Friday, 15 May 2009

Southampton - Shop and get sloshed.

Advantages: Plenty of typical High Street Shops and pubs.

Disadvantages: Seriously lacking in attractions for both the tourist and jaded local

Southampton, hmm let me see. 
What has it got going for it? 
What does it have for the residents of its city? 
What does it have for tourists and the like? 

I used to enjoy a day out in Southampton, but that was a long time ago when, I was younger and 

Firstly, St Mary Street had an excellent selection of 'alternative' shops, music shops, charity shops and basically was a little livelier than it is now. 
Secondly, I enjoyed visiting pubs and clubs. 

Now that i am "all growed up now", and definitely a lot less 'alternative' I am not too bothered about alternative shops and buying records and stuff like that. But I ocassionally walk down St Mary Street and it just seems dull and lifeless. Maybe its just me! 

Going back even further Southampton used to have a zoo. Now my memories are very vague about this. I just have a vague recollection of going there as a child - some will say it is probably a good thing there is no zoo there, but back in the day it was somewhere to go. I understand there is now a small, and less exciting nature reserve on the site of the old zoo? 

Anothe place in Southampton I loved to go as a kid was Mayflower Park. This is an area of grass down by the waterfront and it had the most fantastic play area. There was a grassy bank with a slide and some very 'modern' looking concrete play areas such as mini-mazes and the like. That is all gone now. The kids of Southampton now have a tiny play area up in the corner, by the entrance and conveniently next to the little refreshment hut - not so good for the parents wallets. And why has the old play are been removed? Well I don't know, but I am putting a pretty safe bet that it was in the way of the Southampton Annual Boat Show, which happens on the Mayflower park site for about the month of September. 

Now let us see. What does the Southampton Boat Show do for the residents of Southampton? Oh yeah that is right it gives the good folk of Southampton a chance to go and purchase that boat they always wanted. NOT!! 

Southampton Boat Show benefits no-one in Southampton except the very richest who might have second homes in ocean village, where they keep their yachts berthed, so they aren't really Southampton people. 

All it does for the folk of Southampton, is perhaps add a few coffers to the town council, and push Southampton folk off of their beloved Mayflower park, unless of course they want to pay to get into the boat show. I have never been to this boat show, so can't comment if it is an enjoyable experience, so fell free to enlighten me. 

Southampton used to have a wonderful Balloon Festival in the summer. Southampton has a beautiful common, up on the Avenue. It is quite expansive and easily accomodated a large number of these massive hot air balloons. Watching these balloons on the ground and in the air really was a spectacular site. Sadly this festival is no more. Why I don't know. 

Southampton does have some nice parkland, perhaps a little more than your average city and I would say the parkland is Southampton's solitary jewel for the resident and tourist. 

There is also a modern art gallery (the building, not the works) which houses a diverse selection of work, and from time to time has changing installations, It is not a 'grand' art gallery though, but definitely better than nothing. 

There are some museums- an archaeological museum - this was free to get in, but you may have to pay now. There is a maritime museum, which was free and you definitely need to pay to get in - this is not good! The museum is housed in a lovely old listed building, but is being moved into the Civic Centre to the police station when the police have found a new home. So currently the maritime museum is down near the old quay and they will be moving it to the Civic Centre, which is at the top of the hill, AWAY from the sea. the lovely old listed building will remain empty because, being listed, no-one can do anything commercial with it. What a great move! 

There is also the Tudor House. this is a wonderful old building, inside and out,except it hasn't been open for years because it is being refurbished. The outside is finished, but inside is apparently empty at the moment and 'they' are waiting for more funding from one of the heritage funds. It is going to be years before this is open again! 

This could become a really long review stating what Southampton used to have and what it now lacks for its own people and people like myself who like(d) to visit for the day. It lacks more than it offers. 

Southampton is great-ish if you like shopping in the same old hackneyed shops, that all other towns and their 'Arndale' centres have- yes this is now a mall city and had three last time I looked (four if you count East Street Centre- what a dump). 

It also now has an IKEA. This has long been looked forward to by people in the South. Not knowing much about IKEA, I used to think, listening to the hype, that their stuff was bound to be quality and looked forward to visiting this when it opened. IKEA's stock looks great, but is cheap, badly put together tat which will fall apart if you use it, rather than look at it. They do a great line in meatballs and hot-dogs though! 

Southampton is a student city with two Universities; UoS and Solent Uni. It used to have three higher education establishments, but La Saint Union was 'absorbed' by UoS. What this means is that Southampton is brimming with students, pubs, clubs and rented accomodation filled with students dotted about the place. 

There are cinemas and theatres. Sadly no 'in-town' traditional 'High Street' cinemas, where you fall out of a cinema and into a restaurant, or go straight to the bus stop. The cinemas are on the outskirts of the main shopping areas, or further afield, and take the form of an industrial warehouse - then again, this is prevalent everywhere now. Southampton does have a half decent cinema called Harbour Lights. I always though this was completely independent, but I understand it is part of a chain called Picture House. It doesn't pander to Hollywood as much, has a comfortable bar, which I use to relax in, rather than go to see a film. 

Southampton could improve by offering more to its people and tourists. It has plenty of old buildings, and I mean medieval, where events could be held, but these seem to be redundant for most of the year except when they are open for 'art' installations. Trades descriptions could have a field day here. 

I no longer enjoy visiting Southampton, sorry if that offends anyone, but it is not your fault so you needn't be offended, unless of course you are one of the cities decision makers, in which case I say breathe some life back into the city. 

Southampton is great if you like shopping during the day and getting drunk at night. 

I will be adding more to this review, when you can convince me what a great place Southampton is.

Summary: Great if you like to shop and party. Not so great for days out.

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