Eurotour Day 1 (and 2) was Monday July 9, 2007 and that was the day I had a heart attack. No one paid much attention, but it happened. You can read about it here.
Day 3: Suck It Up, Buttercup
After the horrors whose corporeal form was a Blue Passat, today promised more of the same. The game plan was to drive(!) 60 minutes from Salisbury down to Portsmouth; the present and historical home of the British Navy. I love ships - especially old ones - and this day was one I had been planning for weeks. The trouble was, I was not enamoured with the idea of more driving. And so, I avoided the topic as long as possible.
The morning stated with a lovely breakfast of smoked salmon and creamy scrambled eggs prepared by our hosts at Rokeby House. I think I enjoyed this much more than anyone else. All through the meal I studiously avoided any talk of Portsmouth.
After breakfast we wandered over Salisbury market looking for interesting things to buy. There were none. We wandered over to Salisbury Cathedral for a look-see. There was a funeral underway and we couldn't go inside. I'm sure there's more to do in Salisbury on a grey Tuesday morning, but it was not obvious to us.
And now, the picture that is etched in my mind forever more: my family imploring me (rather angrily) that we needed to get into the Blue Passat and go see Portsmouth. When you get leaned on by an 11 year-old, you better grow some stones (I heard some big kids say that once).
And so I did.
Karen from Rokeby assured us the drive was easy. Well guess what? It was easy! And the tire held! And 60 minutes later we descended from the high, flat plains of Salisbury and my breath froze in my lungs as I saw the vast, sweeping, grey-hulled expanse of history that is Portsmouth. I had never seen so many ships in my entire life!
In this, the birthplace of Charles Dickens, there really was more to do than we could fit into a single day. We concentrated our time, therefore, on the Historic Dockyards. Upon purchasing the deluxe tourist pass, the highlights included:
The soaring Spinnaker Tower and it's 23-mile view out to the Isle of Wight:
Nelson's HMS Victory - the oldest commissioned ship in the Royal Navy:
And Henry VIII's ancient Mary Rose - cast in a haunting, waxy light:
Add to all this a boat tour of the harbour, a chance to climb around another vessel or two, some museums, and a most excellent Italian meal, and you've got a jam-packed day of salt-water, barnacles, and history.
As we drove back to Salisbury at the tired end of the day, it occurred to me that I'd learned a few things. First, driving in England could be tolerable (barely). Second, I'd been reminded of how much fun a family could have together. Third, my sense of direction still sucked. We got lost in Salisbury (again) and ended up in the maze of one-way streets in the old part of town that all the guide books say you must avoid.
After a few rolls of the dice, however, we magically were spat out from the mouse maze of narrow streets and found ourselves back at Rokeby House. And thus ended the day with cups of tea all around and some quiet journal writing. Tomorrow we would be traveling back in time even further - Stonehenge and beyond!