So I wasn't sure how much enjoyment I'd get from walking around old ships all day, but I actually quite enjoyed myself. My sister dropped us off by our favourite shopping area, where we grabbed some hot drinks and donuts from the Krispy Kreme kiosk (oh, how I wish we had KK here at home!) then we walked over to the Historic Dockyards.
We didn't have any issues getting our tickets - I showed the photo of the confirmation and we were good to go. Our first stop was the HMS Warrior - which we probably spent about a 45 min wandering around. There were many levels to explore and was much bigger inside than I thought...it was set up with how it looked back then - including sleeping and eating quarters, storage, galley - and the surgery where you could see the tools used on injured sailors and read some of the stomach churning stories of injuries. Ugh. It's beautifully maintained and I really enjoyed it (more than I thought I would).
Here is a quote about the Warrior from the dockyards website...
<i>"A tour of HMS Warrior 1860 will give you a clear indication of why the warship earned its formidable reputation. She was built to protect the nation’s supremacy at sea following the launch of the iron-clad warship La Gloire by the French in 1859. The Royal Navy was determined to design a ship that would be regarded as invincible, and would deter France. She would have speed, armament and size on her side – in fact, when she was built she was 60% larger than La Gloire.</i><i>It’s ironic that having become the ultimate deterrent against attack, HMS Warrior’s life as a warship was short-lived. She was soon replaced by faster designs, with bigger guns and even thicker armour, and in 1871 was downgraded to coastguard and reserve services.</i><i>A few years later, it was decided that her rotten fore and main masts were not worth the cost of repair, and HMS Warrior was placed in the reserve. She was put up for sale as scrap in 1924, but no buyer could be found, and five years later she was converted into a floating oil pontoon at Pembroke Dock. When the oil depot closed in 1978, HMS Warrior was passed on to the Maritime Trust and was towed 800 miles to Hartlepool where the world’s largest maritime restoration project ever undertaken began."
When you come off the Warrior, you are right near the spot where hourly boat tours of the harbour depart - and we actually were there just as the boat was coming back in, so we decided since it was only a few minutes wait - to do that next. The tour goes past the docks where you can see old and new Navy ships (including one poor Canadian one - from our home province of Nova Scotia - that ran into trouble on the sea and was in for repairs - the sailors were having a bbq on deck!), then around as they give you some history of the area. I make it sound a lot less interesting than it was. We actually enjoyed being able to sit and relax. The tour lasted 45 min and made two stops - one closer to the Gunwharf Quays shopping area, then back to where we started.
After the harbour tour, we went into a building that had some different food options and some shopping. I'm not sure why we didn't grab a bite then - some of it looked really good - and when we came back a few hours later when hunger really kicked in, it was closing up for the day.
Next was the HMS Victory which we didn't spend as long on - again - it was nicely set up inside showing how life would have been on the ships back when they were war ships. The Victory dates to 1759 (the Warrior dates to 1859) and is the ship that Lord Nelson died on at the Battle of Trafalgar. Let me quote from the website (<a href="http://www.historicdockyard.co.uk/site-attractions" target="_blank">http://www.historicdockyard.co.uk/site-attractions</a>... <i>"The death of Nelson onboard HMS Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar is an iconic moment in world history and 400,000 people visit the warship each year to see spot on the quarter deck where Nelson fell, which is marked by a brass plaque. Victory suffered the highest casualties of the British ships at Trafalgar, 51 of the servicemen onboard were killed, 11 died of their wounds and 91 were wounded and survived.</i><i>HMS Victory was permanently saved for posterity in 1922 following a national appeal, and placed into dry dock at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard where she remains today. Visitors to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard can now trace the development of Britain’s technical maritime advancements. Maintaining a ship like Victory out of water presents huge challenges, but you can be sure that Victory will never lose her original charm and appeal."</i>
There - they said it much better.
Next was The Mary Rose - most likely my favourite part of the whole visit. Again, I was prepared to be underwhelmed, but the vast collection of artifacts from the sunken ship and the stories was fascinating. If it weren't for hunger, I think I would have spent much longer touring the site. As it was, we spent at least an hour in this lovely museum. And to see the parts of the ship in the drying out stage was fascinating - I can def see returning someday when the ship is fully on display (it was still in the process of being dried out/preserved so was behind a wall with glass windows to look in on it.). I would highly recommend this to anyone - even if you don't have much of an interest in nautical history - the artifacts alone were very interesting...from the website...<i>"The Mary Rose is the only 16th century warship on display anywhere in the world. The purpose-built award-winning museum reunites her with many of her artefacts and crew, capturing the moment in time when she sank over 470 years ago.</i><i>Step back in time and explore Henry VIII’s favourite warship – raised from the depths of the Solent and painstakingly conserved for future generations. The story of the Mary Rose is one of the most fascinating in naval history. A tale of battles fought against the French for over 30 years before sinking off the coast of Portsmouth in 1545. It’s an account of her being raised from the seabed more than 470 years later and of her meticulous conservation.</i><i>The ship captured the world’s imagination when she was raised from the Solent in 1982. Her dramatic story is now revealed in full inside the purpose-built, award-winning £27million Museum, which opened its doors to visitors in May 2013.</i><i>Inside the museum the starboard half of the ship is housed in a ‘hot box’, enabling it to dry out gently over the next few years. The impressive hull is truly captivating and can be viewed on three levels through viewing windows.</i><i>In addition to the ship, the collection of artefacts is just as impressive. There are many thousands on display, including personal belongings such as wooden bowls, leather shoes, musical instruments and nit combs, and many of the ship’s weapons, from longbows to two-tonne guns. The museum offers a unique insight into the life of crew members too, with forensic science used to bring the story of the Mary Rose and her crew to life."
So by now, hunger was kicking in..as I mentioned above, we waited to long to get food from the food court area. There were actually a few more sites at the dockyards that may have been interesting (submarine museum, museum of the Royal Navy) but our stomachs wouldn't wait. I think in all we spent 4-5 hours. We went over by the Gunwharf shops but didn't really see anywhere to grab something fast and cheap, so we headed over to the downtown area (which we know well from previous trips) and went into Subway. So fortified, it was time to do a little (food) shopping. We hit our favourite shop - Thorntons - and stocked up on fudge (the BEST!) and some chocolate. The we hit Cadbury's outlet shop (our 2nd fav shop) and loaded up on great buys on chocolate - 5 pack of Fry's mint choc back for one GBP! Five pack of Cadbury Flake bars for one GBP - sign me up! We weren't sure how we were going to bring this stuff home, but we couldn't pass up those buys. We also went into WH Smith bookstore - and can I say that the UK has the best magazines ever - their craft magazines are all packaged with extras - I got a stamping magazine with a gorgeous huge set of acrylic Christmas stamps - I'm sure the set alone would sell for more than the cost of the magazine (the year before I got a mag with a set of Bo Bunny stamps and a 6x6 pad of matching paper - it sold for more here at home).
So our hands full of our shopping finds, we walked back to my sister's home (about a 25-30 min walk - but it felt longer). Ate a few Flake bars on the way, stopped in a little convenience store to pick up some snacks (pop, chips and some juice for the morning) then went back to try and figure out how to repack our suitcases...
We also thought perhaps we'd go out for a meal but it turned out my sister already ate. So not sure what else to do, she suggested a take out place. They thought it was about a 5 minute walk, but it was more like 10. But we did find it and checked out the extensive menu. They offered everything from fish to chicken to Chinese food and burgers. I ordered a piece of fish and chips and hubby got chicken breast. For some reason, hubby ordered extra fries. Well. My piece of fish was enough to feed three people, and the extra French fries, on top of the huge amount I got with my fish...was probably equivalent to another bag of French fries. Wayyyyy too many. At least we foisted some onto my nephew. So they didn't all go to waste...and their cat got some of my fish. We were able to get a carry on bag from my sister and we reorganized our stuff some to make our train journey to London a little easier the next morning.