Jersey is a mere one-hour speed ferry ride away from Brittany but such proximity did not rub any Frenchiness off on it. It could just be yet another Torquay or Townsend-on-Sea transplanted right next to the French coast. In a very endearing way it is a Fawlty Towers kind of experience, complete with dainty English ladies served rack of lamb by swarthy waiters speaking macaronic English in tweed hotels faintly smelling of fish and chips, overlooking rain-drenched expanses of sandy beaches. It is so strictly British in fact that no tourist brochure about the island mentions its most famous resident, Victor Hugo who was unlucky enough to be French.
Even the very way the seafront is developed, rooted in the sacred right of private property, is unmistakeably Anglo-Saxon, uniform from Florida to Brisbane. Whole stretches of beach are made private with only occasional access for outsiders. In St. Helier you can only see the jolly façades of the waterside property (mind you, invariably guarded by CCTV or fierce-looking mutts), if you are friends with somebody owning a house there. Otherwise, it’s just the tree-shadowed driveways in the back for you to admire.
It is quite different on the mainland. The French ancien régime passion for beauty and pleasure is tempered by the Republican ideas of egalitè. The bloodshed and terror of the Revolution forced the French rich and mighty to make concessions and the gory lesson is still remembered until this day. The exuberant beauty of waterfront mansions in Trouville or St. Lunaire is for everyone to enjoy, just like the beaches that remain strictly public. The majority of French chateaux welcome you, for a consideration, to gawk at their wealth of historical vestiges and their owners’ refined lifestyles.
German, Dutch, English or Danish coastal resort towns may be all clean, twee and well-run but even the very expressions la douceur de la vie as well as la dolce vita are used as is in Northern European languages. It will hardly occur to you, and for a good reason, to visit Bristol, Zandvoort or Abernaa on a gourmet trip. The English and the Dutch escape to the sea just to get away from it all, but in France it is a more sophisticated affair that involves titillating all your senses. Ichthyophobic Northerners seem to mistrust the gifts from the sea and prefer their whiting thoroughly deep-fried and smothered in sauce. The French seafood platter, consumed raw with the lightest of condiments, celebrates the whole-hearted acceptance of whatever the deep brine has to offer.
- Lille - The Closest Bit Of France
- Mer-les-Bains - Bourgeois Seaside Resort Par Excellence
- Dieppe - Maps, Ivory And Scallops
- Fécamp - Liqueur, Seafood & Norman Vestiges
- The Limestone Arches Of Étretat
- Rouen - The Duck, The Pots & The Cathedral
- Richard the Lionheart's Château Gaillard
- Monet's Japanese Garden in Giverny
- Honfleur - A Picture-Perfect Port
- Mont St.Michel - The Marvel Abbey
- Côte Emeraude - Brittany's Emerald Coast
- St. Malo - The Granite Jewel of Brittany
- Dinard & St. Lunaire - Hangouts Of The Rich
- Jersey - The Bulwark Of Englishness