If you haven’t done so already, you might just want to read the previous post to this one. Some bits may make more sense if you do.
After a long, hot afternoon and evening spent trying to squeeze all of our stuff for a week on board into the minimum number of suitcases (we managed 3 in the end, all under the 20Kg limit) Faith and I retired for a restful night’s sleep ready for our travel day on Saturday…….
….. To be awoken at 1:30 a.m. by the most horrendous thunderstorm I have ever experienced!
Not the occasional “flash”, pause, “bang” that you expect from a UK summer storm but continuous thunder and lightning accompanied by a tremendous downpour. This SEEMED to last most of the night but when I woke up again at 3:30 a.m. it had all gone!
By 7:30 on Saturday, when daughter Hannah came to drive us to Cambridge to pick up our coach to Southampton the bags were all packed and locked and everything in the house was secured or switched off and we were ready to go.
We had allowed plenty of time for the usual delays on the A14 between Huntingdon and Cambridge – so, naturally, there weren’t any – but it was probably just as well that we were 25 minutes early as the coach had already reached the pick-up point and we were actually the last to arrive. That 25 minute “head start” did not last long!
In my opinion and experience the fastest route to Southampton would normally have been via Northampton, Oxford and Newbury, using the A43 and A34 thus avoiding any contact with the London road systems but this was not possible for two reasons. Firstly, it was British F1 Grand Prix weekend and the part of that faster route going past Silverstone was closed off to all but visitors to the race. Secondly, our schedule called for additional pick-ups at Letchworth and a hotel at Heathrow Airport, so there was no avoiding the dreaded M25 around the capital.
Unfortunately, it was a hot, sunny day and the air conditioning on the coach had packed up before it had reached Cambridge so the small panels on the roof had been wedged open to provide fresh air! Which was all well and good provided we were moving but following our much-needed rest stop at South Mimms Services we were, as stated above, on the M25 – the world’s longest circular car-park! Fortunately, Faith and I did have several bottles of water with us and I ate a large bag of Wine Gums on the way. I can’t think where I got the idea for that!
The slow crawl around London continued on the M3 and it was after 2:30 p.m. when we dropped off the people who had boarded at Heathrow (to add insult to injury, they were not even on our cruise!) and reached the cool, Airport style departure lounge. It took less than an hour to process our all-purpose ID/boarding/pay-for-everything-on-the-ship cards and for us to get to our cabin where our luggage was waiting for us.
So to summarise the journeys “then and now” it took longer to get from Cambridge to Southampton with modern motorways than the somewhat longer journey without them from Ipswich to Southampton 47 years earlier. That’s progress!
We watched the ship’s departure from our own balcony and were not delayed by waiting for any larger ships – there was only one liner bigger than us in port in fact and that was our sister ship the P&O vessel “Britannia” which did not depart until a couple of hours after us. I should mention that I have looked up some details and our ship the MV Azura is actually BIGGER than the QE2 that I encountered in 1968.
And just to nail down the final similarities with my 1968 trip, while passing Portsmouth harbour I saw from the restaurant window, a Hovercraft passing by!