover life on Jersey and its history, flora and fauna.  If you’re interested in the island and its history, you will find these themes covered in far more depth at other Jersey Heritage sites (prehistoric–La Hogue Bie, farm life–Hamptonne, maritime Life–Maritime History Museum, etc.).  I did appreciate the temporary exhibit “Occupied Behind Barbed Wire” which focused on life in the internment camps during the war.  Over 2,200 Channel Islanders were deported to camps and spent the war years in Germany battling depression, anxiety and boredom.  The exhibit contains drawings, items made by internees out of recycled materials, and pictures.  When we visited, the Gallery was closed while a new exhibit was being installed.  Admission to the Jersey Museum also includes a chance to visit the restored Merchant’s House.  The Merchant’s House is also home to a temporary exhibit–in this case an art installation which occupies the entire house!  “The Past Unravels” by artist Karen Le Roy Harris tries to breathe life into the Ginestet family and their home.  By turns surreal and intriguing, I enjoyed her installation but could easily have gotten by without seeing it.  By this time the girls were ready for some fresh air and the chance to run around; no matter where you are in Jersey, you’re only minutes from the seashore and that’s where we headed next!  We ended all our days on the beach or at the park/playground and, to be honest, I think they were Laura and Elise’s favorite moments.

Keep the Island Clean--Recycling Container Written in Jersey French

Just walking along the waterfront with breaks for ice cream, tea and scones and a picnic lunch should be part of every Jersey vacation!  No major sites, no museums and yet, it still makes for a perfect day.  Serious hikers and families with older children should check out the many walks/trails on the island.  The tourist office offers an excellent brochure and map full of hiking trails and ideas for picnicking destinations.  Regardless of your age, be sure to try some of the local Jersey ice cream.  Made with milk and cream from island bred and born Jersey cows, it’s delicious–you can practically taste the calories it’s so good!  The promise of ice cream was also a wonderful motivator for getting the girls to walk with a smile.  I am in love with cream in all its forms and our other splurge was Jersey cream tea in a lovely tea room/restaurant in Gorey.  Homemade scones, clotted cream, apple butter, and cake all served with a pot of tea and a smile make for a great way to end your afternoon…but don’t take my word for it, all you need to do is go to Jersey and enjoy it for yourself!

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