Friend: ‘Where’s your next trip to?’
Friend: ‘OMG YOU’RE COMING BACK TO NORTH AMERICA!?!!?’
Me: ‘No, not that one.’
This conversation took place about 12 times with various friends, family and internet friends. When I explained the Jersey I was referring to was actually in Britain, I was met with even more confused and blank stares, especially when I told them I was going to learn how to surf.
The Channel Islands are a cluster of small islands in between the UK and France known for incredible waves and surfing – and they’re less than an hour flight away from London! I spent a weekend in mid-September roadtripping around the biggest island, Jersey, with Visit Jersey and The Wandering Quinn and had an incredible time!
Our Island Break started off in the capital St Helier where we picked up our Hertz rental car at the airport and drove 15 minutes into our lovely accommodation, The Hampshire Hotel just outside the city center. The hotel had a beach house vibe to it with seashells, rope art and boat accessories everywhere. When we arrived we had, not even joking, THE BEST STEAK I’ve ever eaten in my entire existence. It was so garlicky, tender and juicy I almost died of happiness. This steak was the first indication of my weekend of indulgence that was to come.
Surfing USA, kinda …
The next morning we woke up early and had a yummy breakfast at the hotel before heading off for an adventure: my first-ever surf lesson! I always had this image in my head that I would graduate high school, move to Australia, learn how to surf, marry a hottie surfer boy and buy a big dog. Instead, I learned how to surf in the warm waters of Britain, surrounded by a group of incredible souls and ate vegan coconut banana bread. And I ain’t even mad.
The lesson took place along the coast at the Kempt Tower, an old army tower named after Sir James Kempt, Governor of Canada 1830-1834 (I only just discovered this via Wikipedia), and the site of our DRIFT Retreat!
I felt so privileged to be amongst the fierce and encouraging ladies of the DRIFT crew. Their motto of ‘we have no wifi but you’ll find a better connection,’ made me think I was in for something good.
We were fortunate to be at the retreat the same time as the legendary Aussie surfer, Patagonia sponsored athlete / badass extraordinaire, Belinda Baggs. Having never surfed before, I suddenly felt an extra need to stand up on the board by the end of my lesson. We got into our wetsuits (which, if you’ve never worn one before is basically like a full-body Spanx – is it appropriate to wear these at all times?? Asking for a friend ….), and headed down to the sandy shores. After a quick safety lesson and an intro to how to surf, we headed into the warm waters of the English Channel. I always thought that water was meant to make you extra buoyant, so being able to pull yourself up onto the board should be no problem at all, afterall, I used to be a competitive swimmer – how hard could this be?
Oh my god. It’s really friggen hard! My wetsuit kept filling up with water and I felt like the Michelin Man struggling like a fatty to climb on top of the surfboard. When I did manage to get the hang of it, I kept flopping my body sideways which made me crash off the board whenever the waves came. But, I was determined! Practice makes perfect and after a while, and a few mouthfuls of salty water later, I got up; temporarily onto the board: SUCCESS!
Being a water baby and having not been in water for what seems like ages, I was so content to be lounging in the waves and feeling the white salt dry on my skin. It felt like summer.
After the lesson, we went back into the converted tower and had THE MOST AMAZING coconut, date vegan cake. Something that makes DRIFT so great in my opinion, is their care for the earth and giving back to the island that gave them all so much. (Girls, if you’re reading this, please send me the recepie!!).
Back in the car we go, this time our destination was wherever the road took us. The roads in Jersey are so tiny and winding, thankfully Ellie is a great driver (me + standard car + tiny winding roads + driving on the wrong side = horrible idea). We came upon a Plemont Beach which had incredible views of the green and turquoise waters below. Sitting on the rocks by the beach, you could see the other popular Channel Island, Guernsey in the distance.
Growing up on the coast, I’m a big seafood fan (I see food, and I eat it). For dinner, we headed to the busy Boat House Restaurant in St. Brelade – I’d definitely recommend to make a booking here to avoid disappointment. My life was forever changed the minute my palate tasted Truffle Butter Popcorn, and Truffle Fries. I didn’t realize there was a taste that could completely stop me in my tracks. I loved the fries so much, the three times I ate them, they were gone so fast I couldn’t even get a picture. I followed it up with Jersey Crab on Toast, and the Josper Grilled Bass Fillet, which was equally soul defining. To cap everything off, I had a pavlova for dessert, which if you didn’t know is a fruit meringue (because I didn’t). The lovely waiter, served me a special drink which was served in what looked like a steaming version of the rose holder from Beauty and the Beast. It was a delicious work of art.
On the High Seas
The last day of our Island break was an adventure – we almost sailed to France!! When visiting a destination that’s on water, I always think being able to see it from off land is a completely different perspective. Based in St Catherines Bay, Island Rib Adventures is a speed boat tour that’s guaranteed to thrill. Our lovely Captain Mario took us out at full speed to explore the beautiful island archipelago of Les Ecrehous, a small cluster of land with no running water or electricity. On the way there, we spotted six seals! This little guy looks like he’s smiling!
Our final few hours were spent exploring Jersey’s most popular landmark, the Mont Orgueil Castle in Gorey. The quaint coastal town reminded me of the perfect setting for a Nicholas Sparks book. The wharf is lined with a lot of cute cafes, colorful beach hut stores and local treats.
The sun was shining so we opted for a patio lunch at the Jersey Crab Shack, where the backdrop was the castle on the hilltop. It wouldn’t be right not to have the crab, so another one of my new favs was ordered: crab on toast and truffle fries 😀 followed by a crab taco. Like a line out of Sainsbury’s, you can just taste the difference fresh makes. The crabs used to make the dish were as fresh as they come.
After being forklifted out of the restaurant busting at the seams, we took the long way back to the capital of St Helier, both of us reluctant to reach the airport. This weekend was exactly what I needed; full of girl talk, mouth watering food, the great outdoors, rest and relaxation and the perfect mix of adventure.
For being only 119.5 km², Jersey has so much packed into it! I left the tiny island from my weekend adventure already itching to come back for more. Normally when I visit a destination, especially a smaller one, I leave feeling satisfied that I got a good overview of the place, but when I boarded my EasyJet flight back to London Gatwick, I had a longing for more.
If you’re looking for a refreshing weekend away, be sure to add Jersey to your list – trust me when I say, this is the only Jersey Shore you want to hang out in.
Check out my Instagram account for more pictures from my #IslandBreak.