Bristol, UK

Today, after doing my grocery shopping, it was another trip to a local UK city. I sorted through one of the guide books that I have, and randomly picked out Bristol, in the south western part of the country. Not sure why – it was a bit of a random choice, but it ended up working out.

Getting there was half the adventure – it was a little further out than I thought it might be. Two hours, and three trains later I was pulling into Temple Meads Station in Bristol. The old train station itself was pretty impressive, with it’s (I Gothic architecture and clock face. The train trip was pretty good. It’s nice to sit and watch as the English countryside goes by, as you read, or listen to music or whatnot. One of the last stops before Bristol was Bath, which brought back memories of my trip in 2001. I think I’ll get back to Bath in the summer, when the weather is nicer. It’s a pretty cool place, but needs to be greener, and may warrant a whole weekend.

After alighting at Bristol, one of the first things I came to was the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum. It was pretty much what you would expect – the whole history of the evolution of the British Empire and the Commonwealth. It was actually very well done, and was very interesting. Especially being Canadian, and seeing the British interpretation of how the colonization of Canada happened. There was a lot on the fur trade, and a surprisingly large section on the Hudson’s Bay Company. Seems they still think it’s owned by Canadian’s… They has one of the original HBC Blankets on display, and lots of things from the fur trade. The more interesting areas for me were the aspects of colonization of India and Africa, and their take on the slave trade. There was actually a separate exhibit called “Breaking the Chains” that was a more thorough examination of the rise and eventual prohibition of slavery. It was a very thought provoking exhibit, even if it was mostly disturbing. All in all, a very nice little museum w8ith good exhibits in an impressive building.

After that, I wandered into the old town. There were lots of impressive, old buildings and churches. Some of them, much like my visit to Coventry were partially destroyed in WWII, but left standing as a reminder. It seems that Bristol was a fairly major port and aircraft manufacturing site during the war, so was a significant target for German bombing raids. The shells of these huge, impressive churches made for good photo ops.

Remains of a church in Castle Park

At one point I noticed this amazing looking building at the top of the hill, off one of the main streets. I headed up the hill to check it out, and was astounded to see that it was the University of Bristol. What an amazing building for the University.

 Bristol University

Bristol University

 Detail from the main University building

Detail from the main University building

Right beside it was the City Museum and Art Gallery. It was free to enter, so I thought I would check it out. What a gem of a museum! As the name suggested, it is a combination of a natural history museum and art gallery. It’s not big, but it has a really nice, varied collection of exhibits. They have their own little Egyptian Gallery, complete with mummies, and whole sections of tomb walls. It was really quite impressive.

 Mummies in the City Museum

Mummies in the City Museum

They also had a small dinosaur collection, the usual stuffed animals and birds, as well as rocks and mineral. On the top floor, they had a very decent collection of art from local artists, back to the 1600’s. all in all a really nice hour spent getting a better feel for the local area.

After leaving the Museum, it was starting to get to late afternoon, and the sun was starting to go down. There was one last area I wanted to explore, the Harbor area, down along the river. On my way, I noticed another tower, up on top of a second hill. As the light was ideal, I made my way over to have a look. Cabot Tower, named in honor of John Cabot, the guy who discovered Newfoundland (sailed from Bristol apparently – should have known that I guess).

 Cabot Tower

Cabot Tower

 On the hill in Bristol

On the hill in Bristol

The tower is very cool, perched up on the top of the hill. I was a little disappointed; as I thought the views from the top would be really impressive. But they weren’t. I then wandered back down the hill to the harbor. This part of the city is pretty new – obviously they’re pouring a ton of money into redeveloping the area. And they’ve done a nice job. There are lots of restaurants, bars and café’s scattered along the river. There’s a small harbor for docking boats, and the whole area had a very vibrant feel to it. There was a big science center as well; very new and looked pretty impressive from the outside anyway. After strolling the area for a while I settled on a pub to have dinner at. After dinner, it was back on the train(s), and back home to Woking. I’ll be happy once I’m settle in the city, as trips like this one will be a lot easier (and cheaper I hope), requiring less connections.

All in all, it was a pretty good day!

Door to ?, Bristol England. February 2007.