A Southern Adventure

During the summer I wrote a detailed post about a day trip I took to the city of Birmingham and it was one of my favourite pieces to write. Therefore, a couple of weeks ago I took a week out after my university assessments and traveled down south for a couple of adventure packed days and couldn’t wait to write all about it.

My best friend Cait studies Music at the University of Southampton and I had been promising since Freshers’ Week that I would make it down to see her at some point. Being so far away from her has proved difficult at points and, other than a few catch ups over milkshakes in our local cafe, we haven’t been able to spend any real time together since leaving sixth form. So after Christmas, I booked a train ticket and asked if I could stay with her for a few days during January. Both of us were in that lull between semesters and thought it’d be a great way to relax.

After a tenuous 4 hour train journey with far too many changes, I made it down to Southampton station and met up with her.  The first thing that struck me was that city universities are vastly different from a campus. Department buildings are dotted around the city, broken up with normal shops and pubs – no little independent uni life here! Loughborough is a relatively small market town  and other than the university, there’s not that much here.  I can walk to the train station which is the furthest point in 45 minutes from my front door and in only 20 to get to town. This was a massive shock on arriving in Southampton because you have to get the bus everywhere otherwise you face a 2 hour walk to lectures!

In the evening, we got the bus down to the newly revamped West Quay Waterfront in front of the City’s major shopping centre where work was still being undergone to create a plaza of restaurants. With such a variety of choice where we could eat we made the sensible on; combine all of the above. Therefore we ended up at the ‘all you can eat’ world food buffet restaurant Cosmo, somewhere Cait had never feasted and I’d only been once for a friends 18th.

With such a huge selection of food from a variety of cuisines, I’m ashamed to admit that my new vegetarian diet did go out of the window for a night. I will also not be divulging the number of times that we went up to the buffet, needless to say it was more than either of us were particularly proud of! Whereas can you have a full gammon roast dinner and a chicken katsu curry in one night for a set price 😉 We staggered out of there clutching our stomachs; I don’t think I’ve ever eaten enough food to cause physical pain before!

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After a very long walk in an attempt to burn off that newly acquired weight , Cait suggested that we pay a visit to one of her favourite haunts: The Hobbit Pub. Although both self confessed nerds, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is something I’ve managed to swerve, although I have seen the first installment of the Hobbit Trilogy, An Unexpected Journey. The Hobbit Pub is owned by stars Ian McKellen and Stephen Fry and the pub sports its very own ‘Fellowship Quest’ – 12 pints cocktails that must be drunk (NOT IN THE SAME NIGHT – oh god!) and stamped on a loyalty card to become a member of an exclusive club. These cocktails are all themed and named after characters from Middle Earth and are brightly coloured and incredibly sweet. For instance, the ‘Gollum’ cocktail was a combination of ‘Double Vodka, Blue Curacao, Orange Juice and Lemonade’ which results in a fetching shade of gunge green. Though after the amount of food we’d consumed, the added consumption of alcohol resulted in a very queasy stomach and me having to give my ‘Gandalf’ cocktail to another student as we ran out of the pub!

On the Thursday morning I was awoken at an indecent hour by at very excited Cait who’d suggested the day before that we take a spontaneous trip to The Isle of Wight. Yep you heard right. It would have been a 20 minute ferry from Southampton but it actually worked out cheaper to get the train to Portsmouth and the Catamaran from there. After a couple of obstacles and dodgy navigation, we found ourselves making the incredibly choppy crossing to the Island. The Isle of Wight is somewhere I’d heard wonderful things about, but had never thought it’d be likely I’d visit – it’s just a little out of the way to access from the Midlands!

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Once on the Island we bought bus tickets to the major towns and created our own tour around. After exploring the tourist town of Ryde, we went on to Sandown followed by the beachy resort of Shanklin. Unfortunately we were running out of time so couldn’t make it to Newport but we had a fantastic afternoon exploring and taking lots of photos. We caught the catamaran (oh joy) back just as the sun was beginning to set which allowed both of us to engage our inner photographer persona’s and snap away; almost missing our ride back! When back on dry land, we had about an hour to explore the city of Portsmouth before heading back to Southampton. Cait indulged her expensive fashion tastes with a quick browse around Gunwharf Quays Designer Outlet before we headed to the highest point in Portsmouth, the Spinnaker Tower which looks over the harbour and the Solent. We watched the sun go down from the sky cafe and terrified each other jumping on the glass floor like little kids!

Cait had to go to work when we got back to Southampton so I headed back to the flat and at 10pm, her flatmate Caitlin and I went to meet her at the local dessert parlour Sprinkles Gelato for waffles; because if you can’t do things like that as a student when can you!? Unfortunately I have no photos of the monstrous pancakes, wafffles and plate of cookie dough that the three of us devoured – I will have some severe exercise regimes to put in place when I get back home that’s for sure. It was like diabetes served with extra sugar and chocolate sauce, heaven!

Our Friday got off to a much more relaxed start. Got the bus into the centre of Southampton and met up with an old school friend, Shaun, at the local Wetherspoons. After lunch, me and Cait headed back to West Quay shopping centre and bought way too many clothes to justify. I bought a stunning cowl neck grey sweater from Zara which I’m trying to get as much wear out of as possible currently. It goes with every look and has a fitted waist and cuffs which allows a sleeker figure as opposed to the baggy jumper look. Also picked up a silk robe from Boux Avenue which came alongside a babydoll camisole and, with 20% student discount plus original reductions, it was an unbelievable bargain. It’s perfect to throw on when doing my makeup early in the morning! I drew the line at Waterstones because I knew I needed to get my bag back onto the train tomorrow and I wouldn’t have trusted myself!

We ventured back to the range of restaurants at Waterfront in the evening for a meal and chose a restaurant called All Bar One. Since the last binge on Wednesday, I had decided to get back onto my vegetarian diet and All Bar One had a specialist vegan menu as they were participating in  ‘Veganuary’, I decided to order the Superfood salad – Baby Kale with quinoa, chickpeas, spiced cauliflower, spiralised carrot, mint, coriander, pomegranate and pineapple and ginger dressing and Omega seed sprinkle. I had this with grilled halloumi atop it as I have no desire to convert to veganism – I’d miss cheese too much! Cait made the stupid query of whether we were staying for dessert so we split a portion of churros with the richest chocolate sauce you’ve ever tasted. At this point, I couldn’t give a stuff about what we’d eaten this week – my taste buds were in heaven.

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Our evening consisted of the very girly process of getting ready to go out. I raided Caitlin’s wardrobe and borrowed a black polo neck top and a floral mini skirt both from Zara and we headed to Oceana, Southampton’s biggest nightclub, to celebrate the end of everyone’s exams. I’m used to clubbing either in the students union or the clubs in town so it felt really strange to go to a city nightclub that was open to absolutely anyone – I’ve avoided my hometown’s nightclub since sixth form and would like to keep it that way! 😉 Over all though, we had a fantastic night and got the usual drunken order of chicken nuggets on the way home (worst vegetarian on the planet).

I headed back home on the Saturday morning but decided to make a few hours stop off in a little town in Berkshire called Newbury. Don’t know why, had heard good things 😉 Due to the constraints of my formative essays and work commitments from both ends, I hadn’t been able to see my boyfriend Josh for almost a month. People who get to see their partner every day can be shocked at this and situations like this month can elicit comments such as “how do you cope, that’s such a long time!’ Since coming to university, I have felt like my life has become one long distance relationship with my family, friends and boyfriend so far away. It’s in my nature not to necessarily need to be geographically close to the ones I love for me to know that they’re there for me and vice versa. Yet it can get a little tough.

I got the train from Southampton to Reading, from where I have to make a connection and a half an hour train to get to Newbury. I’m going to be honest, I hadn’t slept that much after Oceana and I was flagging under the weight of all yesterdays purchases 😉  I got to the platform at Reading and was just about to board my train when a voice behind me inquired, “excuse me miss, do you need a hand with those bags?” I turned around to politely decline and thank them and realised it was Josh who’d got on a train to surprise me. For some reason, instead of being grateful, I hit him with my shopping bag and kept shouting “what the hell are you doing here”. Romantic I know (I was very touched, it was a lovely surprise).

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The rest of our date was spent in and around Newbury town centre, having coffee, catching up with his relatives and a gorgeous lunch date in Prezzo. I had a vegetarian (back on it) Goats Cheese and Vegetable Pizza which looks humongous in the above photo compared to Josh’s prawn pasta – it’s perspective honestly, I look like such a greedy pig especially considering the amount of food in this post!! It was lovely just to spend time with each other relaxing after the chaos of the first few months of this year.

The date ended when I got back on the train home at about 6pm – it’s ok though because in just under two weeks it’ll be Josh’s turn to make the commute to me, and he’ll be staying for quite a while which made saying goodbye a little easier. So that was the end of my adventure and mini tour of the South. It was really nice to get out of the Loughborough Bubble for a little while and explore some new places, it’s given me a taste for adventure and I’m already mentally planning where I could go next. But for now, it’s time to get back to university and live my life there to the fullest once again!

Hannah

xxx

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