From Amsterdam we sailed to Southampton, where we planned to spend the day with our friends-from-France Miranda and Mike. Although they’re English, they didn’t know Southampton at all, and now we know why – there’s not a lot to know.
A bit of it looks like this, but a lot more of it
looks like this. The city did get bombed quite a bit during WWII, so perhaps that’s why it’s not pretty. There’s a very tiny “old” section, but it’s not too old, and not too big.
They do have Internet-equipped phone booths, and KFCs, but we were really glad that we had our old friends to meet and catch up with, as they singlehandedly
saved the day from “least favored cruise port” status.
Then it was on to Plymouth, where a great portion of the old town and its harbor are devoted to the fact that the Mayflower sailed out of there nearly 400 years ago. Like all Americans, I suppose, we felt half-obligated, half-inspired to make our own little pilgrimage to the Pilgrims’ memorial.
Today, if you sail out of that same harbor, the view is quite different from the one they saw.
Looking back at Plymouth for a last glimpse of all that was familiar, before setting off into the unknown, no Pilgrim could have imagined that the view would come to this.
Here’s a telling section of a lovely frieze that highlights their travails. Our own worst travail was remaining lunchless (if you’re ever in Plymouth avoid the Crown and Anchor like the plague) and really, in comparison to what our country’s distant ancestors went through, we shouldn’t have complained. Which is not to say that we didn’t complain anyway.
However! What’s the best thing to do on an empty stomach? If you guessed “drink gin” give yourself a star. The Plymouth gin distillery Connaisseur’s Tour led us through the history and manufacture of their ancient and unique gin, including lots of sniffing and tasting, and an absolute embargo on picture-taking, save this one shot. Sadly, in a blind tasting of five gins (Plymouth, Hendricks, Beefeater, Gordons, and Bombay Sapphire) no one in our group of 10 preferred the Plymouth. My theory is that the American palate is tuned to a spicier, more aromatic formula than the smooth, almost bland Plymouth style, but maybe it was just another way for North Americans to rebel against jolly old England. And speaking of rebellion, on to Dublin.