Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth: a haven for shopaholics!

As readers of my blog may have picked up over time, I am often at my happiest when near a body of water, whether it’s by Loch Lomond in Scotland, in the Lake District or in Canary Wharf, London which is one of my absolute favourite places to go shopping. Even after my amazing trip to the Chelsea Flower Show recently, I decided to go down to the south coast of England just to walk on the beach for a while and get a bit of an airing! I’d love to retire somewhere coastal.

Last weekend, before spending Saturday night with the local police on a night shift (as you do!), I had a few hours to myself. I didn’t necessarily want to do any shopping but I just fancied going somewhere on the coast. So, I found myself popping over the county border into Hampshire. Portsmouth is probably best known for its maritime heritage but it makes for a fabulous weekend away. In fact, we took our children there many years ago when they were very young and we loved seeing the Mary Rose which is a famous Tudor ship. You can also catch a ferry from Portsmouth to France, Spain and the Isle of Wight.

However, if you love a spot of retail therapy, I strongly suspect that you will like Gunwharf Quays. There are more than 90 famous brands including Calvin Klein, Christy, Denby, Karl Lagerfeld and Jaeger set out in a large, attractive pedestrianised area with a wide range of restaurants, a casino, etc. Oh, you could easily do a lot of damage to the debit card!! However, I restrained myself and the only place I went into was Yankee Candle. It doesn’t take much more than the word ‘sale’ and Yankee Candle to catch my attention! I might have come out with a bag…..or two!

However, the main highlight of the trip was to go up the Spinnaker Tower which is 170 metres high and is essentially an observation tower right on the coast. With it being a beautiful day, it just seemed like it would be more than worthwhile the time to get there. An adult ticket costs £11.50 and the great thing is that the staff stamp your hand at the ticket office and then you can return as many times as you like that day. A lift takes you up to the first floor and from here you get spectacular views of the city and the Solent. There’s even a glass floor. I absolutely love heights and so looking down beneath me with tiny people and boats was really exciting!

The third floor, accessed only by a spiral staircase, is called the Sky Garden which is fairly small but it’s covered in Astroturf and decorated with beach huts, plants and bunting and there are even for deckchairs where you can sit to admire the view.

However, it was the second floor that was my absolute favourite because this is where you find The Clouds café. I blogged quite a while ago about the benefits of being a solo traveller as I often find that places can accommodate one extra person even if they are pretty booked up and the staff managed to accommodate me on such a glorious Saturday afternoon. Although I was just sitting there eating a chicken, mozzarella and pesto bread roll with a drink, they serve afternoon tea which, for anyone unfamiliar with this British tradition, is usually a three-tier cake stand with dainty sandwiches, scones and cakes served with copious amounts of tea! I just love the picture below and really hope that I can take hubby here one day.

The lift up to the three floors is an internal one that doesn’t give you any views but, if you really want to get the best view possible, you can even abseil down the tower! I might like heights but not when I’m attached to a rope! Give me a sandwich and a cup of tea and I’m happy with that.

So, what’s coming up soon on my blog? Within the next few weeks, I’m going on the Eurostar to spend a day in Paris, I’m going to the British Grand Prix, and one of my children and I are hoping to pop along to Cadbury World in Birmingham as, well, we love chocolate! But first, I’m really looking forward to this weekend and seeing someone whom I met in Liverpool whilst meeting the original cast of Fame last month as she is performing at a local theatre playing the lead role Joyce Grenfel.

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