Had it not been for my fierce admiration of Jane Austen’s literacy, I would have not found myself taking two, rather bumpy, flights to make my way to Hampshire in the very south of England. Harnessing my passion for her great work to motivate me to follow her steps along her heritage trail in Southampton, in hope of learning a bit more about her life, was the ultimate goal of this week long trip!
Life has its way of surprising us. When I lived in England, over 5 years ago, I did not have the equal deep admiration I have for the English literature today. With studies and stress along my way, the very last thing I would do at nights was to open a book narrating the love & drama stories of 19th century ladies. The fact is that I was exhausted for most of the time and I had no desire to do anything at all! It wasn’t until 2013 that my admiration sprung when upon a visit to the local charity shop I found a book including all of Jane Austen’s stories, from Pride & Prejudice to Emma, and Sense & Sensibility, they were all there waiting for me to peruse. And so my English literature educational journey began! Since then I watched Lucy Worsley’s ‘Jane Austen Behind Closed Doors‘ documentary twice and the Pride & Prejudice series with Colin Firth more times than I can remember. Each time, my enthusiasm is the same and the joy I get by reviving each scene in my head is even greater. So there is nothing I wanted more than to get back to England and visit all the places Jane Austen had been, starting from her favourite Hampshire!
I managed to squeeze every last inch out of it, from Portsmouth to Southampton with regular visits to Fareham and Titchfield in between, there’s nothing I didn’t see and loved. Here’s what we did our first full day…
We landed to Southampton airport late at night with a connection flight from Aberdeen via Manchester with FlyBe. With the weather forecast mentioning the words ‘severe winds’ every other second I was overly concerned of the turbulence. It was bad, but as always we landed and it was another great reminder to my worried mind that flying IS the safest way of travelling.
The first full day I stayed in Fareham, a market town between Portsmouth and Southampton, that was a settlement during the Roman occupation.
Monday morning there is a farmers’ market held in Fareham city centre. All the farmers of the area gather and sell their fresh produce from green, leafy to root vegetables and colourful flowers. There was nothing to stop them, or the old ladies with their vintage baskets walking around the counters, not even the rain that started almost an hour into my visit.
In an attempt to keep my feet dry I found shelter in the Westbury Manor Museum. Before rushing in the cafe I didn’t forget to take a picture of me (and my new orange NEXT jumper) in front of the Manor’s red brick walls. Fareham red bricks were used in the construction of Royal Albert Hall after all and if nothing else this is the main thing Fareham is known about!
The Museum is in an 18th century Victorian building with back gardens that was formerly used as the offices of Fareham Urban District from 1934 to 1976 until the the building passed down to the hands of the City Council and the museum was opened in 1990. Here you can find exhibits on local history as well as a cozy cafe with views in the rear gardens. I was impressed by the great collection of William Morris notebooks and cases in the shop, something that I found particularly interesting during the days to follow is how much more accessible William Morris art is in England than in Scotland. Pretty much every corner shop in Hampshire had something of William Morris’s collection!
After an extensive look around the Manor my stomach started complaining and so we decided it was lunch time. We opted for some fresh pasta at an eclectic Italian restaurant, Villa Romana! The restaurant is owned by two Italian friends and it is held in a beautiful 18th century building with interesting beams and flagstones. The service was really good and the food even better!
Refuelled and with the evening all to ourselves we decided it was time we visit Portsmouth that was only a 20′ train ride away! Prior my visit to Hampshire I tweeted loads of you asking you suggestions about the district and the majority of you advised me to visit Portsmouth rather than Southampton. Google images revealed the same, however I had to see it for my own eyes…
Seeing as there was not much time left before the sunset we decided to head for a quick coffee at the Gunwharf Quays. This is a premium retail outlet located just next to Portsmouth’s train station on the port. It has more than 90 stores with 60% off retail prices. It really is every shopaholics heaven!
The Gunwharf Quays team very kindly provided me with a generous gift card, the Privilege Pass and a goody bag filled with more discount cards and goodies, so I lost myself for an hour or so around the stores, starting from Mint Velvet, followed by Joules and finally Levis where I got myself two pairs of jeans for £60! Not even in my wildest dreams!
After that we decided to have a look of the city from the sky, so we climbed up high 105m above the harbour in the Emirates Spinnaker Tower!
Portsmouth view from above is breathtaking! There are so many beautiful little houses, harbour corners and monuments that I would have missed seeing if it wasn’t for the Tower!
I dared to walk the famous Sky Walk, a glass wall 100 m above sea level and even lie on it to take this selfie!
Before we knew it the sun was setting so it was time to move to a level above in the Sky Garden that is 110 m above the harbour of Portsmouth!
This is the highest view deck of the Tower. We absorbed the views as much as possible while sipping coffee and watched all the boats coming in and out of the harbour on their way to and from the Isle of Wight until the sun set in the sea and the sky turned yellow, red and finally pitch black under the sounds of Gregory Porter’s jazz music. Magic!