Do you ever arrive in a new city and find yourself thinking about how much it reminds you of your hometown? I wonder if it’s an expat/immigrant/nomad thing because I’ve noticed recently that we do it a lot. I can’t imagine myself living back in Wellington just yet but I do miss little things about it… the breezy waterfront, the compact city centre, and our famous steep streets. So I guess when we find somewhere that has some of those things, we almost instantly feel a little more relaxed and at home.
When we arrived in Bristol, we had a good feeling that we would like it… by the time we left, we were certain of it. We found a harbourside area where you can get a whiff of the sea, a compact city you can easily walk around in, and hills to give your calves a work out. Tick, tick, tick; no wonder we felt so at home there… throw in the friendly local vibe and the vibrant dining scene and we were sold! Ours was a very snappy visit, but we’d be more than happy to drop by again…
Saturday – Street Art & Markets
We left London fairly early by our standards and about two hours later arrived in Bristol, ready to explore. Our usual modus operandi is to go for a wander and see what we can see… but this time, we had more of a purpose – we were off to spot some Banksys and any other interesting street art along the way. The popularity of this elusive artist and others making their mark on the city has made this quite a popular tourist activity; there are plenty of tours you can take but we we decided to download at map and go it alone because half the fun is really in the finding!
Once we’d seen enough art, we made our way over to St Nicholas Markets to peruse the quirky stalls. You can visit the Covered Market and Glass Arcade everyday but on the weekends they also have Nails Market on the pedestrianised areas of Corn St and Wine St where you’ll find all sorts of arts, crafts, trinkets and vintage goods! I had to drag myself away from a beautiful set of teaspoons adorned with the crests of Malaysian states when the rain arrived and forced us to find some shelter. We were a little too late for lunch but just in time for pintxos o’clock at Pata Negra, a trendy Spanish tapas restaurant just down the road – they’ve got a great afternoon deal where £7 will get you a glass of sherry and three pintxos.
Hotel – The Bristol
Our next move was to check into our hotel, The Bristol, and freshen up before dinner. Situated right on the harbourside and an easy walk from all the main tourist areas, we thought the hotel was the perfect base for exploring Bristol. Do not be alarmed by the frightfully dull exterior, once inside, you’ll be greeted by a comfortable and elegant property – we stayed in a light and spacious Deluxe room with a king bed which was well equipped with gorgeous Temple Spa toiletries!
Dinner – Historical Dining Rooms
There are absolutely no shortage of fantastic restaurants in Bristol; I was tossing up between Casamia or Wilks, but then we came across the Historic Dining Rooms and were immediately intrigued by the concept – dishes originating from the 1700-1800s but executed in a contemporary kitchen. As a huge Pride and Prejudice who has often imagined myself spending a day in Elizabeth’s shoes, I was quite excited about the prospect of enjoying a historically-inspired dinner in a Regency style dining room.
We went for the five course menu with matched wines and enjoyed dishes such as Elizabeth Raffold’s Hottentot Pie of 1769 which consists of chicken breast, breaded sweetbreads, smoked butter pastry, mushrooms, broccoli and chicken cream or Lady Llanover’s Salt Duck of 1867 which involved duck hock, breast and gizzards. Not that either of those dishes looked like they had come from 1769 or 1861, the presentation was beautiful and modern. But more importantly, they tasted fantastic too, all our courses were of an exceptional quality and execution! After our desserts we took a short taxi ride back to The Bristol and collapsed into our luxurious bed.
Sunday – Breakfast & Bridges
We decided against breakfast at the hotel and went down the road to Bordeaux Quay, a huge cafe which also sells fresh bread and pastries alongside their cooked meals. After filling up on eggs and pancakes, we had a quick wander through M Shed Bristol, a free museum all about the city, before making our way to see the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
The bridge, stretching over the Avon River, was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel who unfortunately died before the bridge was completed. Work started on the bridge in 1831 but it wasn’t completed until 1864, though is still in use now over 150 years later. If you decide to follow our lead and walk there, be prepared for some steep bits… fellow Wellingtonians might agree that it’s a bit like wandering around Mt Victoria. Clifton Village itself is quite pretty and feels fairly affluent; plenty of cafes, restaurants and pubs for you to rest up in after the walk. Once back into the centre of the city, it was time for the short walk to the station to catch our afternoon train back to London.
So Make A Move
Ours was definitely a flying visit and there is obviously so much more to do in Bristol – alongside the more common attractions such as the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery or the Arnolfini Gallery, there was a food festival the weekend we were there and I’ve heard of street art and music festivals too.
- The Bristol Hotel by The Doyle Collection, Prince St, Bristol BS1 4QF
- Historical Dining Rooms, through The Black Door above the Star & Dove Tavern, Windsor Terrace, Bristol BS3 4RY
- Pata Negra, 30 Clare St, Bristol BS1 1YH
- Bordeaux Quay, V-Shed, Canons Way, Avon, Bristol BS1 5UH
- For more information on local attractions and events, check out Visit Bristol.
- For more food inspiration, check out local foodies Gingey Bites and Chris.