Ian Cooper enjoys a world-class beach and great food just a short hop away
So here's a travel challenge. Where do you go to find magnificent, scenic and sandy beaches; historically interesting places to visit; staying in a quality hotel at a sensible price and with a flight that lasts less than 40 minutes?
Well, get your travel hit list out, and your bag packed, because having just returned from Jersey with my wife, staying at the Merton Hotel for six nights on a Saga Holidays package, I now have the answer.
Here is why I was so impressed.
After an amazingly quick flight from London Luton lasting just 36 minutes, we were met by the Saga host Mo. From the moment we were greeted, until our departure, along with all the other Saga guests, she looked after us like we were close family or friends. Walking around the tables in the hotel restaurant to check everyone was having a good time; to arranging tours and answering questions on local places of interest, Mo was the perfect host.
Jersey Island Escape comprised half board accommodation; travel to the island, a couple of included tours and some excellent and varied evening entertainment.
“Ever been to Jersey?” Wearing my travel writer hat, I have asked many people that question over the years, with one very common response. “No I haven’t, but I hear it is very nice and one day, I’d like to go there”. It is.
How often have you spent the whole of day one of your trip travelling, only to arrive at your destination exhausted? We took off on our Easy Jet flight from Luton and an hour and a half later, we had done the flight, collected our bag from the carousel, picked up our hire car and driven from the airport to St Brelade, an idyllic beach, where we had tea in a beachfront café. It couldn’t have been much quicker or easier.
I was recently asked by the editor of a prestigious glossy travel magazine, along with four other experienced travel writers: “If you had to name one fantastic beach anywhere in the world, which one would spring to mind first?” What do you think our answers were - Waikiki beach in Hawaii? Malibu beach in California? Perhaps Cannes in the South of France?
Well, though I’ve been lucky enough to visit all of these famous, exotic beaches, none of them would be on my top ten list. My choice would be Plemont Bay on the north west coast of Jersey. A café with a great panoramic view there too. Believe it not, one of the other travel writers named St Brelade on the south coast of Jersey as his best beach as well. What does that tell you about the island?
Interesting things to see and do:
War Tunnels - Along with the other Channel Islands, Jersey was the only part of Britain to be occupied during the Second World War. The five-year occupation came to an end on 9th May 1945. The War Tunnels sensitively tells the story of life under German occupation.
Jersey Zoo – Many people will be fans of the TV show The Durrells, or perhaps have read the famous book by Gerald Durrell, My Family And Other Animals. Operated by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Jersey Zoo is the crowning achievement of Gerald Durrell’s quest to create a centre where animal conservation, not public entertainment is the primary focus. It is well worth a visit. https://www.durrell.org/wildlife/visit/
Additionally, with well preserved castles, fascinating museums and the ever tempting Jersey cream teas, there is always somewhere to enjoy on the island.
Easy access to everywhere: Measuring about 9 by 5 miles, Jersey is small and very compact. This means that whether you had access to a car, or were relying on a Saga included or arranged tour, or public transport, you could pretty much get anywhere in no more than a half an hour. This is, of course, unless you were seduced into stopping to admire the scenery ,or sample one of the many tea rooms serving a Jersey cream tea. Our favourite was the family run Poplars Tea room near Corbiere lighthouse.
Saga’s choice of hotel in Jersey is the Merton Hotel. Located just outside St Helier. This large resort hotel is easy walking distance from the town and its shops. It is efficient and super friendly with very helpful reception staff. The rooms are modern, spotlessly clean and very comfortable with in room tea / coffee making facilities.
Add to all that, the fact that the hotel has its own Aquadome, an amazing swimming complex (both indoor and outdoor), and professional entertainment in its Star Lounge in the evening, it’s easy to see why Saga have been taking guests to this hotel for many years.
What about food? Well, most dining takes place in the huge Belvedere restaurant, which is mainly buffet style. Mealtimes were always very varied, with guests having a large choice of meat, vegetarian or fish dishes.
The overall holiday verdict: Wearing my travel writer hat, I have over many years, become a bit of a grumpy cynic. So before our trip, when I read on the Saga Holidays website that this holiday “offers all the benefits of a holiday abroad, wonderful beaches and a unique taste of the continent”, I took it as just marketing hype.
The simple fact however, is that this claim turned out to be totally justified. My short trip delivered on every level - great value and reassuringly high standards from Saga Holidays.
I only wish I could have stayed longer!
Travel Facts – Jersey Island Escape
All breakfasts and dinners, unlimited tea and coffee-making facilities within the hotel, optional travel insurance, return ferry journey and transfers, (with flights as an option at an additional cost on request). The trip also includes an orientation walk, Saga Host, two evenings of entertainment, talk from a local guide, welcome drink, & porterage in your hotel.
Excursions: Guided St Helier walk (half day) and Mystery tour (half day)
Price: from £559pp for six nights
Contact: Saga Holidays 0808 274 9723 or visit https://travel.saga.co.uk/holidays/destinations/europe/uk/channel-islands/jersey-island-escape.aspx