In January 2010, I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer with my Grand Rapids Book Club. (If you haven’t read it, you really should.) Some of you may have seen the movie on Netflix, but I think the book is better. Anyway…I learned about Guernsey because of this, but I’ve only known one person to visit in real life. With a four-day holiday weekend following a work trip to London, I decided it was the right moment to check it out for myself.
You may be reading this thinking, “Megan, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Where is this Guernsey?” Well, I’m glad you asked. Guernsey is an island in the English Channel between France and the UK – not too far from France or the island of Jersey. It’s a Bailiwick, which was a new word for me. My understanding is that it’s independent (as in, it’s own country) with things like its own government and some of its currency…
…but it’s defended by the UK and does use the British Pound for most of its money. The Bailiwick of Guernsey is made up of the island of Guernsey plus five other islands: Alderney, Herm, Jethou, Lihou, and Sark. I visited Guernsey and Sark during my trip.
As you can imagine, there are some quirky things about Guernsey. The maximum speed limit on the island is 35 MPH (and of course, they drive on the left side of the road). It has a maximum income tax of 20% on worldwide earnings with no capital gains or inheritance tax. On the island of Sark, there are no cars – only horse & buggy, bicycles, and tractors!
Before I get carried away giving you a full history lesson, let me show you some pictures from my visit…
[I was greeted at the airport with a beautiful welcome sign]
I stayed at The Old Government House Hotel & Spa in St. Peter Port, the capital of Guernsey. The property was beautiful, but sadly, I found the service lacking. (I won’t go into my list of grievances here, but I had much higher expectations than what it delivered.)
On my first full day, I enjoyed a spa treatment. (Always a must when visiting places outside of Switzerland, where the prices are more reasonable!) Then, I headed out to explore St. Peter Port. First, I went to see the Guernsey Tapestry, which showcases 1,000 years of history!
[Some of you may have heard of a Guernsey cow. Can you spot them in this tapestry? Here, you can also see imagery remembering the Nazi occupation during WWII.]
Pretty buildings, flower boxes, and bunting make St. Peter Port adorable! For those of you who know how much I love snail mail, I was also happy to find a lot of cute stationery shops.
After a bit of exploring in town, it was time for an afternoon tea in the garden at the hotel.
Followed by a late afternoon walk to enjoy the views around town, including Candie Gardens and the waterfront.
On Day 2, the hotel packed me a picnic basket, and I was off to drive around the island exploring beaches, beautiful views, and a few sites along the way. Some of the roads were REALLY narrow. Thankfully, there weren’t very many others out in the morning, but I was nervous about how it would work if I came across someone else.
I did a bit of hiking near Saints Bay Harbour, which had beautiful views.
I also visited Petit Bot Bay.
One unexpected site on the island was The Little Chapel. It was so small! At 16 feet by 9 feet, it’s one of the smallest chapels in the world. My favorite feature is that it’s covered in pieces of broken china.
From The Little Chapel, I made my way to Portelet Beach…
And finally, Grand Rocques Beach, where I found a picnic table to sit and enjoy my lunch.
I made my way around the rest of the island (which took far less time than I expected) and decided to head back to St. Peter Port to visit Hauteville House, the home of Victor Hugo. You may be surprised to hear that he lived on Guernsey, but he did…for 15 years when he was in exile from France! He even wrote Les Miserables while living there! The house was fascinating! There was a lot of unusual decor – most with a lot of meaning – throughout the house. The house itself is five stories tall, and you get to see most of it during the guided tour.
The next day, I took a ferry to the Isle of Sark, a nearby island. The views from the boat ride were really lovely!
Sark is only 1.5 miles wide and 3.5 miles long. Like I said above, it is car-free. I opted to walk from the harbour to Little Sark, which meant that I caught views of La Grande Greve and La Coupée along the way.
I had lunch at La Sablonnerie Hotel & Tea Garden. It was delightful! They serve fresh lobster in an adorable setting.
There were so many beautiful views as I walked across the island.
I also walked through the gardens at La Seigneurie House on my way back to the harbour to catch the ferry. So many pretty flowers!
In the evening, I had dinner at Pier 17. The staff took such good care of me, preparing a nice table with a view, even though I was a party of one. I enjoyed a final seafood meal.
On Sunday morning, I turned in my rental car – with no damages (a miracle when driving on such tiny roads!) and said good-bye to Guernsey. The pictures in this blog post remind me that it is a lovely place, and yet, I look back on this trip with a “so-so” feeling. If you find yourself on Guernsey, I’m sure you will have a lovely time, but I wouldn’t advise going out of your way to get there before you’ve visited everywhere else on your Bucket List. How’s that for a mediocre review? (Sorry, Guernsey!)