Our time in London, one of my favorite cities, draws to a close as the next leg on our adventure begins. Today we departed for Portsmouth to set sail across the English Channel on a ferry for Normandy. But first, we stopped at the Southwick House near Portsmouth. The Southwick House is the country house where, on 5 June 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower made the historic and risky decision to launch the D-Day invasion. What makes the Southwick House awesome is that not only do you need a special appointment to even visit it, since it’s located on a Royal Military Police base, but it also still has the maps that Eisenhower used to plan the D-Day invasion.
Now here’s a cool story about the map. Eisenhower and his men needed a giant wall map of England and the French coast in order to plan the invasion. They needed something durable enough to withstand constantly moving pieces as they changed and replanned the invasion. They decided to use the type of material from which companies make games boards, so they hired two gamemakers into their service. In order to keep the details of the invasion a secret, the gamemakers had to make a giant map of all of Europe. Eisenhower kept the pieces he needed and discarded the rest, and the gamemakers were basically quarantined so they couldn’t talk. Talk about making a risky game…the decision to launch D-Day was extremely risky, and Eisenhower had no idea if it was the right decision…but thankfully, it all paid off in the end.
We then headed to Portsmouth. After eating lunch at The Ship Anson, which was just pub food, we went to the D-Day Museum with the Overlord Embroidery. The short film was well worth it, and the Embroidery of D-Day was awe-inspiring. Think of a modern day Bayeux Tapestry. Some of the panels were truly beautiful. The museum was more of the same as we’ve seen, not much different then our National World War II Museum in New Orleans. One big highlight was that there was a veteran in the museum, and we all sat down and listened to his first-hand story. He joined the war effort a bit later, around 1944 since that is when he turned 16, and worked as an electrician in the Navy. He was hilarious, completely flirting with the girls and giving them big hugs. He asked Kurt where we were from, and we said New Orleans where the food is good, and he pointed to my chest and said,”I can see!” and just laughed. These girls aren’t just from the food, but thanks for the compliment, I guess…?
We then went to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and went aboard the HMS Victory, a 250 year old ship, famous for, among other things, where Admiral Lord Nelson fell and died in 1805. It was very impressive to see the guts of the ship like that. I was surprised at how small some of the doorways/roofs were; Kurt even hit his head coming down the stairs! If ships or naval history entices you, then you cannot pass up the chance to go aboard this fabulous old ship.
After sneaking a kiss to King Henry VIII, and wishing we could have went to the new Mary Rose Museum since it houses many Tudor artifacts, we ventured to Gunwharf Quays, which was like an outdoor mall. It was nearing closing time, so we didn’t shop, though I did get the most delicious and cheap chocolate strawberries ever. The lot of us decided to go back to The Ship Anson to drink/have dinner. I chose an Aspall Cyder, which was delicious, though not as delicious as this apple juice tasting thing some others shared. I could not taste the alcohol…very dangerous for an ex-lush like me. Luckily, the Aspall was enough, and I paired it with Pancakes and Ice Cream…super yummy. Kurt ate a Steak and Ale Pie, which looked good as well, but was too heavy for me to eat. He also drank a Greene King IPA, which he enjoyed very much, but I don’t really care for IPAs.
We then boarded the ferry, which was definitely more like a cruise ship. I don’t know what I was expecting, I guess along the lines of an overnight train, but this was way bigger and fancier. After exploring a bit, Kurt and I were pooped, so we hit the sheets early. Tomorrow begins our two days in Normandy, something I am looking very much forward to! Until then, peace and safety, everyone.