JERSEY: St Helier

Henry gets caught LR
A crocodile gets Henry in the play area at Jersey Zoo...


By Tim Saunders

“It’s the best day of my life and I never want it to end.”

Henry (6) reveals this as he throws himself at yet another frothing wave at the seaside, not 10 minutes from The Merton Hotel where we’re staying in Jersey. It’s very rewarding to watch him enjoying himself. On this blisteringly hot summer’s day the cold, refreshing sea is really welcome. Harriett (11) hones her map reading skills by getting us here via some agapanthus lined roads. We mess about on the sandy beach and build a castle complete with moat that Henry fills using sea water collected in his water bottle. He is now drenched - we’re all pretty wet - and covered in sand, too.

We swim in the hotel’s indoor and outdoor pool complex complete with flume and Flowrider, where you can try your hand at surfing. It’s great fun to watch but we’re not brave enough to actually do it. The flume is a challenge enough for us. The first time we venture on to it my heart goes into my mouth as I speed round a bend but soon realise that sitting up slows my progress. Phew. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on one of these. The children have to return numerous times. It’s not long before Henry swims with his float, too; he’s so determined. “Oh there’s William from the Condor ferry,” he beams. Henry and Heidi (9) make friends with him on the crossing from Poole. At this time holidaymakers are being asked not to travel to Dover for their cross channel ferry crossings or for the Eurotunnel so we’re a little concerned that Dover’s problems might be passed on to Poole but thankfully this doesn’t happen. The whole process goes with military precision and it’s easy to drive the car with all our luggage onto the ferry. We feel it’s a much more environmentally friendly way of travelling compared to flying and we don't need any passports. “There are 200 vehicles on this ferry (maximum capacity of 300),” an official informs me as he carries out security checks on our car. It’s not long before we board and are sat round a table with some bacon baps and soft drinks. It’s a smooth, trouble free crossing and four hours later we arrive at St Helier.

The Merton Hotel, owned by the Seymour family for over 100 years, is 15 minutes from the port. A day’s travelling takes its toll on us and plans of exploring on arrival soon go out the window. Instead we dine in the Belvedere restaurant at the hotel. This is a wonderful, unhurried self-service buffet experience. The food is exemplary as is the service – all the staff are very polite and helpful. Caroline, Heidi and I opt for salmon and new potatoes while Harriett has ratatouille. Henry is a law unto himself and has a plateful of fruit. At least it’s healthy. We’re too tired for an argument. “There are 20 chefs behind the scenes,” one of them tells me as I enjoy some brie and crackers. The desserts are exquisite: chocolate gateau, other cakes and of course a good selection of Jersey ice creams. Each morning we’re treated to breakfast here which includes full English, continental, American or cereal. Every night there is entertainment and a pianist, we enjoy watching. Really, what else could you want?

As there are five of us, Henry and I stay in one room while Caroline and the girls are in another. We’re on different floors but this doesn’t matter because the children love calling each other on the hotel room phones. “What are you doing, what are you watching and what time shall we meet?” they frequently ask. Henry enjoys opening the door with the key card, too. Each comfortable en-suite room is fitted with a bath so we all enjoy making the most of this!

We visit Jersey Zoo, home of the Durrell Conservation Wildlife Trust. It’s a delightful 20 minute drive from the hotel. International best selling author Gerald Durrell established it in 1959, after struggling to find a large enough site in Dorset. His sister suggested that he should consider Jersey and within an hour of landing he found this site. He was friends with David Attenborough and Princess Anne. The trust has actually helped to save some species. What an achievement. We spend an entire day here. The trust has brought Orangutans over from Indonesia and we watch them feed alongside gibbons. The Gorillas seem gentle characters, which is confirmed when we read about how, in 1986, a little boy fell into the enclosure but rather than being attacked, as was the fear, he was protected by one of them until he could be rescued. There are some magnificent fruit bats, butterflies, lemurs, rare colourful birds and flamingos.

While driving down a particularly narrow lane, we come to an abrupt halt to wait for a mother pheasant and her chicks as they desperately try to cross the road but make a complete hash of it so we have to carefully herd them with the car. Fortunately, there’s no oncoming traffic until just after this event.

At The Boat House, St Aubin we enjoy some scrumptious locally caught and battered cod fish and Jersey chips followed by Jersey ice cream, all savoured while admiring a picturesque view of the sea. “Look at that crane searching for his dinner,” says Heidi, pointing out of the window.

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