Europe 1999 ???????????

Welcome to the English seaside

Today we explored various towns along the south coast of England. First my grandparents dropped us in Arundel, most famous for either its very impressive castle, or for being the headquarters of the Body Shop – depending on who you ask. Or is that Littlehampton?

We didn’t go into the castle (little kids and the interior of historic homes don’t, as a rule, mix), but we did wander around the town for a little while, judging the picturesque rating to be around about 8 and a half, despite the drizzle. We found the station, picturesque rating 2, and caught a train west along the coast, to the end of the line at Portsmouth Harbour.

HMS Victory, Portsmouth, England
Ancient, but armed to the teeth: HMS Victory at Portsmouth Harbour.

There is a maritime museum at the Harbour, but you can walk around most of it at no charge – only the exhibits cost money*. But you do have to go through a Royal Navy checkpoint first, where they make sure you’re not a terrorist. Portsmouth is also a military base, and it’s probably not a good idea to go wandering out of the area open to visitors.

*I wasn’t trying to be cheap, but I try wherever possible not to spend money to get into museums or other attractions that the kids are going to be completely mindnumblingly bored in.

One of Her Maj’s older ships, HMS Victory is on display on one of the docks. It looks most impressive, armed to the teeth with three levels cannons on each side. You get the feeling looking at it that if every cannon went off at once the whole boat would keel over.

Outside the harbour we found a pub that looked like it had a thoroughly decent lunch menu – and it did. So we stuffed ourselves full of food and ale (well okay, not so much ale for the kids) before staggering back to the station, and caught a train back into Portsmouth proper, the town centre, for more wandering around and in and out of shops, of which there were many.

Back on the train, which by this point was like most public transport is at around 4pm the world over: crowded with noisy schoolkids heading home. We got off at Barnham to change to the Bognor Regis train, but had a quick look at the town first. A quick look was all that was needed – there was hardly anything there. A convenience store and that was about it, apart from the station. So after buying some snacks we headed to Bognor, this time not too late to look around the shops there.

My notes of this day are a bit vague, so I don’t even recall what we had for dinner. Not that you probably care. Suffice to say that after a bus ride (for which I bought the tickets with no problems this time) we ended up at my grandparents’ house again.

Just after dark we took a quick walk onto the beach. The tide was out, and on the sands it was dark, it was very cold, and it was windy. Welcome to the English seaside. But by golly, for some reason it was very atmospheric. It’s times like that when the senses are shocked enough to make sure you’re paying attention to your surroundings, that you fully appreciate where you are.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.