Our next stop was St. Malo where we visited a walled city that just oozed history. It was originally built during the Middle Ages and quickly became a haven for privateers, corsairs, and pirates as it was a fortified island at the mouth of the Rance River. It was very badly damaged during World War II by German bombers, but has been tastefully restored blending the antiquarian with the new so that you feel the history but have all the conveniences. We wandered the city all afternoon bumping elbows with ghosts and other gawky tourists, and then took the ferry to Jersey Island.
We have a gilder friend who lives on Jersey Island, which is part of the Channel Islands off France. They belong to the U.K., but during World War II, the Channel Islands were the only part of Great Britain that was occupied by the Germans. The Germans planned to use them as a stair-step to occupy England and also to keep an eye on the French coast. Instead, they just made the inhabitants and a lot of Russian prisoners, who were brought in as slave labor, miserable. I had just read a wonderful book before we left home about Jersey’s next door neighbor, Guernsey Island. It is called The Guernsey Island Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Shafer and Barrows. I highly recommend it.
Perhaps our favorite place on Jersey Island was the Parish Church of St. Brelade and the Fisherman’s Chapel. We’re not religious, au contraire, but we love beautiful architecture. The church was small and very ancient, being “Shrouded in the mists of time and the legends of the 5th and 6th centuries wandering Celtic saints.” The church began developing in the 12th century, added onto in the early 13th, more in the 14th, 15th, and mid-16th, which is pretty much where it is now, though it's been restored many times. Some of the intricate drawings that are in the archways are absolutely beautiful. They were fading away, but were redone during World War II and then again in the 1980s.
We found only one bookstore on Jersey Island, The Printed Word, (jerseybookshop.co.uk.) They specialize in new, local Jersey books, Channel Island books, general books about the U.K., and gifts. They are happy to ship worldwide. We didn’t have a great deal of time to spend book shopping there as we were being chauffeured by our hostess and didn’t want to make her wait for us. It was my first time driving on the wrong side of the road and I must admit it was hair-raising for the first half hour or so.