Every 6.30am start should be accompanied by bacon. It’s the rules. Dead pig is clinically proven to alleviate the trauma that your body clock endures when it discovers you can actually get up at such an hour, and not just to vomit 17 shots of tequila or piss out 7 pints of Fosters before re-collapsing in a barely recognisable heap of flesh and drool. Me and Tarrant were off on a budget adventure because I’d seen fit to book annual leave a week before payday and I’d learnt throughout my travels that the cheapest ways of doing things involved being awake before your basic motor functions had time to kick in because cheap stuff either happens in the dead of night or it takes a fucking long time to do. This time it was the latter. Bus travel.
So yeah, we dragged ourselves out of bed and consumed the appropriate amount of porcine flesh to enable us to at least make it to the bus stop in town to catch the Coastliner 700 from Brighton, all the way to Southsea in Portsmouth. A quick pit stop at the nearest multi-national caffeine dealer later and we were on the bus which cost less than £10 for both of us, one way. Perfect. We settled into the seats at the front of the top deck and prepared ourselves for the arse-cheek-numbing three and a half hour journey.
So I love a good journey. I’ve spent so much time on buses and coaches to various destinations. The company you travel with can either enhance a journey or make it memorable in all the wrong ways but it turned out that Tarrant, my current favourite carbon based slab of flesh and hair, is an awesome travel buddy. We’d only been seeing each other for a short while but it was already apparent that we had heaps in common and were going to get on well because basically, alcohol and games. Yep. An utter lack of respect for one’s liver and a healthy desire to crush your opponent into the ground are the perfect basis for a relationship.
Ok, so, if you’re on a long journey in the UK, a good game to play is the Legs Game. This game requires a decent amount of pubs en route and pubs are a national hobby in the country I hail from. You decide who’s going first then you each take alternate pubs and count the legs your pub has. For example, The Bull would have four legs, because bulls have four legs. The Six Bulls would have 24 legs because six fours is 24. If there’s a plural but no number is specified, you get three. Like, Coach & Horses would have 12 legs. The Happy Millipede would win you the game and bragging rights for all of eternity and if anyone ever opens a pub with this name could they please let me know so I can make a point of catching a bus past it with the mrs? Another game which never stops is Yellow Car Punch which Tarrant is freakishly good at and I have the bruises to prove it because remember, kids; It’s not domestic violence if there’s winning at stake.
The 700 wound its way through towns and villages as we picked the ones we wanted to stop at on the way back to Brighton the next day. We eventually ended up at the last stop in Southsea where we jumped off and surveyed our surroundings, looking for an ice cream shop on account of the fact it was bank holiday Monday and it’s compulsory in many cultures to eat ice cream on bank holidays. At least this was the excuse we mumbled through mouthfuls of frozen cow juice from The Taste Of Italy as we flicked through the Lonely Planet to vaguely plan our Portsmouth trip.
There are a shit tonne of things to do in Portsmouth though many of them require payment above and beyond our budget so we stuck to wandering around. We found ourselves on the Nelson trail; Nelson was here before his last journey and it traces his last steps before he boarded The Victory and sailed to his death. The tourist information boards tell us he scoffed some nom at The George Inn then walked over the bridge pictured here. When I say this bridge, it wasn’t really this bridge. The bridge he walked over is long gone, this is just a bridge that they built in roughly the same location as the bridge he walked on and named it Nelson’s Bridge. Yeah nah. It’s kinda not as impressive when you add that little detail in ay. There’s also a building that had an information board outside of it so I figured I should probably take a photo of it or something. We also ended up randomly ended up following the pretty cool Millennium Trail to Spinnaker Tower which, when you’re on a budget, you settle for photographing at every conceivable angle in lieu of paying cash monies to actually climb up the bugger.
And then it was time for budget lunch. We grabbed some buttie stuff from Tescos and scoured the shelves for the cheapest wine we could find and… wait… was that… was that wine in a juice carton? And indeed it was. Carton wine, the new trash. Never let it be said I don’t know how to treat a chick. My brain wanted it to taste like cranberry juice SO BAD because when you drink a liquid out of a tall, thin waxed carton with a red label it should taste like cranberry juice, dammit. But all of my social conditioning was challenged and we were introduced to this life changing substance. Oh, and you know how the internet likes to see photos of your food? No, really, it does. If it’s not on the internet then it didn’t happen and people, Instagram was invented for sandwiches like the bad boy be built on that bench in Portsmouth. It’s a shame neither of us have Instagram so we could run it through a filter and post it online with the caption, “Yum!” The online photographic community will be weeping into it’s perfectly arranged hashtag authentic cuisine over the fact it missed out on this one.
Anyway, once we’d had our fill of being tourists and has decanted the carton wine into a Blue Bolt bottle thus enabling us to consume it in public, we checked into Tarrant’s first backpackers, Portsmouth & Southsea Backpackers Lodge, then headed out on a bit of a pub crawl, clutching our Portable Alcohol, following the rules of another game. The coin toss game. Everyone is a winner in this game apart from various internal organs and perhaps the ability to speak without drooling. You choose a pub to start at and have a drink then leave. Once outside, you flip a coin, assigning left or right to heads or tails. You walk the way to coin instructs and go into the first pub you come to. If you come to a junction before a pub, you play rock, paper, scissors to decide on left, right or straight on. You HAVE to have a drink in the first pub you come to, even if it’s just a shot because the locals are looking at you funny and you feel slightly intimidated, but you can’t repeat pubs if the game sends you back the way you came, regardless of how cheap the Jägerbombs are.
It took us all around the suburbs of Portsmouth before we headed back to the hostel after a mean Indian curry, tired from our early start and excessive alcohol consumption and ready to crash in our overheated but ridiculously cheap room. So yeah. I like Portsmouth. It’s all about Naval stuff and big ships with impressive sails that will cost your first born to view but there’s definitely a lot of interesting stuff here if you like your sea war-faring history. If you don’t then don’t worry because there’s always ice cream and alcohol.
Early starts always seem like a better idea the night before when discussed whilst mildly intoxicated as you plan your adventures. Not so awesome when your alarm goes off the next day and your tongue is stuck to the roof of your mouth and you can’t remember why your room smells like curry. Leftovers for breakfast, then. We got our shit together and headed to the bus stop, deciding that we’d wait until our first stop before going in search of the necessary quantity of caffeine required to jump start our brains. And the first stop was Emsworth on account of the fact we’d seen ducks on the way through and we wanted to feed them wheat based complex carbohydrates because that’s what nature intended.
You know you may have gotten out of bed too fucking early when you’re the only people wandering round a small village though to be fair, they probably saw the two pale, red eyed, pre-caffeine lesbians stumbling through town in search of a cafe and thought the zombie apocalypse was upon them. They were probably cowering behind their net curtains, frantically searching for chainsaws on Amazon and trying to fashion hairspray and matches into flamethrowers. Salvation came in the form of Flintstone’s cafe where we pumped ourselves full of legal stimulants and dead pig before heading to the lake type thing where we’d seen the ducks.
Now, here’s the thing. When you live in Brighton you learn very quickly that if anything with feathers approaches you, you just hand over all of your chips, drop into the foetal position and protect your soft tissues. In Emsworth, the birds are all normal bird-size and not the genetically modified minions of terror that rule the skies, the beaches and the rubbish bags of Brighton & Hove. When the fowl in Emsworth realise you have bread, they wait patiently for you to throw it to them as opposed to trying to remove it from your hands by force, taking a finger or two to pick their beak with afterwards. It’s altogether a much more relaxing way to start the day than trying to eat breakfast on the pier back home.
So anyway, we’d gotten ourselves a Dayrider Gold for £8 each which meant we could essentially jump on and off the Coastliner 700 all the way between Portsmouth and Brighton so we figured the next stop should be Chichester so we could soak up a spot of culture in the form of the fuck off big cathedral they have there. It’s very pretty and definitely worth a look but cathedrals aren’t really my thing, even if they do have gargoyles of Queen Victoria and Prince Phillip, judging you as you enter. They do have a part of the floor cut away and covered in glass though which I loved; It protected a mosaic which would have belonged to a floor of a public building in Roman Chichester. Apparently they found, like, six Roman rooms when they were working on the foundations of the cathedral. This is the kind of thing I love. A good bit of real history.
I also love cake. Anything with a sugar content in fact, but this time we decided to have a spot of tea and cake because we’re civilised as fuck like that. We headed to a cafe called The Buttery and had to do that thing where you try not to react when told the price of two slices of utter joy and a pot of tea for two. Fuck me, and I thought Brighton leaned towards the expensive side! Fortunately there was a chain pub around the corner so we settled our shattered financial nerves with a bottle of wine that cost less than the tea and cake. Phew.
Aaaand onwards to the unfortunately named Bognor Regis where we’d decided we were going to have a romantic dinner for two at McDonalds in town, but not before going for a swim. In the sea. The British sea. The sea attached to the country that’s not exactly renowned for its tropical weather and toasty warm coastal waters. Living in Cyprus had spoiled me, I hadn’t been in the water yet this year because it hadn’t reached the requisite 32 degrees, instead I chose to guard my friends’ possessions as they took the plunge into the icy (yes, fucking icy!) waters of the English Channel, then I filmed them doing the classic Brighton Beach Walk back to where we were sitting. You know the walk, the only walk you can do bare footed on pebbles, the walk where your body thinks that by waving your arms around as you stumble back to your towel you might not fall over.
Bognor has a pebble beach too so we did the obligatory comedy stumble down to the water and that’s when my nerve endings went into shock. Oh. My. God. No, people. No. The water is not “fine once you’re in.” It’s nowhere near “not that bad, actually.” You could have hung your fucking coat off my nipples and I swear, this is the last time I get into British waters without a full 7mm wetsuit. We were in there for about 10 minutes, I’m surprised I didn’t get some form of flesh rotting frostbite disease.
But at least we had our Macca’s lunch to look forward to because yes, we’re proper romantics, us. We had a candle and a flower and wine cunningly disguised as energy drink, and discount vouchers for that extra special greasy hit. We filled up on dead stuff wrapped in bread and the always divine Big Mac sauce, then it was onward to our next destination, safe in the knowledge we’d be starving again within about half an hour.
So we’d heard Arundel was pretty. There’s also a castle there but it’s actually quite expensive and we’d spent all of our money on all of the other things so we’d decided that we’d merely admire it from afar and save our last few quid for a relaxing beverage at one of the fine licensed premises Arundel had to offer. We were fucking shattered too though after our second early start in a row, so we settled down by the river for a quick nap before exploring the town in search of Tarrant Street. Because Tarrant. Yep. That’s the mrs’s name. It therefore made it compulsory to photograph her in front of the sign for the purposes of Facebook. After a few drinks with the locals, we figured we should probably think about getting back to Brighton. It was about 7.30pm at this stage and it’d be starting to get dark in not too much time. We made our way to the bus stop after we’d been told buses were every half an hour out of the town. We waited. And waited. And waited. And I glanced at the timetable which finished at 18:38… And no. It didn’t continue. Bollocks.
That awkward moment when you realise that neither of you bothered to check what time the last bus left Arundel. Thankfully, Tarrant has one of those newfangled technology phones that can access the interwebs everywhere and tell you all kinds of exciting and good-to-know stuff such as the location of the nearest train station, plus exactly what train you needed to be on in order to get to Littlehampton so we could pick the 700 up again. I’m usually all for the old fashioned approach of “let’s ask a stranger” but the streets were deserted again, all the shops appeared to be closed and fuck it. We had the power of 3G… assuming the battery lasted anyway.
Two short train rides later and we were once again huddled at a bus stop, waiting for the familiar Stagecoach bus to come and take us home. We’d managed to cram more into two days than we usually did in a week between tea and bacon consumption, and a serious amount of Lying Down was necessary in order to facilitate our recovery. But yeah, if you’re ever in Brighton or Portsmouth or anywhere in between and you’re stuck for something to do, do this. The 700 is an awesome local adventure for those who don’t have any money because they spent it all on wine.
Brighton, East Sussex to Portsmouth, Hampshire (and back again), England
Stayed at: Portsmouth & Southsea Backpackers Lodge (2019 update: Apparently this place has closed down)