Travel Letter Index

Visit to Bristol

 

We had booked seats on the train which left on time at 11.57. It was one of the new Virgin ones and it only stopped a few times and so we were in Bristol by 2.00 p.m.. Beryl was glued to her novel all the way. I gave up reading mine after a while and just listened to my mp3 player. I was able to concentrate and thoroughly enjoyed Hummel’s Bassoon and Clarinet concertos and his Te Deum and Missa Solemnis.

We took a taxi from the station to the hotel which turned out to be very well placed as you can see from the purple dot on the map. The rooms were not ready as it was only 2.30 and so we walked to the Tourist Information Centre which was just down the road at the @Bristol Centre. Having obtained a map and a current list of events and places to see we set off to find our bearings. We walked across the square to Pero’s Bridge (more of that later). Little did we know that at just this point seven people had been stabbed the night before. We saw the police underwater recovery team but did not know why they were there. It was not until we watched the local evening news that we found out about clashes between Turks and Iraqi Kurds on the harbour side.

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From the bridge we walked across Queen’s Square which, apparently, is the largest city square in England outside of London. It was certainly a very attractive area as these two photographs indicate.

 

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We walked quite a long way after that to reach a shopping area where we bought the usual supplies and then strolled back to the hotel surprised to find that we had been walking for over two hours. Still, we had a good notion of the layout of the city.

We were very pleasantly surprised by the view from our hotel window.

We were on the fourth flour with a view over a new development area and the floating harbour. However, when the builders returned to work on the Tuesday we were made to realise the drawback!

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We read for a while and then went for an early meal at Brown’s Restaurant on Queens Road next to the Museum and Art Gallery. We went there because Beryl had been before and liked it. We were going to go for a walk after that but encountered so many people who were already in high spirits and, indeed, some quite drunk by 8.30 that we decided to go back to our hotel room.

The next morning the restaurant at the hotel was packed and so we decided to walk back up the hill to Café Nero opposite Brown’s restaurant and have breakfast there.

After breakfast we returned to the hotel and then set off on the route marked on the map starting by repeating the walk over Pero’s Bridge and across Queen’s Square.

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We were following the Tourist Information Centre’s maritime trail to start with which took us alongside the floating harbour towards the SS Great Britain our first planned stop.

The ship was absolutely fascinating and we spent some considerable time there. We have the guide book which you might like to look at later. Web site here. We are both great admirers of Brunel who designed it.

This is a photograph of a reconstruction of what one of the better cabins looked like. One woman sharing this space with three children and that was considered a luxury!

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This is a famous view of the rear end of the ship. The craftsmanship is marvellous!

As we left this ship we found another that neither of us had heard of before called The Mathew. It was a replica of one used in 1497 to travel the Atlantic with 19 men on board under the direction of John Cabot. Rather them than me!

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As you can see from the map we then left the dockside and went to walk beside the river which we followed as far as the suspension bridge. It is another stunning achievement designed by Brunel.

From the bridge we walked back to where the locks are marked on the map and then over the waters and up the hill into Clifton. We strolled around quite a lot here looking at individual buildings and peeking in shops and galleries. We were fascinated by the buildings in Royal York Crescent that had a huge area underneath the pavement that was apparently shops originally but now presumably used for storage.

Anyway, we had a really good look round but decided that we would like to come back the next day either on foot or by bus to have a more prolonged exploration.

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So we walked back from Clifton down the main thoroughfare to the hotel at about 4.30. After reading, showering and changing we walked back up the hill to an ‘authentic’ Italian Restaurant I had seen where we had a simple but excellent meal. When we returned to the hotel we realised that we had been walking for well over eight hours.

The following morning we decided to take a trip on a tourer bus as it was the quickest way to see as much as possible and find out about what we were looking at. The buses are run by the same company who operate in Bath and when we took that trip a few months ago we really enjoyed it. It was a fairly damp and cold morning and so we had the bus and the guide to ourselves. The guide was a lady called Pam who was also a retired teacher and rather than blare away with a microphone for just the two of us she sat with us and we were able to stop and ask questions as we liked so we had a really good deal. The bus trip went further than the map shows. From the downs at one side to Temple Meads station at the other and of course included all round the old town walls and Clifton.

When the bus ride finished it was 11.15 and we were very cold from sitting on the top of an open bus being showered by wet trees so we went for a warming coffee and then set off on a route recommended by Pam taking in Christmas Steps and parts of the walls and the shopping precincts. After a light lunch in a café and purchasing some more dangly jewellery for Beryl we walked back across Castle Park, along the River to St Mary’s Redcliffe and on the Princes Street to look at a Tapas Bar menu. After that it was over Pero’s Bridge to the Imax cinema to buy tickets for the 4.30 showing and then on up the Park Street Hill with which we were now very familiar with to The Georgian House on Great George Street. It is one of Bristol’s Museums, all of which are free to enter. It was a really well proportioned building and told an interesting story of a Bristol merchant and how he came by his wealth. It was here that we learnt that Pero – after whom the bridge is named – was his negro manservant for many years.

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The plan, after visiting this museum was to go to the cinema and rest our well used legs and so with seven minutes to spare it was back down the hill to the Imax cinema. It is one of those huge places where you wear special spectacles that make you feel as though you are actually in the film. Their blurb says:

“Our screen is a massive 21 metres wide and 15 metres tall and it is this sheer size which makes the Imax experience so unique. Because the screen is so large, it fills your peripheral vision giving the impression that you are right in the middle of the action itself.”

We watched a forty five minute film all about how modern cartoon films are made. When we first walked in to the huge auditorium we were the only people there! We sat in the middle of the middle row. Two other people came in just before the film started and I waved at them to make them feel at home. It was a thrilling film to watch with some quite impossible things happening to the cartoon characters.

We returned to the hotel at about half past five and then at 6.30 it was back over good old Pero’s bridge again to the Tapas bar on Princes Street where we had the best Tapas I have ever had and because it was early the service was impeccable. There were quite a few other people there as well so we were not sad characters for eating so early. Anyway, after the last few days we were feeling tired.

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On the Wednesday there was just time in the morning to go back up the hill to the Museum and Art gallery. We had a good look around but it was not as impressive as others we have been to recently. I particularly liked two paintings by Beryl Cook and a couple by Alfred Sisley.

After the gallery it was a stroll down the road to The Red House, another of Bristol’s Museums. It is a 16th Century house with some amazing plaster and wood work. It also had a knot garden that has been recreated as in my photograph.

 

It has been a marvellous break, we have done a lot and enjoyed it so much we may well go back for more.

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