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I set off down The Hard, past HMS Warrior, a now familiar but no less spectacular sight in the morning sunshine, slightly masked by autumnal trees, but with masts towering over them, and the prow and figurehead protruding defiantly between the trunks.
Past the travel interchange, people hurrying to catch their selected mode, whether ferry, bus, or train, from the peculiarly built station on a pier. Quite a feat of engineering for an electric line.
Past Gunwharf Quays, under the railway bridge, and past Portsmouth Cathedral, where I paused to take some photographs of the beautiful old building.
I was just another tourist. The many passers-by did just that – maybe the odd look and a couple of wide-eyed smiles from ladies, as usual, but this glamour girl was striding like she was on business, keen to keep the heart rate and breathing doing their stuff, and following Google Maps.
The coastal defence construction confused the wossname out of Google Maps, but luckily, I could see the pier from the works, and was able to figure a way round after looking about a bit.
A lady dog walker asked me nicely if I was lost, so I said “No, but I think Google is!”, and she kindly pointed out the most efficient route among the several paths. We wished each other a very pleasant day, and I sauntered around to the pier, entered the office, and excitedly bought my first ever return hovercraft ticket.
It wasn’t long, in the somewhat crowded and small waiting room, before the craft came into view, racing towards the beach, slowing down, then sending up a fog of seawater and a hail of stones as she crept on up the beach before deflating.
My writing cannot do it justice – if you’ve never travelled on one of these incredible machines, you have to witness the arrival – spectacular!!!
I couldn’t believe my luck when I boarded the front seat nearest a window was unoccupied, with no-one sitting in the adjacent seat. Yummy!! Lots of leg room – although admittedly a slightly restricted view out.
But it was enough to watch as the craft blew up its skirt, reversed, then plummeted head first onto the waters of the Solent.
10 minutes later, we were disembarking in Ryde, on the Isle of Wight. I felt like a pioneer – all of my male clothing was away on the mainland. It was quite exciting, to be honest!
The people of Ryde seemed to be like the people of Portsmouth.
Almost entirely indifferent to the guy in a dress.
I was able to wander around freely, looking in the odd shop or two, without being made to feel like a freak show at all. Just another person. Hooray!!!
I decided, whilst browsing for coffee shops during the hovercraft ride, to visit a specific establishment.
It was amazing – just what I wanted!
All the products are hand made on the premises, and oh girl were those cakes big.
I had a millionaire slice as big as a double CD case, and only just managed it.
Satisfied, I put my furry coat back on, thanked the ladies in the shop, who were kept very busy, serving those delicious, huge cakes and awesome looking loaves of bread to hungry looking customers, and went back down the hill.
I went into the Christmas shop, and marvelled at the delightful displays with twinkly lights, twinkly music and real artificial snow falling onto heaps of presents, but wasn’t really feeling Christmas in early November.
I went into an old school arcade, where a woman had just set up a Roland Street Cube identical to mine, and was about to start performing.
I just had time to listen to one song before I needed to be back on the pier for the return craft, so I stayed and listened. It was very pleasant, but didn’t captivate me, so I applauded, as I was one of only 3 who had stopped to listen and I will always support my fellow artists, then tapped my wrist in the traditional signal that time was against me and left, to her slightly plaintive cry of “Thank you!!”.
And so I made my return journey and took a detour through Portsmouth old town on the way back towards the hotel.
This was fascinating, with the old barracks, towers and wall walks providing ample amusement, and fellow explorers likewise so wrapped up in the experience that they didn’t seem to notice the odd guy in a skirt and fur coat!
One lady smiled at me, but that was because I politely waited for her to descend a staircase before going up it myself.
Round the Marina, and past Gunwharf Quays, this time heading for the Historic Dockyard, just to get a glimpse of the magnificent warship, HMS Victory.
The lady who searched my bag was very helpful and gave directions for all the interesting things – except the rather magnificent and hauntingly brooding aircraft carrier, moored behind the other craft. Towering above the buildings around, she was quite the impressive sight.
I found out later that she is called The Prince of Wales – but more of that later.
Stopping for souvenirs in the shop, I decided it was time for another spa session, this time with the plate rather than the forms – and I was delighted with the look!
My swimsuit is not particularly low, but the plate is quite big, and so I had a cleavage which looked beautiful but not showy.
The only real issue I had was that wigs look dreadful and turn into sodden rats tails when soaked, so, after a slightly shorter swim than yesterday, I took advantage of the hydro pool, as a young family came in and took over the swimming pool.
Oh my, it was bubbly!
I stayed in there a good 10 minutes, enjoying the pummelling action of the water on my body through the silky costume – and my limbs – and came out feeling massaged!
This time, two ladies came into the changing room as I tried to twist some of the water out of my dripping wig.
They smiled, but otherwise took no notice of me, changed and went into the spa. I showered, dried, changed and went back to my room for a properly dry wig, before venturing out again for a meal.
I also removed the plate, which, I discovered, traps water and forms a vacuum on your body, and any areas that weren’t properly talc’d before you put it on stick horrifically, and come off with a noisy sucking sound. Heaven knows what the people in the room next to mine thought I was doing!
I changed the low cut sequined top for the frilly blouse, and the white blazer for the striped one, but kept the skirt as it is very comfortable.
The Hubbox was my destination – a kind of upmarket burger joint, where I had the Big Cheese – a plant based burger in a brioche bun with thick slabs of Halloumi, and cheesey chips. The waiter, who was dead camp fully agreed that you can never have too much cheese.
I accompanied this with a Cornish Colada, made with coconut rum and Cornish ice cream. Really, really camp, and delicious!
So, sightseeing and general roaming about feels delightfully free and easy – nobody in Portsmouth seems to have a chip on their shoulders with unusual people – on the contrary, everyone was as polite and nice as could be. Aha, Portsmouth, I don’t feel like I own you, but you might be taking a hold of me!!
And now, it’s time to sample Portsmouth’s nightlife!!!!
Wish me luck – it’s not famous for the LGBTQ+ community here…
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