One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to see more of Britain. I tend to be in the habit of making resolutions which I can actually keep (I don’t even contemplate thoughts of increased gym time). As an expat, one of the things I tend to wax poetic about to those back in Delaware is that once you’re in Europe, it’s easy to see a lot of it. But it becomes really easy to just live your life, going about surviving the day to day, and so I’m making a real effort to do some travelling.
One place I’d always wanted to see was Jersey. Due to a childhood learning about the UK through the lense of Agatha Christie novels, I have an odd preoccupation with these little nuggets which remain of British colonialism – particularly the feeling you get, whether in Bermuda or Jersey, that you’re on a little island at the end of the world (even if, as it happens, France is only 14 kilometres a way!) Jersey is a tiny little island – a fraction of the size of Bermuda while about twice the population. Part of that is because it’s so easy to get to from both France and England, and it still has the feeling of a small seaside town which reminds me of Brighton (where I’m studying for my PhD) and probably wouldn’t feel unfamiliar to any residents of Torquay, Plymouth or Weymouth.
The Channel Islands and their rich history (particularly their experience as occupied territories during World War II) has been popularised by the bestselling novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society – Beardy Mum absolutely loves it. Going to the War Tunnels was a really interesting, evocative experience as to what it was like to be a British citizen under German occupation – all Jewish Islanders were forced to register while British-born Islanders were deported to Germany to spend the war in camps.
Like most islands, Jersey’s strength lies in its amazing seafood. Luckily, I arrived craving seafood and chips!
The Hungry Man is exactly the kind of place I used to love eating as a kid on Maryland’s Eastern Shore – fresh seafood, inexpensive, no fuss. It’s so grounded in its beach shack tradition that it doesn’t even have a website, and it’s almost pointless to have seats inside when the view of the beach in Rozel Harbour (and fending off the seagulls) makes the meal taste even fresher.
We wanted fish and chips for dinner on our first night there, and so we went wandering on th harbour – I’m guessing it’s some ind of Pavlovian link between the sound of waves and fried fish in my mind. Right off of Liberation Square, we found the Seafish Cafe. It’s always a good sign when the queue for the takeaway is out the door and down the block.
We both went for the classic cod and chips – which I found to be almost too much food while Beardy Fiance thought it was not enough. C’est la vie! The restaurant was decorated with a number of fish and chip related facts on the wall – including that Friday is the most popular night to order fish and chips. So we were in good company!
And yet, I did find traces of the Agatha Christie-esque village that I’d always imagined was tucked away somewhere in England, if nowhere to be found in the modern, hipper than thou, London. Farm stands like these are tucked away in tiny Jersey lanes – although far past are the days when Jersey’s primary industry was its agriculture, small farms still flourish. In a tradition so classic, you’d barely know you’re buying local, you’re encouraged to take some Jersey royals or some fresh berries, and pay using the honour system.