After I was pretty much London-ed out (I ended up staying for a full week and was over the crowds), I hopped on a train to Southampton to visit one of my good friends.
Even though Southampton doesn’t seem like a typical spot for one’s winter holiday, it ended up being one of the ONLY cities I had solidified into my itinerary before I left home. Hilarious.
Thanks to my friend, I was able to see the countryside (county of Hampshire- Botley, Hedge End, etc.) rather than just being stuck in Southampton Central. I didn’t expect to like it that much, but Southampton is actually rich in history- as in the city is dotted with all sorts of historical towers, castles, and remains of walls that date back to the 1400-1800s. It was quite interesting to see modern buildings and businesses with a big castle stuck in the middle of everything. Pretty unique, since I’ve never been to a city quite like it. There were signs marked “Walk the Southampton walls” everywhere, which gave it a medieval touch. I was seriously fascinated.
I think I loved everything because it was bordered by the ocean as well. As the biggest cruise ship terminal (and main one) in Europe, most cruise ships port in and out on a daily basis – the QM2 was docked when we drove by. It was pretty cool to see the Carnival UK office right across from the docks as well.
I joked that I came to Southampton just to meet my friend’s dog – but that kinda was the truth. Barney is literally the cutest (and most hyper) dog in the world. Had I not known Lewis, I most likely wouldn’t have made a stop in Southampton – but I’m glad I did, since I found out a lot about the city and was fascinated by all its offerings.
On the drive from the SOA train station to his home, I was amazed by how much countryside (i.e. lush, green trees and bushes everywhere) there was, even in the winter. It was stunning, and I loved it tons more than the city vibe in London.
We stopped in Lymington, a quaint seaside town that paralleled Solvang with its cobblestone roads and Victorian decor. We had a lovely brunch in The Buttery, where we indulged in smoked salmon sandwiches and scones (and I had a blonde moment when I asked the waitress if they served English Breakfast tea – in a proper English tea room). Face palm.
We walked a short trail in New Forest National Park (I think it was called Shatterford?), which was like a sprawling, rural plain. It’s a gorgeous national park, but I’m sure it’s even more lovely in the spring and summer. I tested out more of my faux British accent skills with things like “Thatched Cottage Road,” and “What do you fancy?” to which I just had to deal with the bullying from his side about how I was just trying too hard.
I was also shown his dad’s friend’s farm, in which they sell fresh milk from the cows – and the calfs and cows were absolutely gorgeous, with fluffy fur coats to keep them warm. We later walked (more like he pulled us with the 50-ft lead) Barney at night in Wyckham, a massive park in the countryside with about twice the acres of an Irvine park. The temperature dropped to about 3 or 0 Celsius, so if you weren’t wearing gloves, your fingers would freeze.
I had my own time to explore Southampton as well – I checked out the cruise ship terminal in during the day and night time and explored High Street (not really my favourite since it was a bit sketch). Old Town was really neat, since it was the central part of the city and had all sorts of signage for historic places like Jan Austen’s home and the last wall of such and such war. I didn’t realise how much the city had – a football stadium, several bridges, several cinemas – it makes my city pale in comparison. It’s not like my hometown is the biggest cruise ship port in the country, either.
The SeaCity (Titanic) Museum was stunning as well – and well worth the admission since it was relevant to me now that I work on ships.
Ocean Village Marina ended up being my favourite part of Southampton Central because of its posh vibe and the location next to the marina – definitely just like Newport/Laguna Beach (but just colder).
I experienced my first authentic English pub as well – the Hampshire Bowman- with a fireplace and everything. It was quite a drive from his house (no way could public transport get you there) and in the heart of the woods (basically), but a really cool place. The ham, eggs, and chips were delicious – and a staple pub dish as well.
Our “night out” with his friends thankfully ended up just being a pub crawl to three pubs (The Bugle Inn, Brewery Bar, and Wetherspoons), rather than ending at a crazy nightclub as intended. It was a lovely evening of banter and socialising, especially since it’s the last time for awhile that I’m meeting up with people.
Cheers for the adventures in Southampton, Lewis (and Barney and your lovely family)! x