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Piers and Lin du Pré are the owners of the Fleming 55 Play d'eau, based in Beaucette Marina, Guernsey in the Channel Islands at N49° 30’.197 W002° 30’.350.

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Birthday celebrations come to an end

The silent, fairytale Bluebell wood.
But where is Mr Tumnus?
click to enlarge

Three weeks of birthday celebrations finally came to an end on Monday. A totally brilliant time which will need at least a year to recover!

My 65th birthday celebrations! reported the first ten day phase of this extravaganza, which ended on 9 May when the last of our sons with their families, and our dear friends John and Beryl, had all returned to the mainland leaving my sister Hilary and husband Christopher (Kiffer) with us for an eleven day phase 2.

Phase 2

The first six days of phase 2 were bathed in brilliant sunshine during which we explored Guernsey, walked from St Martin’s Point to St Peter Port along the cliff path through the silent, fairytale woods carpeted with blue and whitebells (it was breathtaking – but where was Mr Tumnus?), visited our friends David and Diana in their beautiful bungalow, ate far too much Guernsey butter and ice cream and on my birthday, we had an excellent Sunday lunch at The Restaurant at Beaucette Marina sitting at a window table with gorgeous views across the marina and out to sea.

Mont Orgueil Castle, which has been protecting Jersey from French invasion for the last 600 years
click to enlarge

Then, on 16 May we boarded the Condor Express fast cat with our car bound for Jersey where Lin had decided we should all have a treat and stay in the Royal Yacht Hotel.

As children, we had often spent our family holidays in Jersey so a plan of memory exploration was hatched; we’d start by driving north along the east coast.

Low Tide Fishing

In the 1950s, Dad would take us all low tide fishing. With great excitement, we’d arm ourselves with long bamboo rods with hooks in the end, prawn nets and wicker shoulder baskets and set off from Seymour Slip (Royal Grouville Bay) in the extreme south east, walking way past the two miles offshore, 18th century Seymour Tower chasing the receding tide in time to be at the water’s edge an hour or so before extreme low tide. There, we’d trawl for prawns, hunt crab and lobster under stones and poke under the large boulders with our sticks to see what we could hook out.

Looking over the picturesque Gorey harbour
whilst a local artist paints the view
click to enlarge

Soaked to the skin but with baskets full to the brim with bounty kept damp and cool by seaweed, we’d strike back to the shore across sand bars and gullies, careful to ensure the tide didn’t come in so fast it might encircle and cut us off.

Gorey Harbour

One of the most picturesque places in Jersey, Gorey remains a beautiful village and harbour, guarded against invasion by the French for over 600 years by the imposing Mont Orgueil Castle.

Whilst eating another ice cream, Jersey Royals were being harvested on the steep hills immediately behind us.

Archirondel

Further north along the coast road we passed Geoffrey’s Leap (where we used to have cream teas and listen (again and again) to the story behind its name) to Archirondel, a strong family favourite where we’d spend the day swimming, scrunching the pebbles with our heels, exploring the unfinished breakwater, and being rowed around the bay in Dad’s clinker built dinghy, Dodo.

Gazing and remembering
Hilary, Kiffer and Piers stare into the distance.
The white tower of Amy’s slipway on the left
click to enlarge

Although the café is new, the beach and its scrunch remains the same as does the 1792 red and white Martello tower which stands stoically, staring out to sea for the invasion that will never happen.

Amy’s Slipway

Halfway along St Catherine’s Bay is a white Martello Tower and its adjacent slipway, known to us as as Amy’s slipway since it used to be owned by the Amy family.

A good place to swim, but not the best.

St Catherine’s Breakwater

Now here’s a real favourite. The huge 640m long St Catherine’s breakwater and its sun trap slipway was such a good place to dive and swim. We’d take our lunch and ‘bag’ our place on the slipway next to the water’s edge, gradually moving up or down as the tide dictated.

Ice creams (have I mentioned ice cream, yet?) were always available from the hole in wall café as it used to be.

Portelet Bay on the south coast of Jersey
which has the pinkiest of pink granite
click to enlarge

La Coupe

To the north of St Catherine’s is a small beach known as La Coupe. A narrow, winding road brings you to a tiny parking area which used to site a 12 pound gun to protect the island from the French (again!). From here, a short walk along the path through the hovering midges and wild garlic brings you to the beach where you jump the last metre to feel the soft sand underfoot.

The beach is a dream. White sand, great swimming, and one special rocky outcrop just for us. It’s U shaped, so building a wall of sand across it would stop the rising tide from engulfing us. It was such fun battling against the rising tide as it sought to erode our damn.

The south and west coasts

Time was running short but we just had to visit these coasts and their bays to say ‘hello again’ to other favourites and recapture the fun of many picnics and swimmings. Using every minute we had, we continued our explorations.

St Ouen’s five mile long bay
click to enlarge

Originally a fishing village, St Aubin’s Harbour looks across a sand covered bay to St Helier. Portelet Bay with its fort (known as Janvrin’s Tomb) has steps carved in the cliff from the car park to the beach; it’s a puff and a half climbing back up. Corbiere lighthouse on the south west tip of Jersey is a stark reminder of the treacherous rocks which have claimed so many lives over the centuries. And finally, St Ouen’s Bay with its five mile long stretch of sand, renowned for its surfing.

Woolly Mammoths are not extinct

A few years ago when Lin and I visited Jersey’s St Helier’s marina, we moored next to a beautiful 54′ yacht with the great name of Woolly Mammoth. She’s owned by Graham and Frances who commissioned her build in Monnickendam, Holland, to be immensely strong for world circumnavigation, with ice breaking capability.

Since then, Graham and Frances have become firm friends and joined us for our visits to two of Jersey’s Michelin starred restaurants.

Woolly Mammoth owned by Graham and Frances, moored in St Peter Port
click to enlarge

To say these times were riotous would be the understatement of the year. Readers will know that since I’m a pillar of purity, it had to be Graham who caused these hilarious times.

Eating out

When we weren’t exploring, we ate so well. Evening meals were taken in Royal Yacht’s Sirocco restaurant, but the two main evening highlights were Bohemia and the Atlantic Hotel.

At Bohemia, we ate at the Chef’s table, where, after champagne and canapés, we chose tasting menus. The Pescatarian for Lin, the Vegetarian for Kiffer, with the Tasting for the rest of us, all with accompanying wines.

Each course was introduced to us either by our personal waiter or one of Bohemia’s chefs. Such an experience. Of course, we were all hoping there’d be a Gordon Ramsey style kitchen incident. Sadly, the kitchen ran so smoothly that only three minor incidents occurred. Hmmm.

We ate at the Chef’s table in Bohemia’s kitchen
Graham, Lin, Piers, Frances, Kiffer, Hilary
click to enlarge

Having started at 8pm, when it came to midnight we still had three courses to go….

The next evening saw us at the Atlantic Hotel’s Ocean restaurant. I have to say that in my opinion, the food were the finest I’ve ever experienced, anywhere, anytime. Simply magnificent in all respects. It makes me wonder whether they will soon have a second star.

Time to say goodbye

We knew it was coming, but it always hits home when goodbyes have to be said.

After we’d eaten at the Atlantic, we had to say goodbye to Graham and Frances. The next morning we drove Hilary and Kiffer to Jersey’s airport where hugs and tears could not hide the sadness at having to part. Maybe, just maybe, we could all meet again soon for another extravaganza at the Atlantic.

Hilary on the pinkiest of pink granite boulders at Portelet Bay
click to enlarge

By 2pm, Lin and I drove back onto the Condor Express fast cat. In just in hour we were back in Guernsey and soon on Play d’eau. It seemed so quiet. ‘What shall we have for dinner?’ asked Lin. ‘How about something plain and simple?’ I said. ‘I don’t think I could possibly eat anything other than beans on toast.’

And so ended my birthday celebrations where I’d been surrounded by the family for three weeks, had the most tremendous adventures, eaten so very well, and met up with friends John and Beryl, Graham and Frances, and David and Diana.

My thanks and deep gratitude to my wife, Lin, for all her ideas and arrangements. Can’t wait until I’m 65 again!

Piers
from the Saloon of
Play d’eau
Fleming 55

PS – I’m told in Guernsey that Jersey rich double cream is known as skimmed milk, and that Jersey Royals taste far better if smothered with Guernsey butter….

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5 comments to Birthday celebrations come to an end

  • Pip Flynn

    What a lovely adventure you’ve had. What will you plan for Lin’s 65th as you will have a hard job to better Lin’s arrangements for yours!
    So obviously life begins at 65?
    Pxx

  • Diccon

    Wow sound like great fun and we are so glad that you had such a fantastic birthday month! I think I can speak for all the boys (Toby, Adam and No. 1) to say we so thoroughly enjoyed our part of it and yes it’s a credit to mum for organisation skills!

    Can’t wait to see what you have planned for mum’s birthday – I am sure you already have everything in hand 😉

  • Are these ‘subtle’ hints, by any chance?

  • The Woollies

    It’s gone terribly quiet in Jersey now that the du Pré’s have left! So enjoyed the celebrations and lovely to meet some more of the family.

  • Hil

    That was the most fabulous holiday – a holiday to beat all holidays and it was wonderful to see you both in the place and island of your dreams. We will be back. Play d’eau is beautiful. I had no idea that boats could be so exquisite and comfortable inside. No wonder you love her so much. Guernsey’s the place for you.

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