Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sunday and the first day in Portsmouth

I'm working off line at the moment because I'm waiting to get some things sorted out on my internet connection. As a result, I'll probably post this tomorrow with a little cut and paste. But while my mind is still fresh let me give you a rundown on my Sunday.

Following breakfast in London House at Goodenough College (where I've had my breakfasts since arriving) I went back to my room, finished packing and checked out about 10. From the club I went back to Russell Square and caught the Piccadilly Line to Leicester Square, where I transferred to the Northern Line and on to Waterloo station. Getting my ticket for Portsmouth was a breeze and after locating the platform for the next train I boarded and found a seat for my ride to the south coast. My train left at noon.

Once out of the southern part of the metropolis the country opened up and I was treated to views of farms and pasture land. I even spotted a deer along the rail right-of-way and some alpaca. There were plenty of sheep and horses as well. I was seated on the right (west) side of the train and spotted some highlands here and there. I'll have to check a map to get a better sense of what I was seeing. One of the stops along the way was Rowlands Castle, a place that was familiar to me from a television program I saw some time ago back home that featured Michael Palin of Monty Python fame. The program was about British railroads (and being a train buff that was enough of an excuse for me to watch) coupled with Palin's search for genealogical information about his family. What I remember about Rowlands Castle was that Palin met some lord of the manor who lived thereabouts and who was himself a train buff, to the extent that he had created a miniature steam railway on his land (and offered rides to interested folks, including Palin). (I may be mis-remembering this and conflating a couple of episodes of "Great Railway Journeys"; I can't find an exact reference on the internet.)

Shortly before 2pm my train arrived spot on time at the Portsmouth and Southsea station. My feet are still pretty sore from all the walking in London so I opted for a short cab ride to the Holiday Inn (my home for the next week). Claire's packet of information was awaiting me at the reception desk which I opened and perused after getting to my room. (I didn't get room "221" but I'm close!) After putting some things away and grabbing a couple of glasses of water (I'm trying to keep myself hydrated with all this walking) I headed out to explore Portsmouth (the pedometer count for the day is 9,763; short of my other day counts, but then you've got to take the train ride into consideration).

The Holiday Inn is a short walk from the water; I headed in that direction. One of the things I was glad to receive in Claire's packet was a map of Portsmouth, so it didn't take me too long to get my bearings. One of the first sights to greet me was the ruins of the Royal Garrison Church. From there I moved to a raised walk along the coast. I noticed a trail, marked by distinctive pavers, and so followed it. This, it turns out, is the Millennium Promenade. And it was a perfect way to move from sight to sight (and site to site) near the harbor. An added bonus was the afternoon sunshine (it was cloudy when I left London), and with a slight breeze it was perfect for walking. The promenade led me to the following: the Square Tower, the Round Tower, Bathing Lane and ultimately to a more modern landmark, the Spinnaker Tower. Along the way I saw a variety of fishing boats, tall ships, pilot boats, tugs, hovercraft, ferries, and other watercraft. Off in the distance, past the Spinnaker Tower, was a modern warship, but I didn't discover its name or type. I'll save that for another day.

After a cheap meal at Subway, at the foot of Spinnaker Tower, I headed back towards the hotel. Along the way I came to Portsmouth Cathedral. So far on this trip I've been incredibly fortunate (blessed, lucky, what have you) when it comes to church experiences. Portsmouth Cathedral proved no different. As I entered I heard organ music. So, after a short walk around the sanctuary, I found a seat and enjoyed about twenty minutes of organ music. The organist (who I didn't have the chance to meet) was practicing (possibly for the evensong scheduled later). I don't know what pieces were played, but it was lovely to just sit on a late Sunday afternoon and enjoy the music in that space. I was tempted to stay for evensong, but decided instead to head back to my room and review some things before tomorrow. I'll check the schedule for the Cathedral and see if there's another evensong on for later in the week. The Cathedral is on the same road as the hotel, so its just a short walk.

When I got back to my room I decided to soak my feet in cold water for about twenty minutes. I don't know if that will help with the pain, but it sure felt good in the short term. My boots are very comfortable and I'm glad I broke them in before I left home. The problem is with those dress shoes; I didn't give them the same treatment. (Note to self: never bring new shoes on a trip where you're expecting to do a lot of walking.) I'm looking forward to tomorrow and the chance to meet the Portsmouth staff. They've been ever so kind in helping to arrange this trip. I hope we can return the favor at some time in the future.

Time to call it a day. By tomorrow I should have the internet connection sorted out and be able to post this to the blog. I'm also looking forward to checking e-mail and Facebook and find out how Beth's visit to Clarisa in Chicago turned out. Stay tuned. These first days were a bit of a vacation (combined with some work). This week its mostly business (with some fun thrown in). It will be good.

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