Island offers the trappings of a continental break blended with the comforts of home, writes PETER CARBERY
WHAT happens when you're dithering over whether the family holiday should be spent abroad or at home? You choose Jersey and end up having the best of both worlds.
The biggest and most southerly of the Channel Islands gives you a continental feeling of warm sunshine, French street names and that holiday isle vibe.
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Yet you buy your pint in sterling, drive on the proper (left) side of the road and find you're surprisingly fluent in the local lingo.
We took the car ferry across from Poole in Dorset, a 4hr 45min journey with a short stop on nearby Guernsey.
The entry to St Helier gives you a beautiful view of Jersey's coastal capital. And with the imposing Merton Hotel a ten-minute drive from the port we soon checked into our comfy rooms, unpacked and strolled through the cobbled streets.
There are familiar stores and small shops and you'll give your eyes and nose a treat by visiting the Victorian Central Market, with its glass roof and fountain, and Beresford Street fish market.
I proved to be more a fish out of water the following day when, for competitive dads and their kids, the Flowrider at the Merton's Leisure Club was the place to be.
Squeezing into a wetsuit and riding the waves on an artificial surf platform provided great entertainment…particularly for my disloyal daughter, who filmed and laughed at each of my (many) wipeouts.
With a two, four or six-day Jersey Pass the island's treasures are yours to delve into.
We hit the east coast and Mont Orgueil Castle at Gorey, a cute harbour village with plenty of bars and restaurants where you can sit out and soak up the beers and the rays.
The medieval stronghold is hugely impressive in size and content, with a maze of towers, staircases and rooms containing all manner of displays and exhibits.
Dress up as a knight or a princess, gaze at the holographic portrait of the Queen (she really does follow you round the room) and climb to the top to be rewarded with a view that's second to none.
Further inland is Durrell, the 32-acre sanctuary and breeding centre founded by author and broadcaster Gerald Durrell in 1959. It's full of exotic creatures, with the emphasis on conservation.
Kids of all ages will love the antics of gorillas, orangutans, flamingos, poison frogs, lemurs and meerkats - and the latter will happily pose at the mere sight of a camera.
Jersey's most affecting attraction, the War Tunnels, is an underground museum complex that tells the story of the five years of German occupation during World War II. It's everything a good history lesson should be.
It took thousands of forced labourers to construct more than a kilometre of chambers and corridors hewn from solid rock. Their stories are told in their own words, along with those of the islanders, spies, collaborators and occupiers, in an evocative interactive delight.
On an island nine miles wide by five miles long, you'd normally complete a coastal circuit in no time. But a 40mph speed limit encourages a more leisurely approach.
My favourite section was the west and north-west coast, where the winds whip in off the Atlantic and make the long, sandy St Ouen's Beach a mecca for surfing and blokarting.
Before that we passed through St Aubin's Bay (familiar to fans of a certain 80s detective series) and upmarket St Brelade, where the church graveyard has a view across the bay that's (literally) to die for.
Continuing north past the racecourse is the rugged beauty of Grosnez Point and Piemont Bay.
We stopped for lunch at the atmospheric Moulon de Lecq, a 12th-Century mill with an 18-ton waterwheel - the biggest on the island - now converted to an inn with a tasty menu.
In fact, we didn't have a bad meal during our four days on Jersey, a testament to the emphasis placed on locally-grown produce and freshly-caught fish.
From the succulent skewers of chicken and beef in Portuguese Funchal Paradise to the fish & chip takeaway on our last night, it was all top-notch grub at reasonable prices.
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The only thing you might miss on the island is the 20% VAT George Osborne pockets at our expense. But I find some home comforts are overrated…
A SUPERSAVER ticket from the UK to the Channel Islands or to St Malo, right, for a car plus two passengers costs £130 each way with Condor Ferries.
The company operates a year-round service connecting the UK from Poole and Portsmouth to the Channel Islands through Guernsey and Jersey to the ports of St Malo and Cherbourg in France.
To book visit condorferries.com or call 0845 609 1024.
Twin/double rooms including buffet breakfast at Merton Hotel, Jersey, cost from £82 per night. See mertonhotel.com or call 01534 724231.
Twin/double rooms including breakfast at Gites de France, St Malo, cost from £82 per night. See location-st-malo.fr.