Sunday, 16 October 2011


Tim and I have BritRail passes that allow us to travel on any eight days in a two-month period.  I believe we have until November 18th to use up all our days.  On the first day, we travelled to Bath, and on the second, we went to Portsmouth.  Neither of us had been before and it is an easy 2.5 hour (approximately) train ride down.  Also, we both have a liking for British naval history, so it was time to go.

On the way down, we had to change trains at Reading and Southampton and got some good book-reading in.

Once we arrived in Portsmouth, our first stop was the Historic Dockyard, which has many attractions.  We saw two.  First, we toured HMS Warrior 1860.  This was the very first iron-hulled warship and it was powered by sail and steam.  It never saw action, because its creation rendered all other warships of the era obsolete overnight.

I wasn't expecting to see Britain's first iron-hulled warship when I arrived in Portsmouth, but I was mightily impressed but it.  Very big and grand, with the added distinction of being the only Victorian warship still around today, and that only because it was twice rejected when offered for scrap.  Thank goodness!

Next, we wandered further down the dockyard to the main attraction.  The Victory, Admiral Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar against Napoleon's navy, at dry dock in all its glory.  Well, mostly - you see, it's topmasts are being restored.  But it was still an impressive sight.

A section of damaged mast from the Battle of Trafalgar.

Admiral Nelson's very fine cabin.  Nelson got around all right on the ship, being only 5' 6".  The captain, who was 6' 4", and the ship's carpenter (6' 7") had more trouble.
The plaque marking the spot where Nelson was shot and fell during the battle.

 From there, we went to the City Museum of Portsmouth to see their collection of Arthur Conan Doyle memorabilia, which was quite neat.

As a last stop, we went to Portsmouth's Church of England cathedral.  Outside was a sobering reminder of the effects of war on civilians.

The newer section of the cathedral, very bright and open, and almost Roman or Greek in feeling.
We headed home, with a change at Basingstoke.  That train was incredibly crowded!  We spent the first part of the journey at the back of a car, crowded in with passengers and baggage.  After the first stop, I managed to get a seat, but Tim had to stand for almost all the journey back to Oxford.  But we heartily enjoyed our afternoon in Portsmouth.

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