Jersey – Tradition and Sophistication in Perfect Harmony

This, the largest of the Channel Islands, has thrived within the United Kingdom since 1204, but is proudly independent, self-governing and determined to preserve its unique appeal to discerning visitors.

Jersey is only 9 miles long x 5 miles wide but manages to pack in to this confined space a microcosm of modern life. Lying in sheltered seclusion, much closer to the Normandy coast than the English, Jersey has, despite WWII deprivations and the relentless pressure of modern capitalism, magnificently survived, and thrived, rewarding its multitude of annual visitors with an unexpected kaleidoscope of pleasure. Mother Nature has been kind to Jersey, giving it a continental micro-climate of Gulf Stream warmth and adequate rainfall, without extremes of temperature and perfect for the crops and animals of the many centuries of agricultural life, and the inherent security of island existence, deterrent to all but the most determined of invaders. By and large, the farms, homesteads and country lanes still dominate the landscape outside St Helier, the vibrant capital and only ‘town’, although many of the traditional farmhouses and cottages, granite and stoutly-built, have become commuter properties as agriculture has become less labour-intensive. To protect the landscape, and the rights of native Islanders, while not excluding the, usually, wealth-bringing (and -generating), newcomers, legislation has been carefully put in place to create a twin-level property market, equitable and rigidly-enforced. Ever since gentlefolk of the Victorian and Edwardian eras discovered the joys of seaside holidays, the leisure appeal of Jersey’s wildlife, its easily-walked landscape and cliff paths and, above all, the fabulous beaches and bays has been magnetic and tourism contributes 10% of the island’s GDP. Although there is an extensive public bus network, most visitors will hire a car at the airport (www.hertz.co.uk/jersey) to give the flexibility to tour the quieter, more remote areas. The glorious expanses of St Aubin’s (pictured above), on the south coast, and St Ouen’s, to the west, are world-famous, and easily accessed, but my personal preferences are St Brelade’s (and its luxuriant gardens), Portelet (just reward for the physical effort) and Grève de Lecq, with its vivid, deep-golden sand. There are so many to choose from, each with its own special attraction, you will enjoy finding your own favourite.

St Brelades

St Brelades

St Ouen Bay

St Ouen Bay

Scattered across the island are signs of pre-historic human habitation, none more striking than ‘La Hougue Bie’, where you can actually go inside the recently-excavated, Neolithic burial-mound and, in another section, see the conservation work on Europe’s largest horde of around 50000 Iron Age coins, found at Grouville in 2012.

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At Hamptonne, you will fall into a recreation of 15th century country life, crafts and traditions and, everywhere you look on Jersey, you find defence installations, from the huge, 13th century Mont Orgueil Castle, and its forbidding 16th century successor, Elizabeth Castle, through the guardhouses and Martello towers of the 18th/19th to the concrete excesses of WWII, the ineradicable symbols of one deluded man’s paranoia. Many can (and must) be visited but, atop the cliff at La Corbiere, overlooking the famous lighthouse, is The Radio Tower, a 1941, cylindrical, 6-storey observation post converted, ingeniously, by Jersey Heritage into the most amazing, and atmospheric, holiday let, with uninterrupted 360 degree views from the top-floor lounge (www.jerseyheritage.org). Moving evidence of the wartime occupation can be found amongst  the exhibits in the splendid Maritime Museum, Jersey Museum and Jersey Archive. For the full story, you should visit the War Tunnels, excavated by slave labour and an unfinished attempt to build an underground WWII hospital. It has now become the site of a stunning exhibition, brilliantly telling of that awful period, with films, displays, documents, vehicles and militaria. The past sixty years have seen the financial services industry ‘boom’ and Jersey’s GDP has expanded, hugely, as a result. In St Helier, there are marinas, the harbour is improved and land has been reclaimed, Hong Kong style, from the sea. Modern office-blocks now line the (previously) seafront Esplanade where modest hotels used to dominate. The enormous wealth generated has seen a burgeoning level of business and leisure activity in the capital, with vibrant day- and nightlife and a town centre thronged and buzzing. The pedestrianised, King Street/Queen Street precinct is the busiest zone but new hotels, bars, cafés and shops abound and even the sleepier sidestreets and squares have come to life. It’s curiously appropriate that, just four miles away from this 21st century powerhouse, sits the other-worldly paradise that is the fantastic Durrell Wildlife Park, dedicated to the conservation of those animal species threatened by the march of progress. Jersey is like that – an economic miracle on an unchanging, idyllic island.

ATTRACTIONS TO VISIT:

Mont Orgueil Castle
jerseyheritage.org
Located over the beautiful fishing port of Gorey for more than 800 years.

Mont Orgueil (Gorey) Castle

Mont Orgueil (Gorey) Castle

Durrell Wildlife Park
durrell.org
An international charity with a mission of saving species from extinction.

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

Jersey War Tunnels
jerseywartunnels.com
Museum of the German Occupation in World War II, based around the underground hospital Ho8.

Jersey War Tunnels

WHERE TO STAY:

LONGUEVILLE MANOR

Longueville Manor

Longueville Manor

Longueville Rd, St.Saviour JE2 7WF, +44 1534 725501. The only AA Five Red Star hotel as well as the sole member of the exclusive Relais & Châteaux worldwide collection of luxury hotels and restaurants.

Since it opened in 1949, Longueville Manor has been at the forefront of luxury hospitality for the quality they offer guests, and the hotel’s achievement in remaining there, ever since, is a tribute to the foresight and talent of the dedicated owners and operators. They continue to set the standard to which all other Jersey hotels have to aspire. Now owned by the third generation of the Lewis family, whose forebears rescued the property after the ravages of wartime abuse, this ‘Relais & Châteaux’ member is proud to be the only hotel in the Channel Islands to have been awarded 5 Red Star recognition by the AA and, in July, was acknowledged by the catering industry as 2016’s ‘UK Independent Hotel of the Year’. It may be only a mile outside St Helier but it is worlds apart from the capital’s bustle and pressures and, turning onto the circular, gravelled drive, around the immaculate lawn and marble fountain, you find yourself confronted with a warm and welcoming, ivy-fronted ’country-house’. The exposed granite frontage has a mellow, honeyed tone and its handsome stone arched-doorway invites you inside this flagstone-floored haven of hospitality, developed with architectural flair and care, around a lovingly-restored 14th century manor and its 18 acre estate.

Outside, most of the land is given over to woodland-, pasture- and lakeside walks, with well-maintained paths. The Manor’s beehives are at the far end of the woods, so keep a lookout. The greenhouses and beds of the vast, walled kitchen-garden, are the source of much of the specialised herbs and seasonal vegetables appearing on the menu. Gardening enthusiasts will be fascinated and, if they have the good fortune to meet the head gardener, significantly entertained and enlightened. The quiet and shaded walkways around the more formal outside areas are equally appealing and refreshing. The tranquillity of the garden area is also a perfect background to the Manor’s mini spa and gym, ‘The Cottage Garden’, a retreat in which to unwind and be pampered and where the cares of the world just drift away. The full range of massages, beauty treatments and therapies, many herb- and fruit-based, are available, using the quintessentially British REN products and facial oils from de Mamiel. The outdoor pool, heated to an almost-tropical 28 degrees, is a summer delight and the comfortable deck and terraces make the ideal spot for relaxation and refreshment. The pool may be welcome, too, after light exertion on the all-weather tennis court or a leisurely, and sometimes aggressive, game of croquet, not always as polite and genteel as it might seem. Back inside the Manor, the reception and public areas are furnished, decorated and lit to be cool and light, despite antique pieces and the age of the building, and this deftness of touch continues through the guest accommodation. The rooms are elegant, spacious and pristine, comfortably appointed and complemented by the fabulous bathrooms, with gorgeous REN products, as used in the spa. The staff should not be forgotten. Most have been with the hotel for years, even decades, which itself tells a story, but all are eager to assist and seemingly proud of the association. We were shown to breakfast, most attentively, by a gentleman who, we discovered, was Pedro Bento, 25 years at the Longueville and its Managing Director!

The head chef, Andrew Baird, has been building relationships with local suppliers for twenty-five years and the produce, supplemented from the garden, is top-class, as are the skills in his three-rosette kitchen. Whether dining in the Oak Room, low-ceilinged and panelled, reputedly, with timber from the Spanish Armada, or in the light and modern Garden Room, the confident team make it a special event. A light starter of crab salad, with yuzu mayonnaise, was delicious and my ‘Taste of Jersey’, a selection of seafood, main course was both amazing in variety and huge in quantity – nearly eliciting the ‘white napkin of surrender’ – accompanied by a large glass of well-chilled Chablis. Unforgettable. Longueville Manor is still the one to beat. longuevillemanor.com

THE CLUB HOTEL & SPA

The Club Hotel & Spa

The Club Hotel & Spa

Green St, St Helier, Jersey JE2 4UH +44 1534 876500 Less than a mile from the Victorian-era Jersey Opera House.

A new wave, Boutique Hotel, The Club Hotel & Spa is ideally situated just a short stroll from the heart of St Helier and, consequently, hugely popular with visitors attracted to Jersey but content to stay close to the centre. However, with on-site residents’ parking, heated outdoor pool and rooftop champagne bar, The Club is perfect also as a base for holiday-makers and families with an urge to tour the island and discover its many secrets. The first impression is given by the bright and airy, open-plan reception hall, dotted with pieces of modern art, sculpture and furnishings. This slightly ‘bohemian’ ambience is typical of this stylish hotel, offering an efficient and unstuffy welcome in a contemporary setting. In keeping with this initial experience, our room, too, was spacious, flooded with natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows, artistically decorated and sympathetically furnished. Choose from the 38 deluxe double rooms and 8 suites and savour the plush carpets, the restful, neutral colour scheme and top-end fittings. All the electronic entertainments, flatscreen TV, DVD player, etc, are provided, as well as fluffy robes and slippers, the crispest of white Frette bedlinen and a large, immaculate bathroom with a full range of Elemis quality toiletries. So far, so very good – but life gets even better for the spa-enthusiasts among us. With access from the reception hall, the luxurious Club Spa boasts single and double treatment rooms, indoor saltwater swimming pool, the Herbal Steamroom, Sauna and Experience Shower, the Jacuzzi, the Salt Cabin and a soothing Relaxation Sanctuary in which to rest and gather your thoughts. As well as a selection of full- and half-day packages, the talented staff are happy to offer a bewildering array of indulgent therapies and treatments, for ladies and gentlemen, in perfect privacy. If you are feeling adventurous, why not try an Ayurvedic experience, with a stimulating massage and warm oils? The ultimate is the Rasul mud-treatment, for one or two people only, performed in a unique chamber for an intimate, private experience.

Also accessed from Reception, in the warmer months, is the popular, heated outdoor pool, a secluded oasis with plenty of loungers and parasols, to suit your tanning inclinations. Weather permitting, many choose the simpler pleasures to be taken on the stylish and contemporary Roof Terrace and in its Champagne Bar, where snacks and refreshments are served, throughout the day. Later in the evening, if you wish to indulge in a ‘nightcap’ or two, the residents’ Honesty Bar may be appropriate – just don’t forget to sign the docket!

The jewel in The Club’s crown has to be its newly-refurbished, food-lovers’ favourite, the Bohemia Bar and Restaurant, Michelin-starred since 2003, with the masterly chef, Steve Smith, now in charge of the kitchen. Open to both residents and the public, the up-market and contemporary bar is downstairs from the reception hall, at street-level, and serves hot and cold drinks and light meals all day. At lunchtime and in the evening, the dining-room is exquisite – a sublimely comfortable, carefully lit and intimate experience. As for the food, the Michelin star is in good hands. Because we love fish and seafood, we chose the ‘Piscatarian’ tasting menu, nine courses of fishy fantasy, carefully composed and superbly presented. The individual dishes are created with artistry and imagination, with an unerringly skilful take on matching flavours and textures. Daniel, the experienced maitre d’, and Paolo, the unfailingly wise sommelier, ensured every dish’s perfect delivery, with accompanying wine selections. The decor is modern, the lighting just right, the service everything you could wish for and, prepared with the very best ingredients, from land and sea, the food is faultless. Keeping it in the family, Steve’s pastry chef-wife, Elaine, produces the most amazing Afternoon Teas, increasingly in demand. theclubjersey.com

GETTING THERE
By Sea
4hrs 30mins (Fast Ferry) from Poole; 10hrs from Portsmouth.
condorferries.co.uk
By Air
Airlines fly to Jersey from many UK departure
points. 55mins from London.
Car Hire
hertz.co.uk/jersey
Scooter Hire
motorama-jersey.co.uk
Liberty Buses
llibertybus.je

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