Have you ever heard of The Channel Islands?
If you take a sailboat and travel northward from sunrise to sunset, you can sail from the Channel Islands to Britain in about two days. If you choose to sail south or east, you can land in France in half the time.
Despite this nearness to France, though, the Channel Islands—Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, and dozens of tiny islands in the English Channel—are British with delicious French undertones.
In 1066 William the Conquerer added these islands to his British kingdom; but when the French reclaimed Normandy from England in 1204, they somehow neglected to reconquer the Channel Islands as well.
So these islands have grown up English—Queen Elizabeth II is their monarch—but with food, language, and culture greatly influenced by France. They are governed collectively as a French governing district called a Bailiwick, not as an English shire or county.
Their official language is English, but French cuisine and French culture have been a graceful influence. Victor Hugo, famed author of Le Misérables, lived fifteen years on Guernsey in a fascinating house that is well worth visiting.
More recently, the best-selling book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (authors Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows) is a love story that also recounts how islanders kept up their spirits during the real-life German occupation that lasted from June 1940 to May 1945. You can still see and explore German bunkers dotted along the coastlines facing north to Britain.
Most travelers don’t even know about the Bailiwick. So if you’d like a truly remarkable vacation that combines the beauty of an island, the cuisine of France, and the richness of Anglo-French history, consider taking a flight to The Channel Islands. You will be charmed.
Next time: Naughtiness Among The Nobles
Photo credit: Nancy Parrish