Bridges, Balloons, Banksy & Baths

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August 9th 2009
Published: August 15th 2009
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The Grand Bath & The AbbeyThe Grand Bath & The AbbeyThe Grand Bath & The Abbey

The Grand Bath inside the Roman Baths with Bath Abbey in the background.
I've not done a huge amount of travel around this country that I live in so I decided to change that by taking a weekend trip to Bristol and Bath.
It was a bit of a class trip as I was going with four friends I went to school with - Davies, Gkee and Kelley who have all appeared on this blog before, and another one of my old school friends Mitra.

I had heard good things about Bristol - that it is a lively, modern city with a vibrant nightlife.
On the way back from Bristol, we would stop by at the by-all-accounts-beautiful and much talked about tourist trap that is Bath.

As per usual I was slightly hungover and in a rush to get to Paddington Station on Saturday morning and was sweating a bit waiting for the bus, but all's well that ends well and I caught the train with no problems after meeting up with Davies, Kelley and Mitra. We would meet Gkee in Bristol.

Arriving in Bristol, my first impressions of the place as we embarked on a lengthy walk from the train station to the hostel was that this was a very
The Clifton Suspension BridgeThe Clifton Suspension BridgeThe Clifton Suspension Bridge

Bristol's most famous landmark.
modern city, with a some flash glass buildings sitting alongside the water. In some ways it reminded me a lot of Manchester.
I also noticed that there are approximately 1,057 Subways in Bristol.

The hostel wasn't the flashest I've ever seen and resembled one of those crusty pubs full of geezers.
The hostel wasn't going to be open for another couple of hours so with our minimal baggage, we decided to start our tour of the city early.

The first sight of note that we came across was Queen Square, a beautifully kept park surrounded by classic cobblestone streets. It was just around the corner from here that we had a lovely pub lunch outside in the sun although it was slightly marred by the fact that one of the many birds flying around decided to relieve the contents of it's bowels onto my shoulder. Nothing a bit of water and some handsoap couldn't fix.
We then met up with Gkee at the pub before we continued our tour.
We took in the Narrow Quay and it's Auckland Viaduct-like restaurants before coming across the rather spectacular Bristol Cathedral which dates back to the 12th century. The postcard picture
Bath AbbeyBath AbbeyBath Abbey

Stunning church next to the Roman Baths.
was completed by the immaculately kept College Green that runs alongside the cathedral.
Behind the cathedral is Harbourside, site of Bristol's modern entertainment complex, @tBristol. Inside this complex is Explore - Bristol's science museum where you can walk through a tornado, Wildwalk - a botanical house in which a rainforest is artificially created, and an IMAX. Wow that IMAX was a bit of an anti-climax. We continued walking along the River Avon, passing the SS Great Britain - the first transatlantic steamship driven by screw propeller.
After another lengthy walk we got to Bristol's most famous landmark, the Clifton Suspension Bridge, designed by the famous local engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel (what a name) who also designed the SS Great Britain. It is quite a sight and we walked up the steep path that led up to the bridge.
At the top of the path was a patch of grass where a few hundred locals were enjoying the sun, eating ice-cream. Tired from all the walking we had been doing, we decided to follow suit an enjoy a short siesta.
Then suddenly out of nowhere, a group of Red Arrow jet fighters in V-formation roared over head, leaving streaks of red,
The Royal CrescentThe Royal CrescentThe Royal Crescent

£4m will buy you one of these terrace houses. Bath was once the centre of all things posh and gentile.
white and blue behind them. The Red Arrows then performed several acrobatics and pretty patterns for a good 20 minutes, finishing by drawing a heart in the sky.
After a couple of hours lying on the grass we walked across to the camera obscura for some great views of the suspension bridge where many more thousands of people were picnicking, barbecuing and drinking. Why was everyone up here? It was to watch hundreds of hot-air balloons float up into the sky as part of the International Balloon Fiesta. We couldn't be arsed waiting around for them though, so we decided to walk back across town to the hostel.
The walk back was LONG. But at least it was through Clifton, the prettiest part of Bristol up in the hills. Lots of stately mansions which reminded me of my old stamping ground in Warwick Avenue in London except that the buildings were all a pale clay colour as opposed to white. The cars adorning the kerbs were of the same class though. We also passed through the many pretty university buildings along the way. The spread of all the buildings reminded me a little of the University of Auckland. There weren't
Bristol CathedralBristol CathedralBristol Cathedral

Founded in 1140.
any students around though, as they were all on holiday.

Anyway, we finally made it back to our hostel to discover that the dorm that we had booked had leakages and that we would have to make do with mattresses inside a conference room. At least we weren't charged for it though as the hostel staff gave us their apologies.
Walking through the hostel, it became apparent that it was full of sausage. Apart from one Chinese girl we spotted in the hallway, Mitra was the only other girl in the hostel. There were a couple stag-do posses in the hostel too. It really started to feel like that crusty old pub full of geezers.
Gkee was staying at a friends around the corner from us and we were to rendezvous at the hostel bar before going out for some dinner and a night on the town. It almost didn't happen as we all almost fell asleep, still exhausted from all the walking we did.

Anyway, we walked back through the rather sterile and standard looking shopping district back towards Queen Square where apparently all the nightlife action is. We couldn't get a table at a good-looking tandoori

Mirror sphere at Bristol's main entertainment complex.
restaurant so we went to a better looking one instead.
The menu at Myristica was very interesting and included a Babary Duck, a guinea-fowl stir fry and a vermicelli. I shouldn't have changed my mind when I initially ordered the duck as Kelley's was beautiful. My guinea fowl also turned out to be the hottest of all the dishes ordered and would return to haunt me later on (as usual).
Then it was time to get drunk.
We got to Corn Street, where there seemed to be quite a few bars and clubs, although none of them really seemed to be appealing. Bristol on this night seemed to be hen party and stag do central, as they were all out in force. Most of the bars/clubs seemed to be very similar - all pumping out RnB - and reminded me very much of the nightlife in Malta, but not as good.
Despite it being only 11pm, there were already people completely hammered and we passed several patches of ex-stomach contents on the footpaths. There were lots and lots of jocks and geezers out as well that it felt like I was on an episode of Britain Gone Wild. Right down
The BridgeThe BridgeThe Bridge

The Clifton Suspension Bridge from down below.
to an empty god-awful bar that was doing £2 Jaeger bombs (which of course we had two each before scuttling out there as quickly as possible).
We decided to try the cool sounding Timbuk2 which is a club set inside multiple caverns like the bars and clubs in Krakow.
The place had only been open an hour however and looked dead so we went in search of another bar to have another couple of drinks. We walked past Panache which had a huge queue of polo-shirted jocks and rough-looking geezers and the odd fit bird, but we decided we weren't going to wait in line for ages so after getting some clubbing advice from a couple of cops, we ended up back on Corn Street at a Slug & Lettuce for a drink before ending up at BSB - Bristol Stylish Bars. And no, that is not a typo, the place was called Bristol Stylish Bars with a plural 's' indicating that there are multiple bars in this establishment, even though there is only one. With standard RnB music, but full of jocks, the place was actually OK and we met up with Maurice, another one of our old school
Ten Jaeger BombsTen Jaeger BombsTen Jaeger Bombs

At £2 each, how could we not?
mates who was in Bristol for the weekend. Davies was having trouble getting back in after going outside because of his shoes, so we decided to up sticks, have another couple of Jaeger bombs (complete with domino effect) at the £2 Jaeger bomb place (where I felt a bit sheepish for going back in there) before heading back and this time entering, Timbuk2.
Built in the basement of of an old brick buillding, this place really was cool - it was playing trancy-electro stuff though that no-one really recognised though so after a couple of drinks and throwing a few shapes, we decided to continue club hopping.
After scouting several of the late night places on Park St, we eventually went into Agora, another run-of-the-mill RnB /Top 40 club. It was OK, but this was the problem - every place seemed the same and none of the places apart from Timbuk2 were very interesting. And with all the stag and hen do's and drunken louts around, there just wasn't any class about the Bristol nightlife. I thought that this was a prime example of the different approaches that the English and the Europeans have to partying - in general, the

One of his works on a building.
Europeans go out looking to have a good party, while the English go out looking to to get completely blathered. Perhaps if the students were in town the place might be better.
Anyway, we eventually taxied back to the hostel around 4am.

A mixture of being drunk, hot and with people shuffling about in the "dorm", I never really slept properly and when we got up around 9.30am I was feeling like death. But I couldn't sleep anymore with the morning sunshine pouring into the conference room. So we checked out and made another long walk to the Banksy Exhibition.
Banksy of course, is the quasi-anonymous street-graffiti artist who is reported to be from Bristol. As we walked the street we did notice a few of his works on various buildings. Located inside the City Museum & Art Gallery, we arrived to see the exhibition marked by a Ronald McDonald effigy sitting depressingly on ledge with a bottle of booze - brilliant - and a four hour wait to get into the free exhibition!
We weren't going to hang around so we instead had breakfast at a cafe where we once again met up with Maurice and his Aussie
Roman BathsRoman BathsRoman Baths

The front of the Roman Baths building and The Pump Room restaurant.
friend Alesha. I was feeling really sick at this point but managed to hold it together and somehow stomach my Full English.
Feeling hungover and hot, the walk to the train station seemed to take FOREVER and I was exhausted when I finally got there, questioning whether I really wanted to do yet some more walking around Bath.
Mitra definitely didn't as she jumped on a train back to London.
But I thought that I might as well stick it out, especially with the glorious weather we were currently having.

A 15-minute train ride later, Davies, Kelley and I arrived in Bath. A short walk from Bath Spa Station is quite magnificent Bath Abbey with the ancient Roman Baths located right next door, where we decided to do a tour. The place was awash with tourists and I pretty much zombied my way through the complex although I did appreciate the magnificent view of the main bath with the Abbey in the background.
Legend has it that the father of King Lear founded the original town upon the hot springs in the swamps and the Romans constructed the town of Aquae Sulis here in 44 AD.
And it was
The Grand BathThe Grand BathThe Grand Bath

The main bath used by the Romans within the Roman Bath complex.
the Romans who constructed the bathhouses that exist today over the natural hot springs. Bath was for long time a religious centre and a spiritual place of healing, with many believing in the magical medicinal properties of the hot spring water. It was definitely an interesting tour which including a Chinese tourist who decided to let a very loud one go right in front of me and Davies.
We then walked though some of Bath's prettiest streets - the whole town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site - and some of the new, faux-Georgian shopping buildings to the Royal Crescent. We also passed the only actual spa centre in Bath, the modern Thermae Bath Spa.

The Royal Crescent is a magnificent, well, crescent of terrace houses that were rented out by wealthy socialites back in the day. Apparently, buying one unit these days would set you back £4m according to a tour guide we happened to pass. The building is indeed quite grandiose and I was surprised and envious to see an old couple open the huge door to No. 17 and walking straight in. In No. 16 is a restaurant where you can buy a cup of tea
The Circus, BathThe Circus, BathThe Circus, Bath

These once housed the celebrities of their day.
for £5. Surprisingly, the cars parked outside weren't posh at all, although we did wonder if they did indeed actually belong to the residents. Also surprising, was the state of the building exterior - although it is over 200 years old, I would've thought that refurbishment efforts would've included a cleaning up of the building's exterior.
Royal Victoria Park sits right in front of the crescent and it was here that we had a two hour siesta in the sun - it was brilliant.
We then walked to The Circus, a circle of 30 Georgian houses and an architectural icon. We then walked back to the River Avon and Pulteney Bridge which reminded me a lot of Les Ponts Couvert and the Petite France in Strasbourg. Davies made the point that the cobblestoned streets complete with gorgeous Georgian architecture and streetlamps with flower baskets attached, reminded him a lot of France and I would say that I have to agree.
We walked past the immaculately kept Parade Gardens on the way back to the train station where people where in sun loungers sipping Pimms - very posh.

Overall, I have to say that Bristol was disappointing, especially the nightlife. I was expecting more. There is not a
Pulteney Bridge, BathPulteney Bridge, BathPulteney Bridge, Bath

One of only four bridges in the world with shops spanning the width of the bridge.
lot to do there during the day either, and it is not particularly good-looking.
Bath on the other hand is spectacularly pretty and is the prettiest place I have been to in England so far - perhaps it is the prettiest place in England - although there isn't really much going on there either.

However, I never regret going anywhere and this will also be the case for our next trip - a lads' weekend in Gothenburg, Sweden. Oh. Bring it on.


Additional photos below
Photos: 25, Displayed: 25


Roskill For LifeRoskill For Life
Roskill For Life

The high school gang; Davies, Mitra, Gkee, me and Kelley.
Narrow Quay, BristolNarrow Quay, Bristol
Narrow Quay, Bristol

Quay that connects to the River Avon near the harbourside in Bristol.
S.S. Great BritainS.S. Great Britain
S.S. Great Britain

Another of Bristol's sights is the first trans-Atlantic steamship powered by a screw propeller.
View From The TopView From The Top
View From The Top

View over Bristol from one end of the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol.
Red ArrowsRed Arrows
Red Arrows

Jet fighters putting on a show over Bristol.

Balloons launched above the city as part of the International Balloon Fiesta in Bristol.

Affluent neighbourhood in Bristol's hills.
Spring Water DrainSpring Water Drain
Spring Water Drain

An ancient drain for excess spring water from the Roman Baths.
River Avon, BathRiver Avon, Bath
River Avon, Bath

Looking down the River Avon.
Parade Garden, BathParade Garden, Bath
Parade Garden, Bath

Immaculately kept garden alongside the River Avon.
Streets Of BathStreets Of Bath
Streets Of Bath

Typical pretty old street in Bath, reminiscent of streets in the old, posh parts of France.

New shopping buildings imitating the old architectural designs in Bath have nothing on the real thing, but still make the place look nice nonetheless.

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