We thought that South West Trains’ £10 ticket offer was still available and so went to Waterloo nice and early today with the intention of jaunting off to Weymouth. When we discovered that the offer had closed, we had to quickly choose a nearer destination. As we hadn’t been to Portsmouth for a while, we elected this famous port and dockyard town as our destination for the day.
The next train left at 8:30 and by the time Tigger had collected the tickets from the machine, the clock was showing 8:28. It seemed unlikely that we would catch the train but we ran to platform 10 and pumped the open button on the nearest train door. It didn’t budge. I was about to give up when I realized this train was merely parked and the Portsmouth train was further along!
I sprinted down the platform. All doors on the train were closed but one: the guard’s door. He kindly ushered me aboard but Tigger was trailing behind, so I stood in the doorway until she arrived. Made it!
So far, the day is sunny with a clear blue sky but this morning I thought to detect a whiff of autumn in the air so I am wearing my “Spring and Autumn” jacket, my favourite red one. If the day becomes hot, it can easily be stuffed into my backpack.
With fares back to normal and despite it being the bank holiday weekend, the train is only lightly occupied and conditions are far more comfortable than on our last two journeys. Travel should always be like this!
The train arrived at Portsmouth Harbour just after 10am and we strolled along to the little Caffe Bar Feed, set in an arch in the railway bridge. We intended just to have a cup of coffee but it’s such a pleasant little venue that we allowed ourselves to be tempted into having an early omelette brunch to set us up for whatever adventures were to follow.
After our omelette, we set out to wander here and there in the town. Portsmouth is one of those places where you stumble upon beautiful architecture and historic remains at every turn. This is not surprising in view of its long connection with the navy and seafaring in general.
Bristol claims Isambard Kingdom Brunel for its own, understandably perhaps as he there carried out some of his most famous works, but Portsmouth arguably has the better claim.
Portsmouth University maintains a large presence in the town and you come across its buildings, some modern, some deliciously ancient, wherever you go.
Not to be missed is the splendid Guild Hall with is rich carvings and imperial lions and opposite, the inevitable Queen Victoria looking very severe.
We continued on down to the water and had a long walk, looking across the Solent with ever shifting pattens of light on the water and the coming and going of ships and ferries.
I don’t think it has been well advertised outside Portsmouth but this bank holiday weekend sees the staging of the Portsmouth International Kite Festival. We discovered this when we saw the kites from far off and went to investigate.
I had never seen kites like these before and thought at first that the inflated ones were balloons but they are not. They are true kites, held aloft and inflated by the wind. There were many strange and wonderful designs and even some kite performances with controllable kites. These included kite ballet and a kite battle in which contestants attempt to eliminate other contestants by forcing down their kites. All in all, a colourful display.
After some “grass surfing” and watching the kites, we retired to Mozarella Joe’s for coffee and cheesecake. Then we began the walk back towards the harbour and the station, passing various quays with their populations of boats.
We eventually reached Gunwharf Quays, a place of shops, cafes and restaurants. As modern builds go, it isn’t too oppressive but it is far from being the most pleasant and picturesque part of the city.
We had coffee at Caffè Nero and then walked slowly to the station in time for the 19:15 train to Waterloo. It had been a good day out though we had seen only a part of what Portsmouth has to offer, missing out gems such as the Historic Dockyard, where you can learn about seafaring and ships of the past and visit HMS Victory and HMS Warrior. Or you can take the ferry across to Gosport, smaller and quieter but not without its own attractions.
This was just one of our visits to Portsmouth and we shall certainly return.
The strangest thing we saw? Possible what I dubbed “Joseph’s Bike of Many Colours”, a motorcycle entirely covered in knitting. Is it art? a joke? or, well, your guess is as good as mine. We shall probably never know… (The photo had to be taken through glass, hence the reflections.)