PORTSMOUTH — There must be a pub on every block in Portsmouth, says Doug Smith.
That would be Portsmouth, England, where a contingent of local residents are visiting through Wednesday. Their common goal: To invite the port city’s future Lord Mayor designee, Lynn Stagg, back here to help the town celebrate its 375th anniversary Labor Day weekend.
Private funds are paying for the trip at no cost to taxpayers.
The group left Friday for a six-and-a-half-hour trip to London before taking a 90-minute van ride to the sister city.
“Most of us got little or no sleep on the British Airways flight, which was fully booked,” said Mr. Smith, the chairman of the Portsmouth 375th Steering Committee.
After resting up, members of group were met by Portsmouth City Council member Hugh Mason, who took them on a walking tour of the old section of the city, which dates from the 11th century. “A short stop at Hugh’s favorite pub, the Hole in the Wall, and then the walking tour continued along the waterfront, eventually arriving at the Spice Island Inn for dinner within sight of Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower,” said Mr. Smith, adding that the group is being shown “a very impressive level of hospitality by the Portsmouth City Council.”
On Sunday the delegation accepted an invitation by the Very Rev. David Brindley, the dean of Portsmouth, to attend a special Pentecost service at Portsmouth Cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century.
“The cathedral was rebuilt after World War II to the original specifications and hosts a highly diverse and enthusiastic congregation. The service itself was followed by the release of red balloons in honor of the Pentacost holiday,” said Mr. Smith. “After the service, we were invited to the dean’s home, where we met his wife, Gill, and then were taken to the oldest pub in Portsmouth, The Dolphin, for lunch. This pub was founded in 1528, predating the foundering of Portsmouth, R.I. by 110 years, and may have been patronized by some of our founders who sailed from Portsmouth enroute to the New World in the 1630s.”
Later, Ms. Stagg met with the group at The Abarbistro (formerly the American Bar Bistro, named after the U.S. sailors that frequented the place during and after World War II) for a fish and chips dinner hosted by current Lord Mayor Frank Jonas and some other Porstmouth City Council members. “This was followed by a driving tour of the areas surrounding Portsmouth, which included a Roman fort, Portchester Castle, which dates back about 2,000 years,” he said.
On Monday the visitors planned on attending the Lord Mayor “making” ceremony at the Portsmouth Guild Hall, followed by the annual council meeting where they’ll make their formal invitation to Ms. Stagg.
Tonight, the group will dine in the Lord Mayor’s banquet room, and Mr. Smith will give a short speech of greetings to the council and Lord Mayor, along with the delegations from Portsmouth’s sister cities from France, Germany and Japan.
“So you can see we are keeping busy, and I cannot say enough about the hospitality being show us by our namesake city,” said Mr. Smith. “We look forward to trying to reciprocate when their Lord Mayor comes to visit us for our 375th celebration festivities in late August.”