There's something about Jersey that keeps the locals fresh. OutUK's Adrian Gillan
takes an alternative queer rural break on the largest of the Channel Islands - an idyllic lair of love and lust.
Is it the milk and potatoes, or just the stiff sea breeze and miles of golden sand
that make Jersey boys so fresh, friendly and attitude-free, both unsuspecting and
knowing in their gaze? Like its other smaller Channel Island sisters, Jersey is
neither part of the UK nor of the European Union although it does enjoy privileges
from both - grab your duty frees - and pledges an historical allegiance to the British crown.
Courtesy Jersey Tourism.
It's true that Jersey only decriminalised homosexuality as recently as 1990, well
after Guernsey in 1983 - and only just before the loitering Isle of Man in 1992.
And it's also true that the age of consent for men with men is still eighteen, and
then only in 'private' - whatever that means these days. But Jersey males don't all
swim over to the UK when they first get the urge. This bijou island - about 9 miles
long and 5 miles wide - clings onto its own, seducing the finest with its natural
assets and unspoilt ways.
Of course, Jersey is neither Soho nor Canal Street. Like little brother Guernsey,
though never far from sea, it has much in common with other more rural gay shires -
a scene of bushes and bogs, phone lines and private parties, lay-bys and late-night
lock-ins. The one exception is St Helier, the key town on the southern shore, dominated
by Elizabeth Castle out on it's causeway and by the Fort Regent, a little inland.
The Cock & Bottle in spite of it's name is not a gay pub. You'll find it on
the picturesque Royal Square in St Helier. Photo by Tony Harris.
Since the old Howard's Way pub shut up shop a few years back, there has really
been only one organised gay focus on the island: the Cosmopolitan bar and
club on the Esplanade. The Cosmo is bright and modern, and extremely friendly. No attitude here, just a
lot of dragged-up bar staff, some of who join in with the spectacular and yet
deceptively low budget travesty show on the small stage downstairs at a weekend.
The venue tends to ship in female groups - mainly hen crowds and pink rinses - to
pad the audience out for the nightly 'spectacle', with gays cramming in at the back
just as the curtain drops - well, they've seen it all before - and as people file
up to the well-proportioned club above.
A 'No Snogging' sign on the stairs en route will at first make you laugh until you
realise it means what it says. However, a bit of restraint proves a spur to conversation
and engenders a sexier atmosphere all round - hold back for pay back boys! Two further
dance floor no-nos: don't take your drinks on and don't take you shirts off - mustn't
frighten the girls. But the DJs are good and there's a fine spread-eagle of young gay
cuties to behold. And, with a scene this size, they sure can welcome a stranger in town!
Jersey has one of the biggest and best kept public toilet networks in the world - open
all hours, spotless and spanking - a shameless national resource. There are as many
toilet tales as there are men and facilities on the island, but, as ever, keep 'em
peeled should Bergerac have nothing better to do.
There's no sex shop in capital St Helier to speak of - certainly none that
cater for gay tastes - and no gay saunas. However, open air cruising is commonplace
on the coast just west of St Aubin, easily accessible by bus from St Helier.
Check out Noirmont Common (between St. Aubin & St. Brelade) It has great
wooded areas including lots of secluded glades and bushes. Also, ten minutes walk
down the path left from Noirmont Point and then left along the rocky coast leads to a
very secluded beach popular with gay islanders. There are even several 'nude beach'
signs painted on the rocks! Or a sunny afternoon, you can
always scoot off to one of the sheltered rocky shores around the beautiful, secluded
and sandy Beauport Bay.
But don't forget Jersey's natural assets offer another welcome alternative to your
usual gay scene too: a rich, sub-tropical backdrop and haven for romance. Wander
barefoot along vast sandy stretches amidst surfer boy babes; drift aimlessly along
coastal footpaths, taking in the indigenous green lizard or purple lily; soak up
the history, from Castle Gorey to the Royal Square and Opera House.
Swimming at Plemont. Photo by Natalie Meyer.
Moita's is a cosy and most certainly gay-friendly continental and Portuguese
restaurant - just a few doors down from the Cosmo on the Esplanade - serving up
some of the finest fruits of the local seas. And, although there is no gay-run
or overtly gay-friendly accommodation on the island, we were certainly allowed
to enjoy our stay at the Seacroft Guest House on Green Street, just through
the Fort Regent tunnel and mere minutes from town centre and sea.
Jersey has a spankingly modern airport and is well under an hour from London Gatwick or Southampton Airport with return
fares including tax starting at around £50. All routes offer spectacular views of the Isle of
Wight, and of Jersey itself on approach. Check out
e-bookers for the latest special flight offers.
Updated May 2005
THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Cosmopolitan (72 Esplanade, St. Helier; T: 01534 720280)
Moita's Restaurant (20 Esplanade, St Helier, Jersey, Tel: 01534 280780)
Seacroft Guest House (38 Green Street, St Helier - T: 01534 732 732)