A Tourist’s Eye View
I struck up a conversation with a tourist at the bus stop at St Aubin on Sunday. She was heading towards the airport, luggage with her, and waiting for the 15 double decker.
It turned out that she was a regular visitor to Jersey, having come here about once a year over the last 20 years. Where she stayed varied, and she had to change from some hotels she had been in the past because they had closed down. She had currently been staying at the Bonne Viveur which she said was very nice, although she only did bed and breakfast as she enjoyed eating at different places. The breakfast was, however, the traditional full English, and very well done.
One of the things she had noticed was the closure of hotels, and even more than that, the loss of visitor amenities. There was no nightlife to speak of: Caesar’s Palace, Les Arches, and all the other venues for dance and cabaret had gone the way of Durrell’s dodo. They had either shut down or been demolished. There was far less to do at night that there had been in the past.
Now perhaps in part that was a cultural change: the modern tourist no longer liking the old style cabaret song and dance shows put on so successfully, especially by Dick Ray. Probably one of the best outsider’s views of that scene is by John Nettles in his first book on the Island, “Bergerac’s Jersey”.
And all the other sites on the tourist map had been disappearing. The Living Legend had gone. The various craft shops at L’Etacq had vanished. Jersey Potteries had gone to make way for flats. She couldn’t understand why Jersey Potteries could still keep the name for a product that was now made in England and shipped over, and quite frankly, neither could I.
Being based in St Brelade, she had noticed that the Shell Garden had gone, and wondered why. When I explained that it had been gifted to the National Trust, who then decided to sell it, she wondered if the National Trust would get given any more legacies like that. The Shell Garden was a tourist attraction, with its own postcards, and holiday coaches would even stop so tourists could take photographs.
On shops, she felt St Helier had enough shops, but was a bit of a mess, with lots of construction all over the place. She found Red Houses had fewer amenities over the years, which is probably true. There was a small enclave of shops which included a paper shop, a Chinese takeaway and a chip shop. There is now a chip shop across the road, but the Chinese takeaway has gone. And there seem to be more betting shops over the years in St Brelade.
The Red Houses Le Riche complex not only had a food hall, but places selling records and CDs, children’s toys, a hairdresser, and a dentist as well as a cafe. The new Waitrose does have a cafe and a shop selling some of the John Lewis range, but there is less than there used to be at Red Houses.
On the more positive note, the bus service was very good. A seven day explorer ticket at just below £30 enabled her to go anywhere in the Island, unlimited numbers of trips each day. The buses to and from St Aubin where she was staying were suitably frequent, and she found it a reliable service.
The new layout at St Aubin was another thing she found very much better. Instead of having to wait to get across to a central isle for gaps in traffic, which could be troublesome, especially at busy times, the zebra crossings were a great improvement, and they were well placed strategically – by the corner, by the Parish Hall, by the car park – so that people using them did not have to walk far. The 20 mile and hour zone around the Village was also welcome. She also admired the floral displays at the Parish Hall, and the new boat display in memory of Mark the Fish, and the flowers by the Pétanque area.
One thing it emerged she had never done was to walk the railway walk. She had seen the path by Les Quennevais Parade but didn’t know that it would take you all the way down to St Aubin. That seems to be a gap to be filled. While tourists may seek out walking routes, promoting the railway walk by a map in hotels in St Aubin would surely be a good idea too.
On the whole I got the impression she had enjoyed her stay, found St Aubin to be an excellent venue for staying and for good bus routes, and would probably be coming back, despite the changes which have taken place over the tourism landscape in the past twenty years.