through an excursion trip organized by daves university, we went to the channel island of Jersey on saturday. although we had chilly weather (no rain thankfully) i would recommend to anyone that they visit this pretty island.
we had to get up at 5a so we could catch a ride to st. malo where the ferry to jersey was. we took a HUGE boat that carried people as well as cars. there was basically a boat on top of a parking garage, never been on anything so big. it made it better because you couldnt feel the waves as much i think.
we arrived at the port, chatted with the friendly jersey customs agent while the line stretched out endlessly long behind us, and visited the atm for some british money. jersey has been inhabited for over a thousand years. it is the biggest channel island and is very close to normandy. it has wavered between being french and british land. currently it is not part of the UK or EU, it is a separate possession of the british crown. they do use the british currency though, but their 'watermark' is the picture of a cow, as in their famous jersey cows.
as we walked away from the port, toward town, we saw a mercedes that was a taxi and i had to point and laugh, it was so silly. i had read that financial services contribute about 60% of the island's economy and that it was recognised as one of the leading offshore financial centers in the world, but i guess it still took me by surprise. throughout the day we saw more porsches, audis, BMWs, and other high-end vehicles than i have ever seen before all gracefully speeding along the windy coastal switchbacks of their island roads.
the group of 4 french geologists we were traveling with had differing plans for the island. two girls wanted to go christmas shopping (the primary reason the trip was organized) and the other 2 geologists were going to come with us to walk part of the coast of the island. we already knew this before getting off the boat, but we stood in front of the map of jersey's capital, st. helier, for 20 minutes figuring out a plan and a meet up strategy for later even though they all had cell phones...come on, lets start the day already...
(a harbor in st helier)
finally we were on our way. we found the bus station, received some curt words from the driver, and were dropped off on the east coast at gorey pier. we were hungry so we located a place that was open for breakfast. amongst working class jersey-brits we got a proper uk breakfast. dave and i split the 'complete breakfast': 2 sunnyside up eggs, 2 sausages, bacon, steamed tomatoes, beans, hash browns, toast with jersey butter and tea (dave got a scone too). holy crap. it was only £4.50 and it tasted like stereotypical british food. saltless, flavorless, and/or dry, depending on what you were chewing at the moment, but it was a nice solid breakfast.
after eating, armed with a 'geology of jersey' map we walked north along the coast. we first hit a 12th century british castle (jerseys most famous castle, mont orgueil) that was built to fend off the french at some point. it was more boxy than the french castles we have been seeing.
we continued along during low tide, walking on the beaches, wandering the coastal roads, looking at the gorgeous houses, and marveling how much topography there was on such a little island. we walked up and down hills all day. there was a lot of plant diversity too. plenty of flowers still blooming, lichen coating the rocks, bushes, and pine trees. the smell in the air was lovely and im sure only gets better in the spring and summer.
(a huge house on the coast. they had lots of land, an unobstructed view of the water from their house, and a 7 car garage; us on lichen coated rocks)
we walked up to the ocean breakwall and decided to start consulting the map to look for a town for lunch. we found a footpath nearby and set out to see a little more on our way to lunch.
(the germans occupied jersey during WWII and built many bunkers on the island. this bunker was converted to a fish shack; this plaque on the breakwall commemorated the first jersey person to swam around all 41 miles of the island)
we walked along more coast, then countryside, then forest, then back to the roads. we started to realize the map wasnt connecting up with the actual roads we were walking on. i was getting hungry and we hadnt passed through any towns since the bus dropped us off at the pier so i flagged a couple cars down. everyone was very nice. the first couple were lost too (jersey doesnt have good signage for their roads. maps are worse. and there are no addresses in jersey, you live on a road and you name your house, this is how it is known to the post office. same with businesses.) but the second couple seemed to be residents but still werent very helpful, probably mostly because we were so confused. anyway, after i asked a third person we finally found the zoo which had a bus stop that took us back to town.
(an ancient celtic tomb we saw while on the route when we were lost)
then we bumped into the shoppers of our group. french indecision 101 began again as they juggled ideas about what to do, although everyone was hungry so the easy choice should have been 'lets eat.' 15 minutes later this decision was actually made and we walked to find food. i was anticipating another traditional english meal, perhaps fish n' chips this time, and then my smile dropped when the group chose a cafe in a hotel lobby a block from the bus station. really people!? you are nuts. we ordered tea and sat and chatted waiting for them to break off for more shopping so we could head out alone.
i asked the hotel employees if they could recommend a good pub with food. they sent us down the street to a pub called Chambers. it was actually everything you would think of an english/irish pub being. wood interior, long bar, tons of tvs tuned to rugby and soccer. we got a plate of fish n' chips and a burger. the burger was dry and had onions in the patty, no thanks, and the cod was completely tasteless. some salt fixed up the fish though and we actually had our second enjoyable english meal of the day. perhaps it was aided by the fact that i was starving from only two meals that day. on the way out of the pub, i used their bathroom. i went to dry my hands and noticed the weirdest machine on the wall. next to a real hand dryer was a vaguely similar machine, but it had a hose attached. you pulled on the hose and air started coming out the end. the digital read out let you adjust the temperature. the hose nozzle wasnt very big though. i am confused, what is this for? when you spill beer in your hair does this help you dry it? or when you are crying from male rejection and you dampen your shirt with tears, do you just run in here, adjust the temperature for silk, and make yourself presentable again? mmm...
lastly, while the stores were closing we popped into a grocery store and bought some jersey goodies. mostly caramels and creamy chocolates. my chocolate bar was made with real jersey cream. it was milk chocolate but when you bit it it wasnt too sweet, it kinda flaked off in your mouth and then melted on your tongue into a creamy, rich (but not too rich) puddle of goodness.
then having walked over 7 miles in the cool weather all day, we were spent, so we walked back to the port to wait for the boat to arrive. as we boarded they said there were fairly calm waters but that we might encounter some rough spots. we did end up hitting a part where we were rolling with the waves so i decided to sit outside. it was cold ass freezing out there but my windproof jacket miraculously shielded me from most of it. we were traveling at 50 mph plus the wind and it was less than 45 degrees outside and toward the end it started to rain. joy! but really, i was fine and we landed at 10:30p and were dog tired and somehow made it home where i slept like a log.