Hosting Stefano

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November 24th 2016
Published: November 18th 2017
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I had hosted Stefano once before but just for the night as he needed somewhere to stay for a business trip. After Stefano had kindly hosted me at his apartments in Luxembourg and France, I really wanted to return the favour of his hospitality by hosting him at mine and to show him some places he hadn't seen before in England. I took the Friday off work and Stefano booked his flight tickets for a long weekend visit.

Hartley Wintney

I've been living in Hartley Wintney for a year and a half, after buying a brand new home through a government scheme to help first time buyers get on the property ladder. This is the first property that I have ever owned. To buy a house in the UK is not easy as the housing market in the UK is extremely expensive, although the most pricey homes are predominantly in the southeast region of England, given it's closeness to London. I live 30 odd miles from central London so the housing market is ridiculously expensive for myself.

Hartley Wintney is a small village in Hampshire that has been relatively untouched from huge demand to building houses and remains very rural. The picturesque village has several antique/quirky shops and Stefano finds himself buying Christmas gifts for his family. We also visit my local pub the Phoenix Inn which has been voted one of the best restaurants to eat within the UK. This beautiful 400 year old historic pub still has some of it's original structure and character. It's a real gem and I'm lucky to call it my local.


I suggest to Stefano we visit Winchester, since it's under 30 miles away from where I live. Winchester used to be the old capital city of England before getting replaced by London. Although originally a Roman town, it was quickly abandoned when the Saxon's arrived in the sixth century. Winchester is famous for it's cathedral and history, including an artefact known as the "Winchester Round Table".

We first visit the Great Hall. This building is one of the finest surviving medieval aisled halls of the 13th century which used to be part of Winchester Castle. The castle was originally founded in 1067 by William the Conqueror shortly after his victory at the Battle of Hastings. The castle got heavily damaged in the 17th century civil war so very fortunate to have this Great Hall still intact. In the hall, is the Round Table. It is said to show the legendary King Arthur and his knights. This table dates as far back as to 1250-1280 but believed it was repainted by the order of King Henry VIII as in the centre of the table appears to be a Tudor rose.

As we walk down the medieval cobble streets, we browse shops and market stools. I take Stefano to the Winchester City Museum since it's only a charitable donation to enter. The museum has three levels. The ground floor has an original Victorian tobacconist shop, with the floors above housing artefacts from the Saxon and Roman eras.

Next, we walk up to the Winchester Cathedral. This cathedral is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, with the longest nave and greatest overall length of any gothic style cathedral in Europe. In the grounds of cathedral is the Winchester Christmas Markets. One of the reasons I suggest to Stefano we visit Winchester this time of year. This Christmas market has been recognised as one of the best in Europe and is inspired by traditional German Christmas market style. We discover that some of the market stool owners travel over from Germany every year.

Although we don't go inside, I show Stefano the Winchester City Mill, since it's over 1,000 years old and believed to be one of the oldest working watermills in the UK.

Stefano tells me I picked a good location to show him. He loves how the city is so lively and rich with history. I say anyone visiting the UK should have Winchester added on their bucket list.


The next day we head down to the south coast and visit Portsmouth. This city has the second most busiest port in the UK and happens to have the oldest dry dock In the world. The journey time is under an hour from my house.

Stefano is your typical Italian guy, he loves to shop for designer brands but wants to pay for them at a good price. We visit Gunwharf Quays which is home to over 90 premium outlets stores offering up to 60%!o(MISSING)ff RRP. It also has many food chains, as well as a cinema, bowling alley and nightclub. Arriving at Gunwharf Quays relatively early on a Saturday was a wise choice as this place gets super busy.

We visit the Spinnaker Tower; this 560-foot landmark observation tower is the centrepiece of the redevelopment of Portsmouth Harbour and has the largest glass floor in Europe. The tower offers impressive views of Portsmouth and it's naval harbour, as well as the Solent; a strait that separates Isle of Wight from England.

Next we enter the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. It seems we picked a good time to visit as it's the Victorian Festival of Christmas. For the weekend only, people dress up as Victorian characters and walk around the dockyard. There is plenty of amusements for all, with an excellent selection of Christmas market stalls.

The reason I really wanted to bring Stefano to Portsmouth was to see historical warships and I'm feeling excited at the opportunity to see these ships again, as last time I was a small kid. The Portsmouth Historic Dockyard has three very important old warships:

HMS Warrior 1860 - Britain’s first iron-hulled. Launched in 1860, at a time of empire and Britain’s dominance in trade and industry, this ship was the pride of Queen Victoria’s fleet. Powered by steam and sail, she was the largest, fastest and most powerful warship of her day

HMS Victory - is the Royal Navy's most famous warship. Best known for her role in the Battle of Trafalgar, having served as Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson’s flagship.

The Mary Rose - A Tudor Masterpiece. The Mary Rose is the only 16th century warship on display anywhere in the world. It was King Henry VIII's favourite ship that sank in the Solent whilst fighting against the French invasion. In 1982 it was raised out of the Solent after 470 years of being underwater. Being a massive Tudor fan; to see this ship, just delights me.

I knew Stefano would love the old warships. He really appreciates the suggestion and enjoyed his whole weekend.

Additional photos below
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19th November 2017

British Travelling
An enjoyable read, thank you! What a great idea to become a traveller and tourist in your own country! Wonderful to see Britain from a traveller's perspective :) And well done on becoming a home owner, in the south east! A very satisfying and worthy investment :)
21st November 2017

Thanks Alex for your kind comments. Britain has so much to offer and so much beauty, I like to take advantage of being a tourist in my own country :)
20th November 2017

You had me at 400 year old pub
Glad Stefano had time to visit. I know you enjoyed his hospitality. Sounds like a great itinerary... I would especially like the ships. Great job. Keep those blogs coming. Love to know more about your area for our next trip to England.
21st November 2017

If you guys like your ships, then you definitely need Portsmouth on your itinerary. Probably best if you visit in the summer time though as more daylight for sightseeing. You could even take a little wonder to Southsea and visit the amusement park, or catch a hovercraft over to the Isle of Wight. Would love to see you guys again :)
23rd November 2017

The perfect host
What a great host you are Alan. Stefano must have had a fascinating time. I am intrigued by the Round Table. If it was based on the legendary King Arthur is there any reason it was built some centuries after the legend began? It is beautiful.
27th November 2017

Round Table
It's a good question. I think the honest answer is nobody actually knows. Winchester is linked with a 9th century King Alfred the Great and some people believe there could be a mix up between the two given the timeline is closer.

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