Doubtless you may have heard of the little self-governing island of Guernsey in the English Channel from the film, but I assure you that the real thing far surpasses it. We docked at Saint Peter’s Port, our first stop on the British Isles cruise last May. It was one of our briefest stops, but it’s still possible to pack a lot into less than a day!
Admittedly, the only thing I knew about Guernsey had to do with Victor Hugo; he wrote the famous Les Misérables while exiled there for fourteen years, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
Take a Walking Tour (2-2.5 hours)
We started our day with a walking tour with Annette Henry. I absolutely recommend this tour! Annette was such an entertaining tour guide and had so much information and stories to share, with family in Guernsey going back generations. She shared many fascinating stories pertaining to local lore and history of the island. We walked along a haunted lane where a prostitute reportedly got murdered, passed through sites of witch-burnings and torture dungeons, and learned about Guernsey’s history of pirating. Mainly, we learned a lot about what life was like for locals during World War II when Britain allowed Germany to occupy the island.
This tour won’t necessarily take you to the touristy places, but I wanted to see the parts of Guernsey that are lesser known and hear more about how people lived through important moments in history, and for that purpose Annette absolutely delivered.
Visit Hauteville House (1-1.5 hours)
Within walking distance from the port is Victor Hugo’s Hauteville House. I have grown up loving Victor Hugo’s works (thanks to my Les Misérables-obsessed mother), so to say that I was ecstatic to visit his Guernsey house is almost an understatement. This tour remains one of the highlights of our trip, if not my life. Hauteville House is actually run by the City of Paris. I think it’s kind of funny how they now reclaim Hugo as their own after they originally exiled him. The love and pride Guernsey locals and the French have for him practically bleeds out of them. I can’t even count how many times we heard of how he would regularly bring in at least forty homeless street children to his house and feed them, and of his work supporting women in the red light district. We heard much praise for the way he turned down France’s offer to return because he refused to rescind his views against tyranny and injustice.
Anyways, I always suspected that Victor Hugo was a mad genius, but after taking this tour, I’m now fully convinced of it. The house reflects his personality and character, and it is filled with repurposed furniture as well as his own engravings and paintings, with motifs of darkness to light, death to life that he is well known for. And of course he would have hidden passageways and doors. Why am I not even surprised? I went weak in the knees looking into the room in which he supposedly wrote Les Misérables, writing at a standing desk and laying out the sheets to dry on the nearby sofa.
Stop By Ben Le Prevost Chocolatier (0.5 hours)
This little chocolate shop is perfect for the chocolate-lover (Michael) and even the non-chocolate-lover (guilty). We wandered in thanks to Michael’s sweet-tooth, and learned that this shop is world famous. Honestly, I’m not a huge chocolate fan, but I have to admit that these were utterly mouth-watering, if you even manage to get past how beautiful they are. Each piece looks like a work of art, clearly lovingly made. We visited when the owner happened to be at the register, though we didn’t know who he was until later. We spent some time perusing the shelves and chatting with him about the island. The experience was such a little slice of paradise.
This will just about wrap up an altogether short, yet charming day in Guernsey. We had just enough time to explore some of the side streets on our own and take a glance at the Little Chapel. If you have time, stop by the most adorable post office and mail a card out from Guernsey!