An International Student of Literature in England.
I just got back home in Norwich after an amazing and memorable week in Southampton, where I spent my reading week with my boyfriend who studies Computer Science there. I didn’t get a reading week last year (my life at uni is all about reading anyway), so as soon as I got confirmation that I did have one this semester, I booked my train tickets to Southampton. Last Friday afternoon, the time had finally come to go on the short holiday we’d been planning for a while! I had to get a train from Norwich to London Liverpool Street and then from London Waterloo to Southampton. It was a bit long but entirely worth it!
I’d already visited my boyfriend in Southampton back in September but just for one night after Steven Wilson’s concert in London. Anyway, he’s living in halls and his residence is awesome! The rooms and kitchens are so big, they have two ovens, two hobs and even have small kind of sofas! And his flatmates are all really fun and friendly so it was nice to spend our dinners all together.
The first day was really cool but very exhausting! We really wanted to go to New Forest, a national park in Hampshire that’s only an hour from Southampton by bus. We got lucky because the weather was great so, after stopping and having lunch in Costa in Lyndhurst, we started our adventure. (I had the most amazing slice of cake by the way, there’s chocolate on top and toffee in the middle…)
We walked so much! We did about 10km (6 miles) in a few hours, first in the city and along the road and then in smaller cute paths in the forest. Fortunately, we managed to find our way thanks to a combination of a map, Google Maps and an app designed especially for national parks. It was so nice and I’m super glad that we went together! There were some very nice spots and it was a good opportunity for me to take tons of photographs. We saw a few horses and ended up at the reptile centre. We’d initially planned to hire bikes and cycle in the park but we you can only hire them in the next city, Brockenhurst – so that’s what we’ll try to do next time. I was so tired I fell asleep on the way back to Southampton, haha!
We spent most of the Sunday exploring the city centre, which is only a few minutes away from Joshua’s residence – that is so convenient! There are tons of cool shops in the high street including two shopping malls (Marlands and West Quay) and the best place on earth: Sprinkles – the place students adore. They make tons of different flavours of ice cream and crepes and waffles! It is basically paradise. I had a huge waffle with banana, toffee and vanilla ice cream, and Joshua had this huge chocolate ice cream. It’s not cheap but it remains relatively decent for the amount you get.
Southampton is so different from Norwich: it seems much more industrial and bigger (with lots of very high and concrete building) but also a lot less cute. I am definitely Team Norwich! It was a really nice day though and, like the previous day, we walked more than we should have.
Who doesn’t love Ikea? Joshua had lectures on the Monday morning and we’d initially planned to visit the Sea City Museum (about the Titanic) in the afternoon but decided to go to Ikea in the end. We both love it so much. Joshua has a weird fascination for lamps and wanted to buy all of them at some point, which I found hilarious. For my part, I’ve found all the things I’ll have in my house in the future.
Joshua had lectures all day on Tuesday so I’d planned to stay in and do some work (reading The Trial by Kafka). Although I did work a bit in the morning I found it impossible to concentrate after lunch so I decided to go for a walk in the city centre. That’s when I found a cool shop called Dao we’d totally missed the days before that sells Asian products as well as video game related merchandise! I visited tons other fun gift shops to find some ideas for Christmas presents. The highlight was when I discovered a t-shirt in H&M that says “Bonne nuit bon matin”: do they know that “bon matin” doesn’t mean anything in French? I couldn’t help taking a photograph and sending it to my French friend to laugh at whoever designed this top.
They usually have special flat dinners on Tuesdays and this time they decided to order pizza from Dominoes (yaaaaaayyyyyyyy!). I had to eat it on a chopping board because Joshua only has one plate… I feel like his Christmas present should be a second one.
I really wanted to visit the campus in Southampton to compare it to UEA and see what other universities are like. The first major difference is that they don’t have on campus accommodation: instead, most of the halls are closer to the city centre and are therefore quite far from main campus where all the teaching facilities are (so all the students are given free bus passes). The campus, like the city feels much “bigger” and more industrial because there are lots of very high buildings (by very high I mean something like ten floors for the maths tower for instance) and the architecture is more varied. There is a small modern art gallery – the John Hansard gallery – so we visited it! If you are interested, I highly recommend it because the stuff they have feels very different and controversial. And let’s just say there was some weird stuff, haha.
On our way back we found the best place in the city: the music shop!
Later on that day we went back to the city centre to visit the old town and the sea-side. It was pretty cool as they’ve kept some very old walls from the medieval era. The seaside isn’t as nice as Nice or even Sheringham, there were tons of ferries and the weather was awful but we walked quite far and ended up in a part with smaller boats that reminded me a bit of Le Vieil Antibes on the Riviera. Oh, nostalgia! We decided that next time I visit him there, we’ll go to the Isle of Wright – it shouldn’t be too expensive or far.
After walking for a very long time (again) we made it back to the halls on time to go to the restaurant as we’d planned! Joshua picked Greg’s Bistro because it had amazing reviews on Trip Advisor. The food was fantastic! I had vegetarian mushroom ravioli and an incredible banana and toffee cake, and Joshua had tagliatelle with meat or chicken and a chocolate cake with melting chocolate in the middle!
Sadly, my short holiday in Southampton was coming to an end but there was still one place we hadn’t visited: the Sea City Museum! We paid £7 for the entry, the student price, and were really amazed by this place.
The main focus is the story of the Titanic and the museum is organised into different parts and it’s all very well explained – kids would have a lot of fun there! I loved how they divided everything: first you learn about the construction about the Titanic, who worked on it and a bit about the history of Southampton at the time the Titanic was built… Then there is a part about the actual journey on the Titanic, what it was like on board, what people could do, how much food, coal etc. was needed. And inevitably, there is a lot about the tragedy and the collision with the iceberg. An aspect I found particularly interesting was the room with lots of newspaper articles talking about the news reaching Southampton (very slowly) and what happened to the survivors. In one room, they had huge screens with audio testimonies from survivors which was fascinating! Their vivid memories were striking and scary. The final room was crazy: it was like a huge courtroom with two huge interactive screens about the trial of the Titanic to decide who was responsible for the accident and what really happened on the evening of the shipwreck.
We had to test the hats. I simply couldn’t resist it.
Finally, there was another gallery in this museum that was completely unrelated to the sea or even Southampton but was amazing: Visions of the Universe. They had stunning photographs of the solar system, planets, the sun, the moon… It’s impossible to describe, you need to see it. It was breathtaking!
To finish off the day we went back to Sprinkles and had awesome ice creams again!
And this amazing week ended there, after getting barely any sleep I had to get my train back to Norwich early in the morning. I had an awesome time with my boyfriend and it was so nice to spend a whole week JUST relaxing, having fun and visiting new places. Reading Weeks exist to do more work and to finish formative assessments but I needed that break! Now I can go back to work and to university with tons of great memories! 🙂