WE’D made it to the ferry terminal in Poole with time to spare but it turned out that we needn’t have worried. The efficiency with which the cars were packed into what had initially seemed like far too small a space was impressive to say the least.

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Our seats were right at the front, with excellent views out of the panoramic windows. As the crossing progressed, these views were of particular interest to Albert, a boy of about four years old who was sitting a few rows behind us and had obviously not yet reached the age of understanding personal space.

When the sea started to get choppy, long queues formed for the toilet blocks and strained groans emanated from within. It didn’t last too long and on the whole the crossing was easy-going.


We stopped off in Guernsey en-route to St Helier and picked up further passengers. Luckily for us, Albert and company were among those disembarking. The onward journey was as peaceful as you like.

We emerged into rush hour in St Helier. For some reason, I had imagined the whole of Jersey to be how the north of the island turned out to be– small, winding lanes through picturesque villages.

St Helier was a bustling European city, seemingly French but with hints of home like WH Smith and Tesco out of place among the shutters and al fresco dining.

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Our hotel was the Hotel de France. As the saying goes, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but first impressions weren’t great.

To get to the centrally located hotel, you have to drive up and round a 1970s doctors’ surgery which has been rather unsympathetically plonked right in front of what turned out to be a rather elaborate façade on the hotel proper.

The hotel itself was everything you could want. Obviously aimed at the high-end guest, the lobby was all fancy staircases and ornate woodwork and carpets. The rooms were well-furnished and ours offered amazing views out over the bay.

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The next morning, after immediately forgetting the directions to the breakfast room and having to be redirected by a member of staff with a knowing “here comes another one” expression, we set off for La Corbiere Lighthouse on the west coast.

Once we were out of the city, Jersey became what I’d expected. Sweeping roads with ocean views and hardly any traffic.

La Cobiere Lighthouse was the first in the British Isles to be constructed out of concrete and the iconic white structure is among the top tourist destinations on the island.

At low tide, you can walk out to the lighthouse rock via the causeway - an alarm warns visitors when the tide is returning and it’s time to get a move on.

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Overlooking the lighthouse from the mainland is a much more modern MP2 German range-finding tower which was constructed during the Nazi occupation in the Second World War.

It is closed to the public as it has since been turned into a quirky private holiday apartment for those fans of 1940s German naval architecture who want to get away from it all.

The Nazi occupation of the island was something I was keen to learn more about - inexplicably fascinated as I am with wartime suffering - so the next day we made straight for the Jersey War Tunnels.

We got in for free with our Island Passes but standard admission would have been £15. The museum was fantastic.

Built inside the actual tunnels which served as a military hospital, it tells the story of the occupation and Jersey’s subsequent abandonment by the British government in stark detail.

Of particular note was the interactive section where you could choose to “hand your neighbours over to the Jerries” for having committed a series of verboten misdemeanours.

These ranged from secretly owning a crystal radio or securing extra rations up to harbouring Russian prisoners of war – the latter having been unconvincingly adapted for the big screen in Another Mother’s Son (starring Ronan Keating for some reason).

The number of people who had pressed the button to indicate they’d be willing to turn over their neighbours was depressingly high. Some of those who fell foul of their fellow islanders’ tip-offs ended up in German camps such as Bergen-Belsen.

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Just before leaving the museum, there is a long corridor covered in pictures and descriptions of all the people imprisoned by the Nazis during the occupation as well as the collaborators and the Russian prisoners of war. Each visitor is given an “Identity Card – Identitaetskarte” which coincides with a face on the wall.

I was Albert Bedane, a Frenchman who provided shelter to a Jewish woman and others during the occupation of the island. He went on to receive the titles of British Hero of the Holocaust and Righteous Among the Nations.

Next stop was Jersey Zoo, founded by the Durrells in 1959. Our Island Passes saved us the £16.50 entry fee.

Beth and I are not usually fans of zoos, but this was a nice surprise. It was as much about the conservation work as the animals being on display, more so in a lot of cases.

All of the enclosures seemed sympathetically designed, giving the animals plenty of space both indoors and out, and the accompanying information meant it was more of a learning experience.

The baby warthogs were the best.

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From the zoo, we headed for Mont Orgueil Castle on the east coast.

Talk about leaving the best until last. Castles are usually fairly high up on my sightseeing list, but Mont Orgueil is on another level, literally.

Towering over the picturesque fishing village of Gorey for more than 800 years, the fortress is built in concentric levels culminating in a main tower boasting views to the French mainland.

I could easily have spent hours looking around the dungeons, leaning over the battlements and pretending to fire the replicas of various medieval siege engines, but we had to get back to the capital to catch the ferry and so I had to storm the castle on the fly.

Highly recommended for those who have not quite grown up just yet. Plus, our passes had saved us another £12.95 each, that meant we’d each saved £44 for the day.

We drove back along the southern coast road just as the weather was starting to turn. A fisherman was desperately trying to row back to shore but seemed to be fighting a losing battle against the swell. We didn’t stick around to see what happened to him. I’m sure he’s fine.

The journey back to Poole was far calmer than on the way out and seemed to take half the time. No sign of Albert either, bliss.

Condor Ferries operates a year-round service to the Channel Islands from Poole and Portsmouth. To book, visit condorferries.com