Discovering Jersey from The Club Hotel & Spa

The Club Hotel & Spa is one of the more prestigious hospitality addresses in Jersey. Zaneta Cheng flies to the British Channel Island for the first time to discover what it has to offer

The only thing I knew about Jersey before visiting the island was that it’s something of a tax haven, with nary a trace of inheritance, wealth, corporate or capital gains tax. This is a fact that’s reiterated to me multiple times by more than one person when I mention that I will, in fact, be visiting the largest island in the English Channel.

We arrive at night, into the very small Jersey airport, which means getting out with our luggage and into a cab is easy. The island is 116 square kilometres, with much of what’s to see set along one shorefront so the ride to The Club Hotel & Spa is relatively quick and painless along the main thoroughfare into the heart of St Helier, Jersey’s seaside capital.

The boutique hotel is, I learn, one of Jersey’s most prestigious addresses, set in a converted townhouse. The rooms are spacious, with a living area that comprises sofas, desk space, a television and additional seating next to floor-to-ceiling windows, which are much appreciated given that the chocolate and beige tones of the space can, at times, make the space look a bit dark. The bathroom is cavernous with a large tub and a shower room that holds two showerheads. Frette linens cover the very squashy beds.

It’s late in the evening so we make our way down to Bohemia, the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant. It’s the only restaurant with Michelin stars in all of Jersey, we learn. Coming in at 9pm, it’s not quite the time for a 10- course meal with wine pairing. Instead, we pick from the Club Bar where we go all in for anything with the word “Jersey” in front. In about 10 minutes, our table is laden with Jersey oysters, pan-fried Jersey scallops and local Jersey sea bream. Makes sense for Jersey to have good seafood given it’s an island, and it doesn’t disappoint. After deciding to leave the selection of Jersey dairy ice cream for another evening, we head back upstairs to our room and sink into the mattress.

The next day, we decide to explore the property. Refurbished around 20 years ago, the décor takes one back in time to the early noughties. There’s a small outdoor pool on the ground level and a spacious breakfast room with skylights where guests take their time sampling the herring, Jersey breakfasts and very excellent Jersey yoghurt that’s available. But not us. We have a spa appointment.

For such a small property, The Club Hotel & Spa has managed to fit in a surprisingly broad range of facilities. There are five treatment rooms, a nail salon, a thermal suite with a range of rain and massage showers as well as an indoor saltwater pool. We opt for a post- flight massage to work the tightness of tin-can travelling out of our muscles, after which we decide to make an excursion underground to the steam room.

It’s easy to while away the day here. The hotel offers a three-course set lunch and afternoon tea and most of the dairy used – from cheese to butter to the cream, is local.

We eventually decide, after all this eating and relaxing, to venture into town. Jersey, while small, is split into various neighbourhoods and what seem to us to be villages. Each is quite separate from the other so without three to four hours, we were hard-pressed to explore anything other than the one area we chose, which was St Aubin, a port town that was originally a fishing village and the historic economic epicentre of the island.

The main road bends discreetly and quickly into local homes. There’s a patio just off of the main square stacked with hats with the sign “We do not sell hats here” taped to the glass. The restaurants all serve some version of Jersey dairy and we stop by for an ice cream scoop or two before heading over to the Morrison’s for a packet of salt and vinegars before sitting on the edge of the boardwalk to catch the sunset.

It gets cold and we call a cab service so we can watch the sunset in heating. The sky lights up into a fiery orange as far as the eye can see. There are no islands obstructing us here, unlike other vantage points on the island.

The next day, we book a rib boat that’ll take us out to the Écréhous, a group of islands roughly nine kilometres northeast of Jersey and eight miles from France where a few fishermen’s huts have been built on the rocks for residents to stay during the summer season. While no residents were staying at the houses when we were there, on our way back, we spot dolphins and seals in the water.

The day is glorious, so most activities are sun-dappled but none perhaps more than the hills and water we see on an impromptu hike. Much of the island is left green and hiking trails can take one through forests and fields with cows and wildflowers and lanes of buzzing bees. I can’t recall the precise path we took but the views overlooking the water below and the cliffs around needed no filter to enhance its glory.

A note on the people. We find ourselves at a harbour in Rozel Bay after accidentally taking the long way on the hike and instead of making our way to our rib boat docking point directly, decide to take a detour for lunch at The Hungry Man, a beach café that’s been in operation since 1947. We order crab sandwiches and Jersey ice cream to have with strong, hot tea and are busily scarfing it all down before we realise there are no cabs in sight to take us to our rib boat. Only, of course, we happen upon
a cab driver having an ice cream with a friend who both offer to drive us to our destination. It’s the same smallish- town hospitality and friendliness we’ve encountered all along the way and perhaps this ends up being the biggest takeaway. More than being just a tax haven in the British Isles, Jersey remains uniquely its own biosphere – with a laid-back, old-world charm and friendliness that carries itself proudly amidst the throng of accountants and corporations that took the island from quaint party
town to businessman heaven.

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