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Brycgstow, “the place at the bridge.”
I ended up in Bristol for a couple days after Wales as an interim stop before Brussels. I am so glad I made it back. Just a couple weeks ago, Bristol became the European Green Capital. This week they started several attractions to commemorate the occasion. Between that, taking a fabulous free walking tour around the town, staying in my first hostel, meeting some fantastic new friends and having my first English breakfast (on my last day in England), I am so glad I made it back. I had no idea how much I missed on my first trip which honestly was primarily intended for my excursion to Bath).
First of all, I have to mention the free walking tour of Bristol. This was my last activity in the city before I left, but it deserves to be brought up first. I was lucky enough to take the first tour of the year, just hours before my bus left to Brussels. It starts outside of the Marriott in the center of town at 11 AM at least a couple times a week and throughout most of the year. It travels for nearly a mile, lasts about 2 ½ hours and visits most of the landmarks in central Bristol. I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Bristol in the months it operates. The amount of data it imparts is fantastic, and I would have never found out so many new things, or seen all the unique locations. Unfortunately, I doubt they will be having another kindergarten art exhibit around the urinals of a century old bathhouse. I also have to say that James is a fantastic tour guide, and makes the tour quite memorable with his great stories, quirkiness and just the right amount of urban legend mixed in. Oh, and the tour happens to be the number one attraction on TripAdvisor.com.
Even outside of the tour, I got to see a lot more of the art of Bristol this time. As mentioned in my last blog, I had seen several of Banksy’s pieces, but did not recognize what I was looking at. I was able to find them again this time, and dutifully took photos of them. Another piece of art, which was new to the city in celebration of their award as the European Green Capital, was a “Fog Bridge” sculpture created by Fujiko Nakaya. Pipes of steam were installed on both sides of Pero’s Bridge to create a fog shrouding pedestrians that crossed the bridge. But the exhibit only lasts until February 22, 2015, so you won’t have long to see it.
This trip to Bristol contained my first night in a hostel. It’s quite a different experience than using Couchsurfing.com. Staying in a hostel definitely has its advantages and disadvantages. There were definitely a lot of great travelers to meet and new friends to be made, (mostly) good facilities and a welcoming sense of security. On the other hand, the metal-spring bed, loud music in the bar beneath my room until 3 AM, a snorer trying to wake the dead and a £17.5 bill prevented it from being a perfect experience. Not that I minded too much. The funniest part was when another guy in the dorm woke up the snorer to tell him that he needed to get his condition checked out by a doctor, as it sounded medically drastic. I had a hard time not laughing out loud. For travelers, a hostel will always be a cheaper and friendly option for lodging, especially when you are unable to find a couch to crash on some cold, rainy night, as happened to me.
After checking out of my hostel, I made my way to the St. Nicholas Markets. I can’t believe I missed these my first time in the city. In addition to the tour, museum, Clifton Bridge and other key features, they are definitely a must for travelers. Aside from having the best (and cheapest) food in the city, they are also the hub of artistic craftsmanship in the city. I spent an hour just meandering through, checking out all the cool stalls. This was also where I met another fantastic traveler, and now a friend for life. We spent most of the day together and I got some of my best photos from the top of Cabot’s Tower. When they finally boarded their train to London, I spent the rest of the day writing about them and wishing our time could have lasted longer. But that’s the story of my last blog: Travelers are Awesome.
My last night in Bristol (and this trip to the UK) was with a host literally a minute’s walk from the city center. Anyone else who gets to stay with Fritz “The Cat” in his final month in Bristol is extremely lucky. He is fantastically accommodating, his flat is amazing, he is the best located couch surfing host in town (as mentioned), and the next morning he treated me to my first English Breakfast. Wonderful breakfast, and a shame that the first one I ate was on my last day on the island. He also hosted a couch surfing event at his flat later that day, which I couldn’t attend as I had to catch my bus to Brussels, but the food I saw he had personally prepared and provided for the party looked mouth-watering. I did get to abscond with a couple of the lox hors d’oeuvres though.
I finally took my leave of the UK, but not for long. I definitely intend to go back this summer, and as mentioned in my Wales post, traverse through it correctly with a tent and sleeping bag. After all, I only made it to two of the four territories of the UK, not to mention missing Ireland. And Scotland is a must on my itinerary. After all, I need to visit the island of my namesake. But that’s taken care of. I have an offer to work at the top hostel on the Isle of Skye this summer, which I definitely plan to accept. Thank goodness for Workaway…but that’s the subject of my next post.