Portsmouth: what’s the point?

Apart from it being the largest place in the UK I hadn’t visited up to this moment, why was I even here? Is there a point to Portsmouth?

Porstmouth Point sign

Well, I guess if you like boats it’s okay. On first impressions, the parts worth visiting have got harbour and dockyard written all over them; but what’s with the local sailor types dangling over the yardarms singing sea shanty’s?

Singing sailors

The word to keep at the forefront of your mind is ‘old’, as the aquatic warblers in the picture above are sailing into the harbour passed Old Portsmouth (where you will also see the aforementioned Portsmouth Point plaque). But, if you want a linguistic upgrade, this is definitely the place to try out ‘historic’.

The Historic Dockyards may well be the point of Portsmouth these days; catering to all manner of oldy boaty stuff. If you lament the loss of the British¬†Empire, (or simply want to indulge some Brexit style Euro hatred), then HMS Victory will transport your imagination back to times when good old Blighty ruled the waves (with balls to the French, and all that kind of malarkey)…

HMS Victory [10]

HMS Victory [8]

Then again, if your passion is for doing creative things with leftover damp pieces of wood from the times of Henry VIII, try out the stunning Mary Rose exhibition…

 

 

 

 

For those who flunked in their woodwork skills, but prefer a bit of heavy metal, HMS Warrior 1860 has you covered. There is nothing like seeing a steam driven warship that never fired a single shot in anger for bringing out the pacifist in you! Come to think of it, the macrame specialists amongst you may even get some inspiration regarding what to do with all that surplus rope you meant to throw over the garden wall under the cover of darkness…

Moored aptly just outside of the historic dockyard is a 21st century wonder… a brand new aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth, with not an aircraft in sight! A great hunk of gun grey metal sits quietly representing Britain’s threat to the world. Just you wait Johnny Foreigner, as soon as we get out of Europe we will scare the world into signing free trade deals with us; or else we will recall the glorious ghost of Lord Palmerston!

Once you have exhausted yourselves spending a day around the historic dockyard, Portsmouth is not short on Historic Dickyards either! Wonderfully inviting port-side pubs simply ooze character and charm… but beware, the charm usually stops at the facade, because if you like your characters drunk and falling backwards off bar stools at 9.30pm, then this is the place for you…

Ship Anson at night [1]

At night [3]

Those of you who have managed to remain transfixed so far by this travelogue may well have just seen a glimpse of the point of Portsmouth! Just about anywhere you go near the waterside, you can’t help but see the spiky pointy thing…

And the point of Portsmouth has even been known to have a little added spice, particularly for those interested in mutual tonsil polishing!

At night [1]

If you don’t mind a bit of elevation, the views from the top can even help you plan your itinerary…

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Until we speak again, this sea-faring extravaganza has just reminded me that the oldies are still good; for example, what is brown and steaming and comes out of the back end of Cowes? No, behave…

IOW Ferry sign

That’s the Isle of Wight ferry for the uninitiated.

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Assault by noodles!

Is it a cafe or is it a pub? Only one way to find out I guess…

The Ship & Castle in Portsmouth is a quirky place, to be sure. Situated directly opposite the main gate to the Historic Dockyard, you would expect something nautical and historical to inform its character and ambience, wouldn’t you? Well, you get something that is long and narrow, maybe that’s like a boat, I suppose? ¬†Then there is the rope tightly wound around the base of a couple of metal pillars… exponents of sailing paraphernalia may genuflect with respect…

Ship and Castle [5]

So, I decided I would go for the fish-like part of the menu, so I could at least pretend to myself that I was eating in the historic heart of nautical England.

Ship and Castle [4]

The Teriyaki Salmon and Roasted Vegetables were cooked to ensure scurvy would be far from any landlubbers mind. But, beware the crispy noodles! You can’t eat them whole, but when you try to cut them with traditional eating irons, they ping everywhere. The experience of being assaulted by your own food was not listed on the menu, but adds a worthy distraction from the watery thin Young’s London Gold liquid accompaniment.

Ship and Castle [3]

Until we speak again, there might well have been a backdrop of an old metal anchor outside the window, but look elsewhere if you want authentic nautical history infusing your your choice of vittles.

Home of the Black Cats

Black Cat House

Sunderland is a city with a claim to be first to return their count at just about any national vote. Indeed the shock Brexit vote of 23rd June 2016 can be claimed to have started here. A recent visit gave some insights into why they are quick with the count… as a tour of the city centre suggests there is little else to do than stay in doors and count votes! What the Luftwaffe started in the 1940’s the city planners completed in the 1960’s and 70’s.

The local people are informally known as ‘mackems’, one explanation emerging from their former shipbuilding tradition, whereby it is the Sunderland shipyards that ‘mackem’ (or make them); and the rival Newcastle shipyards that finish them off… ‘tackem’ (or take them). My recent visit to the city was perhaps summed up by a representation of this very name, but closed to business…

Machem Pizza

Even their strangely named football ground, the Stadium of Light was shrouded in darkness (though it wasn’t a match night).

Stadium of Light

However, all is not doom and gloom. If you have a spare couple of hours, that should be just about enough time, then get your Google maps out. A stop off at the Hilton Garden Inn, next door to the Stadium of Light offers a great steak and glass of Rioja.

Hilton Garden Inn [2]

Then take a stroll over the old iron bridge into the city centre…

Bridge [3]

Navigate your way passed the colourful Magistrates Court (Tip: don’t end up inside as a result of thinking you can vandalise or litter the place as a means of visually improving the city’s demeanour!)…

Somewhere within the tribute to grim concrete lies a couple of interesting pubs with good ale selections. If the local CAMRA reps are to be believed, then The Ship Isis is the best pub in the area. Test that claim for yourself, but I would certainly recommend a visit if you like a pint of Allendale Mosaic &/or Camerons Strong-arm in restored Victorian surroundings…

But if you want to experience the real deal, there is always the likes of an Anarchy Blonde Star waiting at the Dun Cow, next door to the Empire Theatre…

Dun Cow and empire Theatre

As I write it seems the local football team are hurtling towards relegation out of the Premier League. I can only muse that if the disgruntled of one Stadium of Light decided to smash up the town to vent their anger, it would take Sherlock Holmes like attention to detail to spot the difference.

Until we speak again, I am sure that Juno would advise no more than a couple of hours needed to sample all that Sunderland has to offer, and then quietly make your escape!

Plotting an escape

 

Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution

Forgive me the indulgence, but it was a quiet Monday night revisiting a good friend and an important place in my personal story. When you’ve been in Manchester at an important time in your life, I can assure you Manchester gets into you. Its history, its culture… come to think of it, Cardiff has a big lesson to learn, albeit far too late… that the places where people get together to share tall tales and fabulous ales don’t necessarily need to succumb to the persuasion of the bulldozer!

Tommy Ducks may have justifiably been buried under the foundations of the Bridgewater Hall, but Peveril of the Peak can still offer a good pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, amongst other fine beers, where Wilsons beers used to bring cheer.

peveril-of-the-peak-3

And while you’re in the vicinity The Britons Protection offers local north-west beers, before you jump on the tram in the background, though it prides itself on its whiskey collection…

the-britons-protection

Portland Street offers a couple of interesting, if small hostelries. The Grey Horse Inn is the first of my Hydes Anvil Ales recommendations…

grey-horse-inn

If you’re looking for something a little cramped try the Circus Tavern. Proudly declaring itself the smallest bar in Europe with the warmest welcome. It advertises Tetleys beers, not the first of stops that take you down memory lane to beers that no longer exist!

circus-tavern

Take a minor detour around to Charles Street, just off Oxford Road, and you must pay a visit to the famous Lass O’ Gowrie. Try not to be put off by the incursion of southern beer from Greene King, as this historic boozer also showcases local micro breweries.

lass-o-gowrie-1

And, talking about ‘paying a visit’, check out the sign on the side of the pub facing over the small adjoining canal. If you’ve been sampling the wares of each of the pubs so far you are certainly ready to ‘pay a visit’…

lass-o-gowrie-3

Just around the corner I’m reminded of a ‘back in the day’ moment, as I stumble across The Garratt on Princess Street. Strange what time does, it used to be ‘The Old Garratt‘ in my dim distant memory… somehow, as time passes by, the ‘Old’ gets dropped! It also used to be home to Boddingtons beers, another name that passes into the supping history memory banks.

the-garratt

Heading north on Princess Street towards the magnificent Manchester Town Hall (and taking a right and a left at the appropriate places) you are presented with three pubs in a row. You are now on Kennedy Street and I’ll spare you the agony of choice… go for the middle option, The City Arms. Amongst the local beers was the option of a Stoke-on-Trent import, but keep your eyes peeled for a Titanic Iceberg!

city-arms-kennedy-street

But if t’s a taste of history you want, why not join the lawyers and modern day industrialists in Mr Thomas’s Chop House on Cross Street? Food might be the order of the day here, but if you are looking for northern sourced liquids, Holts, Thwaites, Robinsons or Black Sheep beers might just quench your thirst…

mr-thomass-chop-house-1

 

The revolution has recently given rise to a Northern Quarter, so if you are in the vicinity of Oldham Street why not try the local brew of J.W. Lees at Gullivers

gullivers-oldham-street

Then you simply cross the road to grace the Castle Hotel, where the well-established Robinsons Ales from Stockport are now joined by a wider range in which to imbibe…

castle-hotel-oldham-street

The Northern Quarter is heavily populated with ‘bars’, but it is not difficult to find Port Street for a Moorhouse’s White Witch (that’s a beer by the way, from Burnley) in the Crown & Anchor

crown-anchor-port-street

Looking for something unusual, knowledgeable, and maybe a bit expensive if you’re not taking notice? But you need to arrive after 4.00pm to sample the thirds, halves or pints of what the Port Street Beer House has to offer. We did the evening before the following shot was taken, and I can assure you the beer menu goes on forever. Check the chalkboard sign top left at the bar for ‘Growlers’, you’ll have to ask Dave about those!

port-street-beer-house

However, for me there is only one place to end a long nostalgic trip down memory lane (or is that Ducie Street?).

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It’s not for the feint-hearted, and maybe some of the locals don’t actually have a home to go to…

jolly-angler-3

But the welcome is warm…

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And at this time of a pub crawl you just need to look over your shoulder and whisper a somewhat slurred goodnight…

jolly-angler-2

Well, what did you expect? Being an industrialised revolutionary was thirsty work you know! There is plenty of space in Manchester for the range of modern day ‘bars’, but they haven’t swept away the good old fashioned pub. So until we speak again, may all of your crawls be nostalgic, and don’t forget to finish off with some of Bella’s advice and check out the water!

water-2

 

A White Witch at Christmas

It’s that time of year when raucous party going crowds cram into garishly lit and decorated venues to indulge in over-consumption. So, here is the antidote, with a warmly seasonal scene… a Burnley brew (Moorhouse’s White Witch) found in a quiet corner of Carlisle.

the-griffin

Meanwhile, Bella could always be distracted by the thought of a Duck in the vicinity…

duck-in-carlislerear-view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until we speak again, enjoy your Christmas festivities, raucous or otherwise.

Death in the Sun

Is it the sun or is it the moon? How am I supposed to know, after all this is Lancaster, and I am merely a cat from Cardiff!

sun-at-night-sign

A view from a different perspective confirms it is the sun, but not as astronomical scholars know it. This is Lancaster, a place of history, sandstone architecture; and it’s cold and dark so time to find out what else this historical place has to offer travelling cats.

sun-at-night-outside-view

What will greet the inquisitive traveller to this promised source of light and heat? Why, death of course!

Dead cow

sirloin-steak

Dead pig

full-english-breakfast

Dead lamb

lamb-steak

Vegetarian deadly options are available, but this being the north of England, a mere southerner cat from Wales would hardly want to invite a scourge of ridicule by even enquiring of such things. This is a place where Lancaster Blondes are apparently smooth and tasty temptations for the unsuspecting weary traveller…

sun-bar-3

 

 

 

 

 

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When daylight dawns there really is an abundance of old sandstone to navigate and cast an architectural eye over.

The good folk of Yorkshire might well lay claim to their county town of York being far better known; but the rival Lancashire has a county town well worth exploring, full of interesting knocks and crannies.

Until we speak again I can fondly remember a couple of ex-cats who would have gratefully ignored any architectural indulgence in favour of exploring death in a bowl! Juno and Bella always wore an indignant look when it came to food choice!

cat-matecall-this-food

Making craft lager

[Set up a mobile brewing facility] Take a group of men, any ordinary men, say a group like this…

Scary scrum

[Source desired ingredients] Direct them towards a pub with some good beer; we’re talking proper ale here. A good hoppy pale ale like this normally brings them back for more…

Tastes like it looks

[Processing and storage] Good ale is converted into lager by a natural rapid fermentation method, encased within a human frame. But, it needs close proximity storage, before the onward distribution to preferred lager outlets (i.e. other places not frequented by those who like good beer). The Hopbunker in Cardiff has perfected the storage solution…

Making lager

Water [2]

[Distribution] Until we speak again, just don’t ask where the above storage units are subsequently distributed to! I think I’m going to be a little more cautious about what I drink.