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.