Through the Viewfinder
And What Alice Found There
Day two of our island adventure was a bit cloudy and forecast for light rain showers so we planned some indoor activities instead of exploring beaches. Armed with the guide book and map that my mum bought for me we headed for the capital; St Helier. We found a cheap car park right in the centre and seeing as the morning was dry we had a lovely wander along the small, quaint streets lined with all sorts of shops – from big designer brands to cute little cafes, St Helier seemed to have it all.
We found ourselves by the harbour where we loved looking at all the boats and deciding which ones we each would own if we could, then had a look at the large steam clock, which is basically a huge clock that runs off steam. However, it turns out the clock no longer works (or it just wasn’t working that day) so we had a quick look but it wasn’t anything too special. Soon the rain started to fall so we headed back to to the car an on towards our first indoor activity of the day. We chose to visit La Houge Bie, which is a museum all about the Neolithic period (approx 6000 years ago) and is also the sight of a fascinating passage grave. The passage is a tunnel built into the earth and supported by huge slabs of stone. The entrance is very low and inside it’s very dimly lit. The chamber was likely used as a ritual site as well as a grave and standing inside the tomb-like cave was a brilliant experience and helped us to try and visualise life in the past. We found it really interesting as neither of us know a lot about the Neanderthals, so looking around the museum and reading up on Jersey’s past inhabitants was fascinating. On top of the original chamber site is a large grassy mound which is now home to a small church – a nice little spot to look around but I personally found the other parts more interesting. Surrounding the cave and the church are some small grounds, within wich are the remains of some German bunkers from the time Jersey was occupied during WW2. These tunnels were also great to look around and had some really moving stories inside about islanders and their experiences with the German soldiers. After a good look we eventually moved on and headed in the direction of the famous Jersey War Tunnels…
After a quick bite to eat in the visitor centre cafe, we bought our tickets to the war tunnels and headed inside. I felt like I already knew a lot about WW2 after learning about it a lot at school and watching various documentaries and films about it, but one thing I had never learnt about was the occupation of Jersey and how it affected the people of the island. The tunnels were a fantastic place to learn all about this part of the islands history and we spent a good 2-3 hours wandering around. The tunnels are huge and once you go in you have to go all the way round before coming out the other side – you can’t just go in and see the first bit for example. The tunnel was done out with some really good exhibitions about each stage of the German occupation and some of the stories told were really fascinating. It really made you think about how it must have felt to have your home invaded and taken over by a foreign army! Towards the end we stopped reading all the signs in full as we were getting quite tired – there was such a lot of information to take in but we could easily have spent all day there if we wanted to take our time. Towards the end there was also a few parts of the tunnels left unfinished – they were originally to be used as an underground base for the Germans and a hospital for the wounded but the tunnels were never finished. It was great to see the unfinished parts as it just showed how much work went into creating the labyrinth of passages – it was hard to imagine that it all started out as just plain earth and rock!
After the war tunnels we were getting quite tired so headed back to the Shepherd’s Hut for a rest before heading back into St Helier for tea. This time we tried a restaurant called Wild Fire which served a range of steaks and burgers, and the downstairs area also did tapas style food. I had the most amazing belly pork ever but afterwards I was so full that it actually hurt to walk back to the car! It was so worth it though!
The next day was forecast to be sunny again, so with my fingers crossed for another chance to swim in the sea we headed back to the hut to relax by the log burner before turning in for the night.
To be continued...