Guernsey–the Great Escape Part I

Fort Grey, Guernsey

Fort Grey, Guernsey

I love Guernsey!  There I’ve said it!  The island, the people, the food, the complete and total change that comes from leaving France, French and Euros behind for a taste of English, (Guernsey) Pounds, and the island touch!  This is the second time we’ve gone to Guernsey and I need to book us a long weekend come spring–one day is not enough to appreciate all there is to see.  (You can read about last year’s adventures here and here.)  Once again we took advantage of Condor Ferries 2-for-1 adult fare day trip promo.  If you’re in the Brittany/Normandy area and want to get away, I highly recommend it.  We convinced Anthony’s Dad to watch the girls and headed off for some much-needed alone time.

The Condor promo is running again next Saturday, 8 December 2012.  For 43.90€, you and your soul mate, best friend, or even neighbor can spend the day in Guernsey with or without your children!  Condor has actually improved on their offer, while the price has gone up since last year, they’ve actually shortened the day.  Instead of arriving at 6:30 in the morning and wandering around aimlessly until the first cafes open an hour later, you now arrive at 7:30 am right in time for breakfast.  By the same token, the return ferry was scheduled for 8:00 pm.  As you need to arrive a bit early, you can eat a leisurely dinner and then go directly to the ferry terminal.  If we devoted last year to Saint Peter Port and the neighboring island of Herm, this year, we concentrated on seeing a bit more of the island.

Lihou Island and L'Eree Headland

Lihou Island and L’Eree Headland

We chose not to bring our car.  From the ferry terminal it is a straight walk into town.  If you turn left, you quickly come to the Tourist Office (a handsome gray stone building) and a little further on, the main bus terminal.   Island buses run regularly and cost only 1£ per ride.  Pay the driver when you board and take your ticket from the machine.  Exact change is appreciated.  If you don’t have change, 5£ notes are acceptable.  Our driver had to turn several tourists away who only had 10£ notes on them.   If you’re looking to get a cheap overview of the island, Bus 7 and 7a follow the coastline most of the way around.  (Buses with “A” run the route counterclockwise, buses without an “A” run clockwise.)  We enjoyed staring out the windows and watching the capital fade into the background.  From a tourist’s perspective, it would be helpful if the stops were better labeled or even announced ahead of time.    We let the bus take us all the way to the western part of the island before randomly  hitting the “request stop” button and hopping out.  Like here in Brittany, the better part of the coast is lined with pedestrian trails perfect for walking and exploring.  We ended up getting out near Fort Saumarez, just across from Lihou Island.

Le Creux és Faies Passage Grave

Le Creux és Faies Passage Grave

The island is covered in military history.  Fort Saumarez has been a strategic a spot centuries and traces of human existence there go back even further.  As we walked up to the see the tower firsthand, a small sign for “Le Creux és Faies” passage tomb caught our attention.  The Megalithic passage tomb dates to the 3-2,500 BC!  Judging by the massive stones that form its walls, it will still be standing centuries from now!  I actually felt tall walking into it.  While I didn’t have to duck, it’s clear that the first people using the tomb were more like me and Anthony in size than today’s “average” population.  The spot’s long-lasting strategic importance is also clear–the Germans simply built their observation tower on top of the older Victorian Martello tower.  When you look at the tower, you can see where stone gives way to concrete casing.  If you stare out to see, you can look at the house on Lihou Island.  As it was high tide, we couldn’t walk over but simply wonder who would want to live in such splendid isolation.  We headed south from the tower our eyes on the horizon.  We took a leisurely pace as we wandered from l’Eree Bay to Rocquaine Bay, Fort Grey beckoning us on.  The sandy beaches were mainly deserted, we passed a few people walking their dogs but otherwise we were alone.  I can imagine them in summer covered with sunbathers and swimmers instead of decaying seaweed.

Fort Pezeries (Interior)

Fort Pezeries (Interior)

Fort Grey, otherwise known as the Château Rocquaine, houses a shipwreck museum.  Like the majority of the tourist sites on the island, it was closed.  To be honest, I didn’t miss the “must-see sites.”  The beauty of the coast more than made up for a lack of museums to explore.  (In all fairness, there were a couple of sites open but we chose to focus our morning on a part of the coastal scenery.)  Fort Grey, built-in 1804, is another Martello tower.  We kept walking making it all the way to Fort Pezeries, another Napoleonic-era fort.  I lost track of the number of people we passed out walking their dogs or simply biking around Pleimont.  This is one of the perks of traveling off-season, you see the island and people relaxed, simply living their daily lives.  I can’t speak for the islanders, but I know I change some of my habits in the summer when Dinard and Saint Malo fill up with tourists.

Simply Beautiful

Simply Beautiful

On a side note, we could almost pick out the other French tourists back in town simply by looking at the way they were dressed.  After checking the forecast, we came equipped for walking in cold, windy weather with our backpacks, coats, hats, gloves, and scarves.  It was cold, brisk when walking, but we looked overdressed compared to the locals.  The very first person I saw when we were getting off the ferry was a dock worker dressed in shorts!  Half the people we saw on our way to get breakfast didn’t have winter coats on and I lost track of the girls in short skirts and tights.  I suppose it’s all what you get used to!

We ended our morning by backtracking to the bus stop and heading back into town.  With the exception of the last part around Portelet Harbor, bus stops lined our entire walk.  If you get tired or your children get cranky, escape is only a bus ride away.  We brought sandwiches and water along with us.  While we didn’t see much in the way of cafes or places to eat along the way, my guess is that during the summer season the area springs to life.  Things were certainly lively back in Saint Peter Port, you see we were also there for Father Christmas’s official arrival…

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