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Spitfires and Ice Cream - Ellen Portess

Blog post   •   Oct 26, 2010 09:54 BST

Guernsey – September 4th – 11th

We were fortunate that Ramblers Worldwide Holidays arranged us an early morning flight to Guernsey, arriving at The Pandora Hotel by 09.15.  We dropped our bags and set out to explore St Peter Port.  It was a lovely sunny morning so we enjoyed a coffee outdoors when, hearing rather incessant engine noises, we tracked them to the site of the Guernsey Hill Climb; several types of motor vehicles were lined up, waiting to beat their personal and group best times for racing up the hill out of St Peter Port.  We enjoyed watching this for some time, aided by a tasty bacon sandwich from the nearby beach cafe.  Following this, we visited one of the museums detailing the German Occupation of Guernsey, prior to returning to our hotel and meeting the other ramblers and our leader, Roger.

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Our first walk introduced us to the wild and rocky coastline of the north coast, fortified with dystopian watchtowers, forts, and gun emplacements from the old battles with the French to the Occupation during World War II.  We walked the south coast too, past beautiful coves to Petit Bot and through woodland, up steps to the top of the cliffs, with wide sandy bays spreading beneath us, the blue sea all around, and often with a cafe selling delicious Guernsey Ice Creams. One of the most welcome cafes, however, was the one we retired to during a rainy episode by Grandes Rocques.  Guernsey also provided a regular supply of public conveniences along the routes, for which we were most grateful.  The local bus service impressed us, too, as all trips cost just £1 (though Ramblers Worldwide Holidays funded our walks).

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We also enjoyed walking through Tranquil Lanes, and Roger led us to a prehistoric Dolmen, which was so well preserved that we could go inside it, where we were amazed to be provided with electric light that illuminated an ancient carving on one of the roof stones.  We also visited some churches; one of the churches (the Little Chapel at Les Vauxbelets) was tiny, quite blue, and covered in small pieces of pottery and shells.  It had a small crypt beneath it, accessed by a short spiral staircase. 

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Someone saw a hare in one of the churchyards.  It was not the best time of year for wildlife generally – a bit early for migration, but we were lucky to see some wheatears, whimbrels, gannets and several hovering kestrels.  Guernsey had a wonderful variety of plant life – with blue and pink varieties of hydrangea, Guernsey lilies, and wonderful wild flowers you would not see in other more northerly parts of the British Isles.

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We took the ferry to the islands of Herm and Sark, where no cars are permitted.  It was a real pleasure to walk freely and in safety.  Herm was quite deserted on one side, apart from an obelisk and, further on, an iron clone of Anthony Gormley.  Herm had sandy beaches but also rugged, rocky shores to the west, so lighthouses were a common sight.  The harbour side of the island was more populated, having a church and some places for refreshment.  We noted that wherever we went in the Channel Islands we could always obtain a good local ale, Patois, actually brewed in Guernsey.

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The Pandora Hotel also served a nice local ale, and served us well generally, with good food and service; many thanks to all its staff.  It has an amazing landscaped garden, divided into separate little sections, wherein are to be found small seating areas, leading down to a lovely view of the harbour.

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The anniversary of the Battle of Britain Airshow was staged over the harbour whilst we were on Guernsey.  We were fortunate to see this from St Peter Port; a flypast by a Nimrod, a display from a Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster, the Wing Walkers, the Blades, Naval Helicopter exercises, and a great finale by the Red Arrows, right across the bay and over the island.  The finale of our own visit to Guernsey was a visit to the Tapestry Museum.  This set of painstakingly sewn tapestries details the history of Guernsey from the dawn of its history until the present, and is the result of the labours of Islanders keen to preserve the story of their island.

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