Southampton and Beaulieu Abbey

Trip Start May 04, 2007
Trip End May 21, 2007

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

13 May Sunday

Today we explored Southampton and the New Forest.

We started the day fairly leisurely, for our recent standards. We slept in, getting some additional needed rest, then met in the lobby around 10am to check out. The Riveria was a fair second home for a couple of days, but the limited internet and the close location of our rooms to the dance floor has made us happy that we are returning to the Anglo Swiss.

We traveled in a taxi over to the Anglo Swiss. It was too early to check in, so we left our bags in the luggage room and planned for the day. It was raining and cloudy, so walking somewhere was out of the question. Louise had offered to take us out, so we called her up. She was gracious to help us out, so we met her in the lobby around 12:30 and headed out. We were looking to do a bit of shopping (what else do you do on a rainy Sunday afternoon?), so she recommended she drive us out to Southampton, the closest large mall and shopping center. We climbed into her car and headed off.

On the way, we talked more about culture and the area. She's great to talk to--lively and funny. We talked about our travels for this next week, including our trip to Oxford on Tuesday. She told me about a book, Three Men in a Boat, about a boating trip from Kingston to Oxford taken in the 1880s. It's definitely something I'm going to read when I return home, as it fits right into my interest in adventure non-fiction. She also told us about Southampton as a port city, including the fact that the Titanic departed from Southampton. It also has several art galleries.

We parked in the garage adjacent to West Quay (pronouced "key") Mall and followed the escalator up to the stores. The mall, like a mall in the States on a weekend, was packed with people. We wandered around a little until we spied a Morris Cornish Pasties outlet in the food court. Louise told us that cornish pasties are like "hot pockets" of meat and potatoes, with a ridge along the edge of the pasty. They were eaten by miners with dirty hands; they could hold it along the ridge, eat the rest and toss the ridge.

They had three sizes--the Cocktail, the Miner, and the Haymaker. I ordered a Miner along with a sausage role with tea. The dough kept the pasty very warm. It had a good hearty flavor. Morris' is a fast food version, but is the most popular one. For fast food, it was very good.

We ventured into a few stores--Marks & Spencer, a large department and food store (part of the "British" experience is buying underwear at Marks & Spencer; and John Lewis, another department store. We went to John Lewis to find a "brown betty", a signature British teapot made of red clay. We found out that John Lewis didn't carry them anymore; apparently the supplier had gone under. I already have one, but Tory was interested so we'll keep looking.

We wandered outside to look for another tea shop in search of the brown betty. Instead, we were drawn to the remains of the North Gate for the Southampton Castle. The castle is gone, but the wall that surrounded it, including several gates, still exist right outside the mall. We explored the remains of the wall, coming across a statue of John le Fleming looking down from the wall. Further along we found several gates, including one with a portcullis. It was interesting to walk along this old, historical wall with flats (apartments) right next to it. We wondered what it was like to leave right next to a piece of history.

We came across several placques, including one indicating that the Pilgrims left from the port of Southampton on the Mayflower, bound for America, in 1620. We found several related to Jane Austen, indicating where her home used to be and baths her family used to visit. We even came across a replica of a wooden ship, which we posed in aka Jack and Rose from the film Titanic. Its amazing how many historical places we have found just by wandering around.

We wandered around a bit more, then decided it was time to head out. We retrieved the car from the parking garage and drove towards the New Forest. The New Forest is a like a large national park, preserved in 1079 by William the Conqueror as hunting grounds. Today, is home to commoners as pasteur grounds. There are no fences or restrictions for the animals roaming the area, particularly the New Forest ponies. As we entered, we saw several grazing on the side of the road. We parked for photos, and they came right up, close enough for Tory to pet them. It was quite exciting to see these animals up close. We also saw pheasant, sheep, and goats.

Further into the New Forest, we came upon the entrance to the Beulieu Abbey, a site we were hoping to explore. There was no around, so we wandered around on our own. Most of the Abbey itself is gone, but the rock pile remains of the walls and supports remain, showing the layout. All that remains intact is the Domus, the living quarters now a museum (it was closed); and the Refectory, once where the monks ate and now a Parish Church (closed as well). We wandered the grounds and found a large garden that included a long bower, arching overhead with white and blue lilacs handing down. We also came across a small lake with an island, with a large manor house up the way.

We found out we were on the grounds of the Palace House, a large estate home (open to the public) owned by the Montagu family. The home is an expanded former gatehouse of the Abbey. Another treasure we just stumbled upon. Because it was lightly raining, there was no once else around so explored leisurely, although I did get a bit wet.

After exploring, we found the car and headed out. We'd had a great day exploring with Louise, but we figured we should get back to Bournemouth, so that we could check into our hotel in time. She dropped us off, we retrieved our bags, and checked in.

After unpacking a little, we met again in the lobby and headed out for dinner. We'd decided to try a Zorba, Greek and Cypriot place we'd past in our earlier wanderings. It was a small place, with only a few customers, but nicely decorated. Julie and I ordered the Greek Meze, which allowed us to sample 20 different appetizers, main dishes and deserts. I cannot possibly name the dishes; I can say I sampled each enjoyed nearly all. I finished full again, but the atmosphere and the companionship was wonderful. We finally had to call for a check, as we have at most places. Dinner has become an all-evening experience, which makes it more of an adventure and less of a refueling. It's a more relaxed approach to dining that I appreciate.

Back at the hotel, we blogged for a while and finally crawled off to bed.
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