5 km long and 3 km wide isle of unspoilt nature, extraordinary history and tranquillity
Would we have ever visited the tiny island of Alderney if we hadn’t been asked by Charlie from Eye Film & TV to help them produce an official tourist video? Probably not, but that is only because it is still a hidden paradise. Alderney is not much like the popular holiday destinations. It offers mainly a getaway, return to nature, slow life, vintage lifestyle. Exploring the island over those few days, filming the unique nature, getting to know different places and people, we had mixed feelings. Should Alderney have its promo video? Wouldn’t it be better if it stayed undiscovered? Just for us?
Alderney is one of the Channel Islands and is the third largest in the group. It has its own government and parliament and there is no VAT. A paradise not only for business and tourism, but mainly for the people who decided to live on an independent isle that belongs neither to the United Kingdom nor to France and is not a member of the European Union.
We reached Sainte Anne, the main and only city, by the Aurigny airlines (it’s the French name for Alderney) from Southampton (UK). We flew in a tiny yellow plane – a Trislander named Joey. There are only 16 seats in such an aircraft and throughout the entire flight you can watch the pilot’s back, as his seat is not separated even with a curtain. Unfortunately, Joey is soon going to retire. Its fans still hope it won’t come to that and they are gathering their forces on Facebook, on a fanpage: Save Joey the Trislander!
After leaving the smallest plane we have ever been on, we arrived at a tiny airport. Time has stopped there. The island is home to approximately 2,000 people and it feels as though they all know one another. Two days later you too recognize everybody and in the pub they already know your favourite drink. There are places to eat and drink in Alderney. Italian, Thai (greetings to Mai Thai) and French restaurants, seafood, cafés, anything you want except McDonald’s and KFC. At 1 pm the city life freezes – shops are closed, and schools are as well – it’s time for lunch! If you want you can ride the local „underground”, that is have a sit in the wagons of the London Underground attached to an old locomotive. The architecture of the city is a little English, a little French… colourful houses, lots of pastel shades – a distinctly islandish feel. The best comment here is a picture of an English but yellow (not red) phone booth and a blue (not red) letterbox. That’s the rebellious Alderney!
Another fascinating thing is the island’s history. It has been inhabited for over 5,000 years, objects from the Stone Age were found here, and can now be seen at the local museum. Roman artefacts have recently been discovered. There are also 13 Victorian forts, that were built to defend the coast against the Frenchmen. Germans left their imprint during the occupation of the island in World War II with a less sophisticated military architecture. In the 70s a wreck of a submerged Elizabethan military ship was discovered not far from Alderney. There a piece of an Iceland spar, believed to be the sunstone used by Vikings for navigation, was found. Surely, the island has many such secrets yet to uncover.
As far as landscape is concerned, Alderney is a delight, especially now – in the spring, when everything comes to life. Changing weather, unruly sea, hills and rocks, sandy beaches, grass so soft and thick that you just sink into it, flowers and scents… and most of all: the animals. Alderney is an ornithologist’s heaven: Peregrine Falcon, kestrel, gannet, puffin are just a few species found on the island. The last two are the mascots of Alderney. On the small rock formation called Les Etacs over 5,000 gannets can be found. We encourage a boat trip but recommend you mind your head. We didn’t manage to shield either ourselves or our equipment from the vicious birds. On the small island of Burhou lives a colony of puffins. You don’t care for birds? Less dangerous are the unique, very rare white hedgehogs, which live on the island. We were lucky enough to see them.
Alderney is a place for extraordinary people, who appreciate peace and quiet and slow life. You don’t even have to lock your house or car here. There is no crime. If some rascal breaks a window, the next day everyone knows who did it. The island is home to many artists, as well as businessmen. The beauty of nature, mild climate, nice people and a friendly legal system make it one of a kind. Issues will arise when a second hairdresser, a second shoemaker or a second Thai restaurant opens in Alderney. We want to be the first company dealing in film production! More on tourist and travel videos coming soon!
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