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16 August 2017

My grandma (or as my sister and I knew her, grammy) was from Jersey, and as such I grew up with tales of German invasions, illicit radios, as fresh as a daisy gold top milk and famous zoologists; but it wasn't until many years after she passed away that my curiosity about this island, with its British attitude towards afternoon tea yet plethora of French ancestry, grew enough to allow me to make some discoveries of my own.

100 miles away from the iconic white cliffs of Dover across the English Channel, lies the often forgotten archipelago of the Channel Islands. While still officially British territories, they are closer to France than their mother country, floating just fourteen or so miles off the historic beaches of Normandy. The very nature of its geography reveals part of why it isn't as popular a holiday destination as somewhere such as Cornwall; with its official title as the UK's sunniest destination (even though it isn't officially part of the UK), you'd think it'd be swarming with adventurous staycationers, but no.

That isn't to say that Jersey isn't prepared for the throngs of tourists that never appear - far from it! In fact, it has plenty of attractions, restaurants and hotels just waiting for your arrival…

1) Jersey War Tunnels - on July 1st 1940, the German General Richthofen demanded the unequivocal surrender of Jersey's inhabitants and so began the five-year long Nazi occupation. To learn more about life during these times for the islanders, make for the atmospheric underground hospital - built using slave labour from across Europe, and a stark reminder of the legacy of the Third Reich. From escape attempts to forbidden love stories, the museum relives the remarkable stories from this, the front line of the German attempt of a British invasion.

2) Jersey Zoo - probably one of the best known residents of Jersey, and one locals are proudest of, is the conservationist Gerald Durrell, even though in reality he didn't move to the island until later in his life, having been born in India and after living in Corfu and England. As well as his humorous books, his biggest legacy lives on just outside the parish of St Helier in the form of a zoo that is completely unique from most others. Founded in 1959 to house Durrell's ever-expanding collection of animals, it's mission has and always will be to benefit threatened wildlife across the world, with an emphasis firmly on preservation as opposed to monetary reward. On a visit here you can witness many rare and exotic creatures such as Madagascan lemurs, komodo dragons and Chilean flamingos.

3) Eating & drinking - as you'd expect thanks to the rich waters surrounding Jersey, it boasts an impressive seafood scene. From Michelin-starred restaurants in boutique, five-star hotels, to fish and chip shacks set up on the beaches, Jersey has you covered whatever your taste buds may fancy and your wallet allow for. Local produce is impossible to avoid (like you'd want to!) and you can easily spend a happy evening devouring a plate of Jersey Rock Oysters, followed by Jersey Chancre Crab, all served up alongside crushed new potatoes, knowing that only this morning those crabs and oysters were still in the sea and the potatoes yet to be unearthed.
And what better to wash such a feast down with than some fresh brewed tipple? The parish of St Mary is home to the La Mare Wine Estate, another benefit to all those extra hours of sunshine a year, which makes its own wines as well as some other local delicacies including Apple Brandy Cream and black butter (a conserve more than an actual butter, made using cider apples, sugar, lemon, spices and a twist of liquorice, giving it both its unusual flavour and colour).

Despite being the largest of the Channel Islands, Jersey is still just a petite nine miles by five miles, making it perfect to explore on foot or by renting a bike over a weekend, but if you stay for longer you'll find no shortage of ways to occupy your time. There are plenty of walking paths scattered across the island as well day trips available by sea to Guernsey, Sark and even France, making it easy to stumble upon new discoveries of your very own.