Portsmouth

I got an interest in the maritime from my Dad. I first encountered the Hornblower series around eight grade, and it’s become my favorite novel series; I’ve re-read it a dozen times. After seeing the prototypical touristy things during the last London trip, I decided I really wanted to see HMS Victory, Lord Nelson’s flagship during the Battle of Trafalgar, which is now in drydock in Portsmouth. So I looked up the train schedules, found it was doable, and headed down there this past Saturday.

It turns out there is much more than Victory there. Portsmouth is still an active naval base, and there are a number of historical attractions to see down there. You can buy combined tickets to see a number of them, and given my time constraints, I saw three.

The first thing I saw when I left the train station was HMS Warrior. Warrior was built in the 1860s in reaction to France’s construction of an ironclad battleship. Warrior herself saw no action, and quickly became obsolete during the rapid evolution of iron battleships in the late 1800s, but she’s well preserved — or more accurately, well restored, She has both a full ship square rig, and engines, and compared to both Victory and USS Constitution, is very long.

HMS Warrior
HMS Warrior

After getting some pictures of the harbor, I passed on Warrior for the moment, and walked down the lane to Victory.

Aside: along the way, I passed a booth where a woman was selling souvenirs, and was amused to see that she had Harry and Meghan Union Jack flags, originally £3, marked down to £2.

I was a little surprised by Victory. She is undergoing renovations, so only her lower masts are in place, so at first, she looks surprisingly small. She is roughly the same length as Constitution, but much bulkier, both taller — Victory has three gun decks to Constitution’s one — and wider.

HMS Victory
HMS Victory

She’s been recently repainted in colors that the conservators believe is more in line with her actual colors at the time of Trafalgar; her gun stripes seem an orangey tan to me. You really get a sense of her bulk looking at her stern; she has three decks of stern galleries and carvings.

Unlike Constitution, Victory is in drydock, and likely permanently so; you leave the ship from a hole cut in her hold, where you can see the drydock supports, and I think this is too bad. Constitution is clearly a museum ship, but a lot of the artifacts have been offloaded to the USS Constitution Museum, and she can still be taken out around the harbor, and even sailed, and they still do so occasionally. Victory is clearly a conserved object.

Still it’s a fascinating one to visit, and I had a great time doing so. This is the first time I’ve been able to do a lot of existing light photography with the new D7500, and I was very pleased with it. I got a lot of hand-held shots that would have been simply impossible with any of my previous cameras.

After finishing up with Victory, I headed over to the Mary Rose museum. The HMS Mary Rose was a Tudor period warship that sank during battle. One theory is that the addition of more guns made her top-heavy, another is that she heeled over in a gust, putting her gunports, which were open, under water. She capsized, taking all but 35 of her crew of 500 with her. She landed on her starboard side; over time, she silted in, and her exposed port side disintegrated. She was rediscovered in the late 1970s and excavated around 1982. Her remaining timbers were preserved, as were a number of artifacts. The skeletons of a number of her crew were found, and the museum has a couple of representations of what a couple of them might have looked like.

Wreck of the Mary Rose
Wreck of the Mary Rose

After the Mary Rose, I took a quick look at a museum about Victory, then headed back to HMS Warrior, and did a quick tour.

While I was onboard Warrior, I noticed a large tower close by, that looked like it had an observation deck.

Emirates Spinnaker Tower
Emirates Spinnaker Tower

This turned out to be the Emirates Spinnaker Tower, and a quick check of my phone showed that it was open for another half hour. So I scurried over, and went up. The views were grand.

After leaving the tower, I stopped for a quick bite to eat, and headed back to the train. The ride was quite scenic; we passed a lot of farms on the way back to London. It was a really nice end to a fun day.

Again, London

I’m visiting London for work again this week and the next. I left Boston Sunday night at 10 and arrived here Monday morning about 9:30. The flight was uneventful and uncrowded; the person sitting next to me shifted seats, giving us both more room. I am still unable to really sleep while flying; I found myself starting to drift off, then I would awake again with a jerk. This time, my luggage arrived with me, and I was able to get to the office without too much trouble.

I was pretty tired by the end of the day on Monday, as I hadn’t really slept since Sunday morning. I got to the apartment just before 5, talked to the rental agent, then went out in search of food and groceries. I explored the area a little, noted the Tube station close by, and St. Pauls in the distance, then picked up some breakfast food and some stuff for dinner.

The rental apartment is quite nice. It has a sitting room, small kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. The home owner is clearly interested in art; there are framed posters on all the walls, including the hallway. It does front on a busy street, though, so it is a little noisy.

Compared to home, sunset is very late here, because London is that much further north. I noticed last week sunset was still well before 8 at home; here, it’s around 8:45. (I imagine the days are shorter here in the winter). Since it was still light after supper, I went out for a little walk. I found I was just one block from where I stayed last fall, so the restaurants I found then are still handy. Finally, my tired legs could take no more, and I headed back to the apartment and into bed.

Last night, I decided to take a look at Trafalgar Square and Westminster after work. When I’d visited after work last fall, it was after nightfall; last night it was late afternoon. So I took the Tube to Embankment, walked up to Trafalgar Square, then up to Westminster, where you could barely see Big Ben due to all the scaffolding, over the Thames, and walked along the South Bank taking pictures, and ended up having a hamburger there. Afterwards, I came back here and edited the pictures.

Today’s been an uneventful day – I forgot to reset the alarm, so I was late getting up, and barely made a 9 AM video conference with one of the developers in Porto. I kept getting distracted from what I was supposed to be working on, but did scope out a major piece of work that we’ll be doing later, and helped out some. After having a nice BBQ chicken, I came back here, did some cleaning up, did some code review, and worked on this post. Hopefully, it will be done soon, and I can get to bed.