January 11, 2010 (Arriving in the Mother Country… Finally!)

Cherrio! We have arrived in the Mother Country! 3,214 miles from New York. We docked in Southhampton this morning around 5 AM. It was really quite bizarre to wake up to civilization after seeing nothing more then waves for 7 days and nights. During the crossing, we never saw or heard a bird. Steve claims he spied a whale-like creature yesterday, but I wonder if it was his brain fabricating a watery amusement. We have gained an entirely new appreciation for the vastness and power of the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Yesterday, the waves throttled back to about 7 feet with light winds. Movement was barely perceptible and we both felt “equalized”. I received an email this morning from an friend who must have sensed we needed some “‘words of seasick wisdom”, and I found what he shared fascinating…

Bob said that “The conventional wisdom when I was in the Navy during the recent dark ages was that it was caused by conflicting sensory stimuli. If you were inside the ship, your eyes agreed with the sense you were stationary, but your sense of balance (inner ear) was signaling roll and pitch. Until you learned (subconsciously) that this conflict was “normal” and acceptable, you tended to get a woopsie feeling in the gut – to put it in fine, scientific terms. Others said that the dumber you were the less likely you were to suffer mal de mer and conversely the smarter you were, the more likely you were apt to get on your knees in praise of the porcelain goddess”.

Hhhmmm… I never came close to, well, you know… but Steve did. What does that say about my intellect? I think I’m insulted. Just picture the Queen Mary 2 as a tiny crouton being tossed about in a huge caesar salad and that pretty much sums up the last 6 days. “The Crossing” in winter is not for the faint of stomach. One more caveat … I’m glad I didn’t listen to Steve when he rolled his eyes at me in CVS and said “we don’t need to buy TWO bottles of Dramamine”…

SOUTHHAMPTON, ENGLAND

After an early lunch on board we ventured out to explore the city. It was dank, dreary, and cold. 31 degrees with the look of perpetual dusk at high noon. We walked from the ocean terminal to downtown in a skating motion. The sidewalks and streets were covered in a thin layer of ice, with a few haphazard patches of sand to break our slide. We glided past a stand of palm trees. What? And shook our heads in wonder. Something doesn’t compute here. Right about now, I was grateful I was  not on a tour bus, in a ditch, with 50 other people on the way to Stonehenge. Can buses levitate?

Southhampton is a huge commercial seaport about 1.5 hours southeast of London and the base for Cunard Lines. Our primary reason for coming here was to disgorge over 1,000 passengers who left wearing tee shirts that said “I survived The Crossing!”. We also gathered newbies to take with us. I don’t know how many passengers are currently on the ship – but when full – it is 2,600 – plus over 1,000 crew members. There are about 300 of us going around the world. The rest would have purchased one or more segments. This leg ends in Dubai on January 27th.

There is not much to see in downtown Southampton from a “historic” point of view. Most of the older buildings were destroyed by the Germans in WWII. We went to one small church, St. Michaels, built in 1070, making it almost 1,000 years old. The main shopping district was a flurry of frozen faces and hunched shoulders. No one seems to own warm clothes. No one had gloves on. Even little kids in strollers were red handed. We went to a large drug store called “Boots” and were surprised to see that all the employees had on matching polyester uniforms. Delightfully Retro.

After buying a few items we forgot at home (I know, can you believe it?), we slid back towards the pier and stopped to pay tribute at the Titanic Memorial. She left from the same berth we occupied yesterday, full of hopeful passengers. Her journey cut short, mirrored ours, less the icebergs. The other ship to leave Southampton on a historic journey was The Mayflower.

We got back to the ship around 4 PM and spent the next hour thawing out. We too, were underdressed. Our down coats did not make the packing list.

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