THE RETURN OF THE FLIGHT OF THE CONDOR
For a company embarking on a re-launch of a ‘Fast Cat’ ferry service to the British Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey Condor had every thing on its side.
The glorious sunshine, azure sky and a flat calm mirror like blue sea was the perfect background as the colourful craft cut a maritime dash from Weymouth, due South to the islands that lie just a few miles off the coast of France.
With a surge shortly after departing the Dorset port the cat was up and running with the engines developing a towering wake as the Condor Vitesse was powering on its 70 miles jet thrust crossing, almost flying above the English Channel or as the French prefer to call it La Manche.
The reason for this service relaunch was some 18 months ago a section of harbour wall in the port of Weymouth needed urgent repairs and reluctantly Condor had to pull out and operate from nearby Poole. But that came with some different problems for them too as getting out of the harbour there took a long transit time before their Captains could open up the throttles! Plus the distance is much more than it is from Weymouth.
Returning to Weymouth after the repairs were completed had been a priority for Condor and also too by the local council and it’s business community who benefit greatly from the revenue that this ferry link brings to the town. This all year round service provides an important link for tourists heading South and island residents heading North.
Carrying around 500 passengers and 90 vehicles on its inaugural departure its beaming Captain Mark South (yes that is his name) was over the moon as its his home town and was thrilled to be operating again from the ly refurbished berth in the port.
Short day trips are possible to Guernsey but I would certainly recommend an overnight stay at the very least the delightful island is compact some only 28 square miles in total, but there is plenty to keep you amused should you stay be even longer, a long weekend would be pretty well perfect amount of time.
Renowned for its seafood the St Peter Port harbour restaurants and cafes abound and the views over to the castle and marina’s is so enjoyable.
Away from the Island capital its interior and beaches of the South and West are great playgrounds for all sorts of activities. Walking is certainly, for the island hosts’ special walking festivals around the island and using its green lanes for crossing the island without hardly every coming across a vehicle. You may even come across the Little Chapel, a miniature porcelain covered folly built by a monk who had several attempts and judging by the number of visitors he did a pretty good job!
Talking of vehicles surprisingly there are some 80,000 registered on the Guernsey but with the speed limited to 35mph and nearly all roads are very narrow the frequent buses could certainly be a great option in order to avoid ‘Granite Rash’ should you have hired a car.
This refers to the scrapes that are very common to cars getting rather too close to stone hedges that line many of the roads and lanes then add to that bendy, with some junctions that are nearly blind, the buses seem to be a cheap option with no CDW payments to be made later with them!
With craggy cliffs, sweeping beaches and coves for the summer visitors the coast is such a draw, the area of Cobo in the West is a gem of a village hugging the sandy coast and with being British, fish chips from a corrugated tin kiosk is perfect for lunch or in the evening to nibble as you watch the sun set in the West.
Located adjacent to the beach is the Cobo Hotel colourful and rated as a three star but as they point out five star services and it felt like that.
Fairly self sufficient in terms of its food production its farmers produce some of the best food to be found around the UK. Guernsey tomatoes were exported for years from the islands and still is, its now producing top class vegetables like peppers these often turn up in major supermarkets. Plus of course its products from the famous Guernsey cows that are known worldwide. Its butter is second to none and used in making local ice cream that is so rich and creamy…naughty but nice.
The island has some very ancient history going back to the Neolithic period and of course more recently it was under the Nazi jackboot during the Second World War being the only part of the UK along with Jersey and other tiny islands in the group to be invaded by them.
In a regency house with superb elevated views over St Peter Port was home to the French author Victor Hugo, and his former home is now a museum dedicated to the writer of Les Miserables and other classic novels. The unique property which flies the French flag and has delightful gardens that require a couple of hours to soak up and understand a little more about this man. Even today you can see where he wrote his most famous work in his lofty perch, a conservatory at the very summit of the building.
Staying longer the options to see nearby islands are a must, Herm the closest with Sark some 45 minutes away by boat being the other, plus that will also give you a chance to see the reclusive Barclay brothers modern but unique castle home from a distance as you close in on Sark!
After a short tour around the main town centre with numerous shops who incidentally do not charge VAT, so the chance perhaps for some cheaper bargains but there are restrictions on the amount of gifts being brought back so be aware of those. But for me there was no time for shopping just to head back to the port to view ‘Vitesse’ returning to Guernsey after it having been onto Jersey and St Malo in the meantime, as I toured Guernsey for that 4 hour period.
Finance, banking and insurance are big earners for the Islands, as is tourism and now with the fast UK link back up and running getting there is very convenient and quick in just over 2 hours you are whisked to a little bit of Britain that is almost in spitting distance of France… Bon Voyage!