I didn’t know what to expect when I booked a weekend getaway with my significant other to Jersey Island. Sitting somewhere between England and France, it’s a tiny speck of land mostly known for being a tax haven. Upon our early morning arrival I was immediately taken aback by the island’s beauty.
In contrast to the sprawling urban tendrils of London, where sweeping vistas of grey and brown are accented by just the tiniest bits of greenery now and again, Jersey seemed to be (for lack of a better term) in harmony with nature. Decidedly modern construction jutted out along its green hills, while more period homes blended into the environment seamlessly, covered in ivy and flowers. The coastal winds which whipped through the island provided it with a constant supply of fresh, clean air.
In the town of St. Helier, the largest on the island, the streets were clean, charming and boasted beautiful views of St. Aubin’s Bay and Elizabeth Castle. The bay itself was a wide, sandy mouth inviting deep blue sea water to the shores. Our hotel was nestled on a hill a few blocks up from St. Aubin’s and we were pleasantly surprised with an upgrade to a sea-facing room.
The view was nothing short of spectacular with neatly manicured English shrubbery against the deep blue of the channel waters. Our short two-day stint on the island took us through winding country roads where we found inland gems in the form of the Durrell Wildlife Conservatory, and the La Mare Wine Estate.
Jersey’s sunny seaside demeanor and fertile soil has been home to a spectacular wildlife conservation park for nearly half a century now. Sitting on a large plot of land on the northern half of the island, the Durrell Wildlife Conservatory is dedicated to the rehabilitation of endangered and threatened species. For an incredibly modest entrance fee, we were able to view some of the park’s residents. Open and lush with flora, Durrell is home to a number of great apes, reptiles and birds. The conservatory carefully crafted suitable environments for all its animals, allowing them to roam through open-structured environments.
Bringing out my inner Attenborough, I spend the better part of a few hours sitting and observing lemurs, gorillas, various water fowl and orangutans graze and interact in surroundings which at times rivaled the San Diego Zoo. The conservatory also included an obligatory, yet tasteful, gift shop/coffee shop in addition to an organic farming exhibit and apple orchard.
Not far from the wildlife conservatory is the La Mare Wine Estate, a small vineyard providing the island with wine, sparkling wine, apple cider, apple brandy, chocolate and other confections. Elevated with views of Jersey’s north shore and a neighboring island, the vineyard is a sight to behold. I took a self-guided tour through the estate, passing vineyards, a small apple orchard and a pony named bubbles. The area was blanketed with tiny white flowers in full bloom and the buds of the grapevines were about to sprout.
Standing is a field under the warmth of the afternoon sun I was reminded of my childhood, growing up about a half hour from California’s wine country. It was at that point, amongst the grassy fields in the cool breeze that everything felt like home. Jersey has a small-town feel that I suppose I missed after spending the majority of the last year and a half between London and Bangkok. But here on this tiny vineyard in the middle of a speck of an island in the English Channel, I felt the rare but oh-so-sweet comfort of that small town atmosphere, and it felt really good.
For our last few hours on Jersey I managed to pry myself from the magnetic pull of its homey country center and head out to St. Ouen’s Bay which flanked the west coast of Jersey. While St. Aubin’s was a scenic and charming slice of beach, St. Ouen’s was wild, rocky and unkempt - but in a good way. Here small idyllic family dwelling were replaced by sprawling hillside mansions with unobstructed views of the untamed seas. Broad, windy and full of soft but packed sand, the beach was a haven for windsurfers who criss-crossed the sandy plains with alarming velocity. So vast was the beach during low tide that I couldn’t resist the temptation to run unabashedly along the coastline; the wind swirling my hair in front of my eyes.
From my perspective, Jersey is a place that’s got it right. Its mix of urban and rural, beaches and farms, and old and new make it incredibly hospitable without damaging its natural beauty. Such a short flight from my home in London, I can definitely see myself visiting Jersey again and I’d also like to explore Guernsey, its island neighbor. As for now, I’m back in London, looking out the window onto a very muddy River Thames. It may not be St. Aubin’s bay, but it will have to do for now.
For more photos of my weekend trip to Jersey, visit my Flickr site here.