The Quest for the Fairy Ring

This morning we decided to take a bus trip around the island. There is a bus that goes around the coast, one clockwise, one anti-clockwise, leaving every two hours in winter. We wanted to go to the west coast to go on a walk that Annette had described to us the other day, that involved a star-shaped fort and a fairy ring. We hopped off the bus where we thought it might be and went for a beautiful, meandering walk in the sunshine in completely the wrong area. We discovered this when we asked a local for directions. However, it was stunning, and I got some great photos. The coast is dotted with forts and bunkers and towers, many of which we passed, and we found a hedge-veg stall selling books for 20p. I bought two. We had coffee and a snack and got back on the bus when it came around again, then got off at the correct stop. The walk was long and winding, up and down hills and along roads with bunkers hidden behind the vegetation. We came into view of the star-shaped fort, and just round the corner was the fairy ring! Through the rock next to it, was the land’s end, the very edge of the island. We had a good view of Les Hanois Lighthouse, which the Germans apparently used to punish their own soldiers for misbehaviour. We took more photos, had a quick explore of the fort, then walked back the way we came, stopping for more refreshments while we waited for the bus.

Guernsey

Fairy Ring

Hidden entrance to bunker – the door beyond the little tunnel had a skull and crossbones on it

I had wanted to go the German Occupation Museum, but decided not to – I was a bit too tired, and thought I’d actually learned quite a bit on Annette’s tour the other day. (Also, did you know the island of Alderney had 1100 people before the war, and all but 7 departed for England before the invasion? Amazing.) We took the bus back to the terminus at St Peter Port, and I went to spend my remaining money on books and a late lunch. Then we all met back at the B&B. Tonight we need to pack, because tomorrow we’re swanning off to France. Next time I blog will probably be from St Malo!

Land’s End

Guernsey

Guernsey
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Hauteville House

I did not leave the B&B today until 12.30, which is some kind of record. 90 mins of my morning was spent Skyping with Alfie and Cara, which was fantastic, and then I knuckled down to attempt some serious homework. And I got somewhere. But the lure of the sun and warmth was too strong, and I packed up and left for a long walk, a leisurely lunch in a cafe, and a spot of shopping before meeting Mum and Marnie at 2pm. We walked to Hauteville House, Victor Hugo’s home on Guernsey and killed time in the beautiful gardens there until 3pm when we were booked in for an English tour through the house. Hugo lived in the house for 14 or so years, during his exile from France, and wrote a large body of work there. He designed all the house’s decoration himself and my goodness, it is bizarre. The rooms are quite dark, because he used very dark wood from different chests and antiques as panels, and hung many tapestries from the ceiling. He has used a wide variety of fabric and tiles on the walls as well. It is four storeys high, with absolutely breathtaking views of St Peter Port and the other Channel Islands, particularly from his attic study and bedroom. (Rumour has it that he installed his mistress down the street purely so he could work naked and flash her from his attic rooms). He has his main library located in his hallway because he didn’t like how little library rooms were visited. If the library was located on your way to somewhere else, you were more likely to pick up a book. I’ve decided to adopt this practice at home and in the future (take note, Sean). There’s lots of symbolism and different artwork throughout the place, and in the dining room there is a special chair for ancestors and those who are no longer around (Hugo was probably thinking particularly of his deceased daughter, Leopoldine). Our guide was French, and worked really hard to get the translation to English perfect. She was wonderful, and I would highly recommend anyone interested in Hugo’s work to see the house. It really highlights his eccentricities. I can see how influential the house could be on an artist’s work.

Hugo’s bed

 

View from attic bedroom

 

Drawing room (one of a few)

 

Hauteville House gardens

 

House entrance

 

Attic

 

Drawing room (one of a few)
We walked back to the main town and had ice-cream and coffee, then wandered up to the lovely, peaceful Candie Gardens (including a statue of Hugo, man of the hour). Again, absolutely brilliant views of the port, and some very expensive real estate in this part of town. Then it was home time. We’re watching Poirot on television and eating. Perfection.
Statue of Victor Hugo

 

Candie Gardens

 

Candie Gardens

Herm

I am lying on my bed typing this with a bright red sunburned face. The weather today was stunning. We left early again and dropped into the information centre for a stickybeak before booking our day trip to Herm, a small island near Guernsey. We took the 10.30am ferry, climbing down the perilous steps to the boat, and enjoyed an extremely windy 20-minute trip to Herm, with views of the next-door private island, Jethou. You can walk the perimeter of Herm in about two hours, and 66 people live on the island (pretty much all of them work on the island). There is a hotel, a campsite and holiday cottages, a couple of pubs and cafes, gift shops, an 11th century chapel, and a multitude of beautiful beaches and coastline to enjoy. There is even a school (with 8 pupils), a tiny prison, and a fire brigade on the islands.

We walked from Rosaire’s steps to Shell Beach, across sunny, windswept moors with Neolithic graves and extremely noisy coastal birds. We stopped for Herm vanilla ice cream and sat on the beach soaking in the sun. I nearly fell asleep. Marnie got up to dip her feet in the English Channel and they went numb straight away, so don’t let the pics fool you into thinking it might be anything but freezing! We kept walking, around the coast to Belvoir Bay and then up through the middle of the island to The Manor village with the ancient St Tugual’s Chapel. Then it was time for lunch. We wandered back to where we had come from and ate at the Mermaid Tavern. I bought a couple of books on Herm from the gift shops and then it was home-time. I felt almost sun-drunk. We took the ferry back to Guernsey at 2.35pm. Herm is a must see for anyone visiting Guernsey, and I really hope to be back one day.

Herm

Herm

Shell Beach

Shell Beach

Belvoir Bay

Herm

St Tugual’s Chapel

Herm

We took a long walk along St Peter Port when we got back, all the way to Castle Cornet. We waited around in the gift shop until after 4pm, because then entry to the castle (which includes 5 museums) was only a pound. It was a wonderfully preserved medieval castle, but I think I was too tired to properly appreciate it. Nonetheless, I had a good look around the Maritime Museum and got some great views from the top of the castle. Maybe I’ll go back one day with more time and energy. We dragged ourselves home after that – we’ve done a whole lot of walking over the last few weeks, but it does feel good – and are now lying on our beds watching Toy Story 2. Early night tonight, I think.

Adventures on Guernsey

We went on a private, guided tour of Guernsey today, part of a wonderful 80th birthday gift for Marnie from her family. It was beautiful, sunny weather. The air was crisp. Our guide, Annette, made our day perfect. She picked us up from our B&B and drove us around the island for three hours, stopping regularly for photo opportunities, visits to cool places, and to tell us so many interesting things about the island’s culture and history. Annette has lived here all her life, as has her family. Her mother and uncle were evacuated during the war, but her father and grandparents stayed. Her family history contains so many harrowing and amazing stories, and the mind boggles when you think how many similar experiences occurred on the island in that time.

We saw evidence of fortifications and loop hole towers built hundreds of years ago, all manner of bunkers and other additions by the Germans, Neolithic passage graves dating from 2000-3000 BC, and the strange stones protruding from people’s walls that were ‘witch’s seats’ for the flying witches who were rumoured to have plagued the island during the witch trials in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Where the Guernsey spies came ashore

Little Chapel

Neolithic passage grave

St Pierre du Bois Church with sloped aisle

Cobo Bay as seen from Le Guet

Annette’s ducks!

We saw many examples of ‘hedge-veg’ (the little street stalls outside people’s homes with excess produce for sale that operate on an honesty basis), the stunning Little Chapel (made from crushed crockery and china and supposedly the smallest chapel in the worlds), wonderful tidal beaches including landscape that inspired Victor Hugo, the tidal Lihou Island with a nature retreat on it, Le Guet  (the watchtower in the forest providing beautiful views of Cobo Bay), ebible wild garlic plant for sandwiches, the reservoir which was created over some old houses to provide water for the island, old abreuveurs (watering places) and cider presses, old churches (always built over water because it brings life and healing, and including the St Pierre du Bois sloped floor up to the altar), Sausmarez Manor (apparently the inspiration for Lord Tobias’ place in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society though it wasn’t open for tours), the bay and cliffside where two Guernsey spies snuck back onto the island in the dead of night to gather intelligence against the Germans, and even drove past Annette’s own house and met her pet ducklings!

Old Quarter

Little Chapel

Neolithic passage grave

It was a very full three-and-a-bit hours, and I would recommend anyone coming to Guernsey to book a tour with Annette. She dropped us back in the old quarter of town and we had some lunch before going to see the Guernsey Tapestry, which I would recommend doing with an audio guide (included with your ticket), in order to get the most out of it. Afterwards, I walked home. Mum and Marnie followed soon after and we collapsed into our beds. It was a wonderful, very exhausting day. Most of our days seem to follow this pattern so far.

Ferry crossing

Today was a travel day. So far, we’ve had a rental car, which has broken up our travel days nicely with lots of excursions to different places. But this morning we had to return the car, which thankfully all went smoothly. We took a taxi back to the esplanade, checked out of our accommodation, and walked our bursting suitcases to the ferry terminal. Mum and Marnie went to the post office while we waited, but I updated my blog and spoke to Sean, using the patchy terminal internet. Then we piled onto the ferry. The crossing was calm and sunny, and super windy on deck. It took two and a half hours, and I snoozed and read a great book (Tiger Lily, by Jodi Lynn Anderson, which I picked up at Foyle’s on Wednesday), and then we were on GUERNSEY!

I’ve wanted to go to the Channel Islands for a long time, but my interest was piqued by reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society a few years ago (it’s such a great book and I recommend it to everyone). It’s a story that deals with the aftermath of the German Occupation. I had not realised that the Islands were taken over by the Nazis during World War 2- in fact, it’s the closest to England that the occupation got. But the book is funny and charming and beautiful and touching, don’t make the mistake of thinking it would be too dark and depressing. Anyway, we’re on Guernsey for the next five nights, but are hoping to take a day trip to Jersey and maybe Herm or Sark. Tomorrow we have a guided tour structured around the book, which I’m really excited about. Time for a sleep!