Dispatch from Brussels
Portsmouth: place of naval history! This is going to be one of the quicker stops along the way for me, as I only had one target here. And that was HMS Victory. It ended up being fortunate that I was here for only two nights: the hostel I stayed at was not good, one of my roommates had feet so smelly I nearly got sick, and it rained, a lot.
Anyways, here are pictures of the historic dockyards and two amazing museum ships. And keep reading at the bottom for two funny stories.
Clearly the old girl is being looked after again. Her masts, both the ones on top and the one forward, should be much longer. I got the sense it was both another major restoration and just getting her ready for winter. Though looking at the ship, and reading about it in the museums, I think it’s only a matter of time before she’s put indoors for preservation.
The Victory does require constant maintenance and it is under going another restoration. You can see that in the bottom right.
I found this fascinating: this is a flint lock to one of the cannons on the Victory. It was one of the major advantages the British had over the French at the Battle of Trafalgar. The French were still using a slow burning match to ignite their cannons; a flint lock, similar to what was used with soldier’s rifles on land, was more reliable at getting a spark. Also, it didn’t go out if it got wet; something you have to worry about at sea. It wasn’t just skill that helped the British win, it was technology too.
And, of course, here is the spot where Horatio Nelson fell.
The Warrior was very different from the Victory. There was so much more space and so many more guns. It almost felt like a luxury ship, not a war ship.
From here you can see multiple active British Navy ships, one of which is a light aircraft carrier (which I believe is the HMS Illustrious); HMS Victory; to the right of Victory, the dark brown domed building is the Mary Rose Museum (not opened yet), which contains the remains of the Mary Rose; and you can see the top of HMS Warrior’s masts at the very bottom of the picture.
The ships are the HMS Daring, HMS Dragon, and, as I said earlier, I believe the last one is HMS Illustrious. Pretty amazing to see some of the most important ships in the British navy at one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions.
I have two funny side stories to tell. First one involves going aboard the HMS Victory. After I presented my ticket at the gangplank, the person there warned me to watch my heading going on board. I said “of course” and then walked up the plank. Not twenty seconds later I slammed my head into the door frame. Let me tell you, English oak is HARD. I walked around the rest of the day with a bruised head.
So, HMS Victory tried to take me out and I don’t even have a drop of French blood in me!
The next story involved after the dockyards. Since it was Sunday, I decided that I wanted to go to a pub for a traditional Sunday roast. I deliberately avoided the pubs outside the dockyards because they looked like tourist traps. I wanted to go somewhere that had locals. I found it at the HMS Illustrious.
Boy, did I find a local pub. As soon as I walked through the door, this guy looks up at me and says, “oh, look at Lord Mosley.” As you can imagine, this threw me. I at first thought we had met before and, stupidly, asked him that. He took that as an opportunity to make fun of me in British slag, which I couldn’t follow. As my friend Ceri, who’s from Bristol, said I should have told him to bugger off! But I politely walked away and let him get back to his ale and football match. So, authentic pub harassment while in Portsmouth!
The next day, I was up early (to get away from my roommate’s feet) and off to Bath. Bath was a full three days and two half days. I haven’t gotten to those photos yet, but I hope to have something up in the next day or so. Cheers!