11.10.2010 25 °C
Cunard's new luxurious cruise liner, Queen Elizabeth, is not a leviathan by today's standards. Only 2098 passengers will take the maiden voyage from Southampton this week, once Her Majesty has smashed a bottle of overpriced plonk across the bow. But it takes more than a bit of luck and a fat wallet to get dinner on this ship - you'll also need a very fancy wardrobe, a splashy hairdo and the family jewels.
Southampton has for centuries been the epicenter of maritime England and it was the port from which James set sail as a young chef aboard another Cunard liner more than forty years ago. But Southampton has been the embarkation point for much more celebrated sailors than James. Here we are standing at the very spot where the Pilgrim fathers set sail for America in 1620...
Oh-Oh! Did you think that the Pilgrim fathers sailed from Plymouth? Many people do. But, that's not true. The Mayflower and another ship, the Speedwell, set off from Southampton for America, and this monument commemorates the history making event. However, the Speedwell started to sink before she left the English Channel at Land's End. Both ships sailed back to Plymouth harbour, where the all the passengers were transferred to the Mayflower, and the celebrated ship sailed across the Atlantic alone ... that's one in the eye for Plymouth. And here's another...
Yes ... When Sir Francis Drake decided to play a few ends of bowls on Plymouth Hoe while the entire Spanish Armada was gathering to attack in 1588, he thought he looked very cool and dead modern. But the good citizens of Southampton had been playing on this lawn for more than 300 years.
Sorry Plymouth - Southampton beat you again. And Southampton had another great historical first - the Titanic sailed from here. (But they don't boast about that).
Happy Thanksgiving to all our Canadian friends.