The Jersey Diary, Day 2: Jersey History 101
To Be or Not to Be
There are some questions in life that one does not ever think of until circumstances somewhat force you to consider. For us, such question was, "Is Jersey part of the United Kingdom?" We figured that it would be much more fun if we learned the answer once in Jersey, and today would be the day we would get our Jersey history lesson straight.
We started our first full day the same way we would for the next eight days - kicked off with a hearty breakfast of champions at our B&B and out the door by 9:00am to Liberation Square, St. Helier's main bus station (a 10 minute walk from our B&B ...strategically chosen!). The night before we readied ourselves with the Island's regular bus service timetable (http://libertybus.je/routes_times#.V6pVxGX6TzU) and we decided that our history lesson would commence out in La Corbière, the extreme south-western point of Jersey in St. Brélade.
Hop on the (Liberty)Bus, Gus
LibertyBus is the operator of bus services in Jersey and the first thing we did upon arrival to Liberation Square bus terminal was purchase an AvanchiCard for each one of us. This is something we strongly recommend visitors to Jersey to do early on. You
can purchase a 1, 3 or 7 day AvanchiCard and due to our time at the Island we went with a 7 day card (https://shop.libertybus.je/ssp/jersey/landing_page.jsp). In addition, we highly suggest to register your card online right away at https://shop.libertybus.je/ssp/jersey/register_card.jsp?productId=1#login for unexpected mishaps, i.e., like losing your card.
Per our experience, LibertyBus is an excellent means of getting out and about the Island. They have a fleet of brand new buses that covers an extensive network of bus routes and the bus drivers are extremely friendly (pretty much everyone on the Island is so welcoming and hospitable, no joke). Our first impression of the Liberation Station was one of cleanliness, easy to get around, understandable, under cover for those rainy days and with clean toilets.
Class in Session
Our morning outdoor classroom destinations were perfect in that they were all within a relatively short walking distance from one another: the Naval Tower MP2, 10.5CM Coastal Defense Gun Casemate and the M19 Fortress Mortar & Heavy MG Bunkers.
They visually helped us better understand how the Island itself was reinforced unlike any other Nazi invaded territory and what Jersey meant to them. The German Forces reinforced the Island by constructing defense bunkers and setting up complex and costly defenses in order to create a network of similar weapons along the coast to prevent the formation of a beachhead, in the event of an Allied invasion. Jersey and the rest of the Channel Islands were the only part of Britain to be occupied by the Nazis during World War II, and this capture was a major triumph for Hitler for he had "conquered" a part of British soil and believed that the Islands would never be returned. Hence, on 20 October 1941, Hitler issued his Fortification Directive, ordering Jersey to be turned into an "impregnable fortress."
Fortunately, there are opportunities to visit some bunkers and get a good understanding of their unique installation (http://www.ciosjersey.org.uk/bunkers). It
goes without saying that we recommend good, sturdy walking shoes while venturing throughout the terrain. There are good walks all throughout the area while discovering hidden bunkers, as well as coming across unexpected sculptures off the beaten path. We did and it was worth it.
Corbière Lighthouse offered a beautiful scenic view with quite a bit of history to it, such as it being the first lighthouse in the British Isles to be built of reinforced concrete and its light is visible for 18 miles (29 kms) in clear weather. It was an easy walk and it had a good causeway for anyone to access from the shore. However, it is imperative to find out the times for low and high tides prior to visiting for the causeway gets covered by the high tide (http://jerseyeveningpost.com/weather/). Similar to the aforementioned sites, the lighthouse can also be visited on specific dates and times throughout the year and it is a definite must see (https://www.jersey.com/corbiere-lighthouse-guided-walking-tour).
Our day unfolded without any hiccups as we continued to follow our itinerary. Our next stop entailed for us to hop on the bus from La Corbière to St. Brélade’s Bay (alternatively, it is a 45 minute walk). The St. Brélade's Parish Church did not disappoint. We all agreed that it was worth the visit for it overlooks one of the best known beaches in Jersey, and its structure and the energy inside the church was peaceful and unique. As a history lover myself, I loved knowing that the two church buildings onsite sit where the original wooden church was built by St. Brélade in the 6th century. (www.stbreladeschurch.com).
From here we walked to St. Brélade's bay beach. Very quickly we realized that there is no sidewalk and that vehicles, as well as pedestrians, share the same small road. Therefore, when walking through this area please take great caution for congestions can easily take place. Although drivers tend to be very polite with giving pedestrians the right of way, it is always best to be safe than sorry.
St. Brélade’s bay beach offered a lovely promenade with small cafés, quaint hotels and shops all looking out to the English Channel. We walked through Churchill’s Memorial Garden which offered us the time to meander through its colorful array of flowers and plants. Soon enough it became evident that both locals and tourists alike thought along the same lines of how to enjoy the precious moment…with a real Jersey ice cream! Everywhere we looked there was someone young or young at heart licking away. Our debut of the ice cream would have to come at a later date for we were on a mission…to re-energize with a delicious lunch at The Portelet Inn.
Immediately, upon our arrival, it was obvious that The Portelet Inn is very popular amongst the locals. The place was jammed pack but it was meant for us to dégouter an exquisite meal here for we found the last table for four! We were advised for future reference to book in advance, especially if going on Sunday for its popular Sunday roast (http://www.randalls-jersey.co.uk/pub-guide/rest-of-island/old-portelet-inn/). We found the quality of the food to be excellent, both presentation and flavor-wise, and it was well priced. Regarding customer service, to which I am BIG on, at first it was as if the waitstaff had forgotten about us. However, it quickly became clear to me that eating in Jersey is like eating in France in that the French enjoy their meals without feeling the need to rush on to the next course or having to pay right away. The servers do not hassle but rather wait to be called upon to be of service.
After lunch we crossed the road and headed down to Portelet Bay to check out the single story, single cell tower completed in 1808 better known as "Janvrin's Tomb". The bay is absolutely beautiful with its soft, golden sand but the only way to it is by going down many steps which mostly do not have a handrail. Once down in the bay one can visit Janvrin's Tomb but it has to be at one's own risk for there is no path to it. Adventurous souls with good footwear and non slippery soles can scramble up to it. The tower inside is hollow with nothing to see, but it offers one the satisfaction of saying one got to visit inside it. Such was the case with Barry who reminded me of a goat jumping from one rock to another while I peacefully took in what nature had to offer with my feet in the sand.
It was right at this moment when we experienced how fast the high tide can creep up. Fortunately, we made it to the bay in the nick of time, but it was a friendly reminder to always be aware of the low and high tide times prior to going out anywhere on Jersey.
We learned that Jersey has one of the world's largest tidal ranges, which means the sea goes out far, but comes back in very quickly. Therefore, when the tide is out, the island grows by a fifth!
Our Jersey history 101 lesson wrapped up with our visit to Battery Lothringen, a World War II coastal artillery battery in Saint Brélade. It was an easy walk from Portelet Bay but it is important to take note that there are no sidewalks so please be aware of incoming vehicles on the road. This battery site is located at the end of Noirmont Point and it is well worth visiting for anyone interested in learning more about World War II and military "stuff".
We did notice that opening times on the website seemed unreliable, but on a positive note, we were surprised to see it was open. It is important to highlight that it is run by volunteers and therefore we can appreciate that it is quite difficult to provide regular opening hours. One of the bunkers had been renovated and there is authentic memorabilia to be seen. Barry and my father-in-law were in their element, like two gleeful children, while using a periscope which would have been synchronized with the range finder and would have automatically aimed for guns onto the Allied ships. The hands-on experience and the enthusiastic volunteers made our visit.
A lot had been seen, learned and admired in only one day, but the goal had been accomplished - to dive into Jersey's history from the landing of the troops in 1940 to the liberation 5 years later, and to finally get an answer to our pending question of whether Jersey is part of the United Kingdom. The answer, in a nutshell, is that Jersey
and the rest of the Channel Islands are not part of the United Kingdom although Queen Elizabeth II is the monarch of the Islands, and she has a representative and adviser on the Island referred to as Lieutenant Governor of Jersey to which he is a point of contact between Jersey ministers and the United Kingdom government.
And with that, class was dismissed.
Join us for our next blog when we continue our escapade on this 5 miles (8 km) long and 9 miles (14.5 km) wide delightful island.
Happy reading and safe travels!
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