St Peter Port, Guernsey
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The second largest of the Channel Islands, Guernsey is the most densely populated, with some 60,000 inhabitants spread over 65 square kilometers (25 square miles) of towns, cliff-top pastures, farms and market gardens. The history of Guernsey stretches back to the Neolithic period, when its inhabitants erected the standing stones that dot the landscape; there was a trading post here in Roman times. But the island's capital, St. Peter Port, came into its own during the Napoleonic wars, when people from all over Europe came here to dodge the fighting, many of them Britons escaping the high taxes imposed to finance the wars. Privateers and smugglers added significantly to the town's prosperity in the 19th century, and wealthy merchants built themselves stylish Regency houses. And Victor Hugo lived in exile here at Hauteville House from 1856 to 1870.
Seen from the sea, St. Peter Port is a cluster of white buildings rising from a harbor crisscrossed by ferries traveling to England, France and the other islands. There are two watchwords for those newly off a cruise ship: steep and narrow. Alleyways in the Old Quarter are so tight that from an upper window you could whisper secrets to someone in the opposite building. The steep steps that link these winding streets make exploring a delight. Be aware that lots of shops close on Sundays.