Saturday, 6 June 2015

We really do like Bristol

Bristol - it does what it says on the can

The billboard says it all. We loved Bristol the first time we visited and second time round it's maybe even better.
The harbourside is so vibrant and full of energy; from the crowded, noisy bars and restaurants ranged along by Pero's Bridge to the streams of boats enjoying the water, everyone's having fun in the sun (when there is some).
Harbourside variety from chic houses...
Personally we're happy to give the football crowd like roaring noises emanating from Wetherspoons and Pitcher & Piano a miss and stroll along the harbour walks, taking in the architectural enterprise that's converted the redundant area into everything from ritzy little houses to massive apartment blocks. blocks of apartments squeezed into every inch
There's certainly money in property here: virtually every square foot has been redeveloped or is in the throes of being done. Not surprising when a flat with a decent harbour view commands nearly half a mill!
Deceptive frontage of the cathedral is actually Victorian
But there's more to the city than young people with trendy haircuts clutching bottles of designer beers. On this trip we've visited a few highlights we didn't have time for previously. First was Bristol Cathedral, a a large, handsome but oddly boxy building standing on its own between the library and a big Marriott hotel rather than surrounded by the traditional ecclesiastical grounds with their bishop's houses and the like.
Very strangely, though it looks medieval, half the cathedral was built in Victorian times - including the huge twin towers that are its major feature.
This all replaced an original nave which had been demolished back in the 16th century.
It's a splendid building inside but I'm afraid we didn't warm to it. Too many of the memorials and tombs seem to be of bishops and it leaves the impression of the church simply commemorating itself. The exception being the tombs of various Berkeleys who we met back at Berkeley Castle and whose wealthy empire clearly enveloped Bristol as well.
The elegant St Mary Redcliffe church
By contrast, a far more interesting church is the St Mary Redcliffe which Queen Elizabeth number one described as "the fairest, goodliest..parish church in the land". Can't say fairer than that.
It boats a stunning vaulted interior
It's a terrific building with a magnificent spire and luscious detailing inside. Dating back to the 13th century in places it is full of interest including the lavish tomb of William Canynges (or Cannings), a 15th century Bristol merchant who was arguably the richest man in the country at the time, with nine ships manned by 800 sailors. (Incidentally there's also a floor slab to his cook, William Coke, compete with engraved colander and knife.)
Sir William Cannings
And his cook
There's also a tomb to Admiral William Penn who at his death was owed some money by the king. As he was a touch hard up he gave his son a few thousand acres of America instead.
We haven't just been looking at churches. Today we trekked up the steep hills out of the city to the delightful Georgian suburb of Clifton. It has always been one of the most affluent areas of the city, built from the ignoble earnings of the tobacco and slave trades.
Today it has a serious dose of affluenza. with its posh designer kitchen shops, 'artisan' butchers and bakers, wine bars and restaurants, all of them teeming with the well heeled elite who, the cynic wonders, are probably employed in today's equivalent of those Georgian era high earners - banking and marketing.
The great man dominates new visitor centre
Topping off – in the literal as well as metaphorical sense – the walk was the famous Cilfton Suspension Bridge of the great Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Seen from the bridge, our route into the harbour
We've been there before but having boated up the river below it gave the views a special extra this time round. As did a visit to the brand new Visitor Centre, opened only this week by Princess Anne to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the bridge's opening.
It's a great Centre, with plenty of historical and engineering background about the bridge which was only completed several years after Brunel's death.
To round off our weekend we have 'Make Sunday Special' to look forward to when the city centre is closed to traffic for a day of fun, food and entertainment. Can't wait.

No comments:

Post a Comment