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Travel & Holidays in later life


HMS Warrior in the Historic DocyardThe star year for Portsmouth was 2005, marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar with special events and celebrations.

Although that historic excitement has ended, it gave a major boost to Portsmouth as a prime short-break destination. The combination of Millennium projects, and the urgency to complete them, has transformed much of the waterfront with world-class attractions. 

The new look of Portsmouth is dominated by the Spinnaker Tower, the centrepiece of a 38 million 'Renaissance of Portsmouth Harbour' development. It has changed the city's skyline forever. 

This project has already converted the Portsmouth waterfront into a prime seafront destination called Gunwharf Quays. The centre of the complex is where powder, shot and guns were stored from the 1690s onwards. 

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Special Events for 2010:

"Meet Your Navy " - A fantastic programme of entertainment including displays of drill, arms and armour, and musket firing, music and living history. - Portsmouth Historic Dockyard 30 July - 1 Aug.. 

Hampshire Food Festival
- July

A month long extraveganza which includes farm, brewery and vineyard tours, cookery demonstrations, tasting events, Farmers' Markets, local produce meals, walks and farm trails.

Portsmouth Visitor Information Service: Clarence Esplanade, Southsea, Hampshire, PO5 3PB. Tel: 023 9282 6722. 
E-mail vis@portsmouthcc   

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Later the old Gunwharf was swept away and was finally vacated about 1991. In recent years it has been rebuilt as a major restaurant and shopping complex, with an 11-studio cinema multiplex amd other entertainments

Shopping in the Gunwharf QuaysFor keen shoppers, the Gunwharf Quays are a great port of call, harbouring over 90 designer outlets. Every time you visit, there's something new. 

But certainly you can't miss the Spinnaker Tower, which has added a new international viewpoint to the south coast of Britain. It acts as the first British landmark for the millions of visitors entering the UK on ships and boats via Portsmouth Harbour. 

The elegant construction rises 547 feet above the Gunwharf - three times higher than Nelson's Column in London. Visitors can choose to ride up on a high-speed internal lift or a glass panoramic lift. It's an unforgettable stunning experience. 

Pack binoculars and a camera telephoto lens for seagull views of the Solent. On the uppermost level, open to the elements, feel the wind in your hair!

Only a few minutes' walk brings you to the perennial attractions of the Historic Dockyard, focussing on its three great museum ships.

Closest to Plymouth Harbour Railway Station is HMS Warrior. Completed in 1861, HMS Warrior was the world's largest, fastest and most heavily armed warship. It was also Britain's first 'iron-clad' with 4.5 inches of wrought iron backed by 18 inches of teak. And the hull itself was made of iron.

Curiously, it was still in the age of cannon balls. On the main gun deck the cannon balls are neatly piled or lodged in a line, painted red and looking dangerous as Edam cheeses.

Just opposite is the Mary Rose Museum, dedicated to Henry VIII's flagship built 1512 at Portsmouth, designed as one of the earliest warships to carry heavy breech-loading guns. It capsized in the Solent in 1545 during a skirmish with the French, who were raiding the Isle of Wight.

Since the ship was raised in 1982, years of research have created a unique museum filled with every detail of shipboard life five centuries ago. Everyday objects range from tankards to rosary beads and fine combs that removed head-lice. 

A costumed archer in the Mary Rose Museum In perfect condition, 137 complete longbows and 3,500 arrows were recovered - the world's only authentic examples from Tudor times. A costumed guide explains the fearsome power and accuracy of the highly-trained archers. The hull itself is lodged in a purpose-built Ship Hall, where it's undergoing a prolonged conservation process to preserve the vessel for all time. Meanwhile, visitors can view the operation from enclosed galleries. 

Close by is HMS Victory, the world's most famous warship. Built in 1765, she was classed as a first-rate 100-gun ship. More than 6000 trees - mainly oak - were felled to provide the timbers. Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, the Victory carried a crew of 820. 

Tour guides tell the story of life on board, and how the men slept, ate and fought. Each gun had a crew of 12 men, able to fire every 90 seconds. 

There's still more memorabilia in the Victory Gallery of the Royal Naval Museum which also includes The Trafalgar Experience, bringing to life the Navy of Nelson and the Victory.

Of course there's plenty more to see and do around Portsmouth including the Charles Dickens Museum, the house where the novelist was born in 1812.

His father was a clerk in the Navy Pay Office, and moved to neighbouring Southsea until the family returned to London when the Napoleonic War ended. Dickens came back years later to research the setting for his novel 'Nicholas Nickleby'. 

Today Portsmouth and Southsea have virtually merged. 

As a holiday resort, Southsea is equipped with a Victorian seafront, Clarence Pier, a Fun Fair, the Blue Reef Aquarium and a waterfront castle restored to its 19th-century appearance.

Within the castle walls, the D-Day Museum commemorates the Allied invasion of France on 6 June 1944, with an extension for D-Day 50. 

The Historic Dockyard seen from the Spinnaker TowerA centrepiece of the museum is the magnificent Overlord Embroidery commissioned as a tribute to the sacrifice of the men and women who took part in Operation Overlord. 

The Overlord Embroidery was envisaged as a modern counterpart to the Bayeux Tapestry. Taking five years to complete, the D-Day Tapestry measures 272 feet and is the largest work of its kind in the world. 

The Museum's unique and dramatic film show, which includes original, historic footage and archive film, is an equally moving experience.

Consider these other South Coast detinations

BRIGHTON - London's Regency pleasure dome

ISLE OF WIGHT - Taking a walk

"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

Nelson's Victory: 101 Questions and Answers About HMS Victory, Nelson's Flagship at Trafalgar 1805  by Peter Goodwin, the ship's Keeper and Curator. A recently-published book that describes life aboard Britain's most famous ship.

Feeding Nelson's Navy: The True Story of Food at Sea in the Georgian Era  by Janet Macdonald. Most sailors were much better fed than landlubbers. The author explains how the Royal Navy's administrators kept 100,000 men well-fed in shi0ps that often spent months at sea. 

Maritime Portsmouth: A History and Guide by Paul Brown - an invaluable guide to this most historic of the world's ports.

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