Day 9

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

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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Sunday, May 13, 2007

We got up this morning and needed to check out of the Riviera Hotel and catch a taxi back to the Anglo-Swiss to drop off our bags. We got downstairs around 10am. The weather was pretty bad. Very cold (by Texas standards), windy, and raining. Typical English weather as they say. We called Louise to see if she had any recommendations for rainy-day activities. She recommended taking a train to Southampton because it has a large indoor mall. I guess that's what you do in England as well as the states. On Sundays most places shut down at 4pm instead of 6pm like back home. She was worried that we wouldn't get there by train in enough time to actually do anything so she offered to take us herself (she said any excuse to go shopping).
Matt, Tory, and I walked in the rain down the street to a cappuccino shop and got a hot drink and then went back to the hotel to wait for Louise. She picked us up around 12:30pm and drove us to Southampton. The first place we hit was the West Quay (pronounced "key") mall. We were pretty hungry at this point since no one had breakfast. We went straight to the food court (how American) but we went to Morris Pasties. Cornish pasties are a dish from Cornwall.  A traditional Cornish pasty has steak, potato, and other veggies inside a roll of pastry (almost like a Hot Pocket). Pasties come in 3 sizes at Morris's... small is called a cocktail, medium is called a miner, and large is called a haymaker. Traditionally pasties have a large curl or fold around one end which was to give the miners, who had very dirty hands, a way to eat the pocket of food and then throw away the edge of pastry they held.
After lunch we went to John Lewis which Louise informed us is a pretty famous department store in England which has everything. I got the impression it's like a Macy's. We then went to Marks & Spencer's which is another of England's major shops. According to Louise this is where everyone gets their "pants" which in England refers to your underpants. After doing a bit of shopping we decided to leave the mall and do some walking around.
Southampton is a major port city situated halfway between Portsmouth and Bournemouth. By the late 13th century, Southampton had become a leading port and was mainly involved in the wool trade. In 1338 the town was attacked by the French. After this attack the city walls were built. Some of the ruins are still standing today and the city has grown around them incorporating them into their structure. The town wanted a full defensive wall but couldn't afford to finance the construction. The solution was to join the existing exterior walls of the merchant houses to form a defensive structure.
The Southampton port was the original point of departure for the Pilgrim Fathers aboard the Mayflower in 1623 (there is a memorial). The RMS Titanic also sailed from here. The town contains several memorials and museums with exhibitions related to the Titanic, most of the crew having come from Southampton; 549 died in the sinking.

One aspect of Southampton I found fascinating is the ruins of this defensive wall from the 13th century is so much part of the new structures around the city. The original gateway is there as an entrance to the pedestrian section of the town center of shopping. Another section of wall acts as the boundary for a "car pack" which is a parking lot. You can walk down the street and there's a section of a 13th century wall right next to you. Most of the ruins have plaques at some point or another so we had fun finding information on Jane Austen, John Le Fleming (mayor of Southampton, 1295-1336), Pilgrim Fathers, etc.


We left Southampton and drove through the New Forest. "William the Conqueror created the New Forest as a medieval deer hunting ground in 1079. Centuries later, agreement between the Crown and the local people meant the Crown grew timber for ship building and local people received rights, including the right for their ponies, cattle, and donkeys to graze the Forest. These ancient "rights of common" led to a form of extensive farming called communing. The people who farm the New Forest are known as commoners and their unique way of life has remained unchanged for nearly a thousand years. The browsing and grazing of the commoners' animals has created the characteristic New Forest landscape. The animals are known as the "architects of the Forest". Today approximately 500 practicing commoners are responsible for the 7,000 animals on the forest, more than half of which are ponies." - excerpt from New Forest Drift Exhibition flyer.
After seeing the free-range horses, ponies, and pheasant we made our way to The Happy Cheese pub. What a great name for a pub! I had a bitter (John Smith's cream flow), Tory had a lager (Carling's), and Matt tried a bitter shandy (which is half lemonade and have bitter). We watched the Manchester United football team be presented with their Premiership Cup (on the flat screen TV). We talked about football for a while and discussed how the wife's of footballers are just as popular in England (and watched just as much in the media) but you don't every hear anything about them in the states.
We left The Happy Cheese and on our way out of the New Forest we found a sign post pointing the way to Beaulieu Abbey. I had read some information on the Abbey and was interested so Louise headed that way. It started raining just as we got to the Abbey but we walked around anyway and checked it out. The abbey was undergoing some archaeological project and the team was trying to map out the rest of the Abbey structure what was no longer standing. Outside the Abbey was a very nice garden with all kinds of paths winding through it.

We walked outside the Abbey and followed a foot trail to Bramble Island which was in the middle of a millpond and marked as the "Treasure Island" for the Montagu children in the 1970s. The Montegu family bought the estate after the "Disillusion of the Monasteries" and have had ownership since 1538. The scene from the estate property overlooking the millpond onto another home in the distance is very "Pride and Prejudice" to me... also very peaceful. The estate had quite large flowering shrubs in vibrant colors as well. The Palace House in the distance is quite a site to see... very Jane Austen. The whole estate is right out of the Victorian era.
We left the Abbey and the estate and headed back to Bournemouth. We checked into our new rooms and then met downstairs to go to Zorba which offers authentic Greek and Cypriot cuisine just down Christchurch Rd. I guess we got there about 8:30pm or so. The place wasn't very big. On the walls were clay masks of Greek god's faces which either had candles or light bulbs (couldn't tell which) behind the masks. The effect was to make the gods look like their eyes were glowing. We were so hungry at this point everything on the menu looked fantastic. We each ordered a Mythos which is a Greek lager. Matt and I decided on the Greek Meze which needed a minimum of 2 people. It consisted of 20 different Greek delicacies with selections of dips, fish, salad, cheese, grilled and casserole dishes all served with hot pita bread. You also got a choice of 5 desserts. All the food was great. We ended up being at the restaurant till 11:45pm because they kept bringing food. I don't know how we did it but we ate most of it... although toward the end we were trying a bite of something instead of halving it. Thank goodness we had to walk back to our hotel. It was a great way to end the evening.
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