Exeter, England to Alderney Island, Guernsey

Tuesday 4/14:

3 AM; time to get up!  Feeling like I was stuck in a rerun, I dressed, packed a few last things and positioned my luggage by the door.  The innkeeper had laid out a cold breakfast for me.  The taxi she’d booked emerged from the fog on schedule and carried me to Exeter’s airport.  “The fog’s always worse there,” the driver remarked cheerfully.

Guernsey Island.

Guernsey Island.

I wasn’t at my best.  I flunked the security screen, with my phone still in my pocket and my watch still on.  A little purple Flybe twin-engine turboprop carried me to Guernsey Island for a 3.5-hour layover.  There was no secure lounge for travelers en route.  My suitcase was produced and I was released into the real world.

I wandered outside into warm sunshine.  There was a heavy aroma of agriculture.  There was no place to go, so I turned around, went thru security and flunked again (full water bottle).

I bought a cellophane-wrapped bagel sandwich and a cup of tea, then tried to sleep in an airport chair.  I’m travel-worn, lonely and stupidly tired.  I think that, if there are a variety of hells, one of them must be to always travel and never arrive.

planeAt last my flight was called.  I joined a dozen people on an airport bus.  It roamed around the field and stopped by a canary-yellow Aurigny tri-prop that was smaller than the bus.  Our names were called by ones and twos.  I was led to a big step-stool at the external door to my row of two seats. It felt like sitting in a van–a van that sped madly down an empty road and jerked into the air.  The noise and vibration were intense, and the water stayed close.  I had just put in earplugs when we passed over Alderney’s southern cliffs (map).

A young woman drove my taxi thru a maze of narrow, stone-walled streets to the Harbour Lights Hotel.  I changed to sandals, short-sleeved shirt and floppy hat, and set out to explore the island, Travel Hell forgotten.  What a way to end a ski trip.

I followed cobblestoned roads that would be alleys in any real city, teetering on foot-wide sidewalks or dodging the mostly-patient traffic when they disappeared.  At the corner of Victoria and High Street I knew I must be in downtown Saint Anne, because the sidewalks were bigger and there were pubs. IMG_7257

My first objective was the island’s museum.  But it wasn’t open yet; so I went on to the cemetery next-door.  Lichen-speckled tombstones like bedsteads were tilted by age and covered with faint, verbose Latin engraving.  A little clock-tower tomb was dedicated to the island’s clock- and watch-maker.  On a memorial bench, I read a poem that made me cry.

The museum opened.  An elderly couple sitting by the door collected five pounds fifty pence admission.  I asked if there was a toilet; the lady pointed it out, near the entrance.  “Of course, when you come back thru we’ll charge you again,” she warned playfully.  When I mentioned my flight, she told me about her flight in a similar plane from Southampton during a thunderstorm.  It lasted over an hour, she got a terrific shaking, and electrical fire danced up from the floor.  “I wondered if it’s painful to drown,” she said.  I could hardly complain after hearing that.

Downtown Saint Anne, Alderney Island.

Downtown Saint Anne, Alderney Island.

The museum’s exhibit on an unnamed Elizabethan shipwreck was a let-down; it occupied just half of a small room.  I studied it closely; but, compared to the Vasa, it was just crumbs.  I didn’t mind; it had called me here, and I already loved this island.  If only I had more time!

jettyI walked down to the north shore to look at Fort Grosnez.  It had been a Victorian fort defending the harbor, and was later rebuilt by Nazi Germany.  It was sealed up, and the area was in use by various marine companies.

I walked out the very long jetty to its end.  Waves beat on its seaward side, where the sun slowly sank toward its own dazzling image.  The jetty had been battered and repaired countless times; the railroad tracks in its flat top were twin troughs of rust.  At its end, two men were fishing, making tremendous casts with big rods.

If you visit Alderney or other parts of the Guernsey States (Channel Islands), watch out for Guernsey States money (pounds).  I suggest that you try to get rid of any Guernsey pounds you may have accumulated before you leave.  Travelex would not buy my Guernsey pounds when I returned to the US.  They said the currency is “Too obscure.”  Luckily I only had two one-pound notes, equivalent to about $3.


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