ABOVE: Fishing and pleasure boats rest on the
harbor bottom in St. Peter Port. (On Guernsey, the difference between high and
low tide can exceed 30 feet or 9 meters.)
Guernsey shore excursions
from: Guernsey (St. Peter Port)
The Regatta was the last cruise ship of the season to visit St. Peter
Port when we arrived on on September 13. The town was far quieter than it had
been during a call on the Silver Whisper a few weeks earlier. The fact
that we had arrived on a Sunday, when few businesses other than a handful of
cafés and newsagents were open, made the town seem even quieter. (It wasn't so
long ago that you couldn't get a drink in Guernsey on a Sunday, and you still
can't rent a video at the Blockbuster in St. Peter Port).
Still, the town wasn't totally dead: As I walked from the Regatta's tender to
the seafront esplanade, I heard music from a brass band. A parade was marching
along the seafront, and I followed. After a few blocks, the parade halted and
the paraders (a mixture of elderly war veterans, band musicians, flag bearers,
and adolescent Boy Scouts) stood at attention while they were inspected by a
couple of tall, natty silver-haired gentlemen in military uniforms with sashes
I abandoned the gaggle of parade-watchers after the band played "God
Save the Queen" and headed for the Guernsey Tourist Board's attractive
headquarters along the waterfront. (The century-old building, constructed of
Guernsey granite and adorned with flowerboxes, is the island's former Government
House.) From April through October, the tourist board offers inexpensive walking
tours several days a week, including a 10:30 a.m. Sunday walk in the old town
immediately behind the harbor.
The town tour was a bargain at only five pounds (Guernsey or Sterling) for a
fascinating stroll of nearly two hours with
Judy Porter, a licensed Guernsey
tour guide who led our group of about 15 foreign visitors and locals through the
Sabbath-quiet streets of St. Peter Port.
Porter told us about the town's history, the island's political status ("part of
the British Isles, but not the United Kingdom"), the local two-tiered property
market ("local market" for Guernsey folk, the more expensive "open market" for
foreign residents) and the hardships of the German occupation during World War
II (when both the locals and the occupying forces were reduced to
near-starvation by the end of the war). She occasionally produced visual aids to
illustrate her talk--among them, a small cannonball from the English Civil War
that a friend's son had found buried in the family's garden.
Later, I walked along harbor breakwater to Castle Cornet, the massive
fortress that dominates the harbor entrance. For £6.00,
I was able to spend a couple of hours exploring the courtyards, parapets,
gardens, and small museums within the castle's walls.
If I'd been in a mood to go farther afield, I
cold have booked one of the Regatta's three-hour tours:
Guernsey Island Tour, a trip to the WWII
German Occupation Museum and the German Underground Hospital, with a drive
around the island by bus.
Guernsey Cliff Walk, an excursion that
began with a drive to St. Martin's Point (a scenic overlook with views of
neighboring islands Herm and Sark) followed by a downhill walk along high
cliffs, a visit to a pottery, and a cream tea at a local hotel.
The Life of Victor Hugo, a tour of
Hauteville House (where the French author lived and wrote for 15 years) and two
local tourist attractions, The Little Chapel and the Candie Museums and Gardens,
plus a drive along Guernsey's west coast.
TIP: A New Zealand couple aboard the
Regatta told me they'd rented a Smart
Cabrio and driven around the countryside. Since the speed limit for cars on the
island is 35 m.p.h. (about 56 km/h, a tiny two-seater Smart convertible is perfectly adequate
for a Guernsey outing--and a lot of fun, besides.
For more information about St. Peter Port and
Port of Bordeaux