Today was a long, hard, tiring day for us, made worse by my still being ill with bronchitis. The ship arrived back in Trieste and we were assigned to the first disembarkation group because we had an early ride booked to the Venice airport. We went through the disembarkation gauntlet of people but when we finally arrived inside the terminal (just before the final exit door) I came to the panicked realization that I did not have my cellphone. I knew immediately what had happened. I laid it down on the bench beside me while waiting for our group to be called. When they called our number, I jumped up leaving my phone behind. I guess I will blame it on not thinking clearly due to being sick. While Bill waited on the sidewalk with the luggage, I tried to get back on the ship, fighting my way across the tide of people going the opposite direction. Security is always very tight getting on and off the ship so I had to convince three security officers to let me back onboard. I raced to where I knew I left it and it wasn’t there. My heart sank. I asked where Lost and Found was located. Guest Services, deck 5. Once again I was going against the tide, with people rushing down the stairs and me up the stairs. As always there was a long line at Guest Services. I was in panic mode because I knew our reserved ride to the airport would be leaving soon. When my turn finally came the lady checked the computer and sure enough a black phone had been found. She casually sauntered over to a drawer and retrieved it. Yes, I said, it is my phone. I had to prove it was mine by typing in the security password. Just when I thought I could go on my way, no. Paperwork had to filled out. Always paperwork. Shifting impatiently from one foot to another, finally the paperwork was signed and I rushed away. When I reached Bill, our four dinner companions were there with him, concerned about my phone and wanting to tell us goodbye. How sweet is that! They were all headed to Venice for several days before returning home.
We then discovered our reserved shuttle wasn’t going to pick us up at the port. Instead we had to take a taxi to a parking lot in Trieste where we would be picked up. We were concerned when we reached the parking lot and no shuttle bus was there. Even the taxi driver seemed concerned about leaving us there. After several minutes Bill received a text message from the driver that he was running late. Eventually he arrived and we were on our way to the Venice airport, a ninety minute drive.
Thankfully our flight from Venice to Gatwick airport in the United Kingdom was uneventful. When we arrived at Gatwick we went through passport control, collected our luggage and then figured out how to get to the railway station located at the airport. After buying the tickets we caught the train to Basingstoke, with one train change on the way. Due to a tight connection we missed our connecting train but another one soon arrived. Both trains were crowded and the entire trip took about two hours. We arrived in Basingstoke just before 7:00 P.M. and walked from the train station to our hotel. After stopping at an express market for bottled water, we finally arrived at our hotel around 7:30. We had been going nonstop since before 6:00 AM that morning. and changed one time zone
We chose Basingstoke, pop 186,000, for this five day stay because it was centrally located and a convenient home base to explore the UK. But we quickly realized that even though we had the will and desire to explore, our bodies were shutting down and had other ideas. After almost six weeks of traveling, we desperately needed some time for rest and relaxation. We had a nice apartment with a kitchen and washer/dryer so after getting groceries, we took it easy for the next several days. Located within an easy walk were places to eat and a beautiful, huge mall. We had a short list of things we needed at this point in our trip, and we easily found everything. We discovered they have a store in the UK called Poundland, which is just like our Dollar Tree. They call theirs Poundland because a pound in the UK is like our dollar.
Basingstoke claims to be the birthplace of author Jane Austen. They have a sign proclaiming it as her birthplace and a statue of Austen as a young girl is located in front of their history museum. However all the research I found says that Austen was born in the nearby village of Steventon and often visited Basingstoke as a child.
St Michael’s was a beautiful church located just down the street from our apartment. We admired it everytime we walked by. It was built in the 16th century of stone and glint. Sadly time passed quickly and we never had a chance to go inside.
We had a nice meal at a Thai restaurant where Bill enjoyed some of his favorite Thai foods.
Our time in Basingstoke passed quickly. We were disappointed we didn’t get to see more of England, but our bodies had other ideas and we feel certain we will be back someday soon.
On Thursday, June 1st we walked from the apartment back to the train station and took a train to Southampton. This journey was only 30 minutes and once again the train was very crowded. We walked from the train station to our very small apartment. This apartment was tiny, cramped and on a very busy, noisy street. It was disappointing small but only for two nights.
Southampton is a port city of over 255,000, making it one of the most populous cities in southern England. The Titanic left Southampton on her fateful voyage and 500 of the people who died were from here. On August 20, 1620 the Pilgrims left Southampton on their voyage to a new life in America. Did you know there were two ships, the Mayflower and the Speedwell? They both left Southampton but after the Speedwell began leaking badly they stopped in Plymouth for repairs. The Speedwell was declared unfit to continue so some people dropped out and only the Mayflower continued on from Plymouth.
Around Southampton are the remains of defensive structures built around the town in the tenth century to defend its prosperous trading center. In 1338 it was raided by French forces and the walls were extended and reinforced, eventually fully enclosing the city with a 1.25 mile long stone wall with 29 towers and eight gates. By the 17th century the wall’s importance declined and they were slowly demolished through the 18th and 19th centuries. Like many things from the past, in the early 20th century their historical importance was recognized and steps were taken to preserve what was left.
Some thoughts on the UK:
At this point we have spent time in Austria, Slovenia, Italy and the UK. We can honestly say that the British are by far the nicest. Always friendly, kind, considerate and helpful, they are eager to please. If they see you need help, they step right up. If you look confused or uncertain, they stop and ask if you need assistance. At the train station the elevator was not working and railway workers stepped right up to carry our bags up or down the steep flights of stairs. Cannot say enough good things about everyone we met.
On the downside, prices are higher than we expected. We talked with some locals and they say the economy is very bad which is why they are having rail strikes throughout the country. (We were very fortunate in that the two days we had to ride the train, there were no strikes on those days.) The locals also said a combination of Brexit and effects of the pandemic have really hurt the economy and people.
Another thing that was surprising and sad was the number of homeless people living on the streets, particularly in Southampton. We saw very little of this in Austria, Italy or Slovenia.
On June 3rd we caught an Uber from our apartment to the cruise terminal. Our next adventure awaits, so stay tuned!
Next up: A cruise to cold places!