It was worth it
(October 23 - November 20, 1999)

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We flew to London Heathrow on Saturday, October 23rd, picked up a car at Hertz, and drove about 1 1/2 hours in horrible rainy weather to Portsmouth.  I had been there twice before.  In April 1993, which was my very first trip out of the USA, I was there for three weeks.  Peter was on that trip, also, and is where we probably started our friendship.  I was there again in September 1994 for four weeks to lead an audit that ended up being one of the harder ones.  That audit also caused me to miss Kitaro's Mandala concert for which we had tickets. Diane was not with me on either of those trips.  In 1993, I didn't have hardly any frequent flyer miles and the trip was too short to fit the rules for IBM to pay for her to go there.  In 1994, the UK trip was the first part of an 8-week around-the-world trip (the only one I ever took).  The second leg was Tokyo.  The around the world ticket was up around $5500 and, at the time, IBM would only pay for the spouse to go to one of the two locations.  The hop between the two would be our cost.  The rules have changed now such that they pay for the spouse to go between back-to-back sites.  Sigh.  I figured out that would have saved me some 400,000 miles and about $1,000 if those rules were in effect during my first tour in Audit from 93-97.  As it is, I won't have very many miles left when I retire.  Those business class upgrades and, in some cases, full business class tickets, cost lots of miles.  But every one of them was worth it for us to fly together whenever possible.

I took Diane over to Port Solent for dinner the first night.  Tuan and Rodney came along, too.  This is a really pretty area, with lots of nice shops and 9-10 restaurants.  Docked there are many large yachts and sailboats.  It's much nicer when the weather is warm, but still nice to be near the water.  We ate at the Char-Bar where you can cook your own food on a grill built into the table.  Shades of Korean BBQ in Tokyo.  Yeah, I know, why don't they call it Japanese BBQ if it's in Tokyo?  Sunday wasn't such a nice day, rainy and chilly.  But I wanted to see if I could still remember how to get to Cosham, a small town not far from the hotel, and Southsea, where we ate many meals during that first trip in 1993.  Surprisingly, I found the places relatively easily, but was only able to find one of the restaurants in Southsea.  The rest was a blur.  We did park the car along the coast for a short walk.  Off in the distance was the Isle of Wight, to which Peter and I took a hydrofoil back in 93 or 94 on a nice warm day.  Here is a list of the restaurants at Port Solent:

This was a sort of unusual week because we had our entire department of nine people all in Portsmouth.  The team that was in Norway came down, the team that was in Germany went over, our manager came in mid-week, as did our director.  Usually, we are split up into two teams, the makeup of which changes from audit to audit.  However, one of the teams destined to go to South Africa wasn't due
there until the week following the start of the audit in England for which I played team leader.  So we had a department meeting with our manager, a roundtable with our director, as well as separate one-on-one interviews with her.  You know, that's our opportunity to tell a higher level manager what's on our minds.  Given that everyone was in town, I decided to try and organize a team dinner.  It ended up being dinner for 12 people at the Pasta Factory in Port Solent.  It seemed like a good time was had by all.

On Saturday of the first weekend, Tuan, Diane, and I decided to take a drive into the countryside to see Salisbury and Winchester.  Unfortunately, the weather wasn't very nice.  It was rainy, windy, nasty.  But we didn't want to just sit around the hotel all day.  So off we went.  I had been to both places before multiple times.  Diane had been to Winchester back in 1994.  Tuan had been to neither place.  Diane and I love to visit the European cathedrals.  I love Salisbury.  It is medieval gothic architecture and was built between 1220 and 1258 in one continuous project as evidenced by the 'seat' that runs around the entire inside perimeter.  It has the tallest spire in England, reaching a height of 404 feet, and can be seen for miles as one approaches the city.  We spoke to a lay minister about the cathedral and the religion.  Until the reformation the church was loyal to the Pope.  When the English church rejected the authority of the Pope, the property came under the ownership of the Church of England.  Today it is part of the worldwide Anglican Church.  I love the history of these places.  Too bad I hated history while I was growing up.  Here is a link if you want to see photos and get a brief history:  

After visiting Salisbury, we drove over to Winchester on the way back to Portsmouth.  By then the weather was really lousy.  Winchester is more than 900 years old, so it is older than Salisbury.  It's construction was started in 1079 in the Romanesque style.  In its early days, Winchester was the home of an order of Benedictine monks.  The monastic life of the monks included regular prayer and song.  Today, the Anglican church has an Evensong service during which the Cathedral choir sings.  Diane and I happened to be at Canterbury Cathedral back in August just as Evensong was starting, so we stayed.  It was a nice service and the choir was magnificent.  Henry VIII took over control of the Cathedral in 1539.  A famous name you may recognize is Jane Austen and she is buried at Winchester Cathedral.  Check out the following site for more information about Winchester if you are interested:

No one wanted to go anywhere with Diane and I on Sunday, so we drove off by ourselves to see the New Forest.  It was a cool, but sunny day.  We stopped in Eling to see a 'tide mill'.  Slick.  We had seen windmills before, but never a tide mill (powered by the movement of the tide).  We bought some cookies made with their flower, toured the heritage site (history again), had a snack lunch in the small cafe.  Then we went to Hythe to walk out on the pier to look across to Southampton.  Southampton is where the Titanic sailed from on that fateful last voyage.  After that we drove to Beaulieu (do you believe they pronounce that word like 'buly' here?).  I had been there on a previous trip and saw the wild horses that have the right of way.  I wanted Diane to see it.  Sure enough, right in town, a horse crossed the street right in front of us and parked his butt in the road in front of my car as he/she ate grass close to the road.  I was holding up all the cars while shooting some video.  Diane was laughing.  She couldn't believe it.  It was a hoot. 

Tuan's wife, Amy, arrived on Friday for a weekend trip.  The weekend was cool, but not rainy, so we went out both days with Tuan and Amy to see some sites.  On Saturday, we went to Portsmouth to see the historic ships.  I had spent seven weeks in the area on prior trips, but never went to see the ships.  There are three of them that can be visited:  the Warrior, the Victory (of Admiral Nelson and Trafalgar fame), and the Mary Rose.  We actually ended up spending the entire afternoon there.  With the clock turned back, it got dark by 5 PM,
so the day seemed to go by much quicker.

Our first stop was to visit the HMS Victory because it was a guided tour.  The Victory was launched in 1765 and served until 1812.  It's most famous for being the flagship of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, and for its most famous battle, the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 1805.  It was during this battle that Admiral Nelson was shot by an enemy on a ship approaching the Victory only 30 minutes into the battle.  There is a marker on the deck indicating where he fell.  He was taken below decks and he died some three hours later.  A plaque
indicates the spot where he died, and a large portrait of that scene stands next to the plaque. 

This ship is still a commissioned ship, although certainly not active.  It is in dry dock and will most likely never sail again.  What a ship.  It housed more than 800 men in very tight and cramped quarters.  I can only imagine what life must have been like on a ship at that time.  We had to 'mind our heads' as we toured the ship.  Hammocks were hung on lower decks and each man had 22 inches in which to sleep.  This was determined by the rod stuck through the hammock at the head.  If a man tried to make this rod longer than 22 inches and was
found out, he was flogged.  And a man who was to be flogged was put into leg irons and given the opportunity to  make his own 'cat-o-9 tails' with which he would be flogged.  It only took 15-20 lashes to open up a man's back.  Our tour guide said the record for lashes was somewhere up around a hundred.  The tour guide we drew was marvelous.  He was short, older, heavy Scotch accent, funny.  He told us many stories as we toured the ship, including how the term 'loose cannon' came about.  Picture the cannons you've seen in pirate movies.  They recoil when discharged and only the ropes around the cannon, the ones that are then hooked to the side of the ship, keep it from getting away.  When something goes wrong with the ropes, watch out.  Anyone behind the cannon, and there were several men who manned each one, would be rammed by this 'loose cannon'.

The HMS Warrior is a newer ship, having been built in 1860.  It was billed as the world's first iron battleship - the largest, fastest, most heavily armed warship ever built.  Compared to how hard life must have been on the Victory, life on the Warrior must have seemed luxurious, although it was far from that.  The Warrior was driven by both steam and sail, and rendered all other ships of the time virtually obsolete.  It had an iron hull and armorplate with guns that could be loaded from the rear (breechloading) rather than from the front of the muzzle.  The Warrior housed upwards of 700 men to handle the equipment on the ship.

The Mary Rose is the oldest of the three historic ships on display.  It was built between 1509 and 1511, and was one of the first ships built with gun ports.  It was part of the fleet at the time of Henry VIII.  It is mistakenly thought that it sunk on its maiden voyage near the Isle of Wight, but that is not correct.  It had been in service for many years, and had seen battle.  It sank accidentally during a battle with the French fleet in 1545.  As it was preparing to do battle, a wind came up unexpectedly and caused the ship to list to one side.  Before anything could be done to bring it back into balance, the water started to come in through the cannon ports.  It was too late and the ship sank, taking down most of its 700 plus crew.  All that happened within site of Henry VIII who was watching the engagement from the shore.  The Mary Rose remained under the sea for more than 450 years before it was located and salvaged.  Today there is a museum that shows a film about the salvage operation, as well as the thousands of artifacts brought up from the sea.

On Sunday, Tuan, Amy, Diane, and I went to Stonehenge.  None of us had ever been there before.  It is more than 4000 years old, which makes it as old as many of the temples and pyramids of Egypt, and is considered a World Heritage Site.  To this day, Stonehenge remains a mystery.  Its orientation is on the rising and setting sun, which may indicate that its builders were a sun-worshipping culture.  However, many scholars believe the circle and its banks were part of a huge astronomical calendar.  No one knows for sure how, or
why, it was created.  Check out the following site for more information:

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped in Salisbury so Amy could see the Cathedral.  It was getting late and close to Evensong, which would mean parts of the Cathedral would be closed to visitors.  We toured quickly and heard the choir sing during the beginning of Evensong.  It is incredible how beautiful the voices are in the choirs in these cathedrals.

During the next week, Tuan ate with us the most and it was quite interesting to get more history of his view of the Vietnam War.  He was a helicopter pilot in South Vietnam during the war.  The military was part of his family for generations, so that is what you did.  He flew a transport helicopter, which meant transporting troops.  It is hard to totally grasp just what it would be like to be engaged in battle without ever having been there.  To see the napalm, the Agent Orange, the wounded, the dead, losing friends and loved ones.  He explained how both of Amy's parents were killed, and then her foster father after that.  I asked him how he escaped and he explained that he escaped
during the fall of Saigon.  He had a full helicopter and flew out to sea and landed on the USS Midway.  He has had several jobs in the USA and obtained his US citizenship.  After putting himself through school, he eventually found his way into IBM.  A very interesting person to talk to.

It was Art's turn to have his wife, Trini, come for a visit and she arrived on Wednesday of the third week.  We only got to meet her at dinner on Wednesday evening.  They are from the Philippines, now residing in Seattle.  Art worked his schedule to finish his work by Wednesday so he could take a couple of optional holidays on Thursday and Friday.  They went to London both days to take in the sites, so we didn't see them anymore after Wednesday.  Trini left for home on Saturday.

Friday evening found Diane and I by ourselves for dinner as the others were doing different things and didn't want to go to dinner.  Since there was no one on the team that wanted to go for Indian food, this was about our last chance to do that.  So we went to the Indian Palace at Port Solent.  It was good.  I had seen a piece on BBC that said that the English loved Indian food and they referred to folks needing to get a 'curry fix'.  There are a lot of Indian restaurants in England.

On Saturday of our last weekend in England, Diane and I wanted to see the view from the ridge up behind the hotel, so we made our way up there on a bright, sunny, cool morning.  I had been up there before during my 1993 trip because I had my clubs with me and played golf at a course up on the ridge.  I knew the view was marvelous and wanted Diane to see it, too.  She was not disappointed.  We decided to make our way to Fort Nelson, which is one of several forts along the ridge, and the only one open to the public.  It is now the Royal Armouries and home to lots of cannons down through the ages.  It was quite interesting, including a short 10-minute live performance by someone re-enacting past battle situations.  We missed the one for the Zulu Wars because we couldn't find the right room.  But we did see a WW1 re-enactment of life in the trenches.  The guy was quite good.  It sure would have been nicer to tour the fort in the summer because it was very windy and cold out on the parade grounds.

I would have to say the highlight of the tour was that we arrived about five minutes before the 1 PM gun firing.  They shoot a couple of shells from a Howitzer.  I have never heard a cannon shot before and the sound was incredible.  I can only imagine what is must be like to be in the middle of battle with cannons, some much bigger than this small Howitzer, all firing at once.  It has to be deafening.  I know that I had an uncle who came back from the Pacific in WW2 who was shell-shocked and lost a lot of his hearing.

After touring the fort, we headed to Port Solent to take some daytime video of the area and for Diane to check out the shops again.  Then it was back to the hotel until dinner.  Tuan and Steve went to London for the day, and Art took Trini to Heathrow to see her off.  So Diane and I were on our own again and we decided to eat again at Slackwater Jacques.  I had the ribs, which were not as good as the ones at the Char-Bar, and Diane had a chicken meal.

On Sunday, I was determined to try and find some of the restaurants that provided such good memories from my 1993 and 1994 trips to Portsmouth.  The restaurants I had in mind were in South Sea, which is where we ate many of our meals during those trips.  So Diane and I headed to Southsea to seek out the restaurants, and to also visit the Portsmouth Cathedral.  Well, we found both of the restaurants.  One was Barnaby's, the other was Truffles.  Unfortunately, Truffles was closed on Sunday and Monday, which meant we would not get to eat there.  However, all five of us (Diane, Tuan, Art, Steve, me) went to Barnaby's for dinner.  I like that restaurant.  It wasn't crowded Sunday evening.  The food was good.  The service pleasant.

It was getting close to the end of our stay in Portsmouth.  We finished our work a few days early, so we would all be leaving for home on Tuesday.  Steve and I turned in our rental cars after work on Tuesday so we could take 'hire cars' to the airports (Gatwick and Heathrow) on Tuesday.  That would be much easier than driving early Tuesday morning.  Our last meal there was at the Harbour Lights restaurant next door to the hotel.  We had eaten there several times and the food was good.  The ambiance was cozy.  One of my favorite meals is lamb, and I had some great lamb at the Char-Bar in Port Solent and at Harbour Lights.

It was time to leave.  For Diane and I, it meant the possibility that this would be our last trip abroad for a while.  The plan is still to retire
February 1, 2000.  We had a great trip home.  It is amazing that we both experienced the same feeling whenever we arrived at Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta after an overseas trip.  It seems like the worst part of coming home is - coming home.  As we go down the long escalator to the train to take us to baggage claim, we see all those people who are going up the escalator to start their journeys to foreign lands.  We both want to turn around and go out again to some other place.  I think we are true nomads.  We both get restless sitting
still and want to travel.  Whether or not there are anymore trips on the horizon for us, it has been a great run and we have totally enjoyed the opportunity to see some of the world.

What I know for sure is that this was the last trip for 1999.  We were out of the country for a total of 22 weeks this year, which was the most we had been gone in a year.  It was a lot given that there was work involved, and a house that sat unattended, and bills that had to be paid.  My oldest daughter went over to the house to take care of things, but I had seven weeks of mail stacked up on the table when we got home, and I knew it would take me a couple of weeks to get everything sorted out and back to normal.  But you know what?  To be able to do the traveling we have done, IT WAS WORTH IT.  I'm sure Diane and I will miss the travel, at least until we get on the road roaming America.

This may be the last travelogue, or it may not be.  Things tend to change a lot in my life, so who knows?  I'm not really excited about some of the locations we are scheduled to go to in first quarter, and I have no plans to work long enough into the year to get to the 'good' places in July and November of next year.  I plan to be doing other things by then.  I'll let you know what the final decision is sometime in first quarter of 2000.  I hope you have enjoyed reading these travelogues as much as I have enjoyed writing them.  So until sometime early next year, Diane and I wish all of you who receive these travelogues and happy, safe, and blessed holiday season.  We hope you get to enjoy friends and family during the season, and have fun welcoming the arrival of the next millennium which, of course, doesn't REALLY arrive until January 1, 2001.

Until next time.

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