Saint Peter Port: A Moody Day on the Island of Guernsey
“That’s the best restaurant in town!” the man exclaimed, as he passed by my husband and me perusing the menu at Le Petit Café in St. Peter Port. We were looking for a comfortable spot to escape the rain as well as a good place for lunch, and from what we could tell from outside the white-curtained windows, this was going to be it.
We were on the island of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands off the coast of Normandy, France. Cold and dreary weather was continuing to follow us on this cruise, and it was especially impactful in a place like Guernsey, which is more of a beach vacation town than a sightseeing destination. Our plan was to explore the island on our own, but as the weather grew more threatening, we switched gears and headed inside.
Le Petit Café is cozy, charming and French and seemed to be incredibly popular with local business people as well as tourists. We were seated at a windowed bistro table in the bar and quickly realized we were lucky to get a table as we watched the place filling up. Reservations would have been a good idea! The food – Herb had their signature coq au vin and I had a quiche – was fabulous and lived up to the recommendation of the man who had passed us as we stood outside.
With the rain letting up and our spirits recharged, we were ready to resume our walking tour. We had picked up a map at the friendly Tourist Information Office on the Esplanade and decided to wander along the hilly cobblestone streets, with no specific destination.
Guernsey is a British “Crown dependency,” a self-governing bailiwick that includes smaller islands with the interesting names of Herm, Jethou and Lihou as well as the jurisdictions of Alderney and Sark. St. Peter Port is the capital and largest city. Along with the Bailiwick of Jersey, The Bailiwick of Guernsey forms the Channel Islands.
The island has its own currency – the Guernsey pound – which can be used along with the British pound, but which cannot be used in the UK. When we picked up some pounds at an ATM for use in Guernsey and later in London, I noticed the picture of the Queen on the bills and assumed they were British pounds. But back on the ship when I looked at them more closely, the word “Guernsey” almost jumped off the paper! Herb quickly took the tender back to the island, walked back to the bank and exchanged them for British pounds. Interestingly, there had been a fee to purchase the pounds, but not to exchange them.
Before returning to the ship, we walked down the long pier to Castle Cornet, which prominently sits beyond the harbor. It’s an imposing-looking castle, moody and forlorn, with a history that dates to the early 1200s. We stood at the castle entrance, deciding not to take the tour but to just take in the setting. It was an oddly perfect ending to our day on Guernsey. Moody.