Sunday, July 10, 2011
I had heard various things about Southampton, and I knew that English friends and acquaintances did not tend to give it glowing reviews. It was badly damaged during WWII, so I thought perhaps it would be a modern, somewhat industrial, city, not likely to win a UK city beauty contest. I'm afraid it still did not make the best first impression, because we were dismayed to see that while the Medieval gate survived, the city streets were covered in garbage. We were relieved when we learned that there was a simple explanation; they were entering their fifth week of a rubbish strike. I know what Toronto looked like during our garbage strike and it wasn't pretty. Though the High Street was a pedestrianized area with all the large chain stores, filled with people, including one drunken punk pushing another 20-something in a pram. The second stroller-punk sighting of the summer did make it appear a bit economically depressed.
We spent two days in Southampton. I was kept quite busy with work. Then we hired a car and RJH picked me up and we drove directly to Stonehenge. Driving on the other side of the road is always a challenge, but poor RJH was really not well. He had rented a stick shift so he got stuck with all the driving (I rarely drive, and haven't driven a stick shift since I was 17, so it seemed like the sanest plan). So, I was designated navigator - which was also a challenge due to the difficulty of purchasing a map! We were flabbergasted, but he couldn't get a map at the car rental place, at any gas station he visited or at two bookstores. He finally found a Road Atlas for Great Britain, but it was a) expensive and b) the size of an encyclopedia. So, we made it to Stonehenge based on hand-written instructions (of the 'take the 2nd exit off the 2nd roundabout up the hill' ilk). Then we were mercifully able to get a map for Wiltshire.