Pippa Park forgets a far-flung beach break and opts for something a little closer to home…
Here are a few things I didn’t know about Jersey. Firstly, they have their own money that Topshop will question if you bring back and try to spend on jeans. Secondly, most people seem to speak French thanks to its close proximity (a mere 14 miles to be exact) to Normandy. Thirdly, and most importantly for my sun-worshipping soul, it promises much nicer weather than we can ever expect back in the Weald, being the most southerly portion of the British Isles.
Jersey hadn’t really been on my radar before; I usually spring for far-flung destinations and exotic beaches, but in fact it is a surprisingly excellent option for a close-to-home culture shock. The travel time is minimal – after just an hour flight I arrive on the tiny island with my guest (my mum – another Jersey newbie) in tow.
Thanks to a charming blend of British and French influences, Jersey is a quaint medley of verdant scenery, fishing villages, rolling waves, cream teas and friendly locals, linked by narrow country roads, historic sites and some of the finest restaurants on British shores. Its cosmopolitan harbour town, St Helier is the real focus, so that’s where we point our feet.
We hop straight on a bus to Longueville Manor, a slither of luxury in the countryside, where many well-heeled celebrities are rumoured to have stayed. Despite refusing to name names, the friendly owner reveals with a secretive smile that there was an A-lister gentleman in the hotel that very weekend.
While my mum (convinced that the aforementioned is George Clooney) dashes to the bathroom to reapply her lipstick, I take in the sweeping country views and dreamy streams of purple wisteria that adorn the stone walls of this five-star manor. A sophisticated yet homely service is provided here, and our decadent day of relaxing begins with coffee and pastries, then progresses to an enjoyable walk around the grounds, where we discover a pictureseque lake, bee hives and the most excellent kitchen garde. By the time we arrive back at the main house we’re delighted to find the temperature has hit 30 degrees – not bad at all given the rain we left behind in Tunbridge Wells!
From sipping Pimms on the sun loungers and enjoying intermittent dips in the heated outdoor swimming pool, we move into the restaurant for the most fantastic three- course lunch before waddling over to The Cottage Garden Spa. Here we’re treated to the de Mamiel Rhythm of Nature Holistic facial – a unique concept that bases skincare on your personality, and this is the only spa in the UK to offer it.
My therapist identifies me as ‘fire’, which apparently means I have an outgoing, warm personality with hot-headed tendencies. She adapts my facial based on this, using cooling agents to ‘combat my fire’ during the 1hr 45-minute treatment (£145), while I lay comatose on a heated bed with the sounds of birds chirping around me. Heaven indeed.
When I resurface I find my mum relaxed from her own treatment and enjoying the last of the afternoon sunshine in the Jacuzzi – no doubt keeping an eye out for George.
While Longueville is no doubt the place for peace and privacy, The Club Hotel & Spa offers a more modern approach in a thriving location. A spa and swimming pool in the basement provides a welcome respite from the town, while just minutes away are the pedestrianised shopping lanes of King Street and Queen Street, which house plenty of boutique offerings and high street favourites, plus a couple of department stores. The central market here is fantastic for fresh food, fudge, fabric and all sorts of interesting offerings.
After a day’s shopping, we stop for a coffee and a refuel at the St Malo Crêperie. Waffles and crepes are piled high with cream, jam, syrup and so much fresh fruit that we have to abandon our plates at the halfway point.
If you fancy a day on the water, you can either charter the impressive Princess 42 from Longueville or, if you’d rather put your feet up and leave the hard work to someone else – like us – take a headland tour. It’s £30 for a two-hour tour, where you’ll bob blissfully along the coast and get to grips with the area, spotting Elizabeth Castle, Belcroute Bay and the Noirmont Point Headland. Try a tour with Jersey Yachting, skipper Nigel has a good supply of local wine on board from the La Mare winery, which incidentally is also a great place for a day trip.
Buses are easy in Jersey and fairly regular, but ideally you’ll want to hire a car for ease. On warm days you can’t beat the beaches here, but one of the most enjoyable things we do is hire a couple of bikes and cycle along the beach from St Helier to St Aubin. If walking is more your thing there are plenty of self-guided routes available online, or join a tour; either way the scenery is too good not to explore.
When it comes to dinner you’re in for a treat. Downstairs at The Club Hotel & Spa is the wonderfully decadent Bohemia. With excellent local flavours and leading chef Steve Smith in the kitchen, it’s thoroughly deserving of its Michelin Star. From the freshly baked bread rolls and amuse-bouche that resembled works of art, to the dimly lit, moody décor and enjoyable ambience, it’s a meal I won’t forget.
Another great dinner to be had is waiting at the Atlantic Hotel, which has also been awarded a Michelin Star – see, I told you food was good here! Arrive early, order cocktails alfresco and watch the splendid sunset over the golf course. The restaurant overlooks St Ouen’s Bay at La Pulente and offers the best cheese trolley I’ve ever had the joy of demolishing.
Not just a tax retreat, Jersey is also one for the soul. It’s the perfect place to take a step back in time and enjoy a simpler life of good food, excellent wine and better company. Best enjoyed over the summer months and ideal for a ‘no-fly’ break. With all this so close to home, who needs the Balearics? Although we never did spot Mr Clooney…