Despite the frigid weather, we headed to the seaside town of Portsmouth for a full day of fun. Portsmouth is a big city, filled with many museums and activities. We planned the day to center around kid friendly activities, which Portsmouth has plenty. I hope on a future trip, I can do a few adult things, like the D-Day Museum and the birth place of Charles Dickens. Portsmouth is definitely a place that I would love to visit again.
I took a bunch of pictures as we drove through the city of Portsmouth.
We had planned on having ice cream for breakfast, (hey, it's vacation) but when we arrived, the entire seaside carnival area was closed.
Dan took this great panorama shot of the beach.
Having already paid for parking, we walked around the seaside area, taking pictures. It was a ghost town.
We saw that the hovercraft was running and thought that it would be a fun ride for the kids (and us), so we bought roundtrip tickets to the Isle of Wight. The trip to the Isle of Wight via hovercraft takes approximately fifteen minutes from Posrtsmouth. The Hovercraft is speedy! The best part of the ride is the take-off and landing, when the whole boat inflates and deflates. It's bizarre and like no other mode of transportation that I have ever taken.
Dan's parorama of the interior of Hovercraft.
We had just enough time to grab hot chocolate on the Isle of Wight, before our return Hovercraft trip to Portsmouth. We walked across the street from the Hovercraft station to the cafe in the beautiful Bay Royal Esplanade Hotel. Just like the covered bench, the Bay Royal Esplanade Hotel made me feel like we had walked onto the set of Boardwalk Empire.
As we waited for our return trip, we watched a Hovercraft take off. I have a tip..if you ever visit the Isle of Wight Hover station, don't stand on the bridge to watch the crafts leave. It started out fine and then wind generated from the craft lifted the sand from the beach and we got pelted. We took some good pictures, but there was a reason that the viewing spot seemed too good to be true!
The Hovercraft ride was unplanned, but we had the rest of our afternoon booked up. The next stop was the Blue Reef Aquarium.
Before heading into the aquarium, we grabbed lunch at the adjacent cafe. The aquarium cafe was not only grossly overpriced, but it was the worst meal that I ate in England. Yes, worse than Little Chef. Significantly worse than Little Chef.
We all had the meal deal, which was a cheeseburger, fries and a drink. It was cold and rubbery. Another tip...if you visit the Blue Reef Aquarium, skip the cafe. I wish that we had packed a lunch or had driven a little further for a different restaurant. Price vs quality, this was the biggest rip-off on our entire vacation.
The only good thing about the cafe, was the kids play area. Dan's kids had a great time drawing on a giant chalkboard.
The aquarium was well done and worth the price of admission.
We spent about an hour at the aquarium. The highlights include a big Sting Ray pool with an observation deck and a walk through tunnel in the shark exhibit.
We arrived at the otter exhibit just in time for the afternoon feeding. I wish that I had taken a video of the otters eating, because although it made my stomach turn, it was really funny and even kind of cute.
The otters were fed three big rats each. The keeper handed them the rats one at a time and they started with the head, eating it as quickly as possible. When they had a majority of the rat eaten, they would over to the keeper and frantically paw at her leg, with a long pink rat tail hanging out of their mouths. The keeper wouldn't give them a new rat, until the first one was completely gone, so the otters would rush to get the tail down, using their paws to jam down their throats. It was really hilarious.
The aquarium has a nice back patio play and picnic area.
The kids probably would have been perfectly happy if the only thing that we did on the vacation was swim. We went to two indoor swimming pools on the trip, one in Newbury and to the very cool Pyramid Centre in Portsmouth. It's unfair to compare the two pools. The one in Newbury is the local public pool and the one at the Pyramid Centre is more like a mini water park.
The Pyramid Centre is a multi-building sports and events complex. It's huge and one big part of it is an indoor swimming center with multiple slides and a wave pool. It was great, especially perfect for little kids, as it has a shallow pool with mini slides. The entire building is heated, so you're never cold, even when you get out of the pool. The pool area itself was great, but the staff were notably miserable and lacking all sense of customer service. We arrived prior to it opening and had to kill time in a cafe. I think that I drank my lifetime allowance of hot chocolate on this trip.
The Pyramid Centre pool was one of the highlights of the vacation and I highly recommend checking it out if you are in the area. I look forward to visiting Portsmouth again in the future.