If you are at all concerned about flying, a trip with flybe to Jersey neednt worry you at all. You wander down to Eastleigh, climb aboard, fasten your seatbelt and youre there. Well, theres just about time for the ignored duty free trolly to blast up and down the cabin, but thats it. Ladies and Gentlemen, we are commencing our descent
To be frank, when we returned from our Jersey weekend, the feeling we had was more or less that we might as well go every weekend, so simple was it. A lot simpler, for example, than battling with the traffic to get to Devon or Cornwall. The initial impetus was to attend the first-ever Jersey Rock Festival (see below), but a brief search of the internet had thrown up the following ridiculous bargain: The Les Charrières Country Hotel was offering three nights bed and breakfast for £99, including a free car. Ill repeat that, including a free car. And it had a nice swimming pool, fitness centre and carvery restaurant as well. It turned out to be every bit as attractive as it sounded, witrh no catches. Who knows what bargains they have on offer this summer? Check their website for details (see below).
The car is actually quite important, in that Jersey isnt a place you can wander round on foot with any degree of success. Yes, the island is small, but the road system is dense. They are narrow and seldom have pavements, so cycling also isnt an attractive option, outside of the specially designated cycle routes. But driving here is relaxing, as (unless you are Jim Bergerac with your little red sports car) you have to adhere to a 40 mile an hour limit, even on the token few hundred metres of dual carriageway around St Helier.
Our visit coincided with a heatwave, so most of the time was spent on the beach. Having checked out several equally appealing stretches of sand, we settled on St Brelades, which was just perfect, with every facility, yet pleasingly quiet. The feel is very much that of being somewhere like Granville in Normandy, except that St Brelades has the ubiquitous branch of Pizza Express. Two tips for St Brelades: Dont tangle with the man who rents out sun loungers (he doesnt do deals), and do take a masters degree in understanding the incomprehensible scratchnsniff car parking system.
Rather like the Isle of Wight, Jersey has a wealth of things to do should the weather misbehave. There the similarity ends, however, as Jersey is a far more attractive proposition and thats coming from someone who actually loves the Isle of Wight as well. The world-famous Jersey Zoo, founded by Gerald Durrell and dedicated to conservation, is unmissable, as are the stunning Mont Orgeuil Castle at Gorey and the fascinating Jersey War Tunnels. The island also specializes in special events, such as the international Air Display (September), the Festival of Motoring ((June) and of course, the famous Battle of the Flowers (August), to name but a few.
We couldnt resist the deliciously tacky Jersey Experience, in which the islands history is enacted in a baffling audio-visual extravaganza, presented, for reasons unknown, by a lugubrious John Nettles disguised as a Captain Nemo character. Im not knocking it, as it was great entertainment and also included a free round of mini-golf, set up in such a mad way that anyone useless at golf (me) can still win.
As a festival bore par excellence (every Glastonbury since 1980, numerous Readings, Knebworths and heaven knows how many others), people often ask me what is the best festival Ive ever attended. The perhaps surprising answer is Jersey Rock. After the success of the original festival in 2004, this years effort promises to be even better. Its hard to explain what the magic is. The community feel, perhaps; the fact that it is compact and doesnt involve camping; and most of all (in stark contrast to other festivals) an intelligent coherence in the bands they book. The 2005 festival featured Southampton.s excellent Delays, plus two bands whose profile has risen enormously in the intervening twelve months: the charming Subways and newly-crowned megastars Razorlight. Razorlights dummer Andy Burrows, who is from Winchester, commented, The Jersey Festival holds great memories for us. It was the first time when we were able to tell from the audience reaction that things were really taking off. The atmosphere was incredible.
For the 2005 festival, promoter Warren Holt (an islander whose dedication and energy is crucial for the success of the festival) has secured an even more stellar line-up, with glam New Yorkers The Bravery (who will no doubt disrobe in the sun, since they stripped at Glastonbury in the rain), plus the nu-baggy of Kasabian and chirpy Geordies The Futureheads. He could scarcely have selected a more promising set of up-and-coming acts. The venue is the same as in 2004, namely the Jersey Royal Showground in Trinity. If you want to go, act fast, as the capacity is only 7500.
The highlight of our weekend last September came in an unexpected way. Searching for an idyllic harbour-front meal (we considered Rozel, but settled on the even more attractive Gorey), we stumbled upon the Moorings Hotel, in the shadow of Mount Orgueil. Hesitant at first (we feared it would be too posh), we were rewarded with a quite sensational five-course gourmet extravaganza for just £25 a head, served with impeccable courtesy and attention. You are unlikely to find a better culinary bargain anywhere in the UK. Will we go back this September? You bet!
From the Mid-Hampshire Observer