Thursday 11th until Sunday 16th May
Following are bits and pieces of information I have gained through recent seeing, reading and listening.
Clustering just off the coast of France, the islands 0f Jersey, Guernsey, Sark and Alderney (the main four islands) overflow with exquisite coastlines, beautiful harbours, shaded lanes and old world charm. There are many lesser islets and a labyrinth of rocks and reefs. They are situated 80 miles South of the English coast and 10 to 30 miles off the north-west coast of France. The Islands are proudly independent, self-governing British Crown dependencies. English is the main language and although place names look French, local pronunciation is very different. The islands print their own version of the British Pound which isn’t legal tender on the mainland but British money can be used on the Islands. (It will be a bit of a challenge to use local money before we leave)
We entered the Islands at Guernsey, one of the two main entry points, and spent 3 nights at Saint Peter Port with its beautiful seafront Marina, narrow cobbled streets and historic gardens – considered one of Europe’s prettiest harbour towns. Our walk through Candie Gardens with Spring flower in profusion and lovely views over the town and across to neighbouring islands was a delight. BACKROADS Touring lived up to its name as June drove down many very narrow lanes edged with dry stone walling so that we experienced most areas of the Island by bus from our accommodation. Her competency is second to none and when something doesn’t quite work to plan and timing she always has an alternative.
The Islands were the only British Territory to endure German occupation during World War ll. Anticipating invasion, some 30,000 of the islands’ then 104,000 residents evacuated before the arrival of German forces at the end of June and beginning of July 1940. Some were deported as slave labourers, Jews were sent to concentration camps and many were reduced to near starvation by the end of the war.
One of the many highlights was a meeting with Molly Bihet who, as a 9 year old child, witnessed the Nazis arriving on her island home in 1940. Listening to her stories of life on Guernsey was a uniquely unforgettable experience. Molly’s home has always been Guernsey and she still lives near Les Canichers where the events took place. We first met her when visiting the German Occupation Museum one morning and then later in the day she came to our Hotel where she chatted for an hour and many purchased books she had written.