You’re going to laugh at me, but there are some things I’m more than willing to pay for when it comes to travel, especially knowing that:
- It’s right there.
- I’m probably never going to come back in a long long time.
Guernsey, the other and smaller Channel Island about an hour away from Jersey, would fit those 2 categories.
Instead of leaving directly from Jersey for Saint Malo at 4pm (after which I can take the 8:28pm train back to Paris to catch my flight back to NYC the next morning…I have to work tomorrow night!), I could leave 3 hours earlier at 1:10pm for a seemingly superfluous detour to Guernsey, arrive at 2:10pm where I would have 30 minutes there to walk around/grab a beer/have a meal/take a piss, before getting back on the same exact ferry departing from Guernsey at 2:40pm to take me back to Jersey and then onwards to Saint Malo to catch the 8:28pm train to Paris.
Most people would call me crazy for this useless extra leg of the trip and I would be the first to agree. And when I checked-in at the St. Elizabeth Port in Jersey, I was definitely tempted by the more logical option: I was given one more chance to cancel my superfluous journey to Guernsey and instead depart directly for Saint Malo at 4pm, saving me 65 British Pounds (that’s an equivalent of $80 USD!) and granting me an extra 3 hours here.
But alas, I would lose the chance to say I’ve been to both Channel Islands in a single go!
So I turned the option down, knowing that there’s a method to my madness even if I didn’t quite fully understand it myself.
This will all make sense to me one day.
And after another hour sailing once again on the Condor Rapide (it’s become like my second home on this trip), I arrived into St Peter’s Port, Guernsey at 2:10pm.
Despite arriving a few minutes late, I still had plenty of time in Guernsey: 30 whole minutes to pack up, disembark . . .
. . . get through customs (there’s no passport control if transiting from Jersey to Guernsey). . .
. . . walk around the harbor, eat some cheese fries, take a leak, dance . . .
. . . and turn right around to get back on the 2:40pm ferry to Jersey.
Yep. That’s the extent of my stay in Guernsey. But for those of you reading, definitely linger longer if you can (I totally would’ve, if I didn’t have an overnight shift tomorrow night back in NYC!), and take the following return leg home the next day.
At 3:40pm the same ship I’ve now called home — the Condor Rapidé — headed back towards Jersey where I stayed on the ferry as it waited to pick up more passengers. And after about 2 hours sailing towards France, we arrived into Saint Malo at 7:00pm (adding on an extra hour when going from UK to France time zones).
I then walked through Saint Malo’s old walled city again just to get a taste of life on a Sunday evening.
After 20 minutes lingering around here, I then walked back towards the train station to catch the 8:28pm SNCF Train #854444 to Rennes, arriving there at 9:19pm. I then switched platforms to get on Train #8216 departing from Rennes at 9:35pm for Paris, arriving at 11:04pm where I checked into my stay.
Gotta wake up at 7am tomorrow to catch my flight back home, and I’m definitely not taking any chances this time!
. . . Or maybe I’ve spoken too soon about not taking chances: A friend I had met earlier this year at a party in NYC who just moved to Paris 2 weeks ago, Laura, just saw my posts and reached out to me on Facebook (it’s midnight right now and I just checked in), wondering if I have time to meet up for 10 minutes before getting a cab for my flight tomorrow morning!
Will I make it in time?
Sure as hell did.
After 2 days away, it’s time to get back home and work 3 overnight shifts before my monsoon with 2-3 other monsooners to Slovenia this weekend!
- At time of posting in Guernsey, it was 18 °C -
Humidity: 89% | Wind Speed: 24km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy
No not that Jersey. I mean Jersey…the larger of the 2 Bailiwicks/Islands that make up The Channel Islands? The self-governing Crown dependency in the Commonwealth? No?
It can get pretty confusing, so let me explain: There are 2 main autonomous islands/bailiwicks located in the English Channel between the UK and France named Jersey and Guernsey. Jersey is the larger of the two, and both are self-governing parliamentary democracies with their own financial, legal and judicial systems and the power of self-determination. Neither are part of the UK and both can claim international identities separate from that of the UK, but the UK is still constitutionally responsible for their defense. Their respective Lieutenant Governors are personal representatives of the Queen. They are also neither fully part of the European Union, but enjoy Union privileges in free trades in goods. If this doesn’t make full sense to you yet, you’re not alone.
Either way, I didn’t spend the last 21 hours traveling across oceans and channels to get to New Jersey (although sometimes it can be that difficult to get to New Jersey from NYC), but rather Jersey proper — my country #135!
So after a few hours in Saint Malo, I walked about 10 minutes over to the docks for a 5:15pm ferry departure administered by Condor Ferries.
I had already pulled up my boarding card on my phone, but they allow you to check in and print out your prepurchased tickets (if you bought them online) here. Then you can check in your bags or head straight to passport control where they stamp you out of the EU and give you a boarding card for Jersey.
Fill out of the boarding card whenever, and head down to the gates.
When they’re ready for you, walk out of the gate towards the ferry.
Inside the ferry is like a baby cruise ship, filled with eateries, food, duty free shops, bars, noisy kids and evidence of frequent inebriation.
As you sail away, give a quick goodbye to Saint Malo’s walled city.
Eventually a huge fog took over and I went back inside.
We arrived into Jersey about an hour and a half later but don’t forget you shave off an hour because it’s now UK time (so 6:45pm France time, 5:45pm English time).
The disembarking was relatively efficient, as passengers lined up for passport control to get stamped into Jersey.
Once your passport is stamped, grab your bags if you checked in anything, head out of customs, and into the parish of Saint Helier, the largest of all the parishes in the Channel Islands.
Saint Helier, despite its designation as the largest of all the parishes/towns in the Channel Islands, is still quite compact. You can explore all of it on foot within a few hours as it’s been pedestrianized quite extensively.
Other than the waterfront (photos which I posted just above), the main draw are the pedestrian streets of King Street:
Ironically the most affordable place to stay this weekend was at the swanky The Club Hotel & Spa, centrally located near the waterfront.
After checking into my room and freshening up, I headed back out into Saint Helier for more exploration.
I first returned to the waterfront and harbor:
If you happen to come during low tide (actually better described as no tide…there’s literally NO water!), you’ll witness the harbor as if were a yacht graveyard:
I then ventured back into town, past King Street and into the more residential areas towards the center of the island.
With not much else to see, I returned to my hotel for dinner. There I had booked a 9:15pm reservation at its ground floor restaurant and bar, Bohemia, which boasts a well deserved Michelin-Star.
I opted for their 9 course Prestige Menu.
What an experience. This was one of the greatest surprise of a dining experience I’ve had in recent memory.
Compliments of the chef — smoked pork shoulder, among other treats I forgot:
Hand-picked warm bread basket with seaweed and unsalted butter spreads:
Potato – Quail Egg – Cepe:
Jersey Oyster -Cucumber – Caviar & Yuzu:
Local Crab Tart & Custard – Peace & Lemon Verbena:
Foie Gras Cream – Duck Salad – Apple & Blackberry – Pistachio:
Seabass – Onion & Smoked Eel – Rock Samphire – Mustard:
Veal Textures – Sweetcorn – Black Garlic & Girolles – Thyme:
Alphonso Mango – Rice – Vanille & Lime:
Rhubarb – Buttermilk & White Chocolate – Ginger:
Not a shabby way to celebrate finishing a 3 month journey taking USMLE Step 3.
- At time of posting in Saint Helier, Jersey, it was 17 °C -
Humidity: 88% | Wind Speed: 18km/hr | Cloud Cover: mostly cloudy
Compared to the close call missing my flight to Paris this morning, it was relatively all gravy just chilling for an hour waiting for my train to Saint Malo at Gare Montpanarsse.
I then boarded at 11:56pm, reaching the northern city of Saint Malo at 2:14pm.
Founded by Gauls in the 1st century B.C. Saint Malo was once known as the Roman Reginca or Aletum. After the downfall of the Roman Empire and after a period of exchanging hands, Saint-Malo briefly declared itself “not French, not Breton, but Malouin” as a independent republic from 1590 to 1593, attaining infamy as the home of the corsairs, French privateers and pirates. The pirates and corsairs Saint-Malo would force ships passing up through the English Channel to pay tribute.
It was colonists from Saint Malo who first discovered, settled in and gave the Falkland Islands its French name “Îles Malouines,” which eventually led to the Spanish name “Islas Malvinas.” Jacques Cartier, who is credited as the discoverer of Canada, also lived in and sailed from Saint-Malo.
After mistakenly shelled by the British and Americans during World War II (it would be the first time the Americans would use napalm) in the belief it was occupied by the Axis Powers (only a mere 100 Nazis were present at the time), Saint Malo had to rebuild its famed walled city from complete oblivion. Today it has become of the top tourist destinations in the region of Brittany, France.
From the train station, I headed west on Avenue Louis Martin towards the old walled city.
I didn’t do much research on this trip (was too busy studying for Step 3!), so you can imagine my surprise when I came across the magical pedestrianized streets of Saint Malo’s Intramuros (walled city).
On the very edge facing the Atlantic Ocean are the ramparts, where you can take a stroll or kick back on the walls and take in the sounds of the ocean tide.
After about an hour here, I headed back in the city for a quick lunch with a crepe super corsair at wonderful Molé:
…and boarded a 5:15pm Condor Ferry for Jersey (no not New Jersey!).
- At time of posting in Saint Malo, France, it was 16 °C -
Humidity: 88% | Wind Speed: 13km/hr | Cloud Cover: foggy
3 months ago, I started studying for my final medical licensing exam – the USMLE Step 3 – on a budget 4-day trip to the Caribbean Islands, which began in the French territory of Saint Martin’s. I’m now celebrating the conclusion of my marathon 17 hour, 2-day long exam by taking a 2-day weekend trip to the Channel Islands, which fittingly begins in the French territory of…Paris and Saint Malo, France.
As I’m waiting for my train to Saint Malo in Paris after just taking a ridiculously low-cost American Airlines flight (40% lower than the usual fare!), I realized I was just here only 5 months ago.
The Top of Paris just got served
While I’m not planning to stay too long in France (a few hours actually), I found this to be a nice bookend to a 3-month campaign to overcome probably the longest written examinations I will ever take for the rest of my life. The funny thing is that with both of those trips I only decided on going only a few days before without planning for it. This is as random as random comes.
But I can’t start this properly without a story that happened 12 hours prior: I almost didn’t make it.
After an overnight 10pm-8am shift in the Pediatrics ER at Montefiore, I headed back home for a quick 3 hour nap before heading to the airport for a 5:20pm direct American Airlines Flight #44 from JFK to Paris CDG. Unfortunately I had forgotten to budget for Friday afternoon rush hour traffic: It was already 3:40pm and I was still dilly dallying eating in my apartment figuring it would take me at most 40 minutes to get to JFK airport from my home.
With a cursory glance at Google Maps that showed it would take me an hour and 20 minutes by both public transportation and taxi to get to JFK airport, and with only an hour and 40 minutes before my flight was to depart, I scrambled, going for the subway as I figured I could shave off minutes on the commute by sprinting between transfers and taking a cab from Sutphin Blvd/Archer Avenue (~10 minutes) instead of the Air Train (~18 minutes).
But the subways moved like molasses, there were rush hour crowds, and the cab from Sutphin Blvd./Archer Ave. kept getting stuck in traffic. Nevertheless, they proved minor scares: I was still able to shave off 10 minutes off my commute and reach JFK in only an hour and 10 minutes, getting to the airport at 4:50pm, 30 minutes before my departure. And thanks to TSA PreCheck and the kindness of strangers who let me cut in line, I thought I was home free…until security flagged me for random inspection as well as setting my bag aside for an unpacking and thorough searching. WTF.
Then I suddenly remembered that international flights close their gate 20 minutes before departure, which meant instead of 27 minutes, I only had 7 minutes left to get searched and run to Gate 43 – which FYI, is “the farthest gate away in the terminal” according to a TSA Officer who took pity on my situation. To add insult to injury, there were 2 other bags ahead of mine that needed to be unpacked and searched. At this point I pretty much was resigned to my fate. I missed my flight. All my fault, of course.
But my bag was unpacked and searched and I looked at my watch and saw I had 2 minutes left. So I ran. Down escalators, up escalators, jumping and somersaulting all the way to Gate 43. And right as the doors were able to shut, I shimmied my way in. MADE IT.
I celebrated by passing out, skipping dinner and breakfast and making up for my lack of sleep after an overnight shift. A sleep very well deserved.
Our flight landed on time at 6:45am in Paris, and I was out of passport and customs by 7:15am. And having learned my lesson 5 months ago about the chaos it takes to get an SNCF ticket from the airport to Paris, I was able to hop on the next RER B train into the city.
I took this photo 5 months ago
I took this photo today
I arrived an hour later to my destination at Denfert-Roucheau where I transferred to the 4/6 trains 3 stops over to Gare Montparnasse. At this point I had about 2-3 hours to kill before the 11:56am SNCF Train #8085 from Montparnasse to Saint Malo.
So what to do? I decided to walk across the street to Paris’ tallest building, Montparnasse Tower, where for 15 euros (I had my student ID which got me a 2 euro discount) I headed up 57 floors for the highest panorama views of the city of lights.
The beautiful thing about this experience is not so much for the views but rather that there were no lines and you can stay as long as you like up here, with lounge chairs to nap and a sky bar at which you can sip champagne.
Then I just kicked it at the train station until my 11:56am train to Saint Malo was ready for boarding. Onwards!
- At time of posting in Paris, France, it was 18 °C -
Humidity: 70% | Wind Speed: 3km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear