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Five days in Bristol

This is the much-delayed final installment of my narrative of a trip that my wife and I took to southwest England and Wales in September 2019. The first part can be found in Four Days in Cardiff, and the second in Five Days in Bath. The pandemic delayed this final part, but not in the way you might think. I have been doing most of my writing while commuting by train. However, since March, I have been teleworking full time. No train, no writing. Well, I finally got down to it. I hope it remains useful, either as a look back at when people used to travel, or as a source for when we are able to do so again.

To recap, my wife Frances and I are Americans, living in Alexandria, Virginia (outside Washington DC). We are in our mid-60s. This was a two-week independent trip to Cardiff, Bath, and Bristol, traveling by foot and public transportation. Now back to the story:

Wednesday, September 11, 2019 (Bath to Bristol)
We got up at 7:30, a little earlier than usual. We had breakfast, finished packing, and headed for the bus station. We bought our tickets and found the bus with no more than the usual amount of confusion. The bus had a luggage rack, and so we didn’t have to squeeze our bags into the seats. After a brief drive through the countryside, we rolled into Bristol. It was clear that this was a different place than Bath. The streets had a gritty vibe to them. The buildings looked old—not historic, just old and worn.

The bus took us to Temple Meads Station in Bristol. However, there was a lot of construction going on. We were left off at a street corner, a temporary location. So, there we were, in the all-too-familiar situation of standing on the street in a strange city, with little sense of direction, inadequate maps, luggage, and shortening tempers. After some casting about, we identified Victoria Street, the route to our hotel. After that it was a longish walk on an urban street, trailing our roller bags behind us. The hotel’s location wasn’t difficult to spot, as it is right on what I thought of as “the river”—actually part of the Floating Harbour.

The Mercure Bristol Brigstow Hotel is another business hotel, similar in concept to the one we had just left. It didn’t seem as relentlessly homogenized as that one, but you still had uniformed people standing behind a counter with computers and roomy lobby with modern, minimalist furniture—sufficient for waiting, but not encouraging lingering. We later learned that the first floor is dedicated to meeting spaces, with the guest rooms beginning on the second. There are two elevators, but one was out of order for the whole of our stay. That made for long waits. As with many modern buildings, it was not easy to find the stairs.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019 (Bath to Bristol)--continued.

Those discoveries were in the future, as it was too early to check in. We stored our luggage and went out to have a look at Bristol. We began with our usual, futile, attempt to find the TI. There is a big conglomeration of shopping malls just to the northeast of the hotel, and the map (newly obtained from the front desk) indicated that it included a tourist information center. If there is, it is well hidden indeed. We never found it. A rather friendly security guard who we encountered had never heard of it either. So, we saw a lot of shopping opportunities, but failed in our aim.
We left the shopping area and crossed into Castle Park. The park, as the name implies, was the site of Bristol Castle. The castle is gone, except for a few remnants of wall and a small structure in the center of the park. We watched a team of volunteers working in the gardens. Displays in the park described the succession of land uses the site had experienced, from castle to taverns and shops, and then to a park. Across the river we noticed the Left-Handed Giant Brew Pub and made a mental note to visit at some point.

Leaving the park, we stopped for lunch at the Brew Dog, a pub chain that has kind of an edgy vibe to it. Inside, it had a good selection of beers and ciders and a friendly staff. We had beer with a cheese board and charcuterie. It was cozy sitting by the window on another cool, cloudy day.

After lunch we followed the water around to the harbour proper. There are several historic craft docked there. I noticed a World War II landing craft. There are also some amazing dockyard cranes. I tried to take photos of the m, but it is hard to find the right angle to accommodate such tall and narrow structures. The pavement is embedded with rails from the trains that used to service the cargo ships. I read that there is a steam train that moves up and down the harbour, but we never saw it in operation. On the other side of the pavement is M Shed, a museum inhabiting some former warehouses. We made a note of it, but we didn’t want to visit just yet.

We found a replica of the Matthew, the ship that John Cabot sailed (from Bristol) when he discovered North America. Cabot was Italian (Giovanni Caboto), but he is known to history by his Anglicized name. The Matthew is free to visit, although they ask for a donation. We went on board. It is quite a small ship. At first, I thought it was a scaled-down version, but it isn’t. It’s hard to imagine sailing the Atlantic in such a craft. There were a lot of people onboard, which probably gave a good feeling for conditions during the voyage. The replica has an engine and goes for cruises with school groups and such. Later in our visit, we saw it underway.

After walking a little further down the quay, we decided to return to the hotel. We went by a rout that took us past a northern extension of the harbour, lined with restaurants and shops. There was supposed to be another TI there, but we couldn’t find that either. We then struck east through the city streets to the hotel. By that time, we were getting tired and a bit frayed.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019 (Bath to Bristol)--continued.

We completed check-in without difficulty. This was when we first encountered the problem with the elevators. I don’t have any distinct memory or notes about the room itself. That means there weren’t any inconveniences or, conversely, special features. All my notes say is “nice room.” The view was a large building undergoing renovation. At times during our stay we would watch workers dumping debris into a large tube that ran down the building and emptied into a truck at the bottom. It made quite a clatter, but never at a time when we needed quiet.

After unpacking, we just kind of zoned out for an hour, because we were so tired. Then we roused ourselves and started thinking about dinner. We went back around the corner to Baldwin Street and went into the Fish Market, a pub in an old building. One reason we chose it is that it is a Fuller House, and it had been a long time since we had any Fuller’s ESB. Inside, it was spacious. It was a bit noisy, with lots of TV screens shoeing sporting events. I ordered a bacon chop, something I had never heard of before. It was very tasty, with the best aspects of bacon and a pork chop. It wouldn’t be healthy to have that very often, but it was a nice treat. We watched the football on the TV screens, although we know almost nothing about the game. It took a long time for us to work out who the teams were.

That was enough for the day. We returned to the hotel, got used to our new quarters, and, eventually, went to sleep.
Walking miles: 6.7

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Thursday, September 12, 2019 (Bristol)

The next morning, we awoke at our usual 8:00 and experienced the hotel’s breakfast for the first time. It was a buffet in the restaurant, with the usual comprehensive selection: eggs, sausage, croissants, bread, cereal, fruit, etc. The restaurant is on the ground floor and has a long glass wall looking out on the harbour. Thus, we could watch the different craft moving up and down, along with the people jogging, walking (some with dogs), and biking as they began their days. We could also see that it was going to be another cold, rainy day. We put on our rain gear and set out.

We retraced our route from the previous evening, heading towards the northern part of the harbour, along Baldwin Street to Broad Quay. Our first destination was the Aquarium. We spent the morning there. It has some large, multistory tanks with lots of different fish that you can view from different levels. I took a lot of video, as I’ve found that still photos don’t work very well when shooting through glass and water. After leaving the Aquarium, we walked up St. Augustine’s Parade again, and this time we found the TI (we had walked right past it the day before). They gave us advice on where to catch the bus to the airport, a location that wasn’t far from where we were standing.
After browsing the souvenirs, we went to the head of the harbor, where a double line of food booths was doing business at Harbourside Market. We bought a couple of toasted ham & cheese sandwiches from a booth called “Graze” and cappuccinos from another booth. The weather had cleared up by then. We sat on a bench and watched the harbor traffic and the people as we ate.

Bristol university and its cathedral are just one street west of the marketplace. We went around to look. The college green was littered with students enjoying a break in the weather. We wanted to have a look inside the cathedral, but a graduation ceremony was in progress. Mid-September seemed like an odd time for graduation, but there it was.
Leaving the cathedral for another time, we walked south, crossed the bridge, and went into M Shed. M Shed calls itself “a museum of Bristol life.”—a city museum. We’ve been in many city museums. Some of them have rooms stuffed with the collections of prominent citizens who donated their hobbies to the city when they died. This one isn’t like that. It is a well-designed, rationally curated, depiction of Bristol’s history, in terms of events, people, and material culture. It touches on unsavory aspects, such as the slave trade, poverty, and labor strife, while also noting invention, industry, and moments of heroism during the Blitz. The story is told mostly through artifacts, large and small. There are some video displays. The third floor was devoted to a special exhibit about the film “Early Man,” a stop-motion animation feature by Nick Park and his Aardman Animations team., who work in Bristol. I was sort of aware of their Wallace & Gromit movies and also “Chicken Run.” Similarly, I had heard of “Early Man,” but I had never actually seen any of those. Even so, I found it fascinating to see how they brought the characters and their world to life. There were models and sets used in the production, with demonstrations of the special camera techniques. One large display was just characters’ mouths for different expressions. Of course, there were videos showing how they went from pieces to the finished product. On especially entertaining piece was about how they had gotten a small crowd of Bristol sports fans to come to the stadium and record all the cheers and audience reaction sounds for the “big game” in the movie.

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Thursday, September 12, 2019 (Bristol)--continued

[Some months after our trip, we did sit down and stream the film on our TV. It basically your standard sports film, in which the underdogs train hard, learn teamwork, and defeat their flashy rivals. The twist is that the underdogs are cavemen and the rivals are a Bronze Age city-state.]

After leaving M Shed and browsing the gift shop, we started back to the hotel, walking along the water. The weather had become very nice, with mostly sunny skies and mild temperatures. At the point where the Floating Harbour makes a 90 degree turn from east to north, we stopped at a pub called Hole in the Wall. Despite its name, it seemed an upscale place, crowded with men and women in business attire. We decided to try a couple of pints of cider, which we drank at a table outside. The cider was surprisingly refreshing. We soaked up the cider, the warm weather, and the view. In addition to the people and the harbour traffic, we could see the skyline south of the water, including the spires of St. Mary Radcliffe.

We returned to the hotel and then went out for dinner. We stopped at a restaurant called Aqua a short distance from our hotel, along the water on Welsh Back. It is a cut or two above the pubs where we had been dining, but not forbidding to a couple in casual clothing and no reservations. We sat near the windows. A large table near us was hosting what appeared to be a party of business associates. I ordered pork belly with rice, but we decided two half half-pints of beer. We finished off with sticky toffee pudding, ice cream, and cappuccino

Walking miles: 3.8.

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Friday, September 13, 2019 (Bristol)

We had our breakfast and headed back across town. Our first stop was the cathedral, now free of graduation ceremonies. We always like visiting cathedrals and old churches. This one features some interesting side chapels and war memorials (Crimean War and Indian Mutiny). It has the ship’s bell of HMS Argus, the world’s first aircraft carrier.

After leaving the cathedral and having another look around college green, we crossed over to the south side of the harbour, past M Shed, all the way to SS Great Britain. Great Britain was one of the first iron-hulled ships, the largest in the world when it was built in the era of mixed sail and steam. One perhaps unique feature of Great Britain is that they allow you to actually climb the rigging. While the prospect is terrifying, I did not want to miss that opportunity. Alas, when we arrived, we were told that the “Go Aloft” program was running only on weekends. We would have to come back for that. However, our tickets were good for a year, and so we wouldn’t have to pay again.
We first took a walk around the hull. Because the hull is plagued by chronic rust, the ship is on a cradle out of the water. You can walk around underneath it and examine the screws, the rudder, and other features. You then climb up some stairs to enter the ship by passing through a museum about its history. The story is bound up with that of its builder, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Brunel was one of the great engineers of the Victorian—and perhaps any—era. He built tunnels, railways, bridges, ships, and much else besides. Great Britain was built for the Atlantic crossing trade. She had a rough start, as she ran aground on her first voyage and took a long time to repair. She was not profitable on the Atlantic route, but she spent many years carrying immigrants to Australia. Eventually, as old ships do, she fell into disuse and became a storeship hulk, in the Falklands Islands. She was sunk there in 1937. She was refloated and returned to Bristol in 1970, where she was restored. The museum includes a video of her return. Thus, almost everything one sees inside the ship is a restoration.

After passing through the museum you climb up more stairs to the deck. Then you can work your way down into the hold. There is a lot to see, with the working areas and the passenger accommodations from first class down into steerage. Many accounts from passengers survive, and these are played by the sound system at appropriate points in the ship. You get to see the cargo holds and engine rooms. While we were there, the dining room was being set up for a private event.

After leaving the ship, we went int a separate museum about Brunel himself. It goes into details about his life and all the other projects he initiated, as illustrated by models, drawings, videos, and objects. The site has a massive gift shop. I came close to buying a replica of Brunel’s messenger bag with its “JKB” monogram but decided I didn’t really have a use for it. I did buy a biography and some magnets. Fran picked up some gifts for her coworkers.
We wanted to take a harbour tour on one of the Bristol Packets boats, we had a little time before the next departure. We wandered east along the harbour, looking for a place to get a bite to eat. We found a little stand called “Crepes and Coffee,” literally on the Prince Street Bridge. You can guess what it sold. The woman who ran it seemed to have a production capacity of one crepe at a time. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to produce the second one. We had ours filled with Nutella, eating them at an outdoor table (there were no indoor tables!) while sipping our cappucino and watching pedestrian and water traffic flow around and under us. The we retraced our steps to the Bristol Packets dock.

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Friday, September 13, 2019 (Bristol)--continued

The boat took us west towards Clifton and an area called the Underfall Yard. They have a barrage there similar to Cardiff’s, which keeps the water level in the harbor constant despite the tides. The guide gave us a patter about the objects we were passing, including the old Georgian terrace houses (“more than Bath has, but we don’t go on about it”) and the expensive modern buildings (of which he disapproved). We turned around and eventually turned up into the northern branch of the harbor. We learned that this extends much further underground. A more accurate way to put it is that it has been built over. We debarked at that point and walked back to the hotel.

Our plan was to find that brew pub we had seen from Castle Park on the first day. However, when we got there, we found it to be wall-to-wall people and blasting music (this being Friday night). So, we went back in the direction of the hotel, just casting about for a likely pub or restaurant. Right at the Bristol Bridge we found a little place called Buena Vista. We were led onto a very narrow patio overlooking the harbor, with the park on the other side. I had a big bowl of penne with bacon & onions. We had fudge cake and ice cream for dessert. It was a nice little discovery.

Walking miles: 6.2

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Saturday, September 14, 2019 (Bristol and Clifton)

The next morning, we had breakfast, walked down Baldwin Street to the Centre Prominade, and took a bus to Clifton. My notes contain the remark “I’m cranky.” I don’t remember what that was about. Some kind of transient bad mood, apparently. I also don’t remember any details about the bus ride. It must have gone well enough. The weather was warm and clear. It lasted that way all day (for a change!). We exited the bus at the stop closest to the suspension bridge. It wasn’t immediately clear which direction we needed to walk, but we soon sorted that out.
The Clifton Suspension bridge another achievement of Isambard Brunel. It is an imposing structure with graceful stone piers supporting gleaming cables across the Avon River Gorge. The gorge is deep and steep-sided (as gorges tend to be), and down below is the churning river. It still carries vehicular and foot traffic. The footpaths run on the outsides of the bridge, with motorized traffic in the center.

Fran isn’t very comfortable with heights. She decided that she didn’t want to walk across the bridge, with just a fence between her and the gorge. She stood on the end tanking photos while I crossed by myself. It was a spectacular view, although not without moments of vertigo. About halfway across I ran into a geezer who said that he crossed every day and loved it. When I got to the other side, I noticed that there was a visitors’ center. As I walked towards it, I encountered a rather friendly cat sunning himself on a rock. I didn’t want to take the time to go through the exhibits in the center, with Fran waiting for me. Instead, I took a quick look through the gift shop. I came away with a metal model of the bridge, a small tray with a map of Bristol, and a magnet. I recrossed the bridge on the opposite walkway, which gave a good view of the upstream side of the gorge. There were environmental slogans painted in extremely large letters on one side of the cliff faces.

I rejoined Fran, and we headed for our next destination, the Clifton Observatory. It is on a very high hill in a park next to the bridge. Not knowing any better, we walked up a steep path. We later realized that if we had walked a bit further around the base of the hill, we would have been able to take a gentler, paved route. The Clifton Observatory is a large circular white building. I knew from the guidebooks that it featured a camera obscura and a cave. However, I was still expecting it to have a telescope—you know, observatories have telescopes. It doesn’t. The camera obscura is a circular room at the top of the building. When you close the doors, it is very dark, and you must give your eyes time to adjust. Then you can manipulate some mechanical controls that operate a system of lenses and mirrors at the top of the dome. This projects an image of the surrounding area onto a circular surface in the room. You can pan the image and zoom it in and out. It’s quite an interesting and entertaining device. We didn’t play with it very long; it is a small space, and other people were waiting for their turn.

At the other (vertical) end of the observatory is the entrance to the Giant’s Cave. I don’t know why it is called that—I can’t imagine a giant fitting into it. Caves are often associated with giants. This one provides a double dose of phobias: claustro- and acro-. It starts out innocuously enough, down a flight of ordinary stairs. The then stairs turn to stone steps. The they become just a stone floor leading downward. Meanwhile, the walls are closing in on you and the ceiling is getting lower. I’m a pretty tall guy, although thinner than I used to be. I was doubled over and glad I had a hat on. Of course, we met people making the trip back to the surface, and we or they had to flatten against the wall to let the other pass.

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Saturday, September 14, 2019 (Bristol and Clifton)--continued

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. (Actually, the tunnel is well lit all the way down. Otherwise it would have been three phobias.) At the bottom, the cave itself is relatively spacious, with room to stand up and move around one another. The big attraction is that it opens onto a balcony on the side of the Avon River Gorge. You step out of the cave into daylight, and you are standing in midair on the cliff face. The view of the bridge is the best vantage point we saw. You can look the other direction and see the river as it surges downstream between the rock walls.

On the balcony’s guardrail there is a life-size cutout of Isambard Brunel so that you can have your picture taken with the famous engineer, using his bridge as the backdrop. We took one for some Chinese women, who reciprocated by taking ours. (This was the only picture of the two of us we brought home from the trip.)

We climbed back up to the observatory, making way for the next wave of visitors as necessary. Circling around the building, we stopped for lunch at their little café, having roast beef sandwiches, crisps, and cider. As we sat at our outdoor table, a wedding party arrived for a reception in the observatory’s event room All of these friends and relatives filed past in their party clothes carrying presents, cakes, bottles, and other supplies. It was an interesting reminder of ordinary life after being on holiday for so long. A few tens of yards away from us, a group of firefighters had set up camp and were conducting a drill, practicing cliff rescues.

We walked back down the hill and set off to find the Clifton Zoo. Looking at the map, it appears that we didn’t have to walk very far. However, journeys always seem longer when you aren’t sure of where you are going. We arrived at the zoo in due course. This was a fine Saturday afternoon in September—a great day for a family outing. It was crowded, with lots of children. I’m not a big fan of kids, but you must expect them at zoos.

The Clifton Zoo is clearly an old establishment, with many of the old-style zoo buildings that you see anywhere across Europe and America. However, they’ve done things to repurpose and modernize the facilities. The lemur exhibit puts you in among the animals, which are climbing the trees all around you. There are activity areas such as playgrounds and a zip line. Like many zoos, it has a small animal house where the light cycle is reversed so that you can see nocturnal animal when they are active. This one was the darkest I’ve ever (not) seen. We walked in and could see nothing at first. Our glasses’ self-darkening lenses contributed to the problem. It was full of people, and they couldn’t see each other. Some of the smaller children had total meltdowns; they had to be hustled out, screaming. Eventually our eyes adjusted, but it took time.

We had a pleasant, relaxed afternoon, wandering around and taking the odd photo. When I look at my files, I’m surprised at how few photos I did take. There is a bus stop just outside the gates, and we grabbed transport back to the harbour market area in Bristol. We found a tiny pub called the While Lion (it calls itself “the smallest pub in Bristol”) where we sat and had a half-pint of beer. While walking aback to the hotel we found that a street market was going on. We browsed a bit among the booths but didn’t buy anything.

After reorganizing at the hotel, we decided to go back to the harbour market area to locate the stop where we could pick up the airport bus. There are lots of bus bays along that area, but we couldn’t tell which one we needed. Eventually we went to the TI and asked for help. They did a good job of explaining it, marking the spot on a map and telling us the stores it was next to. We went back and found it.

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Saturday, September 14, 2019 (Bristol and Clifton)--continued

After casting about for someplace to have dinner, we decided to go back to The Old Fish Market. This time I had a chorizo & onion pizza, with beer. That was it for that day.

Walking miles: 7.9.

Sunday, September 15, 2019 (Bristol)

I got another message from Consumer Cellular that my roaming limits had been exceeded. Given that this was our last day in Bristol, I didn’t even bother to contact them. I was feeling a bit down, because we had done everything we had planned; maybe we were staying a day too long in Bristol. However, Fran had been combing through the guidebooks, finding sights that we missed. It turned out to be a full day.

We set out down Baldwin Street, heading towards the John Cabot Tower. There was a marathon being held that morning, and so we were weaving our way through crowds and around street closures. Our route took us through the college grounds again and then northwest into a part of the city we hadn’t seen before.
The Cabot Tower is in a large park on a steep hill. As you probably could guess, the tower was built to honor John Cabot, but this commemoration was a hundred years earlier, in 1897, for the previous centenary. After spending a little time looking at the gardens in the park and its view of the harbor, we ascended the hill to the tower itself. It is a square stone edifice, built just to give people a view. There is an iron staircase that winds around inside. Several levels have doors opening out onto parapets where you can take in the city around you. I went all the way up to the top, although Fran decided not to go that far. The view in the harbor direction was all the way to the suspension bridge. I took panoramas and closeups all the way around the perimeter. Then I descended and joined Fran.
Our next stop was Georgian House, the former home of one John Pinney, a Bristol merchant who made his fortune in the slave trade. This is the same John Pinney whose statue would be torn down and thrown into the harbor during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations of late Spring 2020. However, that was still the better part of a year in the future. The house is similar to 1 Royal Crescent in Bath, although not as opulent. For example, the centerpieces on the dining table are made of white china, not molded sugar—even though the West Indian sugar trade was the key to Pinney’s wealth. It’s clearly a rich man’s house, with a bright and airy music room and a magnificent double desk and bookshelf that spans a whole wall of the study. The servants’ quarters and kitchens belowstairs display the latest in 18th Century housekeeping technology.

We next went to the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. Like the museum in Cardiff, this one combines fine arts and natural history. Our first stop was the café, where we bought sausage rolls, crisps, and cider. We spent most of our time in the art galleries, with paintings from the 17th through 20th Centuries (judging from the photos I took). The central atrium features a Wright Brothers-style biplane suspended from the ceiling. The names of famous artists are inscribed in plaster relief around the walls.

Our next stop was the Red Lodge, another house museum—but this one is from the Elizabethan era. While certainly displaying the standards of luxury for its time, it was quite the contrast to Georgian House. Its heavily paneled rooms and solid furniture took us back through the centuries.

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Sunday, September 15, 2019 (Bristol)--Continued

While working our way back to the hotel, we stumbled across Foster’s Almshouse, which was established in 1483. It is now a private residence. We took some photos of its medieval exterior and courtyard. We walked along the harbour, looking for restaurants, and then stopped for a cappuccino. Then we returned to the hotel to reorganize.
We went out again, heading for the bus stop so that we could time how long it took to walk there. Then we had a restaurant on the harbour called Stable. This is a big open room with long tables. There is a counter for ordering in the back, while the harbour side is all windows. You order at the counter, and they bring the food to you. We took chairs by the windows so that we could watch humanity and the water taxis flow past. The restaurant specializes in meat pies and cider. I never knew that there were so many kinds of cider! We blindly chose a couple. I ordered a ham & chicken pie. It came with a little salad and roasted potatoes.

That was pretty much the end of our vacation. We returned to the hotel and started packing.

Walking miles: 6.7.

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Monday, September 16, 2019 (Bristol-Dublin-Washington-Alexandria)

We woke up at 4:30. That is our normal waking time for a workday at home, and so it wasn’t too difficult. Naturally, it was way too early for breakfast. We put on our backpacks, grabbed our rollerbags, and started on the long trip home. Down the elevator, out the door, around the corner, and down Baldwin Street—a route that was now familiar, but we were unlikely to trod ever again.

While we didn’t feel that we were in any danger, it’s always eerie to be walking in a strange city in the predawn darkness. Other than being spooked, we didn’t have any difficulty. We arrived at the bus stop and sat down to wait. Bus stops always make me nervous. I’m afraid the bus won’t come, or that I will get on the wrong one. A couple of other buses did come through before ours arrived. Since this was heading to the airport, it had luggage racks for our stuff. Off we went into the darkness. More and more people piled in, and it got crowded. The airport seems a surprisingly long distance from the city, as it usually does.

We trundled into the terminal and found the Aer Lingus counter (no FlyBe this time). The line was short but not moving. It seems that there was a problem with the boarding card printer. They fixed it, and we moved on. We got through security quickly. However, we could not find out which gate was ours. They weren’t telling. We had plenty of time to wait, and so we found the food court, breakfasting on sausage and egg rolls from a place called “Eat.” Then we sat down and waited, nervously checking the departures board every few minutes. Finally, they revealed the secret, and there was a surge of people moving to the gate.

The flight to Dublin was uneventful. I literally don’t remember anything about it. Once at that airport, there was a long line for pre-clearance to the USA. It took well over an hour of shuffling forward, a step or two at a time.
Through sheer luck, we were at the front of the line for boarding. It was a seven-hour flight, in the usual crowded conditions. I did the usual things: try to sleep, read, work sudokus, listen to music. My headphones got uncomfortable in that time, but I left them on to cancel the sound. They served us a meal centered on beef stroganoff. It wasn’t exciting.

Once at Dulles, we went through the usual rigamarole of corridors, mobile lounges, passport control, and customs. We had reservations with the SuperShuttle, although Dulles has made that increasing hard to locate. (They have since gone out of business.) There were three other passengers. We were treated to dueling GPS giving the driver different directions as we careened around the area. However, we eventually hot home, and that was that.

Walking miles: 2.3

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It's always interesting to read visitors' impressions of the place where one lives. Although there is plenty to see, Bristol is not really set up at present as a tourist destination in the way that Bath is. Most visitors come on business, or are on short breaks for a specific reason. The covid-19 crisis has changed all that at present.

There are a couple of historic points I would make, One is that Castle Park is not just the site of the old castle, but also includes what was the original commercial and shopping district. This was destroyed during the blitz, and the whole area redesigned. Apart from two ruined churches and small parts of the castle, the area is now mostly open space.

The other correction is that it was not a statue of the nineteenth-century Charles Pinney that was recently pulled down and thrown in the harbour. That statue was of Edward Colston, who died in 1721. Colston was a successful slave trader, but also a major benefactor towards Bristol, funding schools, almshouses and other charities, many of which bear his name, or did until recently. Many wealthy Bristolians were slave traders or owned Caribbean plantations. They were richly compensated when slavery was abolished in the 1830s. The question of slavery and its legacy has always been a major issue in Bristol, and is currently under even greater scrutiny.

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Thank you for those comments. I did know about the history of Castle Park. It is well documented on the site. As an urban economist, I found the succession of land uses very interesting. I didn't bring all that out in my report, though.

Thanks also for the correction about Colston vs Pinney. Yes, I did get that wrong.

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Thanks for taking the time to write this up and post. I've just re-read thru Cardiff and Bath as well, lol. What a fun time you all had and all the more memorable for being able to look back on it now.

Based on the way you all like to travel, if you decide to do another trip to Britain like this with several longer stays, I'd suggest Salisbury as a location for 4 or so nights. I know most people just go in to the cathedral and maybe catch the bus out to Stonehenge but there are so many more cool things there!

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Bristol is not usually on the American tourist radar but you get to see what the rest of England can look like away from the major attractions. I was with a group of American/British friends/relatives when we happened to stop in Bristol for dinner one evening on our way to Wales maybe. Admittedly, we only had a brief stop, but we found Bristol was a little rough around the edges. Our food was OK and the locals seemed slightly bewildered by our arrival in the pub. We stopped to Look at the Clifton Suspension Bridge, I had seen it as a young child back in the late 70's early 80's and it still is an amazing feat of engineering.

Margaret

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Pam, we did something like you suggest in 2013. We didn't stay in Salisbury; we stayed in several places along the Channel coast, from Portsmouth to Poole. While in Poole we took a day trip that included Salisbury and Stonehenge.

Margaret, Yes, Bristol does give off a more working-city vibe than Bath. As you can see, we found plenty to do. I don't remember anyone reacting to us as tourists. We were treated as any other customer. Maybe we were oblivious!

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Just received The official Magazine Britain in my mailbox (Sept 2020 issue) this evening and low and behold Bristol is featured on 4 pages! It states " Bristol is ripe for Exploring" I have a subscription to this great magazine but you can also pick it up at Barnes and Noble. You may want to check it out. I may have to rethink Bristol.

Margaret