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Published: April 5th 2017
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Portsmouth
Hello my fellow travellers!
This is the second and final post I'll about a trip to France and England in October 1997. The last post covered my time in France while this post covers my time in England.
After arriving in England we returned to the bus and made our way to London where we stayed for two days. It was a rainy and foggy experience where the weather certainly wasn't with us. We ended up spending most of the time on the bus although we did get to spend some time walking around on our own.
Some of that time we, in a juvenile fashion, spent buying beer despite being way underage. I was a good boy and returned it though before drinking it, I guess I just didn't really want to fool the system. Well, that and I had just undergone a quite major surgery and peeing was quite painful for me still and beer really makes me need to pee.
During the bus tour we passed many famous landmarks such as Big Ben, Victoria Tower, the Tower of London and the HMS Belfast
. I watched the Royal Horse Guards at Whitehall and I got
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Portsmouth
a slight peak of a Statue of Richard the Lionhearted.
I wish I could have seen all of this magnificence up close but unfortunately the nature of the trip as well as the weather of mother nature decided not to accommodate me in that regard. Still, I was happy to have gotten to see a bit of London even if under these circumstances. I will return here at another time to get a more proper view of it and to stay longer and really get a proper appreciation of this wonderful city that has so much to offer a history buff such as myself. I will of course also give Paris a new go as well in the future to get a more nuanced image of it.
The only place that I really properly visited in London was Madame Tussauds where I spent a fair amount of time in amazement of the magnificent wax dolls on display. The level of skill that must go into the creation of these works of art is beyond me. I was astounded and I really recommend everyone to go there and rub elbows with their favourite celebrities and historical figures. In addition
to the celebrities there is also a beautiful historical tour of London that includes the Great Fire of London in 1666.
While I was in England I stayed in Newport on Isle of Wight, living with a couple named Alan and Rita. They were a nice couple who was my hosts arranged by EF Education, the company that my parents booked my language travel through. I shared a room with a nice and funny guy named Olof and we had a lot of fun together. We only had some lessons in the mornings every day so most of our weekdays and all of our weekends was our own to spend as we wished.
One of those free days I decided to try and find an aviation museum I read about in a newspaper. Alan and Rita didn't know exactly where it was so I had to make my own way there. I think I had to take a few different busses to get to the nearby town of Sandown and then I walked from there. The museum was not really all that amazing with a few planes and models on display so perhaps not quite worth the effort.
As I was returning to Sandown I was hit by a massive rainstorm and took shelter in a video store along the road. Inside the store I met a nice elderly couple who was kind enough to give me a lift to a bus stop further down the road.
While I was waiting at the bus stop I felt the call of nature coming down hard on me, my recent surgery had unfortunately left me very sensitive so I desperately started knocking on the doors on the nearby houses to ask to be allowed to use the facilities. I don't think I've ever had so many doors thrown at my face. It wasn't until the 7th
house where I met a nice lady, who was caring for a handicapped boy, that finally got some help.
When I came back out, after thanking the lady with my whole heart, I found a patrol car with two officers waiting for me. They asked me it I was the one who had been knocking on doors and asking to use the toilet. I confirmed that it was indeed me and then they informed me that the residents had called the
police. I was quite stunned and asked why so they told me that people was afraid of burglars. Here I was, a scrawny little kid of 15 with coke bottoms for glasses being considered dangerous, that was a strange feeling indeed.
They asked what I was doing there and I told them that I was a language student from Sweden and showed them my ID. I told that that I had been at Sandown Airport and that I was now heading back to Newport where I was staying. They told me that the bus stop I was currently waiting at had a interconnection before Newport but that there was a bus going straight to Newport across the street. I thanked them and went across to check it out. As I did that bus I had been waiting for came and left. When I checked the timetable on the other bus stop it was another two hours for the bus going to Newport.
The police left and I was once again waiting on my own for a bus and again I felt the call of nature coming back. This time I went straight for the same house that had
helped me last time. This time though it was answered by a man who was suspicious of me needing to use that toilet again. I informed him of my surgery and that the police had already been here and checked me out so he allowed me to use the toilet again and I could finally get on the bus and return to Newport.
It was a strange experience indeed, having the police come at me because I needed to use the toilet. It was not the only time I checked in with the police though during the trip. The second time was when me and my room mate Olof went to a disco in another town, don't remember which one, where he both became a couple with and broke up with a girl all within the span of a couple of hours, busy guy that he is. Anyway, I was feeling a bit down and decided to take a stroll by the harbour and I lost track of time and missed the last bus home so I went to the local police station who called one of my teachers who had to come and pick me up.
Cathedral of St John the Evangelist, Portsmouth
wasn't the only time he had to drive me around, he also had to drive me to the hospital once to check out my bladder that was acting up, he informed me then that he had actually suffered from a similar condition as me before.
I wasn't the only one in my room though to have troubles during the trip. Olof actually got mugged by a guy with wild eyes and lost a big portion of his travel money. I wasn't there at the moment it happened, I don't remember exactly what I was doing. Our host Alan just told us that this was common and that's why you should never bring much money with you outside of the house.
Another great excursion I made was to Portsmouth, I went there primarily to visit the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard with the National Museum of the Royal Navy and the amazing HMS Victory.
She was the flagship of Horatio Nelson during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. While entering the harbour of Portsmouth I also got to see both the iconic Round Tower, a fortification from the early 15th
century and the massive HMS Warrior
saw several other vessels such as the HMS Sheraton
and HMS Brinton
, both of which were both Ton-class minesweepers that have since been scrapped, and the HMS M33
which is one of only three Royal Navy ships that survive from World War I and the only one that still survives from the Gallipoli Campaign.
As an avid history buff this was the high-point of the whole trip. I talked a lot to the staff at the museum and they gave me several newspapers and naval magazines when they learned of my love of naval history. I also bought a couple of interesting books there that I still have at home today.
While I was in Portsmouth I also managed to stumble into a naval wedding ceremony at Cathedral of St John the Evangelist and the nice couple was gracious enough to allow me to take some photos of their big day.
Back in Newport Olof introduced me to the Newport Salvation Army, he's a part of the Salvation Army in Sweden and he even brought his Swedish uniform with him. They were a nice group of people and I enjoyed their company.
Alan also showed me
Sandown Airport, Sandown
his impressive sculptures made out of matchsticks and Rita introduced me to her impressive doll collection. I also got to meet their grandchildren.
All-in-all this trip was an amazing experience, I had a lot of fun, made a tonne of new friends and learned many valuable lessons for my future travels. I'm very grateful to my parents for arranging this first opportunity for me to test my owns wings and travel on my own. Many crazy things happened, getting stuck out on the country side on several occasions, interacting with the police twice and ending up in the hospital once, not to mention that Olof and me managed to break my bed. It certainly was a thrill ride!
Until next time I wish you all peace and happy travels!
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