It may not be the edge of the Grand Canyon, or a vista over the sweeping valleys of Tuscany, but the view over the southern city of Portsmouth has a special place in my heart, and instils in me a pride of being English. I cannot explain what it is about this historical sea town, after all it is not surrounded by the mountains of the Black Forest or exquisite views of Ayres Rock, yet I still find it breathtaking, just for a second, every time I visit. Perhaps it is the sense of old meets new, history meets future, metropolis meets tranquility that the city emits. After all, Portsmouth is steeped in naval history, and is the birthplace of Charles Dickens, yet it is moving forward into the future, as can be seen from recent developments such as the Gunwharf Quays shopping centre and the addition of the Spinnaker Tower to the skyline.
Being as I am, a semi regular visitor to the area (due to family ties, I visit 3-4 times a year), it seems to me that the sun is always shining, which has perhaps helped to form my positive opinion of the area, although locals who live here all year round may disagree.
Approaching the area, as the A3 becomes the A27 (admittedly, directions like this do not make Portsmouth sound like a place that dreams are made of) the road runs next to a marshy area known as Langstone Harbour, and it is here for me that the excitement begins. The scene of the water gently lapping the sides of small sailing and fishing boats is reminiscent of Cape Cod, or perhaps the French Riviera, creating a sense of tranquillity and calm.
Further up, the ‘top road’ which runs along the top of a cliff overlooks the entirety of the city plus the land masses of Hayling Island and Gosport either side, and, on a particularly clear day, the Isle of Wight. The view on a clear day is even more impressive. In high summer, a heat haze lingers over the city, as if aspiring to match the smog of Beijing. That, combined with the image of the Spinnaker Tower and other tall buildings in the distance, creating a wall between the buzz of the city and the calm of the Solent, reminds me of a picture I once saw of Singapore Harbour; the skyscrapers, the boats, the water. Not bad for an old English naval town.