If our morning was devoted to discovering a bit of Guernsey’s wild coast, the afternoon was all about tea, scones, postcards and Christmas! I had already guessed that something was up when we arrived in Saint Peter Port in the morning and I saw the telltale crowd control guard rails. A few questions later, I found out that Father Christmas was coming to town that very afternoon! Talk about being in the right place at the right time! I don’t care how old I am, I still find the magic of Christmas contagious and you could feel the excitement building throughout the afternoon. While things got underway down at the Yacht Club, Santa’s official arrival spot on the island, we were hanging out at Gâche downtown and enjoying a break from our pre-parade afternoon window shopping expedition.
If you’re planning a shopping based trip to Guernsey, keep in mind that stores close early by French standards. Most stores close at 5:30 pm and a few stay open until 6 pm! In the winter, it feels like the island shuts down at dinner time. (Yes, I know the pubs are open but I’ve never been a pub/bar type person.) I believe there will be special Christmas late openings for shops this month; check with the tourist office when you arrive or shop early. When you’re ready for a break from your shopping, Gâche, located at 31 Le Pollet, Saint Peter Port, is a small coffeehouse/tea room perfect for quiet conversations and long letters (or short postcards as the case may be). We spent an hour sipping tea for two, eating the official Guernsey gâche (I have to admit I prefer French gâche) and writing postcards. The owner made us feel at home and not at all rushed. She also offers Millionnaires Shortbread. I might not have been wild about the gâche but the shortbread was an entirely different matter–you cannot go wrong with layers of shortbread, a smooth caramel, and melted chocolate!
When we were finished with our break and stocking up on some calories for the cold, we headed over to the church to join the crowd waiting for Santa there. It felt like the entire town turned out for his parade too! We arrived around 4pm near the church and staked out a spot amidst all the families. While we waited a choir led the crowd in a Christmas carol sing-a-long. I might not be able to sing but I joined in anyway–I figured the crowd would drown out one off-key voice! A children’s sign language choir also joined in for several songs. Watching the little kids in their Santa hats signing and looking somewhere between nervous, proud, excited and very concentrated was a wonderful moment.
I quickly noticed that all the kids in the crowd were holding their letters to Santa. You see not only does Father Christmas come to Guernsey to turn on the Christmas lights but he also brings his helpers and collects all his mail at the same time. In addition to his elves, Santa came with a host of storybook characters! We saw Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and friends, Peter Pan and Captain Cook, and I could go on! If Laura and Elise had been with us, I know they would have jumped for joy to see Little Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf and Frosty the Snowman. At precisely 5 o’clock, Santa led everyone in the official countdown and lit the lights. The town came alive with the colorful lights and the cheering crowd! Even Anthony had to smile! When the last of the confetti had fallen we took one last walk around the city, enjoying the crowds and the lights before heading off to an early dinner and returning to France. The proverbial perfect ending for a perfect day!