Guernsey – fish, history and sunshine

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WE WERE the last on the ferry. We had arrived just in time.

In the end it shouldn’t have been so stressful as they let us through and there was plenty of space.

We were taken directly to our reserved seats in the private lounge, near the panoramic windows at the front of the boat, and settled in.

The Condor Ferries crossing only took a few hours and was easy going.

It was first thing in the morning and the sun had just risen. Even if the air conditioning had lulled us into a false sense of security. It was boiling outside.

The tray – Condor Liberation

When we arrived at St Peter Port in Guernsey it hit us. At least 30 degrees, no wind.

We left the car in the main car park at the port after collecting our parking clock (parking is free in Guernsey but you have to display the arrival time on a handy cardboard clock).

We couldn’t check in until the afternoon so decided to browse the various craft shops and cafes in St Peter Port – there happened to be a few. We picked up a few local beers and made a list of places to try to eat while we were there.

It was getting hotter in town so we decided to get to the hotel ahead of time in case we could check in a little earlier.

For the first two nights of the trip, we were staying at the Farmhouse Hotel, near the village of Bas Courtils.

South Wales Argus: The Farmhouse Hotel, near the village of Bas Courtils, Guernsey

The Farmhouse Hotel, near the village of Bas Courtils, Guernsey

We had checked it online before the trip and were thrilled. It looked super fancy.

We were not disappointed.

It turned out that our room wasn’t quite ready and, even though we had arrived early, the front desk offered us drinks on the spot while we waited for the cleaners to finish. We decided to have them outside on the patio by the pool.

It was an incredibly scenic setting so we decided to have dinner there too. However, sitting for hours in the scorching sun and having forgotten to apply factor 50 to myself, the back of my neck was a bit more worn when we finally headed inside.

Our room was as pictured, well furnished and comfortable.

The bathroom was almost as big as the entire ground floor of our house – even with mood lighting in the shower.

The next day we had our itinerary mapped out – much of it revolved around visiting old things. There are a few museums at the top of the ‘things to do while you’re in Guernsey’ articles I was reading as preparation.

The first stop was the late WWII German underground hospital.

Completed in 1944, the hospital is the largest remaining structure on the Channel Islands from the days of German occupation. It covers approximately 75,000 square feet – a sprawling network of cavernous tunnels under the hill.

The coldness of the tunnels was an initial relief from the scorching temperatures that had returned. However, the cold, along with the dripping of an invisible leak and the echoes of other visitors trying in vain to whisper and walk quietly were unsettling.

Argus of South Wales: German Underground Hospital

German Underground Hospital

The tunnels are one of the most atmospheric places I’ve been to. It must have been horrible to have been confined to a bunk in the middle of the dank, artificially lit caverns – especially for those who might be suffering from shell shock or PTSD.

Some tunnels have disappeared into darkness. After watching way too many post-apocalyptic movies, we rushed past us, fearing that a disheveled form would emerge from the darkness towards us.

In one room there was even a cracking broadcast of Vera Lyn singing, which did nothing to quell the unease. In fact, it worked quite the opposite.

Despite the ominous nature of the place, it was incredibly interesting and the information screens were full of personal stories of life (and death) under German occupation during the war.

It is well worth a visit, but perhaps not the only one.

Argus of South Wales: German Underground Hospital

German underground hospital

The next stop was the small chapel. Despite its rather modest name, it is a spectacular building.

A stone’s throw from our hotel, it looks like a large cathedral in miniature. The entire place is covered in colorful shards of glass, ceramics and seashells.

Roughly large enough to stand inside, the chapel slopes down the hillside. If you get there around lunch time, like we did, you miss most of the crowds and can actually enjoy the place without having to travel.

Then we headed west.

The Fort Gray Maritime Museum traces the history of the countless shipwrecks that have occurred off Guernsey over the years.

Argus of South Wales: Fort Gray Maritime Museum

Fort Gray Maritime Museum

The extensive reef systems around the island have challenged ships carrying things as varied as Caribbean sugar and even an oil rig.

The museum also salutes the bravery of various lifeboat crews who risked their lives to rescue the men aboard the stricken vessels.

Sunburned again, our destination for that evening’s meal was La Barberie – a seafood restaurant in the south of the island.

Among their specialties was a seafood platter. I didn’t need to be more convinced. It was amazing, special mention to the crab.

The next morning, after leaving the farmhouse, our plan was to take the boat to the island of Herm located a short distance from Guernsey and famous for its white sandy beaches.

South Wales Argus: Herm

Hermes

It was £16 return for the two of us and the boat trip took maybe 30 mins to the little port of Herm – with a pub, ice cream parlor and best of all a seaside tattoo shop .

We walked, with the other visitors, on the path circling the island on the other side and the beach of Belvoir.

There we lay in the sun, turning pinker and pinker until it was time to collect the boat.

However, the tide having gone out in the meantime, we had to resume our journey from the still accessible pier of Rosaire Steps. The harbor we had arrived in earlier was only a foot deep with water.

Almost a full bottle of after-sun later, we settled into our second hotel. The Cobo Bay Hotel to the north.

Argus of South Wales: The Little Chapel, Guernsey

The Little Chapel, Guernsey

Obviously the place where all the locals flock in warm weather, Cobo Bay is very reminiscent of Newquay in Cornwall. Windsurfers dotted the waves as the sun set.

One thing about Guernsey is that everything seems to happen at a much cooler pace than in Britain. Even on the roads, the fastest speed limit we encountered was 35 mph.

We fell in love with the Rockmount pub next to the hotel for a fish and chips, recommended by the tourist office before our trip. He did not disappoint.

The next day, we had all day to wait for our boat to return at 9 p.m.

We decided to explore the north coast, climbing windswept rocks and watching seabirds dive. While trying to protect the already reddened skin from the still scorching sun.

South Wales Argus: St Peter Port, Guernsey

St. Peter Port, Guernsey

It was a Sunday so many of the shops in town were closed. Luckily though, an ice cream stand was open and doing a roaring trade.

Unlike the outward journey, we were among the first to get back on the boat for the return.

Guernsey is a place I would definitely recommend to anyone looking to relax and experience a few days at a slower pace. Bring plenty of sunscreen though.

For more details on how to get to Guernsey go to www.condorferries.co.uk/

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