Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Jersey Jaunts

We left North East Derbyshire on a dark, drizzly, cold morning and made our way to the motorway. Mercifully, the strong winds of Sunday had abated – so strong that the plastic beads at the back door were hanging perpendicularly towards the garden! Wouldn’t have wanted to have taken off in a little plane in that.

Got to the motorway. And immediately hit standing traffic. Gulp. Inched along. Sped up. Hit more standing traffic. And that was the pattern all the way to the airport (East Midlands, helpfully situated south of Derby and Nottingham, towards Loughborough.) I think we were both worried that we might be so delayed that we would miss our flight. And there is only one a day :-S

Happily we got there with loads of time to spare. So we checked in and had some breakfast and pottered about. Then we boarded the flight and off we went. We went uppppppppppppppppppppp, then we levelled out, then we almost immediately went downnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn. No time for cruising on that flight! We flew over Chesil Beach and we saw the Isle of Portland and lots of fields. We also saw either Guernsey or Sark, or perhaps Alderney as we flew into Jersey.

The pilot had warned us that it was very gusty in Jersey as we left. He warned us again as we started our descent. And you could feel the plane being buffeted about as we were coming down. And then, just as we touched down, a huge gust of wind caught the plane and tried to blow it sideways. I thought we might be blown away. Or over. But no. The pilot corrected it and all was well. Just as well – The Builder and I had been moved from our pre-booked seats to the emergency exit seats because “somebody has to be sitting there”. I’m not sure I’d have been much use getting the emergency exit open if we’d been blown over!

We have a hire car while we’re here. So we decided, given that the plane was early and we couldn’t check in at the hotel until 1pm, to drive around and have a look. Neither of us has been here for years and years – and I was only here for a matter of hours when Simon, Karen and Yvette were living in Poole and Karen, Yvette and I came over on the ferry one day to meet a very, very distant relation of Karen’s.

Now I can read a map. I don’t so much, anymore, now that we have the Sat Nav, but I can do. And yet, we kept ending up in various places that I didn’t expect to be in. And then I realised. Jersey is only 9 miles long and 5 miles wide, so the map is in a much larger scale than I am used to. Further, very frequently the mapping suggests that you are going straight on when in fact you are turning left or right. This is not made all that clear on the road, because they often don’t have the route numbers marked but the street names (mostly French street names. Charming French names, but not marked on my map!) Eventually, however, we ended up in St Helier. Could we find the street the hotel was on? Could we heck. Somehow, we ended up driving through and out again. Back we came. Found the street. Found the hotel. But the car park is out the back. Which meant we had to navigate our way around the intensely complicated one way system to find the back road. Hooray! Success. The hire car is parked and we are booked into the hotel. Magnificent room. Bed big enough to fit the population of a small country in. View over the swimming pool. Staff a bit ineffective but pleasant and charming.

Out into St Helier for a mooch around and a spot of lunch. (Moules á la crème for me, stir fry for The Builder, bottle of Chilean wine. Absolutely magnificent!) Then a wander around the town, a potter about, visit to the tiny French market and back to the hotel for more wine and some telly watching. When we landed at lunchtime, there was a woman in the airport handing out tourist packs. In amongst the stuff was a guide to Jersey and – a map with street names on it as well as route numbers!!! It’s smaller than my map (So I have to take my glasses off to read it) but it should make navigating easier!

Dozed off.

Woke up again at about 8. Couldn’t be fashed going out again so we decided to eat in the hotel restaurant, despite the mixed reviews it gets on Active Hotels. A mistake. A bad, bad mistake. The menu was awful. The food was awful. The service was chaotic. They tried to give me a squillion pound French bottle of sauvignon rather than the much cheaper Chilean one I had ordered. They couldn’t do much to ruin a sirloin steak (though it wasn’t particularly well cooked) but the vegetables were absolutely inedible. Bleurgh. Quite how you can render French beans inedible is a mystery to me. But they did. Even the potatoes were Not Nice. Ate the steak, drank the wine, left the rest. Came back to the room and went to bed. We shall eat out tonight. Amongst the bumf the woman gave us at the airport is a Good Food in Jersey guide!

Today, by contrast, the weather has been absolutely wonderful. We decided to give breakfast a miss – though the reviews for breakfast are quite good) and took ourselves off to the Durrell Wildlife Zoo. It was founded by Gerald Durrell and is a major wildlife conservation project. It had been an ambition, which I expected to be a forlorn one, to visit it ever since I started reading Durrell’s books and eventually, to my surprise, I achieved that ambition when I came with Karen and Yvette and Karen’s charming, hospitable very, very, very distant relation. And it was at the very top of my list of things to do this time as well. It is remarkably well signposted. No need to trouble myself with a combination of two maps!

As a “Winter Warmer” offer, they give full entrance fee paying people a voucher for either a free full English breakfast, or for a Jersey cream tea, depending on what time you redeem it. Just as well The Builder had forgotten to ask for a Senior discount for him! We redeemed it at once and went straight to the Dodo café for breakfast. A very nice breakfast. Including all sorts of things like a tiny potato waffle. More than I could comfortably eat, really. Then we came out to talk to the animals. There are lemurs. Lots of different sorts of lemurs. There are grillas and macaque monkeys and orang utans and Andean bears (asleep in a hanging basket!!) and gadzillions of birds and iguanas and frogs and flamingos and cranes and fruit bats and all sorts. And there are aye ayes. There was no sign of the aye aye when first we came to call, though we waited, patiently in the gloom (aye ayes are nocturnal so the enclosure was only very dimly lit). So we went to look at some other things and had a lovely bowl of vegetable soup in the Dodo café and went back. And there it was, running up and down its ropes and cleaning its face and hanging upside down. It came to look at us and then went back to playing on its hanging things and branches. I love aye ayes. I’m so pleased it came out to talk to us.

We spent the afternoon pottering about in Gorey on the Eastern tip of the island. It’s a lovely little harbour village. The tide was out. Way, way, way out. Nobody was going sailing from Gorey while we were there. Then we drove back along the coast road to St Helier, drove through and around it and managed quite successfully to navigate our way back to the hotel car park (I would have brought Jenny the Sat Nav, but the UK maps don’t include the Channel Islands and it hardly seemed worth buying maps of the whole of Western Europe for a 3.5 day trip to an island which measures 9 miles by 5!). Then we went for a wander around town – to suss out likely eating places. And now here we are. Pondering what to eat this evening.

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