To Pompey

Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Saturday, February 12, 2011

The weather report had promised me a dreary rainy weekend; however, when I awoke Sunday morning, the weather outlook had changed significantly and clear skies were the forecast all day. I decided to train to Portsmouth due to its tall observation tower that would allow me to take advantage of the cloudless bright blue sky.  I departed from London Waterloo station, where as I calmly waited on my sparely inhabited train while watching group after group at the neighboring platform rush desperately to crowd into the already full train to Windsor.  Finally, the conductor from the Windsor train stepped out and put an end to the overcrowding by signaling to the desperate ticket holders that they would have to wait for the next train (which was going to depart in a lengthy 5 minutes).

As my train left the platform, the conductor didn't see the need to tell any of us that part of the track was being replaced until after we’d already departed.  Since it was the weekend, the rails were being upgraded for a portion of the journey.  We weren’t to fear though, because they had a (and this is my most hated phrase) "replacement bus service."  We boarded the replacement bus in a very very small hamlet, and the road out of town was so small that it was only wide enough for one car, let alone a large bus.  So when we weren’t stopped to let other traffic pass, there were cyclists in front of us.  It wasn’t long before the two hour train ride had turned into three.

Eventually I rejoined the rail network and chugged into the Portsmouth Harbour Station which is actually built up on a pier above the beach in the harbor.  Portsmouth is a “small” seaside town with about 200,000 people living there.  For some reason, the exit of the station faces north when everything you want to visit in Portsmouth is south of the station.  I navigated my way around and under the station through some footpaths (passing a few gentlemen on stilts, interesting) and finally emerged in Portsmouth’s main shopping area, known as Gunwharf Quays.  The entire area was quite modern, and the observation tower, Spinnaker Tower, is located along the seaside of the complex.

Spinnaker Tower was supposed to be completed in 1999 and dubbed Millennium Tower; however, the project ran a bit over budget (as all projects do) and opened in 2005.  It was renamed Spinnaker Tower due to its spinnaker sail design that appears on sailboats.  Even though the skies were pristine, it was still rather chilly outside so I wasn’t expected the inferno I walked into when the elevator at the tower opened to the observation deck.  The windows must be tilted at just the right angle to amplify the sun’s heat tremendously.  I started sweating almost immediately.  I can only imagine what the observation deck is like during the summer months.  The view was spectacular though.  I could see the Isle of White, Portsmouth, Southsea, Gosport, and much more.  Unfortunately, the windows are tinted a deep blue which makes pictures come out in a strange color.  Also, there was a glass floor that looked down upon Gunwharf Quays.

Once I left the tower, I followed the footpath that runs along the English Channel to see some of Portsmouth’s other sights.  I first walked towards Old Portsmouth, the location of the original town of Portsmouth when it was officially founded in 1180.  I also past the large Portsmouth Cathedral.  The church was first built in the 12th century and remodeled an upgraded to its present cathedral status in the 20th century.  Following the trail that runs along the sea, I next arrived at the Round Tower, a fortification built in the 15th century.  The Round Tower is open to the public, and, in fact, you will be lead through it while following the seaside trail.  Next on the trail was Clarence Pier, filled with amusements and roller coasters.  After passing the pier, I arrived at a very large field known as Southsea Common which also coincided with my departure from Portsmouth and my arrival in Southsea.  The two towns have grown together over the years and are essentially the same place.  In the field, closest to the sea, is the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, a stunning tower that honors those in the Royal Navy whose lives were lost defending the kingdom.  The memorial includes WWI and WWII as well as other conflicts.  Next, the path led me around the Southsea Castle which is mostly ruins these days.  After walking for what seemed like ages, I arrived at the South Parade Pier, a typical party pier with arcade games and gambling machines.  The end of the pier had a putt-putt course set up.

I saw a sign for “The Pyramids” labeled in brown (you know, the type of signs that indicate something of historical or natural importance).  So I followed the signed in that direction to find out that The Pyramids were simply a leisure center in the shape of pyramids.  I found the sign a bit misleading.  However, beside The Pyramids was the D-Day Museum that I stopped in.  The D-Day Museum was actually quite extensive.  Inside they have a very detailed quilt that stretches around a large circular room that details every scene from WWII.  In the center of the room is a little movie theater that shows a 20 minute film focusing on D-Day.  The film was very interesting and used personal stories and actual footage from the time to tell the story of D-Day and how the war affected the daily lives of British citizens.  The main portion of the museum focused on the lives of British citizens detailing rationing, bomb shelters, the role of women entering the workforce, sending children away from large city centers.  They also had maps showing the route of invasion, weapons, vehicles, and quotes from British solders and generals.  At the end of the museum, they had personal stories from solders from the Portsmouth and Southsea area displaying their metals and other decorations earned during the war.

After leaving the museum, I walked back to the Portsmouth Habour Station which had me walking upwards of 7 miles altogether by the end of the day.  The seaside front was very nice, and the weather warranted a nice walk along the beachfront.  Overall, Portsmouth and Southsea are proper English town with some interesting sites, and the Spinnaker Tower has made an excellent addition to the city’s skyline.

P.S. The city’s nickname is Pompey (also the name for several sports teams as well).  The nickname derivation is up for debate, but it could be from shipping abbreviations for the city being “Pom” for “Portsmouth.”

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Fran Fran on

You make Portsmouth look beautiful...I don't know how!

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