In its early days as a port Southampton would have been at least semi-fortified, especially as its main import was wine from the continent. It's first recorded castle was that built by the Normans, around 1150. This was originally a simple motte and bailey affair - a sronghold built on top of a raised mound - which became a major stone-built fortress as part of the city walls complex following the French looting of the town (during which they made off with the contents of the King's wine vaults) in the early part of the 100 Years War.
By 1600 AD the town's importance as a port had waned, the castle became unused and fell into disrepair and was eventually sold off by James 1st in 1613. It was never used again as a castle and in the 1960's became the site for the City Council's "Castle House" apartment block.
Some of the castle's walls and towers are still standing, in various states of repair, as are the main castle gate and it's water gate. These make for an interesting part of the city walls tour.
First Pass By The QE2
As our small boat cruised by the QE2 , I juggled both the still camera and video camera trying to capture as many good shots as I could. I knew we would be passing by the ship again later, but from the other side of the harbor. On this first pass, it was difficult to get the entire ship into the camera frame - she's just too long at 963 feet.
SOUTHAMPTON, HANTS., ENGLAND
Southampton is Britain's leading ocean-passenger port and home of many of the world's greatest passenger ships, including Britain's flagship - the Queen Elizabeth 2 ( QE2 ). Americans may remember that the Mayflower sailed from here in 1620 and, of course, the Titanic departed from Southampton on her ill-fated maiden voyage in 1912.
Many visitors, however, know little about Southampton's span of centuries; the city's museums, classic old-town area, and beautifully preserved medieval town walls help reveal this rich and fascinating history.
When I found out that the QE2 would be in Southampton on one of her final transatlantic voyages during the time I planned to be in England, I knew I had to visit.
We bought train tickets and left Victoria Station just before 6:00 in the morning; changing trains once at Clapham Junction, we arrived at Southampton just 75 minutes later. Although free busses are available to transport you from Central Station to the city center and the docks, we chose to walk as it was a very pleasant morning.
Soon we began to get hungry and my travel companion spotted a Burger King; it seemed to be the only place open since it was still very early in the morning on a Bank Holiday. However, I insisted that we keep searching for something a bit more traditionally British. It wasn't long before we found a restaurant in the Star Hotel (see my separate "restaurant tip") on High Street. We had a wonderful buffet breakfast. Much later (after arriving home in America), I discovered some of the rich history of this hotel: a house had been on the site since medieval times and it became an inn around 1601; Benjamin Franklin stayed at the hotel for three days in 1785 and in 1831 the Duchess of Kent and then Princess Victoria visited (the Victoria Room Restaurant commemorates that visit). More recently, in 1912, the hotel manager's son was among the survivors of the Titanic tragedy. It still amazes me that we randomly selected a place to eat that had such history to it!
That breakfast set the tone for the rest of our day in Southampton; we saw ancient Roman vaults, the medieval city walls, bombed-out churches, and many reminders of the city's long maritime heritage - including several memorials to the Titanic .
Seeing the QE2 (sailing around the great liner on a very small motor-boat) was just one of the highlights of this fascinationg city. I hope to visit again someday, and spend more time exploring Southampton.