Beginning in Bristol

Rom and I hadn’t taken vacation since last October, probably our longest stretch ever at 10 months. Rom has much less vacation time than I do, but the amount is slowly creeping up, so we were able to book a 14-day trip to the UK. (Rom says he is from the UK but more specifically he is from England.  I see this as akin to saying I am from North America when I mean Canada.) We go there once a year to visit Rom’s family. His parents are very generous in never complaining about how much or how little time we spend at their home; this time we spent a week with them in East Sussex. To round out the vacation, we booked 4 days in Bristol and Bath, and 3 days in London.

We have a routine now in which we take an overnight direct flight from Halifax to London, arrive in the morning and haul ourselves around until mid-evening. By then we’ve been up for about 36 hours, but it allows us to save a vacation day and maximize time at our destination. By the time we go to bed, we’re exhausted enough to sleep 8 hours. Then we don’t have to spend days adjusting to the 4-hour time difference.

You would think a person could sleep on a 6-hour overnight flight, but the reality is otherwise. For the first hour after take-off, snacks are served. Then the lights are turned out in the cabin for about 3 hours, the only potential sleep window. Then they turn on all the lights and serve breakfast. I am not sure who developed the process of using food as a tool of sleep deprivation!

We thought about switching from full-sized luggage to carry-ons but decided not to for this trip. A checked bag is still free on international flights, and we each would have had to buy a new carry-on. After hauling our big suitcases from Heathrow to Paddington to Temple Mead, we had second thoughts! (I know you are thinking we could have shared a suitcase, but to be honest, we planned some shopping this time).

It was Rom’s idea to go to Bristol and it worked out really well. To be honest, I knew so little about Bristol, I thought it was at the mouth of the Avon River where it meets the Bristol Channel, but it appears no town is there? Unless you go south to Portishead. Of course, I mainly knew Bristol as Banksy’s hometown, but Rom reminded me it is also the home of trip hop.

There are so many foot bridges in Bristol, I can’t even identify this one!

The first afternoon, we walked around the tourist-friendly harbourfront areas. In this case, harbourfront means areas around Spike Island where the river is wide, and there is a mix of shipping trade relics and modern developments. I felt right at home there since where I live, near the Halifax Harbour, has a similar history. The city centre is great for pedestrians with lots of attractions in a small area.  There are lots of cute bridges so you can scuttle back and forth across the river.

And these! It was the second time Bristol created a Wallace and Gromit trail (I remember reading about a Shaun the Sheep trail on Julie’s blog.) This year’s version  also featured Feathers in various disguises 😊 We only photographed 16 of the 60-some figures, but it was a highlight of the trip – I love them!

Because we only spent a day and a half in Bristol, our visit was notable for the things we didn’t do. Especially since our full day there was a Sunday, the St. Nicholas Market was closed, and so was Flow, a vegetarian restaurant we had looked forward to. We had an “interesting” excursion through the Bearpit roundabout trying to find it, only to learn it’s open just four days a week from 6-9 pm! It would take a brave individual to spend any significant time hanging out in the Bearpit. (It is a park that is accessed through dark underpasses. It was paved over and is covered with a mix of graffiti art and less attractive graffiti tags. It had a menacing air due to some aggressive folks spending their days on site. I can see why it is being completely redeveloped.)

We also didn’t board the two replica ships in the harbour, Brunel’s SS Great Britain and Cabot’s The Matthew. Nor did we go to the very popular Za Za Bazaar international food buffet.

Gentleman Vandal by Nick Walker, 2012

Some of the street art tours were sold out, but the whole city is immersed in modern art and street art, so you can’t miss it no matter where you go.

Instead we walked to the Clifton Bridge, a beautiful suspension bridge over a deep gorge in the river. I had to cross it alone since Rom is afraid of extreme heights, so he couldn’t go to the Giant’s Cave viewing platform either. But I enjoyed it very much 😊

I loved the M Shed museum about the maritime history of the city, and especially its focus on social history, including everyday life in the 20th Century. Nearby is CARGO, a cool shopping centre made from shipping containers (later we visited Boxpark in Shoreditch, too).

The weather was wonderful both days. The hot spell had broken by the time we arrived, and we were grateful to be away from the excessively hot weather that was continuing at home.

We had gorgeous full breakfasts at our hotel (included) and lovely casual meals by the river. It’s a perfect place for a mini-break!

For the next two days, we continued to use Bristol as our base, and made the 15-minute train trip to Bath each day for further adventures.

To be continued…

Where I live, most people assume a trip to the UK would be based around London, Cornwall, the Lake District or Edinburgh. When you travel, do you mostly stick to the big centres or have you found some alternative gems?

18 comments

  1. It’s great to read that you decided to visit Bristol and Bath on your U.K. visit. I’ll look forward to your upcoming posts.

  2. Wow, Dar, sounds like you had a wonderful time. Love the pictures.

  3. Sounds like a good time and a good place to visit! I’m looking forward to future posts about the area because we are planning a visit next fall and want to stay somewhere in the Cotswold’s area which is not too far. No firm plans yet other than that so far. Love that there is so much art to view in Bristol.

  4. Thanks for sharing this! I haven’t been to Bristol but it sounds fascinating. We spent just a day in Bath so I am looking forward to what you find there too.

  5. Jamie

    When we went to the UK we spent a bit of time in London, then headed out through Bath, over to Wales to see the Severn Bore and the Forrest of Dean, then up through the Cotswolds. We would love to have seen more, but had to be brutal in planning our itinerary because we didn’t have much time.

    • Hi Jamie, Nice itinerary! We have a tidal bore in our area but most days it’s rather modest 🙂 In Wales, I would like to see Tintern Abbey (it was less than 60 km from Bristol but no time!). I will need to find out more about the Cotswolds.

  6. I went to Bristol as a child with my parents, they had a friend who lived there. 😉 We did visit the SS Great Britain though I do not remember much about it.

  7. We used to live down in Cheltenham – nearer to Bath than Bristol but we loved it there. Glad you had a great time – you are slowly working up country – when you hit Yorkshire – maybe next time – let me know perhaps we can meet for a cup of tea!
    Love the Wallace and Grommit trail – most cities seem to have had a theme this year – Manchester was bees. We like out of the way places to visit not necessarily the big cities.

    • We are trying to see more of the UK as side trips when we visit Rom’s parents. Would love to travel up your way – in either England or Scotland – and have a meet-up! Halifax has done trails of mermaids and lobsters (not together, haha).

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