Jersey was a place I hardly knew anything about until my husband had to go there for work with me in tow. I didn’t know what to expect. We had previously lived in Argentina, where I am from originally, and in Dallas, Texas. This was a new destination and the beginning of a new adventure. Jersey is the biggest of the Channel Islands in the English Channel.
Since we were staying at a hotel, I was unencumbered with boring housework and was free to explore. Jersey has a very long and interesting history that goes as far back as the Stone Age. There are traces of it everywhere: from Neolithic passage graves and medieval castles to World War II observation towers built by the Germans during the Occupation. One is confronted with its history everywhere and anywhere. On one occasion, I was taking a leisurely stroll in the gardens of a Victorian Anglican church when something in the middle of the garden caught my eye. When I got closer, I realised I was looking at a five thousand year old Neolithic gallery grave. A unique garden feature to say the least.
One of my favourite places was Gorey Castle, also called Mount Orgueil. It was built in the thirteenth century to defend the island from French invaders. Jersey once belonged to the Duchy of Normandy and was bandied about between France and England until it became an English Crown Dependency. The castle sits on a hill above the village and looks out to sea like a proud sentry. The contrast between its drab stone walls and the pastel coloured houses built along the pier at its feet is simply beautiful, especially when the tide is in.
Gorey is one among the many picturesque, essentially British villages. One of my favourite things to do was to take long walks along country lanes, through fields, up and down lush green hills, and visit the village churches, most of which date from the Middle Ages. They are tiny, made of stone, with whitewashed walls inside. They are invariably immaculately kept and smelled of candle wax and wood polish. I made sure to read the visitors’ books. I must admit I am rather nosy and wanted to know where visitors came from and what they thought of the place. It wasn’t only tourists that left comments on those books, though. I remember a heart rending note written by a local little girl asking God to make her dad came back home from England because she missed him so much. At the risk of sounding creepy, I’ll admit I also enjoyed walking about in the adjacent churchyards. I liked read the inscriptions on the headstones and made up stories about the people buried there.
This is the first part of a two-part series about living in Jersey, Channel Islands)