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Sails, Swells and Souvenirs - a Channel Islands adventure

UNITED KINGDOM | Monday, 18 July 2016 | Views [653]

Alderney museum entrance

Alderney museum entrance

I read somewhere that there is a rivalry between the islands of Guernsey and Jersey. The former being home to ‘old money’, while the latter to the ‘new money’. It would be impossible to make a judgement on this during our short visits, but it is true there are some differences that are quite noticeable.


Jersey and Alderney

We arrived in Jersey long after the sun had set. No cheery harbour master to usher us in and found the port to be rather full. Eventually we tied up alongside another sailing yacht with the designation of CH, Swiss we presumed. A charming Frenchman and professional sailor helped us secure the mooring ropes and springs whilst explaining that CH actually represents Cherbourg and could I not notice his accent was indeed French! Without hesitation he identified mine as being ‘Jane Birkin’, a most notable Englishwomen for having been married to French legend Serge Gainsbourg.

Tuesday morning and the sky was a brilliant blue. Everyone was up early and keen to make the most of the day exploring the island. Fi and I opted for the ‘Petit Trein’ and cycle hire package for just £14.50. After a particularly delicious coffee in the restaurant next to the tourist office, the train took us around the bay to St Aubin. Along the way we learned of the near starvation of the islanders during the later war years, the jubilation of Liberation Day on 9th May 1945, and the Glass Church commissioned by Lady Trent as a tribute to her late husband. The couple are better known for their chain of chemists throughout the UK.

We collected our bikes in St Aubin and followed the excellent cycle paths towards Corbiere. I hadn’t ridden a bike since Pai and my ungainly deportment was cause for further laughter as I struggled to figure it all out again. So many gears! Corbiere sits on the South Western corner of the island and is home to a tidal causeway leading out to the spectacular lighthouse. Le Braye restaurant large windows have stunning vistas of the brilliant blue sky and turquoise sea. We treated ourselves to a lunch of fresh salmon (without the crab as this is off the menu and will be replaced with, um, more salad perhaps, in answer to our question!). Did I mention there is a definite French overtone here?

After lunch the tide has revealed most of the causeway, enough to make it a challenge and we were definitely up for that! We arrived on the mound at the foot of the lighthouse, jubilant as if we had conquered something more substantial than our own nerves. By the time the first pedestrians arrived, we were ready to continue our journey up to Jersey Pearl – chosen for no other reason than it sounded interesting! Fi is decidedly fitter than I am and whilst the route is not overly arduous, I seemed to be constantly trying to catch-up.

We arrived and very quickly felt somewhat under-dressed for the occasion. Beautiful pearls on display ranged in price up to several thousand pounds. We were subtly directed to the ‘affordable section’ and later somehow found ourselves clambering back onto our bikes, purchases safely stowed in our daypacks! It was a fascinating find and we dub it our ‘because we’re worth it moment’ before wobbling off up the hill and then down back to St Aubin. Pizza was as much as we could muster the energy to cook, and it seemed that pearls may be a little extravagant for the occasion, despite being Ann’s birthday.

The tides dictated that we would have to leave around 1pm, which gave us the morning free. It is worth mentioning that Jersey experiences some of the largest tidal ranges in the world – up to forty foot! I walked half way round the bay to visit the glass church, marvelling that before the airport was built aircraft used to land in the bay.

The great thing about Alderney being our last stop is that it means it’s a shorter journey back to Southampton! It is safe to say that no-one was much looking forward to that. It had been proven to me that being given the helm does indeed reduce the feeling of sea sickness. In my case, I believe that this was because the terror of being in charge of a yacht that is thrashing around on ‘moderate seas’ surpassed anything else I could possibly feel. Steering into and over waves, trying to keep to the designated course as the sea pushes and pulls from underneath – the English Channel is certainly a challenge! The Races around Alderney are no exception and we were fighting time to make it through. The tides are fast and the currents are strong but finally we got around the island and into the channel to enter the harbour. We gave up on our tender and so were reliant on the unusual system of the water taxi to land. There is no fixed mooring as waves can crash over the high sea wall and therefore all boats must moor on a buoy. It doesn’t make for a good night’s sleep!

Dusk in Alderney and everything was closing up for the night! Walking up the hill to St Anne’s we found a Thai restaurant and had a delightful meal there. The manager recounted how he first came from Thailand to help his friend run the restaurant. He found life on this very small island quite difficult and was convinced he would only stay a short while. That was fourteen years ago, and he assured us he is quite settled there now. Alderney proved to be no less picturesque than its neighbours, but with a population of fewer than 2,000 people, it’s not somewhere I could envisage staying long. The weather provided perfect photo opportunities before we returned aboard for yet another cup of tea before we set sail for home.

In the early hours of Friday we tie on the ropes one more time and secure the boat back in the marina. It has been an amazing week in every way. We have seen stunning places, enjoyed fabulous company and made the most of every moment. It is so easy to become embroiled in the every day that sometimes we inadvertently wait for life to happen. This week I feel like I took back control, made the time worthy enough to challenge myself to pick up my blog again and see if I could still write. As much as I love my job, there is something incredibly special about going somewhere different, and then sharing the experience.

Tags: alderney, bicycles, channel islands, corbiere, jersey, lighthouse, pearls, petit trein, sailing

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