Yesterday, we took the train down through rolling hills of green to the protected coastline of Southampton to see S.T. and wander around the city. Enormous cruise ships, like mobile skyscrapers, turned ponderously in the Solent, family waving to family from boat to shoreline. We walked the ruins of the medieval walls and read the plaque on the monument raised to the memory of a ship's steward who went down with the boat in the process of saving everyone else aboard. The city's history is molded by the sea, as a trading port whose international vibrancy peaked in the late thirteenth century, and now as a ferry port to the Isle of Wight and cruise ships to points further away.
It was founded as the port city for Winchester, back when Winchester was capital of Wessex and England. The Mayflower, that emblematic ship, set sail from Southampton. ("The Pilgrim Fathers came through Westgate to the docks to set sail.") A park there commemorates it. A pub bears the circumlocution, "Near this spot, Canute reproved his courtiers."
In the evening, we ate at Namaste Kerala near the Guildhall. Deep-fried plaintain with pineapple chutney was wonderful. The curd rice tasted like popcorn smells, both addictively good. My sambar was unexpectedly spicy for something advertised as mild, and kills much of my ability to discern the nuances of the others' dishes. The lassi, however, was a good one, and helped a great deal.
Thames: from Pimlico to Kew
Thanks to easterbunny's energetic organizational skills, I met up with her, realtan_dannan, and haggisthesecond for Thameswalk from Pimlico to Kew. The distance was twelve miles in theory, but we figured it was more like thirteen after all of the enormous diversions around construction sites. Indeed, the walk started inauspiciously, with a closed section of Thameside path.
We crossed over to the south bank after the Battersea power station, and did the rest of the walk on that side. Industrial sites blocked off parts of the Thames. Large apartment block construction blocked off more. The advertisement panels on one promises us a life of café culture with dalmation-made coats and dour people with sunglasses if we moved in. One plaque commemorating the sinking of a houseboat. Below the same bridge, moorhens seemed to be engaged in a rescue mission, adding hastily to their nest, their eggs submerged below the water. We debated whether or not the building on the river's other side was Fulham Palace or not. A sign outside a pub warmed of the dangers of parking near there: fast rising tide.
At Putney, for the first time in miles, we ran across restaurants and a pub along the river, and stopped for a late lunch. There were miles of parkland after Putney, branches arching in lazy curves over the towpath. Bicyclists and runners passed us. The misting rain cleared in the late afternoon, and the odd beam of sun untangled itself from the ambient cloud. Garden allotments abutted the path, then manucured lawns, before the trees enfolded us again.
The tide was the strangest part of the walk. It was so very low. Acres of muddy sand edges the flow of the Thames, boats atilt on both banks, far below us. The tide was so low, in fact, that the last boat from Kew left an hour earlier than scheduled, and so we missed it entirely. A cruise would have been a lovely finish to the day, but the trains could at least get us all home again. Now, rings of discomfort surround my ankles, but my feet feel fine; I need new hiking books.