Sunday, September 25, 2011

Driving (really!) to Portsmouth & Guildford

We did the math and decided it was more cost-effective (and convenient) to rent a car than for the four of us to take trains to all the destinations we wanted to visit while Josh's parents were in town.  After a false start with a Vauxhall Astra (broken door, dead battery), we ended up with this Ford Focus hatchback, with an automatic transmission.  Never have we been so happy to have an American car!
A car!
Our first outing: a day trip to the cities of Portsmouth and Guildford, both of which figure in a historical fiction novel that Josh's mother just finished writing.  She thought it would be nice to see what those cities are like today, and better envision what they must have been like back in the 1760's, when the events in her book took place.

As you can guess from the name, Portsmouth is a harbor town, and its maritime history is reflected in the modern Spinnaker Tower that dominates the waterfront skyline.
Spinnaker Tower

Lunch at Gunwharf Quays
As we were walking towards the historic waterfront area, we came across this odd statue.  Why is this little girl hitching up her skirt and offering the man money?  Fortunately, a nearby sign explained that it was once common for poor children to perform tricks and dive for coins in the mud along the riverbank (or seashore).  They were called "mudlarks."  It still seemed a bit sketchy, but at least we learned the story behind it.
Mudlark statue
The Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is home to some impressive ships, including the HMS Warrior, which in 1860 was the world’s first iron-hulled warship powered by steam AND sail.
HMS Warrior
And the HMS Victory, the world's oldest commissioned ship (1778).  It was commanded by Admiral Lord Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar.  It is currently undergoing some refurbishment, which is why the masts look a bit stumpy, but you can see other photos of it here, if you are interested.
HMS Victory
Admiral Nelson's cabin
Nelson's bed
It looks better in the sunlight
After touring the Victory and some of the museums, we had tea and then headed to the car to drive back towards London.  Along the way, we stopped in Guildford.
Brick mosaic
Guildford city center
We walked through the grounds of Guildford Castle, which were still lovely even in late September.
Guildford Castle grounds
The castle was closed by the time we got there, so we didn't go up to the top this time, but there's still a nice view from the base of the tower.
All that's left of the castle
Fitzhughs enjoying the view
Castle grounds
We had dinner in Guildford and then drove back home to pack for our next trip: 3 days in the Lake District.  I took over 200 photos while we were there, so bear with me as I try to whittle them down and write up a blog post....

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