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Eating Ashore in Southampton

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I often see cruise guests wandering the streets of my home city looking lost. Sometimes they have a phone in hand with, I imagine, a downloaded city map. I get the feeling that people are seeking the authentic, ancient city that they imagine must exist.  They have heard about this famous port, most people know that the Titanic sailed from here on her star-crossed maiden voyage. Southampton was also the home port of the QE2. Named for Queen Elizabeth II, the former Cunard flagship called at Southampton more than any other port during her active seafaring career. The ship has now been controversially sent to Dubai where she has finally opened as a luxury hotel, but her history lives on in Southampton. One of her huge steel anchors, weighing 13 metric tonnes, is now set as a landmark in front of Holy Rood Church, forming part of a walking path that links many of the city’s historic landmarks, known as the QE2 mile. 


Cruise guests find themselves at West Quay, in its style, somewhat reminiscent of the cruise ship they have just disembarked. It offers a plethora of eateries, fabulous shopping, and very little of the unique qualities of the old city that the visitors seek. Just a few hundred yards away is the authentic city that people seek, still with its ancient walls, standing testament to a venerable history. Follow the walls and you can find some typical ancient pubs, with typical British fare. Try a local ale, made and served in a 14th century building with Napoleonic graffiti on the walls. Taste divine local cheeses within the walls, or visit the pub that featured in the film of the Titanic from 1997. Do not miss the Grand Cafe, the perfect venue for a snack or lunch or afternoon tea in what was once the ballroom of the South Western Hotel. This building oozes history, from hosting the grand functions attended by royalty to the place where the first class passengers embarking on the Titanic would have spent their last night ashore. A staircase in the building was the inspiration for the one later incorporated into the design of the Titanic. During operation overlord, Churchill and Eisenhower stayed here to inspect the millions of troops preparing to invade Normandy.


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