Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Vacation: Day 5: Southampton: shopping Mecca

At Waterloo train station
Our trip to Southampton was fairly uneventful; the original train was cancelled, but we managed to find an identical car – really like a semi-private cabin, with two sets of bench seats and tables between for our many computers (tough life, eh?) – on a replacement train that was immediately called up. An hour and a half later, we were standing in the oddity that is Southampton.

Outside London, Southampton has some of the biggest shopping areas I've seen in the UK; the Ikea – which was a block from both the train station and our hotel, as luck would have it – is a four-storey temple to the gods of consumption that includes a full restaurant. And then there's the malls. Again, as luck would have it, our luggage was stuffed to the brim for the cruise, so we skipped the shopping and spent some time taking in what the Old Town had to offer. For example, I gather the wall that we walked along dates back to medieval times. But what's truly odd is that the town really seems to exist for the tourists. I kept thinking that the population couldn't possibly support it all. I could be wrong, but that was the first impression that hit me square in the face. (According to Wikipedia, while its High Street – the common name of commercial districts across the country – is one of the largest, Southampton is ranked 13th in the country for shopping. The population is around 230000 people.)

A story about the hotel: we're all hanging out in Nancy and Stephen's room immediately after checking in, and at some point I decide to head to our bathroom. So I'm going through my ritual of flicking switches to find their associated lights when I come to this thin red cord just inside the bathroom door. Now keep in mind that the light switch for the bathroom of the suite we stayed in during our house-hunting trip was just such a pull-cord, in just such a place; it wasn't red, mind you, but red isn't always bad, right? Wrong. I pull it, and barely have time to compose the thought, “Huh, doesn't seem to do a thing,” before the phone is ringing. I immediately run out and grab it, and the first thing that hits me is that there's some god-awful alarm ringing in the background as the caller shouts, “Sir! Sir! You triggered the disabled alarm!”

Honest to God, my first thought was, “Shouldn't that be impossible?” Luckily my mouth simply replied with, “How do I turn it off?” At which point I was directed to a button beside the bed. Turns out our room was equipped for disabled persons, which includes a pull-cord that hangs to the bathroom floor in case you fall out of the tub or some such. Still a poor choice of words, if you ask me.

One final item of note: we decided to go to a movie at the cinema just down the road that evening; the boys saw Inglourious Basterds and the girls saw The Proposal. Both movies were excellent; in particular, I thought Basterds was some Tarantino's best work in years. On the theatre itself, we paid a bit extra for premium seating – assigned seats, as usual – only to discover that they were exactly what we've come to expect of a theatre in Canada.

Up next: bon voyage!

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