We're Kings of the World!

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

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

May 13, 2007 Sunday-We're Kings of the World!
Today we woke to quite a bit of rain and a chill in the air.  Taking a trip to London (as we had discussed at one point) did not seem like the best idea...  Julie had spoken with Louise Spencer (an arts faculty member from BPC and also a former exchange participant with CFC) and had asked for ideas for "rainy day" activities.  Louise kindly offered to take us shopping that the  West Quay (pronounced "key" by people here) shopping center for the afternoon.  We had all slept in a bit later this morning and this sounded like a great idea.  After having a tea and a cheese  "bap" (small sandwich) at a coffee shop, we met Louise at our hotel and set off for Southampton (about 40 minutes drive away).  The shopping center itself was quite large and a significant portion of the shops were in an outside mall. There were some familiar stores (such as the Body Shop), but many were unfamiliar to me.  The Marks and Spencer & John Lewis department stores served as the anchors for the mall and we went into each of them.  I bought my husband a small present at the Marks & Spencer store (I can't give away what it is-he reads this blog!).  In order to sustain our energy for shopping, we stopped at Morris Pasties (http://www.morrispasties.co.uk/pasties.php) for a traditional Cornish (from Cornwall) Pastie.  If you look at the above link, you'll see that the pastie is in the shape of a semi-circle with a thick pastry ridge on the rounded side.  Louise told us that the miners in Cornwall used to eat these for lunch; the thick pastry edge was where they held the filled pie (filled with meat, potatoes and other ingredients) with their dirty fingers.  They simply ate the pie and threw out the dirty "rind" of the pastie.  Of course, now we eat the entire pastie-that edge is too good to toss away.  I ordered a traditional steak pastie and was ready for more walking around! 
After a bit of shopping, we left the mall and walked toward the water.  Louise told us that the Titanic made its fateful departure from Southampton.  http://www.hants.gov.uk/titanic.html   We didn't have time to see the maritime museum in the area (many things close early on Sundays here), but we did get a chance to walk around the medieval wall of the city. Much of the wall was destroyed in the war, but significant sections remain intact.  There were several signs identifying entrances to the medieval wall and even replicas of some of the ships that were built here.  We couldn't resist having our Titanic movie photo taken here...

The homes and buildings within the walls were charming and the pubs look like they could have come out of a brochure on England.  We also saw several signs referring to the author Jane Austen, as she spent some time in this area.  Apparently, Southampton was quite the fashionable place to be at one time; these days, in addition to shopping, it serves as a hub for shipping. 
After our foray into Southampton, Louise took us through a section of the New Forest. The forest has an interesting history and is actually quite old! http://www.thenewforest.co.uk/abouttheforest.html
Despite the rain, the scenery was gorgeous!  I especially enjoyed the "wandering" horses throughout the area.  These horses are not fenced in and they freely meander the roads and yards of the area.  As we drove, we spotted several, even having to stop and wait while one ate a bit of greenery from the side of the road.  We pulled over near some horses at one point; I got out to take a picture and the horses started walking toward me-clearly they are used to tourists!  I petted one on the face, but I think he was nonplussed and would have preferred a sugar cube or an apple...  We also saw several pheasants along the way.
This area is truly beautiful and well-preserved.
While in the New Forest, we stopped at an abbey that was founded in 1204 (Beaulieu Abbey -pronounced Buel-lee by locals) and toured the grounds and ruins. I encourage you to take a look at the website on this abbey: http://www.beaulieu.co.uk/beaulieuabbey/introduction.cfm   The grounds are straight out of a Jane Austen novel, bucolic, serene, beautiful gardens, and lush foliage with a stately home in the background.

As we continued through the forest, we spotted a pub called "The Happy Cheese." Naturally, we had to stop there!  This was a smoke-free pub (a trend in the UK that has faced some resistance--sounds familiar!?) and it was quite cozy and relaxed.  We lounged in comfy leather sofas and rested for about an hour.  
After returning to the hotel, we decided to go out to dinner.  That evening we went to Zorba restaurant for Greek food; the meal was fantastic and I think we all ordered ambitiously to say the least...  http://www.zorbarestaurant.co.uk/home.asphttp://www.zorbares taurant.co.uk/home.asp
We were surprised that our 8:30pm dinner did not end until almost midnight; it was a good thing that we didn't have to get up too early the next morning!  After shopping at Southampton, petting wild ponies, resting at the Happy Cheese and indulging in Greek food, my day was complete...
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