We arrived in London and were met at the airport by our generous friends Sue and Martin (S&M). We spent a few days with them in Hampton, the town closest to Henry’s VIII’s Hampton Court Palace, where their canal boat Robin is moored. It was great to see S&M’s friends Chris and Patti again. We visited them on their boat Queenie which is moored in Maidenhead for the winter. Both boats are scheduled to start touring the rivers and canals of England in the next couple of weeks. We also met Martin’s Dad Robin (yes, the same as the boat) at his home in Lightwater and listened in while their two favorite football teams (Reading and Southampton) battled it out for a ‘top 2’ finishing place, which would guarantee one of them a spot in the Premier League next year.
After stowing our gear and provisioning the S&M Motel at Sainsbury’s, a ‘pound’ and ’99p’ shop, and a couple of charity shops, I got my first experience with driving on the left side of the road. Most of Europe drives on the right side (the same side of the road as Canada and the United States), so on our previous trip the only challenge was that the steering wheel of our British car (ironically made in France) is on the right side, so it felt like I was hanging out over the ditch most of the time on the narrow European roads. At least driving in England the steering wheel is on the right side of the car (literally and figuratively) for the roads.
We drove down to Chandler’s Ford, home of Patrick’s relatives Peter and Gill, about an hour south of London. It was great to see them again (our third time there since 2009), even though it was a short visit. We had dinner with their daughter Julie and her son Olie (not sure about the spelling of his name. Sorry if I got it wrong.) We also picked up the camping guide books that we ordered online and had delivered to Chandler’s Ford. These should making finding campgrounds and parking places much easier this trip. Next time we look forward to staying for a longer visit.
Chandler’s Ford is on the outskirts of Southampton, the departure point of the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. On April 16th, 100 years plus a day from the night that the Titanic sank, we visited the brand new Sea City Museum which just opened there that week. It tells the Titanic story focusing on Southampton and its 500 residents that died onboard that fateful night. It also has an exhibit on the seafaring history of Southampton, and a special exhibit on The Titanic Legend. This special temporary exhibit is about the culture surrounding the titanic disaster (movies, souvenirs, etc.), the conspiracy theories regarding its sinking, and the ongoing controversy regarding the salvaging of its wreckage.
We also visited Sue’s father Tom in Deal, a small town located conveniently close to Dover, the departure point for the ferry to Calais, France. Tom is a very spry 86 years old, and introduced us to his girlfriend Caroline. Tom spent a life time climbing in the UK and Europe, including many famous peaks like the Matterhorn and the Eiger. Some of these he climbed 40 to 50 years ago, without the advantage of modern climbing equipment like climbing harnesses, nylon ropes, ice tools, and Gortex. Even more impressive, he is still climbing today (at 86!) He was recently highlighted in his local newspaper along with a picture showing him climbing in Egypt (along with daughter Sue and son-in-law Martin). Tom showed me his book shelf full of climbing guide books for all over Europe, some of which are probably collector’s items by now. I hope that my climbing career is half as successful as Tom’s.
It was terrific to visit with family and friends in England and to make some new ones. On a rainy, windy morning we caught the P&O Ferry in Dover and, despite the waves and white caps, headed across the channel toward France…