Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Actual Trip: Day 1

Hello from Torquay! I'd like to claim it is "Sunny Torquay!" but that would be false. It's cloudy, has been most the day. I think it was sunny between Chichester and Portsmouth, but that was it. Started with a bit of a dissappointment: the thingy-ma-jig that attached my phone to my windscreen broke, so no "in-car" photos. I suppose you've got Google streetview which will give you a pretty good idea. I've also just realised I don't have the lead to charge my mp3 player, so come Monday it will be the radio keeping me company. Ok, disappointments out the way...

It's been pretty good so far! First bit this morning was somewhat routine; I've driven to Bognor before, though it appeared to be "walk into town in fancy dress day" at Chichester Uni. I was pleased not to get caught in traffic on the Chichester bypass and felt very relaxed pootling along the old-A27 now A259 through Fishbourne. Wasn't to last of course as I rejoined the A27, the obligatory tailgating BMW/Audis were out and there I was in lane 3 of 4 needing lane 1 of 4 to go to Portsmouth, but I survived. Portsmouth brought my first traffic jam thanks for a set of temporary traffic lights. Having re-consulted the route map I'm amazed I managed to stick to what I had planned as very few of the road numbers are signed in Portsmouth and I'd realized that it wasn't until doing the day 2 directions that I'd started checking what the signs actually say.
Southsea Seafront. Felt I should photograph something

My first stop came after about an hour when I parked alongside the seafront at Southsea. Got out the car, took some photos, decided it was cold and got back in the car again. Was really quiet down there save for a fair number of joggers. Heading back out the city I did some very good impressions of a driver who didn't really know where he was going (one sign said A3 and that was it!), but eventually made it back to the A27. There was a rather fun flyover just north of Gosport and then some  impressive scenery for the middle of an urban area. The Itchen Bridge managed to surprise me (in as much as a bridge can be surprising) as for some reason I thought it was the other side of Southampton city centre. I then took my first proper stop and parked at the West Quay shopping centre. Glamorous I know, but it was on the route.

By this point I was starting to get a little worried about how long it was taking me to get places. That was 2 hours to Southampton, about 60 miles. Was Bing severely wrong and did I have a big issue later in the week?
Arundel Gate, Southampton. I didn't go to Arundel though.

Having looked at some shops and taken some photographs from and of the Arundel Gate I headed out again. I know there's a lot of Portsmouth/Southampton rivalry, but when it comes to road signs Southampton beats Portsmouth, easily found my way. Into the New Forest and the traffic was still quite heavy. Really was becoming a drag by this point and it wasn't about to get any better. Lymington was slow, Christchurch was slower still and Boscombe was positively crawling. Was really getting worried about how long things were taking. I kept setting myself little targets (say other side of Bournemouth an hour after leaving Southampton) and missing them by a long way. Thankfully Bournemouth itself has a sort of bypass and then it was on to Poole.

Here was my first deviation from the planned route. You see, there was this roundabout, and two lanes were labelled "Poole" and one went one way and the other went the way I wanted to go. So I missed out a bit of the A35. I don't think I missed much, and found it again later. Feeling really down now about how long things were taking, I checked that it really was 260 miles I had to do today.

It was 206.

Somewhat better then, and as if noticing my brighter mood the roads got better! The A350 and A35 from Poole Harbour were lovely fast roads and it was almost a shame to leave the A35 to head towards Wareham. But I did, and made Wareham my next stop. About 4 hours to get to here. I had my lunch and had a wander round the town which was very nice. The next bit of the drive was brilliant. For the first time I actually got to drive, rather than follow the car in front. Blissful after all the jams before lunch. Lovely scenery too. Along the brand new Weymouth relief road I returned to the A35 once more, which was alright, but a bit slow in places with holiday traffic.
Could this view be any more English?
 (Wareham by the way)

I then had another minor "wrong way" moment when I turned off for Charminster too early, but nothing a 3 -point turn couldn't sort. The scenery along the A3025 was stunning and I got to practice my hill driving. Around the edge of Exeter was fine and then I was heading down through Dawlish. (Mum: I went past Brunel's Atmospheric Railway and saw an Intercity 125!)  The bridge at Teignmouth was very impressive and then eventually I found myself in Torquay. I then promptly got lost trying to find the Travelodge, returned to the seafront and was successful on my second attempt. All in all it took me about 6 hours 40 minutes (save for the getting lost in Torquay) which was only 10 minutes more than Bing said. Considering some of the traffic that's looking quite good for the rest of the trip. Extra bonus, Cicelia Le Citroen C3 (my car) managed to be very efficient on the way down here and I have at least 200 miles of petrol left. Thankfully things seem to have calmed down a bit on that front though.

Went for a wander down to the seafront earlier and took some pictures. Had my pre-paid meal in the bar, which apart from me was solely occupied by men about to go on a stag night. I'm now going to have a good look at those directions for tomorrow...

Torquay seafront. Some attempt at sunshine I think.

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