Monday, 3 December 2012

Nemesis Nick in Portsmouth 28 October 2012

Date: Sunday 28 October 2012
Venues: Spinnaker Tower, Pyramids Leisure Centre
Who Went: Just me

N.B. Any use of "today" or "Sunday" in this report means Sunday 28 October 2012.

Sunday Morning
The third and final day of my three-day visit to Portsmouth. I awoke at 7am, got ready and packed my bags. The guest house where I stayed provided room only accommodation, therefore having left the guest house at 9am I went to Moggy's Café just down the road for an All Day Breakfast. It consisted of 2 bacon rashers, 1 sausage, 1 fried egg on toast, 3 tinned tomatoes. A slice of bread and butter and a mug of coffee were also included.

My plan was to spend the morning water sliding at Pyramids Leisure Centre. It was the day of the Great South Run, so after breakfast I had to walk to the sea front via Granada Road (long way around) to cross the Esplanade well behind the race start line. I wasn't really interested in the Great South Run, but in order to deliberately allow an hour to elapse between breakfast and water sliding, I stood at a viewpoint near the start line to watch the elite women and Orange Wave start.

Around 10:50 I got Pyramids Leisure Centre only to discover the fun pool wasn't opening until 2pm. This was due to an incident in the pool Saturday which necessitated a 24 hour closure, and not due to the Great South Run. The pool and slides were originally billed to open at 10:00 as normal, despite the run taking place. For now I returned to the spot where I was earlier in time to see the Green Wave (main race) start at 11:00.

Clarence Pier
After the last runner had crossed the start line I walked to Clarence Pier. I was hoping Clarence Pier rides would be open after midday, in order to ride Skyways coaster for the first time ever (and thus add it to my coaster count), and also re-ride Speedy Coaster (which I had already ridden twice at its previous location Leisureranch Weymouth but this would have been my first go on it at Clarence Pier).

When I got there about 11:30 someone reckoned the rides would not be opening again until March 2013. For now I went into Sea Side Fish and Chips for a coffee whilst waiting to see whether or not the rides opened midday. After midday I went into the amusement arcade and spoke to a member of staff, who told me the rides weren't opening today, and would not now open again until March 2013. Obviously I felt disappointed at not now being able to ride those two coasters today, especially as I'd deliberately put on my RCCGB 15th anniversary T-shirt that morning. I was told the rides were open Saturday, and were originally going to be open for the final day this year today, but for various reasons (primarily due to the weather forecast) a decision was taken Saturday afternoon not to open the rides after all on Sunday 28 October.

So far today it seemed I hadn't had much luck! I felt the morning had been pretty much wasted. Had I known breakfast time that Pyramids Leisure Centre fun pool wasn't opening until 2pm today, and that Clarence Pier rides would not be operating at all today, I could have gone somewhere else, e.g. Gunwharf Quays after breakfast. With the time now around 12:20pm I decided to head for Spinnaker Tower anyway.

Spinnaker Tower
Around 12:40 I got to the Spinnaker Tower and made a final decision to pay it a visit. Once admitted my picture was taken against a green background before I went up in the lift to view deck 1.

View Deck 1
The bulk of my visit was on this level. From here the views were breathtaking in all directions. Information boards mention about 50 sights to look for; I looked for some of the but also found a few others. Here are just a few of the things I saw:
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, including HMS Warrior and HMS Victory
Ryde Pier, Isle of Wight
Clarence Pier, including some of its rides
Pyramids Leisure Centre (in the distance)
Portsmouth Harbour station, including trains going in and out
Wight Link ferries entering and leaving the harbour

There was also a cot in the corner of View Deck 1. Judging by the way it was decorated, I got the impression that was there for Halloween (which was just three days away), and would be removed afterwards.

Of course I was keen enough to step on the glass floor. I walked across it a few times and even sat on it once.

View Deck 2
I went up the stairs to View Deck 2. The whole of this deck is the café, with the servery by the non-glazed wall and the rest of the area set aside for tables and chairs. There was no information about sights on this level. Nonetheless visitors are allowed to stand and look out, there is no obligation to purchase something from the café. Although I had a higher view from this level, I spent considerably less time looking out of the windows here than on View Deck 1.

Crow's Nest
After that I went up the stairs to the Crow's Nest. This is the highest point to which visitors can go, and is exposed to the air overhead. To be honest I was a bit disappointed when I got there; although I was now higher up than on View Decks 1 and 2, I felt it offered a narrower field of view than the two lower levels. I was only on this level briefly.

Back To Ground Floor
What goes up must come down. I went back down the stairs to View Deck 2. Passing through there I resisted the temptation to have a coffee and cake, and just headed straight for the lift. You can't call the lift, you just have to wait for it to arrive. A few other visitors were waiting for it at the same time as me. After a few minutes' wait, it arrived and everyone waiting was able to descend to the ground floor. Once there I looked at my photo, but chose not to buy it.

Lunch At Subway
Having left Spinnaker Tower, I went to Subway in Gunwharf Quays (opposite Spinnaker Tower entrance) for a light lunch. I had a 6 inch Chicken Sub and a cup of coffee. Afterwards I walked to Pyramids Leisure Centre. Along the way I briefly spoke to a few people who had taken part in the Great South Run.

Pyramids Leisure Centre
Around 2:30pm I finally reached Pyramids Leisure Centre, and thankfully the fun pool was now open. The pool area has the following facilities.

Snake Flume
A closed tube whose exit resembles a snake's head. Unfortunately this slide was closed all afternoon so I didn't get chance to slide it.

Green Flume
A green closed tube slide with twists and turns. It exits into the landing pool.

Blue Flume
A blue closed tube slide with twists and turns. It exits into the landing pool.

Fun Pool
An irregular shaped pool with a wave machine and a shallow sloping beach area. The wave machine is not always on, but when it is the waves break against the shallow sloping beach area, just like a real beach.

Session Overview
I entered the pool area around 2:50pm. The first thing I noticed was that the snake flume wasn't running. It remained closed all afternoon. A lifeguard told me it wasn't worth opening it as the place was very quiet. Thankfully the blue and green flumes were operating, so I immediately took to those. I enjoyed the green flume and blue flume in sequence eight times over. The green flume was a bit slow for my liking, and on some goes I had to nudge myself on the way down. The blue flume was noticeably faster. All bathers were required to wait at the bottom of the steps for these two slides until told by the lifeguard to go up. The waiting time varied but I don't recall seeing more than four or five others in front.

Whilst sliding the wave machine came on twice. I asked a lifeguard if they still have the super waves, which I remembered from my only previous visit here in September 2006. The lifeguard said they do, and it would be a 15 minute session starting at 5:30pm. My original plan was to leave around 4:45pm to have ample time to collect my luggage, get a meal somewhere and still have time to get to Fratton station for my train home. I now faced a dilemma; whilst I fancied staying in for the super waves, doing so would result in me leaving Pyramids Leisure Centre around 6pm, which would put pressure on me in my remaining available time. After some thought I decided to stay until the super waves anyway.

Having completed my aforementioned eight goes on each slide the wave machine came on again, so this time I went into the pool for a few minutes to enjoy the waves. When the waves ended a few minutes later I returned to sliding. This time I enjoyed the green and blue flumes until they closed at 5:11pm. In that time, I went down the green flume and blue flume in sequence twelve times over. The waiting time varied considerably, early on there were four or five in front of me, later there was just one in front, and for my eighth to eleventh goes on each slide no-one was in front.

Once the green and blue flumes closed I went into the pool. Shortly afterwards the super waves session began. Fifteen minutes of extra large waves, much more fun than the regular wave session I experienced earlier in my visit. When the waves ended I left the pool, even though it remained open (without the slides running) a little longer. I finally left the building around 5:50pm. Obviously it was now dark outside.

Summary of my session in order of activity:
Green flume and blue flume in sequence 8 times over
Regular wave session
Green flume and blue flume in sequence 12 times over
Super waves session

Cumulative summary of slides:

Green flume
Blue flume

Evening Meal
At 6pm I collected my large bag from the guest house where I stayed Friday and Saturday night. I was now clearly on borrowed time to go somewhere for a meal and subsequently get to Fratton station in time for my booked train home at 8:16pm. Going into central Southsea was no longer a sensible idea as that would involve a ten minute walk there now and a considerably longer walk (or a taxi ride) to Fratton station afterwards. The best option now was to find somewhere close to Fratton station. Thankfully I was told there is a Wetherspoon pub The John Jacques in Fratton, located very close to Fratton station. To catch up time I had a taxi from the guest house to The John Jacques, as that was quicker than walking.

When I entered The John Jacques at 6:16pm I took time finding a quiet corner to sit in. Once seated I took longer still choosing a meal. Sunday Club was available, but I didn't fancy that as I had Roast of the Day at Wetherspoons in Havant the previous evening. This evening I fancied something with chips. Eventually, I chose BBQ Chicken Melt (chicken with cheese, bacon and barbecue sauce) for main course. This was served with chips, a grilled mushroom and half a grilled tomato, and was really delicious. A drink was included in its price, I chose 1 pint of Tuborg. In addition, I decided to have a pudding: Bramley apple, pear and raspberry crumble with custard. Altogether a really tasty meal to round off my weekend away. Just before leaving, I returned to the bar to buy a takeaway cappuccino coffee to drink on the train home.

Journey Home
Having left the pub just before 8pm, it was just a five minute walk around the corner to Fratton station. I arrived there in plenty of time for the 20:16 Cardiff Central train which I had booked to travel home on. The said train departed on time and I had a relaxing journey from Fratton to Bath. I finally reached Bath Spa at 10:31pm.


Cooked breakfast at Moggy's Café.
Walking over the glass on Spinnaker Tower view deck 1.
High slide count on green and blue flumes at Pyramids Leisure Centre.
Super waves at Pyramids Leisure Centre fun pool.
Evening meal at The John Jacques (Fratton).

Clarence Pier rides closed all day, so I didn't have the chance to ride Skyways and Speedy Coaster.
Snake flume closed at Pyramids Leisure Centre fun pool all afternoon.

Altogether a varied and enjoyable final day to my weekend in Portsmouth, despite a couple of disappointing moments. Turning up at Pyramids Leisure Centre reception mid-morning to be told the pool wasn't opening until 2pm due to unforeseen circumstances was annoying at the time, as that meant re-arranging my day. Nonetheless that became a blessing in disguise as I ended up staying in for the super waves session, which I wouldn't have done had I gone water sliding around 11am to 1pm as originally intended. It's a pity the rides on Clarence Pier were closed all day, which therefore meant I was unable to Skyways or Speedy Coaster. Thankfully I was told those coasters will still be operating there next year, so I'll make the effort to return to Portsmouth in 2013 to ride them. Spinnaker Tower was also worth a visit, for its breathtaking views, as well as walking across the glass floor on View Deck 1.

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