Friday (photos are from Friday and Saturday):
Our rather rainy day was spent pleasantly walking the streets of Guernsey’s capital city, Saint Peter Port. It is a city of about 18,000 that is dominated by its harbor and the 13th Century Castle Coronet.
The seafaring nature of this culture was humorously exemplified to us in the spectacle of children participating in sailing lessons in the harbor parking lot.
We continue to find the amazing 33+ foot tidal range and adaptations to accommodate this 6 hour “heartbeat of the sea” to be remarkable.
The fort has successfully repelled invaders for centuries, but not the Nazi troops who overran the island in 1940.
These days it is also insufficient to resist thousands of invading tourists who arrive via huge cruise ships. The throng temporarily packed the streets of the city, overloading sidewalks and shops.
More sanguine is the presence of the privately owned sailing vessel, Eos. It is the largest sailing vessel in the world. She is 305 feet long and carries masts that are 200 feet tall, the maximum allowable for navigation under bridges worldwide.
Castle Coronet is now maintained as a popular museum that chronicles the fort’s history from the Middle Ages through the end of the Second World War.
At noon each day soldiers dressed in 19th Century garb prime and fire a huge canon over the harbor.
Other volunteers make presentations about earlier life on and around the island nation.
A short walk on Friday from the Castle brought us to the more somber La Vallette Underground Military Museum. It presents a huge collection of artifacts and memorabilia from the time of the Nazi occupation. The facility was originally an underground refueling storage dump for German U-Boats. The concrete bunkers are now lined with weapons, uniformed manikins, and propaganda posters from that era. Included are a number of chilling declarations announcing the executions of residents for prohibited acts.
Our Friday afternoon continued with a commuter bus ride that circled the island. The bus service costs £1 a ride, but for £7.50 each we purchased unlimited passes that are good for 2 days. Service is convenient and covers the entire island.
Our one hour ride gave us some ideas on places to hike on Saturday, assuming that the positive weather forecast prevails.
Friday evening brought us to a pint and dinner at a very nice Inn next to our B&B.
In the course of relaxing I received a very disturbing email. The ferry service that was to take us from Guernsey to Jersey on May 12th was canceled due to engine problems. Additionally, the overnight ferry that was to take us to Portsmouth England on the 15th was rescheduled and rerouted to Poole England. We had already booked and paid for our non-refundable 3 day lodging on Jersey Island and lodging in Portsmouth. There are no flights available on the 12th between the islands so this was a problem of the first order to be addressed at the ferry office first thing Saturday morning.
Saturday, May 11th:
Problem solved, sort of. We successfully booked an alternate ferry crossing for tomorrow. Unfortunately it sails late in the day and denies us time that we had counted on in Jersey. Furthermore, we will lose at least 2 hours and about £75 making connections from Poole back to Portsmouth. It could be worse…
Christine elected to remain in Saint Peter Port while I spent the afternoon on a hike along the island’s south cliff face, through the bluebell woods, and on to the west coast.
Along the way I came across a British Battalion war cemetery in which 111 German soldiers were interred. The cemetery was significantly upgraded in recent years, a joint effort of British and German soldiers.
The perimeter of Guernsey bristles with fortifications. Some are from the Napoleonic period, but most were constructed by slave labor imported by the German troops during the occupation of 1940-45.
Reminders of that sad period abound. It seems that one cannot walk a quarter-mile along the coast without encountering a reinforced concrete fortification.
It has been 75 years since the occupation ended, but those events remain fresh in the collective memory of Guernsey’s citizens.
My walk also passed more pleasant sites which included the four unique bathing pools that date to the mid-19th Century. These include the “Gentlemens Pool”, “Ladies Pool”, “Children’s Pool”, and the “Horseshoe Pool” that provides increased privacy for its users.
These cleverly designed pools flush and refill 4 times a day with fresh sea water as each high tide overtops the impoundment. The water is retained when the tide drops.
A “perfect storm” in 1974 all but destroyed the 125+ year old pools. Even though the cost was exceedingly high, the popularity of the pools resulted in a successful funding campaign from private contributions. Moreover, a small army of 400 local volunteer workers provided much of the labor.
The quaint village atmosphere represented in the recent movie about Guernsey during the Second World War no longer exists. Instead it is highly developed with modern homes, some are even palatial.
The biggest surprise of my hike was stumbling upon a 6,000 year old Neolithic burial crypt that was open to my wanderings. Phenomenal!
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day in the United States. Until then…
Peace Everyone. Pete