As someone who loves to travel I end up being limited by how much time I can take away from work. Even after taking advantage of every British bank holiday weekend I’d still like to see more places. As a result of this I’ve been trying to find out where it is possible to go to from London for a weekend without taking any time off work and without spending a huge amount of money. The main considerations are whether there are flights at times to make the most of the time restriction and whether those flights are reasonably priced. I’ve done a pair of these trips so far (one to jersey, the other to Ben Nevis) and thought it might be worth writing them up.
So firstly, why the Channel islands? Whilst you may think that as the Channel islands are deemed British they wouldn’t be much different from say somewhere on the south coast of the mainland, but, due to their occupation by Nazi forces during the second world war, and their blend of of parts of English and French culture, they have a rich history and personality that is enough to interest someone form the mainland. On top of this they do have much better weather being that little bit further south (my trip in November was touching on T-shirt weather on the Sunday).
I found flights to Jersey through Skyscanner.net. I was happy to see there is a British airways flight from London Gatwick to Jersey on a Friday at around 8pm and one back at a similar time on a Sunday, just enough time to get to airport after leaving work at 6pm in central London. Normally such peak flight times are highly priced, especially with a flag carrier such as British Airways, but I managed to get a return ticket for around £65 (plus 1.5% cashback with Quidco.com).
There is a wide range of hotels to stay in in Jersey as it is a big tourist hotspot in the Summer. If you go near the edges of the season, or in the off season as I did, you’ll find plenty of places to choose from. I stayed on the east-side of St. Helier which is separated from the town centre in the west half by a hill with a tunnel running through it. Normally pedestrians can traverse this tunnel but there were roadworks whilst I was there, I successfully managed to get through the bollards once but was relegated to walking around the long way another time.
Due to a surprising lack of in depth information on the internet about Jersey I decided to purchase the Britain Lonely Planet which certainly felt a bit odd being British myself. It’s turned out to be a really great book, even giving insight into cities I’ve lived in for years. The sight in Jersey that caught my attention the most was the Jersey underground hospital. The tunnels, built by Nazi slave labour shipped in from all over occupied Europe, were to serve as a hospital and air raid shelter for the German forces on the island allowing them to be protected whilst preparing forces for an invasion of the mainland. The complex has now been turned into a museum chronicling the occupation of the island and I must say, as someone who is not the biggest fan of museums, it was fantastic. The whole story of the occupation was presented in a very engaging fashion, despite the large amount of information to be consumed.
Jersey is also famed for it’s seafood and under the recommendation of the receptionist at the Hotel du Normandie my friend and I headed to the Roseville Bistro just round the corner. There was a big sign outside saying reservations required but we tried our luck, and unfortunately, were turned away. As we walked off one of the waiters came running after us saying there had actually been a cancellation and there was a table! Most of the meal was great but the starter was something else. Sizzling scallops in a cream and pancetta sauce, I am not exaggerating when I say this is one of the greatest pieces of food I have eaten in my life. I urge anyone visiting Jersey to go to the Roseville Bistro, and remember to make a reservation!
I had hoped to do some Kayaking whilst on the island, but unfortunately, due it being the off season, the man running the main kayaking place had gone on holiday. Never-mind, the water probably wold’ve been ice cold anyway. Instead I ventured over to Mont Orgueil Castle on the east side of the island. The castle was originally built in 1204, it was continually expanded and improved, most recently the addition of modern watch towers by the Nazi’s. Half the castle has been left as original to serve as museum whilst the keep has been turned into an art gallery of local works. The castle is neighboured by the small village of Gorey which has a few nice pubs to have a drink whilst waiting for the bus back to St. Helier. A small warning about this area of the island is that it’s possible that your mobile phone might pickup a french network causing the clock to jump forward an hour, potentially a major problem is you’re going straight from the castle to the airport to fly back as I was!
After getting to airport on time we grabbed some nice and cheap duty free ( remember that Jersey is in fact outside the EU) and got our flight back in time to get the trains back to London. All in all a great weekend away from London, using no annual leave from work, for around £150 on transport and accommodation!