Mind the Gap!

1 10 2013

Getting to Portsmouth was cray cray! The Garmin wanted to send us anywhere but Portsmouth, and the crowds were like 9A on a rainy rush hour morning. We got there far later than planned, which cost us a 1/2 day in London. Portsmouth is right on the water and is, luckily, pretty walkable. Across from our hotel was this:

Southsea Pier

Southsea Pier

If you walk alongside the water long enough, you’ll get to see one of Henry 8th’s castles (more like a fort, but still interesting) and “Old Portsmouth.” I only know they refer to it as “Old Portsmouth” because that’s what some English people said when they came up asking for directions. We got asked for directions an IMMENSE amount of times, oddly enough.

Old Portsmouth has lots of pubs and views like this:

a pub with flowers (they all have flowers!) and the Spinnaker tower in the distance

a pub with flowers (they all have flowers!) and the Spinnaker tower in the distance

But we were really there for the Historic Dockyards, because they have all these ships you can see.

Portsmouth6

The main thing now is the Mary Rose, which was one of Henry 8th’s ships (an awful lot of things we saw were related to him – why is this?) that sank and rested underwater for 400+ years before being dug up and now restored. They’re actually still restoring it – drying it out, rather, by spraying all these chemicals on it. That’s what I’ve read anyay. And it looks like this:

what's left of the Mary Rose

what’s left of the Mary Rose

Mary Rose1

The museum is quite nice actually – lots of artifacts over several floors. It was slow to see because people lingered around reading every placard. That surprised me – you never see people so detail-focused in American museums. Do we as Americans tend to be more impatient overall? Or perhaps more ADHD? Are English people more into history? Am I stereotyping too much?

on the HMS Warrior, I believe

on the HMS Warrior, I believe

This, above, was pretty awesome. The other boats are much more intact than the Mary Rose so you can walk all around them. If you have a claustrophobia problem, you may want to avoid the lower floors though. Unlike other ships I’ve visited, they let you get all the way to the bottom with the gravel stuff. You know what I mean?

Then there was this:

Yes.

Yes.

I lost count of all the “cream tea” references. Soon it became this big mysterious concept in my mind, and I became obsessed with trying some. We never seemed to have time until London, which, speaking of:

Bla-zing!!! Blinged out Buckingham

Bla-zing!!! Blinged out Buckingham

London was exciting! I’m not a real “urban focused” person, so I didn’t anticipate how much I’d actually like it. Except Heathrow Airport. I do not love Heathrow Airport.

We had only 1 day (plus like 2 night time hours) in London, so we were rushing around like crazy with barely any time to stop and eat. Our hotel was in Lexham Gardens (Kensington area), so that was good exploring. In my obsession with English grocery stores, I was very excited to find a Sainsburys and a Waitrose (Wait Rose?) right in the area. There was also this:

The British Museum or the British History Museum...or maybe something else entirely?

The British Museum or the British History Museum…or maybe something else entirely?

And this:

another helpful sign

another helpful sign

I’m a little sad about my ignorance – I feel like knowledge should be improved on while travleing, but we were always so pressed for time that you couldn’t generally do anything besides snap a photo. Anyhow.. being so close to Kensington, of course we had to see the palace! The gardens are free (very nice!) and worth seeing. I mean – the actual Kensington gardens are huge and okay but the gardens immediately around the palace are the very nice ones – very well cared for. The palace inside was an unexpected mix of old and new, like so:

old

old

new

new

The “new” were these spots of staged, creatively themed exhibits. Not all educational…some were and others were just strangely decorative, which I like, though it was not conventional.

This is pretty cool, for example.

This is pretty cool, for example.

kensington19

This was in the room with "gossip" coming out of grammaphones and things.

This was in the room with “gossip” coming out of grammaphones and things.

kensington18

They had nice clothes on display – a whole themed area with dresses worn by the Queen and Princess Margaret, mostly:

sparkles! :)

sparkles! 🙂

…and then a lot of clothes from Queen Victoria and such:

kensington7

The whole Queen Victoria section was very well done. Very thorough, educational, lovely paintings…and essentially walked you through her life’s timeline. I really liked this unfinished painting – you never see things like this:

kensington42

But my favorites were the King’s Apartments, because they had their original opulence and were so grand. Here’s the view up from the stairwell:

And this is just a stairwell!

And this is just a stairwell!

Actually my favorite thing was that they allow photographs (sans flash), because almost no one here does that (I am still upset about Biltmore Estate not allowing it during their flower festival and then not having postcards or anything to make up for it! Take a lesson from Kensington, Biltmore!)

So then we walked all the way through the massive gardens where we happened upon lots of these:

British goose

British goose

Seriously, LOTS.

a plethora of geese

a plethora of geese

The geese we have here look so different. The ones at Kensington were like geese and ducks combined. Like the sheep, I also wanted to pet one of these, but again resisted the urge. They just look so fluffy. 😦

Then we were about to die of starvation, so we wandered into Selfridges to admire the splendor and overpriced socks and found a food court area with…cream tea! Finally!

The cream tea set up: pot of tea, milk (or cream), a scone, jam, and "clotted cream."

The cream tea set up: pot of tea, milk (or cream), a scone, jam, and “clotted cream.”

Clotted cream is the most disgusting sounding food I ever heard of, so I was very excited to try it.

looks innocent enough...

looks innocent enough…

Crusty topping (ick)...but then buttery smooth insides (yum!)

Crusty topping (ick)…but then buttery smooth insides (yum!)

Once you get past the crusty exterior, it’s actually really good. Like…extremely whipped, fluffy butter with a sweetness. Why don’t we eat this stuff in America? Is it the name? It is pretty off-putting, and yet, worth it.

So then we went to the Tower of London and some other places. Next to the crown jewels (which they don’t allow pictures of – bad, bad!), this is the best part:

dragon!

dragon!

The views are pretty nice too:

The Tower Bridge from inside the Tower of London

The Tower Bridge from inside the Tower of London

Anyway, by 9 p.m. we were starving again and feeling like our feet were dead stumps from all the walking, so we had to bring it in for the night. The next day we flew to Frankfurt and then took a very confusing train trip to Strasbourg, France, which is coming up next.

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1 09 2014
Tea at The Gryphon | Art Stuff by K

[…] nearly reached London coming from Portsmouth. The next day we finally had tea (in Selfridges, see here), but I never got to try full afternoon tea in England. Been sort of obsessed with finding it for […]

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