28 April 2020 - Day 17 – Southampton

We gained back the hour we lost going to Spain, as both Portugal and Britain are in the same time zone, an hour behind the rest of Western Europe. Still, there was more noise than usual out in the walkways as the sun was rising and we were approaching Southampton. This was partly because about 500 passengers were leaving the cruise here today, including the Canadians with whom I sat at dinner.

The New Jersey foursome and I met outside Waves at 8:30 to go in and have breakfast. I wasn’t planning on lunch in Winchester, but they wanted a pub lunch, so I had a hardier breakfast than the others. It was a bit more confusing getting off the ship, as those permanently debarking were leaving from Deck 4 (where we had boarded usually) while the “day trippers” had to exit from Deck 6. That put us into a less complex immigration process and no customs checks.

After having scans of our passports by the UK officials, we headed down a long escalator to street level. Dave of SWTE said Phillip, a Welshman who would be our driver, would be across the street from Southampton Arrivals holding a big furled yellow umbrella. It turned out he was easy to spot, and we got an earful of his decidedly different accent. [I remembered being quite confused in Wales last year, listening and trying to figure out if I was hearing English.] Phillip (not Phil) walked with us to his vehicle – and extended Checker with facing benches in the back. I sat with the women facing forward, while the other men rode backwards. It was a short ride to our meeting point in Winchester opposite the statue of King Alfred the Great on The Broadway. It was cool (50°F) and cloudy, and rain threatened.

When I began planning our stop in #Southampton, I was pleased to think I’d be able to return to #Winchester and its cathedral after a 20-year hiatus. Having had a great personal touring experience last year in Bristol (among other places), I had contacted my Blue Badge guide Barbara to see if she could recommend a Winchester guide. Barbara had put me in touch with Susan Parslow, and Susan and I had roughed out a guided walking tour of about 3-hours in length. So Phillip dropped us off at 10, to pick us up behind the east end of the cathedral at 3:30. I suspect he returned to Southampton to keep busy rather than hanging out in Winchester.

Susan started by introducing herself, and then talked about some of the historical, geological and geographical aspects to the actual city. After touching on the Roman times, she moved on to the Saxon king Alfred the Great who began unifying England. The only English king to be called Great, his statue is 15-feet tall in bronze. We continued up The Broadway and entered the medieval Guildhall and Susan gave us a tour.

After I spotted the Tourist Office, I begged for 5 minutes to get my one souvenir – and I scored a hat pin for my collection. Quickly walking back, we headed towards the River Itchen and spent a few minutes walking through the Abbey Gardens as Susan gave us its origins (gift of Alfred to his queen) whereupon we approached the outside of the cathedral. Expounding on aspects of the exterior architecture and of the history of structure, she told of including the need to stabilize it when it was discovered to be sinking. As we continued to walk, we came to a 6-meter tall pole with flashing lights: an artistic installation almost 20 years old, Luminous Motion by Peter Freeman, the lights are controlled by text messages from mobile phones.

On to High Street and the bustling market center, we came to the Buttercross Monument, dating to the fifteenth century, with a dozen life-sized statues. Alongside was the God Begot House, Susan explaining its history and the owner Queen Emma and her trial by fire. We continued on, passing the newish Combined Court Centre,

on our way to the Roman West Gate before heading on to the Medieval Great Hall. The Great Hall was the site of the King’s Council, early Parliament, trials of Walter Raleigh and houses the Round Table of King Arthur.

Leaving, we walked through the reconstructed medieval Queen Eleanor’s Garden on our way to the Peninsular Barracks and one of several military museums.

As we walked back downhill towards the cathedral, Susan talked of the links in Winchester to Jane Austen, and pointed out features which had been the close, almshouses and a chapel. It was a bit after 1pm, and Bob and Pete asked for a recommendation for a pub for lunch. While I continued to the cathedral (after tipping Susan, who I’d prepaid), she backtracked with the quartet to take them to The Old Gaolhouse, which she recommended. We’d meet up in a bit at the cathedral.

Arriving at the cathedral, I’d missed the 1pm tour. With a break in the light rain, I did my circumnavigational tour, getting photos and looking at the structure and how the light had changed since before noon. Entering and paying admission, I signed up for the 2pm tour. After walking the aisles and finding the cathedra, I returned to join about 8 folks for the formal tour. We repeated some of where I’d been, and also went down into the crypt briefly. Mildred, our volunteer guide, described the history starting with the original church built here in the seventh century, and this, the fourth on the site started after the Norman Conquest. Being a Tuesday, tower tours weren’t offered, so I didn’t get that joy. I spotted Betty and Joan about the time the tour concluded, and we collected Pete and Bob and walked out the west entrance to cross on the south side in hazy sun as we headed to our rendezvous point at the bend on Colebrook Street.

Phillip had found a parking spot, so we all bundled into the taxi with Bob and Pete sandwiching Betty on the back bench seat. We chatted about whether we wanted to return to the ship or to go to the shopping district, and we wound up asking Phillip to suggest a place to let us off and shop. He said he’d drop us at the Marlands Shopping Centre on Portland Terrace, which would allow us to continue south a few blocks before crossing through Westquay Shopping Centre Complex. This would put us within 5 minutes of the port.

Exiting the taxi in the shopping district, I pulled up Google Maps, as shopping wasn’t my thing. Beyond the second center were a couple of historic sites that I figured might be worth my while to check out. I left the Jerseyites, hoping that the boys would find a pub inside while the women shopped. I strolled down Portland Terrace window shopping until I saw a sign for Arundel Tower.

Named for a legendary swift “magical” horse of Southampton founder St Bevois, this is the remains of a castle tower and some walls. A modern walkway allowed me to get up along the walls.

Maybe 100 yards further along were more castle wall ruins of the Southampton Castle, a royal residence when the king and court would reside when travelling to and from France.

Known as Forty Steps, the original castle dated to the Conquest, but the remains are from a rebuilding 200 years ago that was majorly demolished shortly thereafter. I spotted a tower and some old wall ruins, and continued on to the old city walls, which included an old clock tower that had been part of the old Holyrood Church, as well as an arch through the wall ruins called Castle Gate. Crossing Queen’s Park, I came to the Ocean Cruise Terminal. Passing through Immigration, I boarded the #Meraviglia and got checked back onboard.

Since it was 5:30, I headed straight to the TV Studio Bar. Ramon was offering an Espresso Martini and a Martini al Tartufo with the non-martini being a Sidecar.

Quite a flavor profile this evening, I wondered where he’d found a black truffle. The gathering was very black-or-white on these drinks – you either loved them or hated them. I barely tasted the coffee one, as I didn’t need any caffeine. The Tartufo was earthy and herbally, what with the white vermouth, bitters and Campari. The sidecar continued the orange elements of the Tartufo with Triple Sec, but the brandy made it taste rather strong and sweet. None made it to my “repeat this” list. I left Ramon a good tip and bid adieu, and he poured me a White Walker to send me off on my journey.

I headed down the two flights to my cabin to drop my stuff off, and my laundry was clean and folded, sitting in several piles on my bed. After freshening up, I moved my suitcase out from under the bed and began jostling stuff around in preparation for really packing to leave. I started to charge a camera battery and spent some time doing more journaling before heading up for my personal farewell dinner.

On my way in I walked by the cheese table, and was able to select my cheeses for later. Arriving at the table, I was reminded that the Canadians had debarked today, so the five of us met a new English couple who had boarded earlier for the Baltic continuation. They were Esther and Lionel, coming from Hereford. As Hereford is my favorite English cathedral, we had lots to chat about. Carolinian Mark knew the Mappa Mundi was there, which brought Helen, Art and Carole all into the conversation. I was hungry, so I had two starters from tonight’s Italian-focused menu:

the Arancini again and the pasta and bean soup. Both were delicious. Ossobuco is one of my favorite cold weather meals, and the veal shank was so tender that it fell of the bone. My Rioja from Sunday night had been prepared well, so it was perfect with my meal. The cheese was good, and the wait staff remembered to keep some bread aside for me.

Art raised the question, now that we had an English couple at the table, about England, Wales and Scotland. He wanted to know whether to count them as individual countries, or to just use the United Kingdom in his personal count. I had skin in this question, as I had never been sure how it really worked. Lionel brought up a YouTube that made it less confusing, but still really doesn’t answer the question. And of course, Mark and Helen would be visiting Holland, a constituent country in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which also includes the A-B-C islands of the Caribbean, which we all counted as separate countries. So the question was not really answered.

As we stood to leave, I lingered and pulled the wait team together and handed them each a tip and thanked them for consistently being the best wait staff on board. I included the Macanese somm, whose name I never pronounced correctly, in my lavished praises. Walking forward, I stopped at the Edge Bar

to pick up a snifter with a shot of a Macallan 18 (scotch) and headed down the crystal stairs to my room.

My bag was supposed to be tagged and out in the hallway by midnight. I pulled together all I’d need for the next day and put it in my backpack, leaving room for toiletries, and proceeded to rearrange my gear. Wardrobe for my first day in France put aside, I zipped my big blue roller closed and put the tag through the handle on top. Out the door it went, and I went in search of Ron and Lydia to give them their tip. Lydia was on duty, so we chatted a bit and I thanked her. She said Ron would be on in the morning. I returned to the cabin and, after finishing this post, went to sleep.


As an explanation for the breadth of the map at the top of this post, I'd hoped to show how close I'd travelled to Winchester in my cathedral explorations in south England last year. There are Anglican cathedrals in Chichester, Portsmouth, Guildford and Salisbury on this map, with Catholic cathedrals in Arundel and Portsmouth. Last year, from Portsmouth I'd gone by train to Salisbury, as Winchester wasn't a good connection to continue on to Exeter.

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