Guildford, Matisse & Guernsey

September is proving to be the busiest month of the year so far, and in a good way. So I’m having to do a few posts in quick succession to catch up with various bits and pieces. I’ve already posted about the music and drama day I did a couple of weeks ago, and now I want to tell you a bit about my visits to Guildford and The Royal Academy Of Arts, and my holiday to Guernsey.


A friend had offered to give me a tour of this lovely town, and we managed to arrange it for the first weekend in September. And we had a lovely time, on a beautifully hot and sunny day. We saw the castle, walking up to the top to look out over the town. It’s a shame they have to cage you in up there, to stop people jumping off, but the castle’s an interesting building, and the view is pretty cool.

View from the roof of Guildford castle, across a garden bathed in sunshine, featuring a round flowerbed, tall trees, and parts of the old walls surrounding the castle.

We got some lunch form Burger King and ate it in a park next to the River Wey, which was nice. Then that afternoon we got a bus to go and see Guildford Cathedral. The castle, while nice, has nothing on this – the cathedral is much bigger and more impressive. We couldn’t stay inside it for long, as they were about to hold a wedding, but we did have a quick look around inside and a wander around the grounds, which was lovely.

Guildford Cathedral - a very wide building with a very tall tower in the middle. The approach consists of groups of 5 steps, separated by long flat sections, gradually going up the hill, with grass and a few trees on each side.

Other than that, we had a little wander around other parts of the town, including the high street, and took a look at a village like shopping area with lots of small cabin-type buildings, including a library that you could borrow from and donate to as you pleased, and various little shops. So that was something different. But the cathedral was the best sight of the day for sure.

Royal Academy of Art – Matisse In The Studio

The Royal Academy of Arts building. A tall red banner hangs from the roof in front of it, with the wording Matisse In The Studio in large white letters and a picture of one of Matisse's collage artworks.

Every month, on a Monday, the Royal Academy of Arts holds ‘In Touch’ events for visually impaired people, where they get an audio described tour and a handling session relating to one of the exhibitions. So my mother and I decided to try one out. And we had a lovely morning. For the first hour we were taken on a tour of the Matisse In The Studio exhibition, where our guide described some of the objects that Matisse collected, and a few of the artworks that were then produced with them as inspiration.

We then went into a big room and sat around a large square table, so we could handle various objects relating to everything we had just looked at. It gave us a good close-up and tactile representation of everything. It was all really interesting, because our guide was clearly enthusiastic about Matisse and his work, and was very good at describing it. I’m not sure I’m a fan of Matisse myself – Hokusai’s art at the British Museum appealed to me more. But that didn’t stop the exhibition here being enjoyable. Matisse’s work is still clever and impressive, so it was still well worth seeing.


The sky above the coastline in Guernsey is a mixture of cloud types. It's blue with wispy white clouds, but there are grey clouds moving in on the right half of the picture.

The day after I had attended the music and drama workshops, I flew out to Guernsey for 5 days to stay with a friend, which I try to do about once a year. It took a few moments to find the Aurigny airline desk at Gatwick, having never flown from there before, but once I did, everything went smoothly. For both the outward and return journeys I got assistance through the airport to the plane, and off again at the other end, without any problems. All the staff were very helpful and friendly.

The only odd thing is that, with Aurigny, you have to book wheelchair assistance when you contact them in advance – which didn’t fill me with confidence to begin with, I must admit. But my friend in Guernsey has also had to do that when flying to the UK, so it’s not an anomaly, and he assured me that I could just say to the staff that I needed a guide because I was visually impaired, and it would be fine. And indeed it was fine. There was no attempt whatsoever to give me a wheelchair.

Which begs the question why it had to be called wheelchair assistance in the first place? Surely they can just call it “special assistance”, or even just “assistance”? It may seem like a minor quibble to some people, and sure, it did no harm to my journey. But it still matters a lot. It gives a rather misleading impression, especially when you’re booking with them for the first time, that they don’t fully understand disability, which makes you feel a bit anxious before you travel as to whether things will work out. Like I say, I did getthe assistance that I wanted and needed, the airport staff were great – it’s just the wording during the booking process that confuses me. When I used to travel to Guernsey with Flybe, back in my days as a Devon resident, they never mentioned wheelchairs when I booked assistance with them. It’s not a necessary thing to do.

Cars racing in a circuit on the beach in Guernsey

Anyway, I had a lovely holiday on the island, which is what matters most. My first evening was spent having a poker night with the lads, consuming lots of pizza and having a few drinks as well, of course, and having weird discussions about zombie invasions and other things I won’t mention!

And another group night, with girls and boys involved this time, was a game of Cards Against Humanity, which was a great laugh as always. One of the guys had got all of the expansion packs, so that gave us lots of new cards to play with. There was one about watching a cat video that cracked us all up with the way it was described, and one about a cartwheel that also sticks in my mind. But I won’t quote them here – if you’re a keen player of the game, you’ll know the cards I’m referring to!

Other things we did included a lovely walk along the coast (during which we went past a car racing event on the beach), a game of Pirate Bay Adventure Golf (which is very well designed, with impressive models, atmospheric music, rafts and some fun shortcuts) and a delicious carvery meal. And on my last full day, we took a trip to Herm Island – hoping to go to the Cider Festival, but they’d had to cancel a couple of days because of the weather stopping supplies getting to them. So we just went for a walk instead, which was still very nice.

A row of terraced stone houses on Herm island, with small canopies over the doors and low hedges around the gardens.

So it was a lovely break, it was great to get away for a few days having not had a holiday so far this year. If you’ve never been to Guernsey, or the Channel Islands in general, you should, it’s a beautiful place. I’ll finish this post with some footage I shot during my visit to Herm island, which pretty much proves that. 🙂



Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

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