Bucketing down in Bristol

Bucketing down in Bristol
Bristol, United Kingdom

Bristol, United Kingdom

A long day, but not too much to write about. We left Brighton in the morning, after checking the GPS to see how it would take us to Bristol. I was spectacle at first that the quickest way was to drive most of the way to London, hang a left, then go west.

I’m very happy to report that there was much less traffic compared to the London-Brighton trip, or even the Brighton-Southampton one. The rain was unrelenting for the first half of the trip, really heavy in parts and all the trucks kicking up even more water made it a bit unpleasant at times. We stopped at the ‘Services’ near Reading (i.e the servo) but found it was bit of a grand affair, more than the BP on the way up the central coast at home. There was a mini Marks & Spencers, Costa coffee, Burger King, a few other food shops, a newsagent, even a small section with poker machines. I even filled the car up, though all our driving so far had only used half a tank of fuel. It’s true what they say about Diesel manual cars being surprisingly efficient. I guess a puny 1.4 litre engine (even though it’s turbocharged) helps too.

After filling the tank the car said we had a range of about 650 miles which is impressive. It also encourages you to drive as efficiently as possible by telling you when you should shift up / down a gear. There’s about a million other things the screen in the middle of the dashboard can too but I haven’t played with all the options just yet. And after all this time I’ve still only stalled it once – and that was on the first day on a ramp in the carpark in Brighton. Let’s see if I can maintain that record though 🙂

Eventually we reached Bristol, and following a few trips around the block looking for the hotel (even with the help of GPS), we arrived safe and sound. Like all old cities it wasn’t made for cars, and sometimes it seems street names are a bit of an afterthought, but we got there eventually. The hotel is nice – huge, and the room is comfortable (but no fridge, as seems to be the modern hotel trend).

To get a feel for the town we hopped on to a hop-on/hop-off tourist bus, and for a nice change it had a real proper human doing the commentary. On the downside the rain had returned, so sitting on the open upper deck wasn’t gonna happen. Still, in a 75 minute bus ride we learnt a lot about Bristol – a city of ‘firsts’ and ‘mosts’, it would seem.
It’s been a flourishing city since the 1400s, though was established well before – major changes were made in 1247 when ‘broad quay’ was dug out to allow larger boats in.
It had the largest tram network until a major bridge was bombed in WW2, severing all the power cables, after which the tram network was never restored. It had street lighting a year before London, and also the first parking meters, and gave birth to the firs test tube baby. Cary Grant was born here (no he wasn’t the first test tube baby!). Aardman Animation (home of Wallace and Gromit) lives here. It has the second largest tide in the world – 40 feet. We saw the river at low tide, and it was practically drained. This is also where the saying ship shape and Bristol fashion’ comes from. At low tide, most ships would end up leaning over 45 degrees to rest on their hulls – to all ships had to be well built and in good ship shape to handle the pressure of lying on their hull when the tide went out. Also, all good had to be fixed down so they wouldn’t shift as the boat leant over (good needed to be stowed in the Bristol fashion).

On the bus tour we were also able to glimpse Brunel’s marvellous SS Great Britain, and the beautiful Clifton Suspension Bridge. We also saw a piece of Banksy artwork on the wall of a building, and the requisite Lovely Old Buildings – including some apparently built in the unique ‘Byzantine Bristol’ style.

Dinner was a quick dash across a rain-soaked beach to the ‘Za Za Bazaar’. I didn’t think I’d ever see a buffet that would outdo the Bellagio at Vegas… but this was much bigger, and dare I say, better too. It had I think six whole buffets – dessert (most important), Salad, Asian, European, Tex-Mex, and Indian – so nobody would be at a loss to find something to eat. Most impressive – and surprisingly it was all delicious. After that it was another dash back to the hotel.
Hopefully the weather will be a bit better tomorrow for the adventures ahead – let’s see!