Arriving in Southampton with a friend on the Queen Mary 2 (trip report to come on the cruise forum), I had made a decision against the advice of wise Fodorites to stay in the town for 5 days, using a reasonably-priced guest house in the Polygon area of the city as a base to visit localities (Isle of Wight, Bath, Winchester, Salisbury) in the nearby vicinity for day-trips.
*Thoughts on Southampton itself*
The first day, our plan was to settle in our B&B and explore the immediate vicinity...the town of Southampton itself. We'd decided that we were going to be cheap once we got off the Queen Mary 2 and catch the free bus that ran from the Town Quay up to Southampton's Central (train) Station, which looked quite close to our Guest House on the map. Be warned that it's a bit confusing to leave the QM2 dock area to get to the CitiLink bus stop (not marked, maybe a 10-minute walk?), and that the bus might be crowded (as it was for us); we managed nevertheless.
OK, first I should write a few words to show that the advice I received on Fodor's on Southampton would have been well appreciated by... my friend. He, a bit more experienced UK traveller than myself, decided quite early on that he didn't care for Southampton one bit, finding much of the citizenry too low-class for his taste, the high street ho-hum, the medieval remnants dismissable, the city a bit too quiet for his liking, etc, etc... I think he was only happy with the location as a base and the fact that we were paying 45 pound a night (of which he paid 22 pound 50).
I, on the other hand, had come in with such low expectations that I was actually pleasantly surprised! I thought the city had some nice parks with some statuary, planned gardens and flower arcades (someone's making an attempt to make things pleasant!), the city had more of a vibrant street-life than I was expecting (on the High Street, on Oxford Street, people seemed to be out enjoying the parks) and I quite enjoyed walking around the Medieval City Walls (one could not help but be moved thinking how impressive it must once have looked), visiting the Medieval Merchant's House and most of all, going to the God's House Museum detailing the history of Southampton from Roman times (when it was known as Clausentum) through Saxon times (called Hamwic then) and later Medieval times. There were plenty of amenities (restaurants, pharmacies, etc...) within easy walking distance, which is something one can't always get in North America. The best meal I think I've had in the UK was our first night at the White Star pub on Oxford Street in downtown S'hampton. Sure, there were soulless, generic shopping areas (Asda, etc...), a few sketchy-looking folk walking about here and there, but overall I was glad I decided to stay there for my initial exploration of the region due to the great connections to Isle of Wight and via the train station, although suspect were I to go back, I'd probably opt for Winchester as a Hampshire base were I to revisit the region, just for the charm factor.
*Winchester, Salisbury, Bath, Isle of Wight to come....*
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