diamond geezer

 Saturday, April 06, 2013

Day out: Bristol
Bristol is a lovely city. A riverside city. A university city. A harbourside city. A hillside city. A city that likes to paint its terraced houses in softly blending pastel colours. It can't decide whether it's in Gloucestershire or Somerset, so it's in neither. The centre of town is really pretty, apart from the gaps that the Luftwaffe bombed or the planners rebuilt. It's not Bath, but it has Bath-like elements if you like sweeping crescents. It's a very interesting city to visit, somewhere there's actually enough to do to fill a city break without having to resort to the usual fallbacks like eating and shopping. I filled six hours, which means at some point I'm going to have to go back and do Bristol again. Here are some of the attractions I visited. And here are 30 sunny photos.
» Visit Bristol

Cabot Tower: In the centre of Bristol is a green lump - Brandon Hill - which is excellent for walking up and staring down from. Even better, there's an observation tower at the summit which can take you another 100 steps into the sky [photo]. The tower was built in honour of John Cabot, the Italian explorer who sailed from Bristol in 1497 and 'discovered' North America. Access up the tower is free, and at your own risk, and try not to lay your hands on the steps because of the pigeons. But the view from the top is the whole of the city, and I had it to myself for five minutes which is a big win in my book. [photo] [photo] [photo]
Bristol Cathedral: Adjacent to College Green, this seat of worship was originally St Augustine's Abbey but after the Reformation was renamed the rather less catchy Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity [photo]. It's mid-medieval Gothic, in the "hall church" style, and with an absence of clerestory windows. They also have a shop and do coffees. Not stupendous enough that they'll charge you to get in, but all the better for that. [photo]
Clifton Cathedral: At completely the opposite end of the architectural scale, Bristol's Roman Catholic cathedral is a modern concrete and granite structure which bears more than a passing resemblance to a power station. I was so put off by the exterior that I didn't bother to go inside, which was a mistake because that's proper brutalist.

M-Shed: This is Bristol's newest museum, down by the Floating Harbour, opened in 2011. It used to be the Bristol Industrial Museum, but enough of that, what people want nowadays is interactive displays. These are present in abundance, well realised, with the outcome that I found the place packed with families enjoying an Easter day out. Most of the exhibits have a very local angle, appealing to those who know their Bristol and want to find out more. I liked the Brisuanadon, an imaginary dinosaur with suspension bridge neck, and the lofty dockside cranes out front which still move and lift and spin. [photo]
Arnolfini: Bristol's centre of contemporary arts is located in a central waterside warehouse, in the hope that they can entice you inside either to the cafe bar or for the art. I enjoyed a brisk walk round the latest exhibition, called Version Control, a series of multimedia exhibits based on "the re-use or re-visiting of existing works". Don't bother going this weekend, though, the place is flooded out, but that's the perils of being a central waterside warehouse.
City Museum and Art Gallery: This place made the headlines in 2009 when they held a Banksy exhibition and the queues ran round the block. All that's left today is an angel in the entrance hall with a pot of pink paint over her head, but the rest of the museum's well worth a look. It's a mix of stuffed animals, old bones, geology, silverware and art, plus a motley lot more besides. It's essentially a museum of everything, like the Natural History Museum crossed with the V&A, or more likely the Horniman crossed with the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Each room or gallery or staircase is something new, just how a treasure house should be. [photo]

The Floating Harbour: Artificial water course through the heart of town, key to opening up the port of Bristol, now home to a semi-busy ferry service. [photo] [photo]
Nelson Street: What should be a very dull street is enlivened by official street art. [photo]
Christmas Steps: A steep back passage of little shops and drinking holes.
Cabot Circus: Bristol's main shopping centre is one of the least offensive I've visited (and surrounds the oldest Methodist chapel in the world). [photo]
Clifton Suspension Bridge: See yesterday.
Pastel-coloured terraced houses up slopes: Did I mention how lovely these are? [photo]

But I never quite made it to these...
Bristol Zoo Gardens: Proper animals as seen on TV.
At-Bristol: A scientific exploratorium in Millennium Square, complete with shiny globe planetarium. [photo] [photo]
Bristol Aquarium: Proper fishy exhibit, round the back of the Direct Line Insurance building.
SS Great Britain: Brunel's great passenger steamship is berthed here, for expensive exploration. [photo]
Spike Island: Where the artists are (see also Stokes Croft)
The Red Lodge Museum: Closed Tuesdays. Damn. Never visit Bristol on an out-of-season Tuesday.
The Georgian House Museum: Closed Tuesdays. Damn. Never visit Bristol on an out-of-season Tuesday.
etc etc: So so much more to see...


My Bristol gallery
There are 30 photographs altogether. [slideshow]


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