Every great journey, begins with the first step!

Guernsey

I recently had the opportunity to visit Guernsey for the first time. Like so many others I had been to the islands before, but had visited Jersey. Guernsey is a wonderful mix of stunning scenery and the best of contemporary living, Guernsey for me is the perfect destination to embrace the art of relaxation. Inspiring walks along the cliff paths, rambles through the rural interior or lazy days on the island’s beautiful beaches, Guernsey has it all if you are in need of a chill out.

St Peter Port, the island’s capital, is a bustling harbour town, a tapestry of architectural styles that tell the story of the region’s changing fortunes. Here bistros, restaurants and boutiques jostle for your attention, while in the harbour ferries are readied to take you to the sister islands. Guernsey’s capital has been a busy entrepôt since Roman times. The deep, safe anchorage and relative remoteness from France made St Peter Port the Channel Islands’ premier port, graced by the wealth of ship builders, privateers and merchant adventurers. Georgian and Regency styles were enriched by an influx of French emigrés, including Victor Hugo, whose influences included Parisian-style urinoirs. Today the town is a captivating blend of styles, framed by a tumble of terraces and tiered gardens and criss-crossed by worn steps and hidden alleys.

Shopping in St Peter Port is an interesting experience. Electronic and photographic equipment, jewellery and perfume are all good, low duty buys, along with wines, spirits and tobacco and of course the famous Guernsey jumper. Small boutiques offer exclusive clothes, shoes and leather goods, whilst the Old Quarter is the place to find antiques. But take time to just look around you. After all, this is the Channel Islands’ most beautiful town.
Although Guernsey is geographically much closer to France than the UK, it is loyal to the British crown. This loyalty can be traced back to Norman times when the Channel Islands first became part of the English realm and forms the basis of the island’s constitution.

Today the island is self-governing and enjoys the same level of independence it has had since first becoming associated with England. Guernsey’s ability to look after its own fiscal affairs has meant that it has been able to foster a favourable tax climate. This has led to many offshore banks, fund managers and insurance companies establishing here. Whilst the traditional industries of flower growing, fishing and dairy farming still play an important part, contributing both to the varied economy and to the island’s character. There are also a number of high profile light industries based on the island, including Specsavers Optical Group, Healthspan and Healthy Direct. Guernsey also has its own stamps and currency, and while British pounds can be used on the island, Guernsey pounds cannot be used in the UK.

Blessed with an abundance of natural ingredients from sea and land, it’s not surprising that the islands should be able to boast so many high quality restaurants. Choose from hearty pub fayre, bistro dining or contemporary cuisine – healthy appetites are welcome in all of our restaurants. There are a huge variety of culinary styles available from all over the world, too. Indian, Turkish, Spanish and Italian sit comfortably alongside more traditional restaurants. And with the quality as high as it is, you’ll soon be back for seconds. St Peter Port also has a good choice of lively pubs and bars where you can soak up the atmosphere…along with a few cocktails or locally brewed ales. A number of food events feature throughout the year.

If you were to ask anyone who’s been there, Guernsey is a special place, a thriving community that welcomes its visitors with open arms and leaves a lasting impression on all who set foot on her soil, equally those who have set foot on the island have left their mark as well. The island is steeped in modern history and it is there for all to see. With such spectacular coastline and countryside, the islands offer enough walking routes to last holiday after holiday. Qualified guides can help you uncover the islands’ secrets, or alternatively, just grab a map and head off yourself.

With an environment that’s as conducive to outdoor pursuits as ours, it’s not surprising that a range of sporting and other activities is available on the islands, including cycling, diving, angling and sailing. Guernsey’s west coast can also provide excellent surfing and windsurfing conditions. And nature lovers are in for a treat with plenty of bird watching opportunities on all of the islands.  However you decide to spend your time in the islands, one thing’s for sure – you’ll want to come back for more.

I stayed at the St Pierre Park hotel (www.stpierrepark.co.uk), which I am told is the biggest hotel in St Peters Port, if not the island. The one thing that really strikes you about the hotel is the vast space that it occupies. The hotel which includes a golf course, health club, restaurants and bars, a large car park and very comfortable bedrooms is a superb base for any visit to Guernsey. The breakfast in the hotel was varied and plentiful, and the only negative I could comment on was the TV and internet connection which both need modernising.

 

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© 2008 Paul Kavanagh. All rights reserved.