A Travellerspoint blog

October 2010

The Queen of the Seas

sunny 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.

Posted by Hawkson 12:53 Archived in England Comments (5)

The Cream of Jersey

sunny 19 °C

Jersey cow

Jersey cow

Thanks to this lovely gal and her lady friends we've been enjoying the rich cream and butter that made Jersey famous. Although the lush pastures of this quaint island nation are being rapidly swallowed by rampant development, you can still find 'quaint' in places; like this beautiful market hall in the capital, St. Helier ...

But, with a flat tax rate of just 20%, and only 3% GST, there's no shortage of 'foreigners' wanting to set up shop on this pretty, temperate isle close to the Normandy coast. It seems idyllic, just like its wide sandy beaches and craggy cliffs...
However, all is not rosy in this paradise. The stench of money is in the air here and if you dream of a little retirement pad on the beach - dream on. You'll need a minimum of 4 million bucks to buy a place, and at least another twenty million in the bank before the States of Jersey will even consider letting you stay. No wonder the place is full of sports celebrities and film stars. Seventy years ago, the Germans came, but Adolf's louts didn't bring cash; they brought guns - and they left them behind when they got their marchng orders in 1945. The island was turned into a concrete fortress by the Nazis and the massive fortifications are now a tourist attraction.

Today we visited the labyrinthine underground hospital tunneled by slave labourers into the heart of the island, and this is a range-finder for a giant coastal gun...

Jersey - a great place for a holiday - but bring plenty of cash.

Posted by Hawkson 07:55 Archived in Jersey Comments (1)

The Mysterious Affair at Melbury Court

A truly unbelievable true story

storm 15 °C

Melbury Place

Melbury Place

It was a dark and stormy night in deepest London..." (No...Really...It was).... when detective writer James explained his latest literary project to Caterina, his gracious host, in the elegant drawing room of her stately apartment overlooking a leafy Georgian square in Chelsea.
"I've penned many a mystery in my time," said James, turning from the rain slashing at the window, "But now I'm reduced to writing a biography of famous Canadian actor, Antony Holland."
"Oh! But I so enjoyed your mysteries," exclaimed a disappointed Caterina, pouring him a glass of Dom Perignon and sinking into the sofa beside him, "Surely there is a teensy intrique to whet my appetite."
"Alas," replied James, ignoring his host's pleading looks."I fear not ....unless?"
"Unless what...?"

And at that moment dear blog reader the events set in motion were so utterly improbable ... so totally unbelievable ...so completely bizarre ... that if James had actually written this in one of his novels no one would believe it. But, apart from changing names to protect the innocent, this is precisely what occurred:
James explained to our host that in 1941, during WW2, twenty-one year-old signalman Antony Holland of the British Army formed a theatre troupe in Egypt and produced a play at the Cairo Opera House - one of the world's greatest theatres of its day. All the performances were sold out with the profits going to a seviceman's charity founded by Lady Lampson, the Ambassador's wife. Lord and Lady Lampson, who later inherited the titles of Lord and Lady Killearn, attended one show a few days after the christening of their son, Victor, and congratulated Antony on his amazing performance in the leading role.
Jump forward nearly 70 years. We were packing for our trip when Antony handed James an original copy of the Cairo Gazette from December 1941, which carried a lengthy article about the christening of the Lampson's son in addition to two large adverts for Antony's play. Antony asked that if, while in England, we were able to track down Victor - now Baronet Lord Killearn - we could offer him the newspaper.
And, with a proverbial bolt of lightning, there was a revelation worthy of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple combined as our host said, "That's no problem. Lady Killearn lives right next door."
To cut an amazing story to blog length - we've now met several members of Lord Killearn's family, will soon be in touch with Victor, and are still flabbergasted at the unbelievably incredible coincidence; in a city of 8 million people, in a country of 60 million, we ended up in the very next apartment to Lady Killearn.
With this kind of luck we should buy lottery tickets!

Now, for the first competition of this trip:
Jim and  Mystery Celebrity

Jim and Mystery Celebrity

This is not Lady Killearn with Jim. This lady is much more famous.
Name this famous celebrity and you will win a gourmet dinner for two chez hawkson on our return from India.
The competition is now closed. Congratulations to Maxine and Janet for correctly identifying Phyllida Law, (Emma Thompson's mum).
and jointly winning 1st prize - see you in March.

Posted by Hawkson 10:52 Archived in England Comments (5)

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