Monday, 11 July 2011

Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower and HMS Victory

Just before I went off on my Wiltshire caravan jaunt (of which more in a series of posts to come), I went to Portsmouth with my friend R---. This is the city that is famous for being Britain's main Royal Navy Base. It has had this distinction for centuries. Not that I wish in any way to put down Devonport and other RN places around the coast. But think of the Royal Navy, and Fleet Reviews, and you think of Pompey. Rule Britannia, I say.

But our chief aim on this visit was to see Portsmouth's sky-scraping tourist attraction, the Spinnaker Tower. It's called that because from most directions it looks like a gigantic yacht mast with a billowing spinnaker sail attached...

...although from behind it looks like a rocket:

It's very tall, and once aloft via the fast but super-smooth lift, you get a jolly good view of Portsmouth, Gosport, Southsea and the nearby part of the Isle of Wight. And of all the boats moving to and fro all the time in the Harbour, such as the Island and Gosport ferries, and the boats in from St Malo or Cherbourg in France. You also get a bird's eye view of most of the RN Dockyard, and all the warships: perfect for spies!

There are three viewing levels: the main one is the lowest, even though it's at a scary height; the next up has a cafe; and there's the Crows Nest at the top. The main viewing level has a section of glass floor, and a lot of people seem to have trouble venturing out onto it, like this nervous father and daughter:

Well, the view straight down is a little bit vertiginous!

But I nonchalantly kicked off my sandals and stepped out onto the yawning void, fearing nothing:

It's odd how R--- has caught an expression on my face that suggests I was a wee bit concerned. But it was not so; I was really fully chilled and easy about the ghastly drop beneath me. I had of course already cut my teeth on the Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand, although to be fair, the 'glass floor' in the Sky Tower was a lot smaller than the one in in the Spinnaker Tower:

That was the old version of me, of course:

As you can see, much less chance of falling through if the glass suddenly gave way. On the other hand, you'd be expected to bungy off the top of the Sky Tower, something they didn't seem to offer at the Spinnaker Tower:

By the way, I must mention that R--- did a most unselfish thing. Soon after arriving at the top of the Tower, the battery in my Leica camera ran out of power, and I discovered to my horror and utter despair that I'd left the spare battery in my Prada handbag (I was using the Radley). R--- immediately offered her own Kodak camera. So most of the day's shots were taken by me on that, and I have to say that the Kodak did very well. Thank you, R---!

I remained super-cool about the height, at least with a thick plate-glass window between me and a horrible death. Here I am, taking tea, looking serene:

Hmmm...should I be eating cake with a tummy like Bibendum, alias the Michelin Tyre Man?

After the Tower, R--- and I wandered around the Gunwharf Quays shopping and entertainment area, then we headed off to the Dockyard, much of which constitutes the National Royal Navy Museum. It was getting late in the afternoon, so we didn't buy a ticket, and were surprised to find that, even without a ticket, you could walk all around Admiral Lord Nelson's flagship in the battle of Trafalgar, HMS Victory. Here are some shots (see my Flickr site for more - click on one of the links at the top right of this blog page):

The bottom shot is The Man himself.

It was a very good day out, and we rounded it off with an Indian meal in Storrington, on the way back. So I got even fatter.

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