I arrived in Southampton by train, as many of the passengers on the Titanic would have. I couldn’t arrive just as they did as the tracks that lead to the South Western House hotel and then on to the docks weren’t really an option for my train. No matter, the hotel is no longer a hotel, but is now luxury apartments, and the train station that used to be adjacent to it is now just a nicely covered car park.
My first evening in Southampton was not a glamorous or heartening one. I arrived in the early evening and walked up to my hotel, passing many shut up/for rent/somewhat decrepit homes. Not the best first impression a town could make. The hotel was nice enough, attached to a bar staffed by some lovely young ladies who valiantly attempted to help me with my malfunctioning radiator (we had no success, but they provided me with enough empty blankets to get lost in). Anyhow, I arrived at the hostel thoroughly disheartened, and rather wishing I hadn’t made a full day and night of a trip to Southampton. So I elected to return to London after my Southampton walking tour in order to enjoy my final evening of vacation.
The following morning I got up bright and early for my walking tour. I found the tour online, and it was a well-guided, fact-filled, and conveniently condensed (location wise). I began by making my way back down to the harbor, walking through old Southampton and starting about half way through the tour at The Platform Tavern. I saw the Admirality House next, and then attempted to see the berth where the Titanic set sail. I was stopped by a very grouchy security guard who informed me I was not allowed to because I did not have a legitimate reason to do so (coming all the way from Canada to see something doesn’t count, apparently), and then turned around and let two people through because they had parked their car nearby. I was allowed to look at a tiny commemorative plaque and stare at a piece of blue sky that might have held the Titanic some 100 years earlier. I was really rather disappointed.
The remainder of the tour was no more thrilling. I was happy to see the old White Star Line headquarters and the various hotels where many of the guests stayed, but almost everything was either privatized, closed, or shut up and vacant, so not only was the entire tour somewhat depressing, but I couldn’t even go in and see anything. All of my other Titanic-related destinations were proud of their Titanic connections, but in Southampton I felt like I was just bothering everyone by being there. I left Southampton rather disappointed and caught the train back to London shortly after noon.
My final evening in London convinced me that I have to go back and spend some proper time there. Such an amazing city simply cannot be experienced in a few short days. I simply cannot wait to return; I’m hoping to go back in May. We’ll see!