Friday, 18 May 2012


The original plan was to ride from Milton Keynes down to Portsmouth on Friday 19 May, spend the rest of the day at the historic dockyard area and then take the overnight ferry to Caen; but the weather forecast for Friday is heavy rain, so we decided to leave a day early while the weather was fine.

Got away after lunch at 1.00 pm. As we were about to go out of the door I got a call on my mobile phone to tell me that my money card had been ‘’upgraded” and my money returned to me. Arrived in Portsmouth mid-afternoon. Checked out where the ferry terminal is located and then the historical shipyard so we know where to go tomorrow. We got into a lengthy conversation with a parking inspector who rides a Honda VFR. He gave us advice on where to find motorcycle parking and where the B&Bs are located. On his advice we rode a couple of km down the coast to Southsea, the seaside resort part of Portsmouth, and found a not so cheap 2 star hotel at £60 for a double ensuite room. It was starting to rain so we didn’t look any further, and it did have off street parking for the bike. 
Had a pint of Adnams in a little street corner pub and then took Chinese take-away versions of Thai curries back to our room.

Looking forward to tomorrow and seeing HMS Warrior, the world’s first iron-hulled warship which was powered by steam as well as sail. It was built in 1860. Also HMS Victory the world’s oldest commissioned warship. Unfortunately we won’t be able to see the hull of the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s flagship, as it’s undergoing conservation work, but at least we’ll see the museum which if full of relics retrieved from the sunken wreck.

Next day
Got up late because we’ve got all day to kill before catching the 10.45 pm Brittany Lines ferry to Caen.  Got to the Historic Dockland at about 10.30 and started by going on a boat tour of the harbour. There were lots of navy ships in harbour and the tour included a description of the class, size, speed, armaments, etc  of each of them.

Then, back on shore, we went to the Mary Rose Museum which was quite a disappointment. It isn’t a museum at all but a school kid oriented description of the Mary Rose story – it’s construction, role, sinking, finding and recovery. All the relics discovered with the wreck are currently being installed in the new museum and wreck display complex that will open in late 2012.

HMS Victory was very impressive. Built in 1759 it served until 1812. All six decks are open to the public and the ship is furnished and equipped as it was when Nelson died on-board at the Battle of Trafalgar. In adjacent buildings, which themselves date back 250 years, there are collections of items relating to Nelson himself and displays about the nature of naval warfare at that time. In one of the big wharehouses is the original fore top-sail of the Victory with 94 cannon ball and shot holes and a large tear. It is the largest piece of fabric from that era in the world.

Next a visit to HMS Warrior which, though very historic, being the largest, most powerful and fastest warship in the world when it was built in 1860, just didn’t have the character and feel of the timber built Victory. It was built to counter French developments in naval shipbuilding was itself soon obsolete and served for only 22 years.

By 4.40 the complex was closing for the day and the weather had turned to drizzle so we headed for the ferry terminal where couldn’t find anywhere to park without a risk of the bike being clamped so we went to a nearby pub the Ship and Castle where I’m writing this with the assistance of a pint of Seafarers Ale. The pub is full of people waiting for ferries, half of them on bikes heading for the MotoGP. Had a long chat with the family sat next to us who are sponsors of James Ellison.

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