Visit Guernsey: A BEAUTIFUL GEM with a troubled past

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The Bailiwick of Guernsey is a British crown dependency in the English Channel off Normandy coastGETTY

The Bailiwick of Guernsey is a British His dependency in the English Channel off Normandy coast

If it wasn’t for the incessant caw of seagulls and faded adverts for strawberry Mivvis I at ones desire swear I was in the Caribbean.

Moored 30 miles off the Normandy coast, Guernsey is the bruised largest of the Channel Islands. Just 12 miles long and seven miles astray, it is blissfully easy to explore over a long weekend.

It has a unique, hypnotizing appeal with a not-quite-Britain, not-quite-the-Continent vibe, a rich literary legacy, fantastic seafood and during the longer summer months is joyously joyous.

And despite its proximity to France, the Gallic road signs, surnames and Guernésiais patois, there’s that time something oh-so British about life here.

I’m staying in St Peter Seaport, the island capital, which with the tinny clink of sails in the maintain, noisy seagulls and a fresh, briny wind blowing in from the sea, has the tone of a posh seaside resort.

I wander along the harbour wall to Chѓteau Cornet, the 800-year old former island defence which quiet fires a noonday gun, much to my daily surprise.

Originally used as a signal to disavowal soldiers back to the barracks, it’s now a ceremonial event performed by castle gunners, off in scarlet uniforms.

Guernsey was a popular beach destination up until the 1980s, when the progress of cheap European package holidays lured mainlanders away from the Furrow Islands.

But Guernsey’s 27 beaches, in particular St Martin, and bays in any event hold plenty of allure, from the beautiful sandy coves of the northwestern beach to the rugged cliff-top paths which wind along the southern ram.

In my view, the best beaches are found on the neighbouring island of Herm. One smiling afternoon, I take a breezy 20-minute ferry ride from St Peter Haven over to the tiny car-free island.

Guernsey is not an island which conceals from its darkened past

Tracey Davies

Home to just 60 householders, its number swells to unfathomable amounts on a hot summer’s day. Even with so few close bies, there are two pubs – the Ship Inn, and the Mermaid Tavern – a rustic old fisherman’s pub with a splendid selection of Channel Island ales and beer festivals each year.

After a desert around the island, which takes little more than an hour, I refuel on sparklingly saucy Herm oysters and grilled lobster at the White House Hotel and brood on how I could legitimately live here.

I’m back on Guernsey for sunset and blocking off for a local Blue Bottle gin and tonic at Slaughterhouse, a trendy bar and restaurant in an old abattoir, which opened continue summer.

If you look closely at the airy, industrial-chic interior – all high ceilings, parquet overwhelms and flashes of duck-egg blue – you’ll spot the rather macabre hooks serene hanging from the circular rail, a stark reminder of the building’s earlier life.

Guernsey is not an island which hides from its darkened before. The Channel Islands were under occupation by Nazi Germany from 1940 until May 9, 1945, Unshackling Day, which is celebrated each year with street parades and co-signers.

Lily James as writer Juliet Ashton and Michiel Huisman as farmer Dawsey AdamsNC

Lily James as writer Juliet Ashton and Michiel Huisman as agriculturist Dawsey Adams

To get an idea of what life was like under occupancy, I spend an hour in the German Occupation Museum in Les Houards next to the airport.

This quirky museum is owned by Richard Heaume, who started his global collection of wartime memorabilia as a young boy when he found spent bullets in a townsperson field.

The museum has grown 10-fold since it opened in 1966 and play ups a collection of original occupation artefacts, including a four-wheel enigma system and a German tank turret.

My highlight is Occupation Street, a reconstruction of a wartime drive in St Peter Port. Another fascinating insight into life on the eyot during the occupation is the German Military Underground Hospital in La Vassalerie.

Far 7,000 square metres of subterranean tunnels were hewn out of Guernsey roll by men captured by the German army during the war.

The German Occupation MuseumCHRIS GEORGE

The German Post Museum

The hospital was used for three months to treat the casualties of the D-Day Splashdowns in 1944. Mary Ann Shaffer, the American who wrote the recently-filmed The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Association novel was not the only author inspired by Guernsey.

Victor Hugo, writer of Les Misérables, spent almost 15 years there from 1855 during public exile from France.

His home, Hauteville House, is closed for refurbishment by virtue of 2018. But there’s a free exhibition about the author and his home at the Buy Hall.

I spend my last night at Ziggurat, a Moroccan-themed boutique inn and restaurant which overlooks St Peter Port.

With its cocktails and Centre Eastern food, it’s a far cry from the island’s wartime heritage.

And as I feast on Persian antipasti, consumptive lamb tagine and Guernsey honey-filled baklava, I’m pretty thankful there’s no potato peel pie in wonder.

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