I did not enjoy grade school much, but I have some fond memories of 6th grade. My teacher was Mr. Bigelow, and he played a lot of chess with me during lunches and after school.

I also remember the English book pretty well. The book was entitled Serendipity. It took me a while to wrap my tongue around how to pronounce it, but once I figured both how to say it and what it meant I really liked the word.

The word is very applicable to my weekend. I would like to apologize for being so far away from the internet this weekend. The B&B I had hoped to stay did not have rooms after all, despite advertising that they had real-time online room availability. This will be, by the way, a very long post, to make up for several days of notes and thoughts.

Nevertheless, Serendipity kicked in. I found some listings for other stuff and ended up at the Keppel Head Hotel which is in the Hard in Portsmouth.

There’s a goodly amount of history in that last statement, actually. As I was walking around the naval exhibits (more on this later), I found out that the first admiral to fly his flag on the Victory was an Augustus Keppel, and the hotel, founded in 1779, was named after him.

The Hard? That’s the region in Portsmouth right next to the naval base. It referred to first stretch of hard land a sailor would walk on after being at sea. In Portsmouth’s heyday, there were over 100 pubs in essentially a 3 block area. The Landlord of one of the few remaining pubs, the Ship Anson, had a map of the hard in the late 1700s showing essentially every building as a pub.

Serendipity is staying in the same hotel that undoubtedly some Royal Navy officers stayed at before going out to fight the French Navy and drinking at a pub that served their sailors.

As I said, the Hotel was right next to the historic dockyard area which was the naval base. I looked through the Royal Navy museum which has quite a bit of fascinating stuff, but of course I went there for one reason. I went to see the HMS Victory.

The Victory is amazing, daunting, impressive, beautiful, and powerful. I have lots of pictures which eventually I’ll post (speaking of which I’m trying to catch up on some Yorkshire pictures right now).

Unlike Jorvik, the Victory has virtually no Disney, relying on the ship, the equipment, the weaponry, and the history to impress the visitor. It succeeds. It’s also very cramped. I hit my head several times, no worry of course since it’s my head. The deck beams are about 5ft to 5ft, 6in.

I think I’ll let the pictures speak for more of the Victory, but I will say it’s well worth the visit. It is very eerie to stand over the plaque showing where Nelson was shot.

After seeing the museums and the Victory, I took the Harbor Cruise. This was extremely cool. I had noticed a Russian ship, which I later found out was the Admiral Levchenko, moored very close to the Victory, as well as a French ship, the De Grasse moored behind it. They weren’t easy to get pictures of though, but once I was on the Cruise, we went right by them and I got a number of good shots of them. We also went by several RN ships, two destroyers and a frigate, plus several mothballed ships, including an Invincible-class carrior, the Indomitable I believe. I was ecstatic.

The Cruise stopped at a couple of places, so instead of returning to the Hard, I got off at Gunwharf Quay and walked over to Old Portsmouth. This was quite a long walk around the various ship berths but you simply follow the chain. There’s a series of stones with the image of chainlinks in them that lead around to the various historic places near the port.

Anyway, I walked around to the seawall and the circular tower guarding the harbor entrance. I have pictures of this tower from the Cruise and then pictures of the harbor from the tower. The entrance to the harbor is extremely small, only about 500 feet and I was told that the USS Harry Truman, a Nimitz-class carrier was too big to actually enter the harbor and had to actually moor in the Channel when it came over to participate in the yearly naval review.

I also went and had a pint at the Spice Island Inn, which is the last place that Nelson is known to have drunk at before getting on the Victory and heading down to Trafalgar.

I did all of this yesterday, it was a blast. I then went to the Ship Anson and hung out and watched the English do Karaoke. Talk about weird, a old English lady karaokeing a gangsta rap song. I also got to talk to some of the sailors off the De Grasse.

Oh, and before I completely forget. I got Fathmbjorn a parting gift, one that expresses much of both English and Scottish heritage. I’ll post pictures, once I have given it to him.

As I said, this was all Sunday. Saturday involved a lot of me walking around to find a place to stay, a quest which was impacted by needing to do it fairly quickly. England and Portugal played their World Cup game that afternoon, and I wanted to watch it.

And watch it I did at the Ship Anson. I ended up sitting at a table with a guy named Rob (we’re everywhere) and we watched England and Portugal squander chances left and right. I had felt that England was toast if it got to penalty kicks, and I ended up proven right. It was, however, sort of difficult for England to not get to PKs, as Wayne Rooney was sent off for bumping his Manchester United teammate Christiano Ronaldo leaving the English to play 10 to the Portuguese 11 men. England actually played significantly better, I thought, after that, and had some chances, but keeping Portugal off of the board was challenging.

The crowd at the pub was electric. It was amazing to be a part of that.

I hung out a bit longer and watched a bit of the France-Brazil game. The French sailors were loud and raucous. I decided to make it a bit of an early night, and strolled on home, to prepare for a Sunday of walking around.

Now I’m in Winchester, and I’ll leave that for another post. I will say, however, Winchester holds the most amazing building I’ve seen yet, and with that little teaser I’ll end this Tolstoyian post.

5 thoughts on “Serendipity”

  1. when do you get back here to London?

    I’m staying across from the British Library. Meet you Wed morning at the British Museum?

  2. Serendipity it is…

    Nimitz is a “class” now, too? 😉 I thought it was bad enough when it was just an aircraft carrier… *sigh* 🙂

    Sorry to have missed out on commenting for a bit. Been out of touch (y’know, not a lot of ‘net access while primitive camping in Wyoming), but glad to read all of this now.

    Keep it coming!

    Wish I were in Winchester… 😉


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