The Jersey Festival of Words is a wonderful event that promotes a love of written and spoken words in a variety of styles. It’s a great excuse to head over to the island to broaden the mind, learn a thing or two and ponder those thoughts while discovering what else Jersey has to offer.
Autumn is a perfect time to visit Jersey, not least because the climate is milder than the mainland, but it also has stunning beaches washed clean by the Atlantic surf pretty much in every direction. And that is exactly where I found myself after a 45-minute plane ride. With a couple of hours to kill before checking in to the boutique Banjo hotel, I head to El Tico, a beach café opposite one of Britain’s oldest surfing schools hiring out boards since 1948.
This little nine-by-five mile island is flanked by towering cliffs that rise from the sea and has rugged paths, sleepy farms and fields that lead to crystal clear views of France. A land of contrasts, it certainly is, especially for such a compact island. Well, the Jersey Festival of Words is suitably held here, I pondered, because such a setting would provide ample inspiration for any renowned author to pen away.
Speaking of authors, I went along to a trio of talks spread out across my three-day trip, each covering varying topics and offering plenty of food for thought. I patricianly enjoyed Emma Gannon’s talk on social media as she shone the light on online versus reality during her hour-long session.
As non-millennials, most of us have grappled with the pros and cons of social media over the years, but what is it like for millennials who grew up with it and know no different? Well, Emma is one of those and, for years, thought it was the most natural thing on earth. But as time went by, she realised that, together with other millennials, she started to question it.
Questions such as ‘is social media robbing us of our lives” and “Is it time to log off and reclaim ourselves” were some of the topics she covered. “Millennials might have grown up online, but now they want to log off,” said Emma. “And it’s not just millennials. A year of lockdowns, Zoom meetings, and reduced physical contact has made us more dependent on the internet than ever before.”
But the answer says Emma, who has just released her first fiction novel Olive, is not to go to extremes but to strike a balance and offered up tangible tips and advice on how to do it. Putting away your phone in another room for a few hours, prioritising your real life and scheduling your time on social media were just some of the healthy tips I took away from the session.
And putting away my phone is just what I did when I began scouting out things to do in nature. If like me, you’re keen to feel the wind in your hair, you’ll be pleased to learn there’s an array of outdoor activities you can get involved in.
There are walks on all four corners of the island, but my favourite was Jersey’s north coast. Stretching your legs along fifty miles of winding paths that snake through gorse and bracken-covered cliffs with views of the shoreline out to infinity is just a magnificent way to spend the day. But if all this sounds a little too pulse-racing an activity, you can always get the assistance of two wheels with EVie electric bikes dotted all over the island.
The island is a cyclist’s paradise with 350 miles of roads and lanes to get two wheels in a spin. There’s much freedom to be had along country lanes which open up to cliff-top views. And of course, if you like a dip in the, don’t forget to pack your swimmers because the sea is never more than 10 minutes away.
While you can re-balance with beach yoga with Kalimukti, my session was in the calm, serene studio in St Hellier led by instructor Alexis where I found myself emersed in a Vinyasa flow.
Cultural and related activities
Jersey has a unique feel about it. The Islanders like to say they are Brit…(ish) because they speak the Queen’s English as well as find themselves strolling along a French lane that leads to spectacular views over France. If you’re lucky, you may even stumble upon a fisherman playing pétanque, a game involving metal balls which are thrown to land close to a target ball. The local language is Jèrriais, with both Norman and Viking roots which are closely related to France. For those wanting to respect the language, you’re on to a good start with ‘Bon jour’ and ‘merci!’
The majority of shops close on the island on a Sunday, which is just as well, as traces of Jersey’s past are just about everywhere to discover. It means not only can visitors enjoy their beautiful surroundings but also get the chance to learn about Jersey’s heritage. You’ll find ancient castles, world war bunkers and tunnels, ice age caves, and, wait for this, you can even become a zoo keeper for a day at Jersey Zoo.
Jersey is known for a handful of culinary lineups, namely Jersey Royals, oysters, lobsters and Jersey dairy. But don’t be fooled into thinking the buck stops here. The islanders know a thing or two about whipping up a smashing meal, and a visit to a few of these places proved so. Jersey’s cosmopolitan feel mixed with a village one extends to its food.
Bohemia Bar and restaurant (above) in the St Hellier capital (it’s held a Michelin star for 17 years) is the place to go for a relaxed yet sophisticated dining experience. Seafood tastes better when you can see the, well sea and is an abundance of that on the pescatarian tasting menu. Crab meat, seabass, mackerel and seabream were beautifully presented and had the right mix of flavours and textures to tantalise the tastebuds.
Exploring the island further afield, I had the chance to dine at Oyster Box (above). Nestled in the heart of St Brelade’s Bay, this chic casual dining hub is a must-visit not only to consume good hearty food (plenty of meat and fish on the menu) but also to take in the glorious sea views as well as witness the sky being painted in ever-changing colours as the sun sets.
But you don’t have to go into a restaurant to appreciate good food. You can always roll out a beach picnic and dive into flavours like Jersey crab served up with garlic butter, and a sea view picked up from farm stalls and food markets. And as Jersey’s famous cows have been making irresistible ice cream since 1763, it was rude not to have one.
The Jersey Festival of Words is a fantastic event, and it may be over for this year as it’s only an hour away by plane and a great place to visit at any time of the year; it’s a perfect excuse to come and visit pretty Jersey with its unique blend of French and English charm. What are you waiting for? You’ll have a smile on your face with a matching, happier soul.
For more information on Jersey, visit www.jersey.com.
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