HAMPSHIRE: Portsmouth

Spinnaker Tower lrHeidi and Harriett on HMS Victory lr
L-R: The Emirates Spinnaker Tower and Heidi and Harriett Saunders on HMS Victory
 
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By Tim Saunders

Emirates Airlines has signed a £3.5m deal to sponsor the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth for five years.

The 560ft landmark, owned by Portsmouth City Council, is the centrepiece of Gunwharf Quays, the redevelopment of Portsmouth Harbour, and was built at a cost of £35m in 2005.

The tower represents sails billowing in the wind, a design achieved using two large sweeping metal arcs. It has a design lifetime of 80 years and is similar to the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, whose structure is a little less than twice as tall.

With lifts to access the three levels there is virtually no queuing, which comes as a relief, when visiting with two young children. The first level is home to a large viewing area and a toughened glass floor (the largest in Europe), which really appeals to our daughters while some visitors thoroughly enjoy jumping on it. At the top of the Spinnaker Tower is a triple observation deck, providing a 360 degree view of the city of Portsmouth, the Langstone and Portsmouth harbours, and a viewing distance of 23 miles. The highest of the three observation platforms, the crow’s nest, has a wire mesh roof, exposing visitors to the elements. The tower can be hired for events including weddings and corporate team building and should the mood take you it is even possible to abseil down it. In fact in 2015 Doris Long, aged 101, broke her own world record of being the oldest abseiler, by roping down the Spinnaker Tower.

A 10-minute stroll round the corner leads to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. An all attraction ticket allows visitors to clamber aboard historic warships including HMS Victory and HMS Warrior as well as enjoy harbour tours and visit the £27m Mary Rose Museum. Unfortunately, there is just not enough time in a day for us to visit everything. This attraction provides an early introduction to history for our two youngsters. Harriett (4) likes the interactive screens in the Mary Rose Museum which do help to get the message across about what life was like over 500 years ago for sailors on the Mary Rose, King Henry VIII’s successful warship for 34 years. On boarding the Victory, the 104-gun ship launched in 1765, it quickly becomes clear that such a ship was not built with youngsters and pregnant women in mind. Caroline, in the late stages of pregnancy, literally has to limbo dance her way around the ship, dodging the low beams and ceilings. But we all agree that it is a privilege to be onboard Lord Nelson’s warship, his flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. We do wonder how his sailors would have coped with the steep staircases in high seas.

Parking is easy in Portsmouth because there is an award winning 1,500 space multi-storey car park at Gunwharf Quays, which allows visitors to leave their car for a few pounds an hour or £20 a day. But the real joy is that you exit right in the middle of the hustle bustle of Gunwharf with its array of shops and restaurants.

Restaurants

Gunwharf Quays is a great place to dine out whether meeting friends or as a couple or a family. There are so many restaurants to choose.

Slug & Lettuce v Las Iguanas

On arrival at The Slug and Lettuce we cannot believe just how popular this pub chain is, so much so that we have to wait for 20 minutes for a table to become available. This is always a good sign that good food and service is offered. On our return we are not disappointed. A happy and helpful waitress provides everything we need despite the fact that Heidi (2) is a little awkward. There is a buzzing atmosphere. As our two rascals colour in their pictures we enjoy our drinks, the ice cold IPA is particularly welcome. Potato wedge starters with main courses of spaghetti Bolognese for the girls and tasty beef and wine pie for Caroline and me. The portions are very generous, which unfortunately results in wastage. While Harriett (4) polishes off her chocolate brownie and Caroline manages her caramel dessert Heidi and I are unable to quite manage our chocolate puddings. The overall experience is good but could be improved by cleaner tables.

At Las Iguanas more adventurous diners can savour flame grilled Latin American dishes. Caroline was a bit unsure of what to expect but is pleasantly surprised. Millie, our waitress, leads us to our family-friendly booth where we sit in comfort and enjoy unhurried service. We arrive at 1230pm and it is not overly busy with just the right amount of customers. I spy an almost seven per cent alcohol Day of the Dead IPA so have to give that a go and find it be enjoyably fruity and thirst quenching. We choose cheese coated Nachos with sour cream and guacamole for a starter that we can all share. However, this does prove difficult for Heidi (2) who is still learning the principals of sharing. With the majority of the Nachos on her plate she certainly enjoys them. As a main meal the girls enjoy vegetable Wacky Tacos, soft wheat tortillas and Crazy Quesadilla cheese filled char-grilled tortillas from the children’s menu. Caroline has a beef burger and I have a chicken burger. These both sound like simple options but they are so tasty. The girls and I enjoy strawberries and blueberries for dessert while Caroline has a creamy caramel cake that she thoroughly enjoys. Harriett and Heidi cannot let her finish without helping her…

Star rating
Slug and Lettuce 7
Las Iguanas 10
 
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