I’d never visited Jersey before; it’s not a place that springs to mind when planning a mini break, but when it comes to a weekend break for your Mother’s surprise 60th (or 30th as she liked to think), Jersey was repeatedly suggested. My brother, sisters and I needed a place for long walks, seaside lunches, gardens and peace. Jersey was exactly that, and a mere 35 minute flight from London Gatwick – it has a faster travel time than my daily commute!
>>Download my detailed (2 page) plan here for everything you need to know. Jersey – Long Weekend – 2015(1) << Or read on to see exactly what we got up to…
Landing in Jersey bleary eyed from our 4am wake up, we pick up our hire car and trundle over to El Tico, a buzzing cantina on St Ouen’s bay for coffee, eggs, toast & bacon. We took a stroll in the sun down St Ouen’s beach, which is sparsely lined with surf schools, cafes, paddle boarders and hippies who’d been camped up in the back of vans – sounds quaint but in reality not a particularly pretty sight at 9am. However the beach itself is beautiful, and theres barely a soul in sight which was utterly refreshing after a chaotic week in clammy, overcrowded London.
Next up: Bonne Nuit, a beautiful area on the North coast. We walked along a winding path through ferns & heathers climbing to the highest point to find stunning scenic views. Again, not a soul to be seen – BLISS… feeling alone and unwatched is my release, family don’t count obviously. We walked for an hour and saw nothing but foliage, sea and birds.
We spent the afternoon meandering through villages and small harbours. In Mont Oregueil we stopped for a cream tea, a nose around the castle and chilled in the sun by the harbour. Most cafes in Jersey remain in their original 70s style; it feels like they are stuck in time – imagine red check lino tables and those napkins made from shiny paper, with an illuminated coca cola sign in the window. But with such beautiful countryside around, who cares, we didn’t.
Dinner was at a very sweet restaurant called Corbiere Phare at the very south west of the island. The cliff top views looked out onto a picturesque lighthouse, built in 1874 – cracking piece of history . We parked ourselves on a table outside with a couple of bottles of Sauvignon Blanc to watch the sun go down, it was a really special evening, it felt good to be spending quality time with my family with no one else around. The only other customers in the restaurant were a pissed table of 40 celebrating a 90th birthday – just adorable, Jersey is so tranquil.
Corbiere Phare restaurant is glass window fronted, beach themed and specialising in fish of course. I had some hot Crab Bon Bon’s to start, the white meat was delicate, fresh and full of that musky crab flavour. My main was the catch of the day; an enormous Plaice served whole with caper mayonnaise and veg, I ate more than a small horse. My sisters and brother ordered from the grill; King prawns and rare beef, charcoaled and tasting like summer. Mum devoured a big, chunky sea bream, which had been in the sea an hour beforehand.
Our pudding was a huge locally baked birthday cake complete with candles and much needed coffee.
High on sugar from that offensively big e-number-loaded cake, we took a cab into St Austin, the town where we were staying looking for a nightcap, but sadly were met by group after group of hen parties, 18ths and rowdy football fans – not quite our Mother’s scene, so retreated to bed.
After a full English at our strange little hotel (think a mini Faulty Towers, with just 2 members of staff who spoke Pinglish – Polish/English), we headed for the Durrell Wildlife Zoo. Generally, I cant stand to see an animal confined, aside from criminals, but this ‘zoo’ is a conservation trust on a mission to save species from extinction; breeding them and releasing them back into the wild – just fantastic to see, and there is so much you can learn from this place. The enclosures are big, packed with bamboo, climbing frames, loads of trees, plants and real earth with, somewhat frustratingly, a lot of areas for the animals to hide away from the crowd should they want to. The animals come first, then the crowds. When I say ‘crowds’, there were no more than 45 people in the entire vicinity, and it was BIG….i’m not complaining…
We saw humongous gorillas, fruit bats, families of orang-utans, flamingos, Meer cats ^ (ALAN!), pythons, komodo dragons, black bears, giant bats and countless birds. Well worth a visit, and the café is sweet with freshly cooked food and outrageous 6 tier cakes. This zoo can easily fill a whole day, it was thoroughly entertaining.
Dinner that night was ‘phone free’ (we’re all addicts) so no pictures, but my god what a find! Pedro’s in St Helier came very highly recommended to us, and now I know why. Food, drink & service were all top quality. The two owners were extremely friendly and the waitresses were very attentive and helpful. I can honestly say that the Chateaubriand was the best I’ve ever ever had. Excellent starters, puddings and wines. If you visit Jersey, there is only one place to go for your evening meals > P.E.D.R.O.S.
Our third day was my favourite; here’s why: A trip to the picturesque La Mere Wine Estate for tastings and vineyard tour followed by a French lunch, then onto Samares Manor gardens to get lost in their acres then GIANT cream tea in the sun. Yum, yum, yum. ….
La Mere Wine Estate & distillery is made up 11 acres of orchard and 9 acres of vines, harvesting 5 grapes and numerous kinds of apple. The tour takes you around the beautiful vines, some over 100 years old, and you’ll meet the ground’s miniature ponies, also around 100 years old. I loved seeing the production room, and the bottling process – did you know why Champagne has a gold foil down it’s neck? …not for decorative purposes; it dates from the period when no liqueur d’expédition (liqueur of wine and sugar) was added after degorging (when the sediment is removed from the bottle) so the level of liquid was lower, and the foil was used to hide it. In other words it was an optical illusion, to cheat the customer – naughty. Today, our bottles are FULL – some clever clogs cottoned on, now the foil only has an aesthetic function.
You’ll also see their famous ‘black butter’ & fudge kitchen whilst being spoken through how exactly these local, traditional products are made, including tastings. And the finale (and best bit): tasting 5 wines, ranging from their flinty and light white Sainte Marie which was delicious, to the barrel oaked Balliwick red – not so good, it’s rough course texture lingers in the back of your throat.
Then it’s off to their shop, packed with cider, wines, homemade spirits, chocolate, biscuits, fudge and black butter. Fill your boots!
Samares Manor Gardens…
…are a very peaceful place to wander round. There’s a lot of family history in the house and the gardens are beautifully kept, there are hundreds of plants to buy and a quaint shop. There are stables to nose around and a relaxing woodland walk. The walled garden in particular is wonderful but the Japanese Garden runs a close second – the colours in the Japanese Garden were brilliant.
Sitting in the cafe overlooking the garden, munching on (yet another) cream tea, I felt like I was ready for my retirement to Jersey!
There was plenty more we could have done like Seafaris trip to tour small islands, bicycle hire along railway paths, the Jersey Museum & gallery, La Hougue Bi to see Neolithic burial mounds, St Catherine’s market and the Pallout Museum. Although we ate very well, we’d loved to have visited the Oyster Box at St Brelade beach side for seafood & cocktails, Bohemia a stunning Michelin star restaurant, Faulkner Fisheries an old school fresh shellfish café and Navigator on the north coast with beautiful harbour views.
If you’ve a 60th birthday celebration coming up, or you want to step beck in time to taste the simple life, then Jersey is your ticket.
1. Flights to Jersey will are from £108 from London Gatwick with British Airways
3.Download my detailed (2 page) plan here for everything you need to know. Jersey – Long Weekend – 2015(1)