Guernsey has a collision of cultures
There's been a campaign launched trying to encourage us to "holiday at home". Why not swap Bondi for Bridlington? Or the Dourdogne for Devon? That kind of thing.
Sadly, it's probably true that more Brits have been to the Costa del Sol on holiday than to Cornwall. And with so many cheap package holidays on offer with the allure of guaranteed sunshine it can be hard for Britain to compete as a desirable destination.
But with more days of sunshine each year than any other part of the UK, and temperatures which are consistently warmer, the Channel Islands offer a very credible alternative to other European destinations. And you don't even have to change any money. At less than an hour's flight from Bristol, it takes less time to get to Guernsey than it would to drive to Brighton, for example.
Guernsey is nestled in the bay of St Malo, 70 miles from mainland Britain and its geographic location, as well as its history has created an environment where French and British cultures collide. Although English is the language of Guernsey, and people shop with pounds, the road names are French, and it feels more Continental than British.
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It's a relaxed pace of life on Guernsey. The maximum speed limit on the roads is 35mph so don't expect to get anywhere quickly. If you like to live life in the fast lane you may find it a bit of a culture shock. Even the island's capital, St Peter Port, is laid back. Yachts bob up and down in the harbour as gulls swoop overhead. Locals and visitors mingle as they wander the cobbled streets, browsing the boutiques or stopping at one of the cafes to watch the world go by. It's more like a quaint fishing village than a capital city.
But don't think that Guernsey is boring. There may not be any amusement parks or 24 hour nightclubs, but there is plenty to do.
Wherever you go on the island you can literally see the layers of history that have built up over the years.
From ancient burial chambers, to Napoleonic towers and remnants of the German occupation during the Second World War. There's dozens of museums dedicated to Guernsey's history – particularly the occupation. One of the most unusual is perhaps the German Military Underground Hospital. Except for the entrance it is just about invisible from the surface and you would have no idea of the 1.25 miles of cold, damp and dimly lit corridors and rooms that stretch under the Guernsey countryside. Although most of the rooms are now empty there are still a few beds remaining, as well as some cooking utensils and much of the central heating plant left as an eerie reminder.
Much less sinister is the charming and unique Little Chapel. Believed to be the smallest chapel in the world it was built by Brother Déodat who started work in March 1914. His plan was to create a miniature version of the famous grotto and basilica at Lourdes in France. Decorated with seashells, pebbles and brightly coloured pieces of broken china it is a feast for the eyes.
One of Guernsey's claims to fame is that it was home to French author Victor Hugo during his 14 years in exile. His home, Hauteville, is now open to the public and the rooms with their vivid décor give an insight into the writer's eccentric personality.
At only 30 square miles Guernsey is easy to navigate, and it is very hard to get lost. In just a few hours you can drive almost all the way round the edge of the island.
If you prefer to explore on foot there is an excellent network of cliff paths that meander along the coastline offering spectacular views.
Guernsey is an island that loves its food, and the excellent growing climate, its proximity to France, the famous Guernsey cows and the warm Gulf-streamed waters mean that there is an abundance of locally sourced produce.
One of the best places to sample the local produce is L'Escalier, a chic restaurant bursting with character just a short walk from St Peter Port high street. The interior has been created using reclaimed furniture and materials which creates a fun and relaxed environment. The menu is created using largely local produce and is an eclectic mix of British and Mediterranean cuisine.
Travel a bit further and the Bella Luce is also well worth a visit. The hotel aims to attract a hip clientele with individually styled, quirky rooms but whether you stay or not the restaurant is worth the trip on its own. The menu changes, based on the seasons, and the team of internationally trained chefs create exciting, vibrant dishes to showcase the quality of the local ingredients.
If the fresh air, fine food and picturesque scenery still isn't relaxing enough visit the spa at Old Government House. Formerly the official residence of the Governor it is now Guernsey's first five-star hotel close to the centre of St Peter Port. It offers a secluded sanctuary where therapists can soothe away any stresses and strains.
Just a short ferry ride from Guernsey is the even smaller Herm. With just a handful of inhabitants, and no traffic, there is a calm and quiet that seems to embrace the island. Wander away from the harbour across the headland and ahead standing aloft on a small hill you will see an Anthony Gormley statue surveying the surroundings. Walk a little further and you will come across Shell Beach, so called because of the white sand made from millions of tiny shell fragments. With the clear waters lapping at the shore it is an idyllic scene that could rival any of Europe's finest beaches.
St Peter Port is the ideal base for a break in Guernsey. Just a short drive to the airport, with plenty of restaurants, bars and shops, as well as the harbour and ferries everything is within easy reach. The Duke of Normandie Hotel is close to the High Street and offers a warm welcome and comfortable accommodation.
Perhaps because it is such a small island there is a real community feel in Guernsey. It never feels as if anyone is too busy to help or stop to talk and you will always be greeted by a friendly smile.
So when you're considering the next destination for a short break or family holiday don't overlook Guernsey. This little island may be small, but it's certainly beautiful.
For more information on Guernsey see www.VisitGuernsey.com or call the Guernsey Information Centre on 01481 723552.
Aurigny Air Services (01481 822886, www.aurigny.com) flies to Guernsey direct from Bristol with one-way prices from around £60 including taxes.
Bed-and-breakfast accommodation at the 2-star Duke of Normandie Hotel (01481 721431, www.dukeofnormandie.com starts at £58 per room per night, twin-share.
For more information on L'Eascalier visit www.l'escalierguernsey.com