Saturday, May 17, 2008

Jersey Revisited


I liked Jersey a lot when I visited last year. Which is, of course, why I came back again this year, and for longer. But what I didn’t realise was how amazingly much more I would like it, second time around.
Of course, there are differences. Last time, I stayed purposely with the lovely Lucille, out at Rocqueberg, thirty minutes from the heart of St Helier, and I spent much of my time walking country roads. Great! But this time I’ve elected to stay right on the waterfront in St Helier and, already, it’s a very different thing. I’ve been exploring, oh yes, already during my thirty hours in town, but I’ve been exploring the town of St Helier, its streets, its markets, its shops (not much), its eateries, its port. Walking, one way and another, just as much as I did in the country, but seeing different things. And, oh! How I like them.

Starting with the Bayview Guest House.
St Helier, and especially this part of St Helier, near the Havre des pas, seems to be made up of guest houses. Some of them call themselves ‘hotels’ but not many. One lovely old Victorian house after another, immaculately restored, offers rooms to let, apartments to let, or bed and breakfast. Just like the Blackpool I knew in the early seventies, except much, much prettier, much better kempt, and undeniably with more of an air of olden days class and charm. For, yes, parts of this place really do give you the feeling of stepping back in time. Which, of course, is certainly something to bewitch me.
I’m not the only one, evidently. For up the street next to here, endless Tantivy blue buses disgorge endless plane-loads of Northern British elderlies into the ‘hotels’. Yes, somehow the accents all seem to be northern (also the hairstyles and the dress sense). And the folk a good decade or two older than I. I think, like me, they are indulging their nostalgia for the British seaside holiday of their youth, just for a weekend or maybe a whole week. Today I passed a very elderly couple sitting quietly on a bench overlooking the beach, just looking. The sky was tepid, the water only blueish, there was a bit of a breeze and no-one on the sort-of-sands, but they didn’t seem to notice. An hour later when I re-passed the place, they were still there. Quite contented.

This morning, I heard, at breakfast, someone youngish mention ‘changeover day’. My goodness, does that expression still exist a hundred years on!

Bayview’s customers don’t seem to come in busloads and they seem to be much younger, like Geoff and Carolyn, the owners, who are just old enough to have a three-months old granddaughter, Jamie Lee, who was almost the first person I met when I arrived.
My room is just what I love: an old-fashioned boarding house room -- small (cabin-sized, because I am a single) but equipped with my preferred mod cons. I have a fridge, a splendid shower, a nice comfy little iron bedstead with a good mattress (also a TV and microwave neither of which I shall use) and, best of all, excellent wifi. So I can blog. So I’m super-contented all round.
The house is a stage’s width from the beach, with its comically un-Victorian pier, its gravelly sands, and its fine waterfronting rows of lovely period houses, ruined of course, by those four crass towers of council blocks I mentioned last year. Whoever put them there should be burned in effigy (or even not in effigy) by the Jersey Tourist Board every witches’ Sabbath.

In spite of that planning authority aberration, though, I love this place. Its look, its people. Jersey, I have already decided, is very, very me. And St Helier as well. So, up till now, out of my 30 hours since landing, I’ve spent nine asleep and twelve .. walking!
I’ve explored the port whence I shall ferry across to Guernsey and maybe Sark, I’ve explored the streets and the alleyways, I’ve visited the library and (when it opens) will visit the National Archive, I’ve explored the markets, which are the most delightful approximation of the Victorian market I have ever seen …

Also, I’ve peered in so many restaurant windows, peered at so many restaurant menus … but not with much confidence. Every menu I’ve seen so far has been far, far too comprehensive. Any restaurant that offers forty dishes isn’t making them fresh. So, they are not for me. I’m tempted though by the Bohemia, which I’m told is the island’s top spot. I trotted past today and, yes, a sensibly sized programme. A bit frilly and fancy in the vein of ravioli and coulis made from original (unoriginal?) substances. But OK, I’m willing to try. Eventually. Because right now I don’t need to try..
See my next!

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