Saturday, October 22, 2011
A bridge and some other stuff in Bristol
We realised we have been a tad neglectful of our loyal fans, so we've put lots of pictures in this one to make up for our poor form. Technophobes - in case you haven't discovered this yet: if you click on a picture it will take you to a slideshow of them where they are larger and you can click the arrow keys to move through them.
After leaving Worcester, we travelled south to Bristol and made our way through the city to our bed and breakfast (which came with a very uncomfortable bed and no breakfast). In the morning, we made our way to Wapping Wharf and the Brunel institute. I have to admit, I hadn’t heard of Isambard Brunel, and nearly earned a beating from Adam for this great omission. Adam was looking forward to taking a look around the SS Great Britain, which was the largest boat in the world at the time it was built. Unfortunately, attractions here in Britain are expensive by NZ terms, most costing £7-9 per person, for entry ($14-18 NZD. Each.), so being too frugal to fork over £25 (that’s pounds, people) to see the boat, we had a wee cry and a look around the souvenir shop instead.
(These pictures taken looking across the floating harbour towards the nice suburb of Clifton)
Once we were over that disappointment, we ambled around the wharf for an hour, stopping to watch long boats and sailing boats. The great highlight of the day so far was watching a group of intermediate-aged kids learning to sail, particularly as once they were out in the middle of the harbour one of the girls started squawking and squirming, and her boat began heading away from the group. While the parent helps and sailing teacher frantically yelled at her to stop talking and steer the boat, as she was drifting further into the harbour and away from the others, we soon ascertained that there was a spider in the boat, and thus a maritime disaster was taking place before our very eyes. While the girl kept squealing and began trying to get out of her seat and stand up (in the middle of the harbour!), the sail boat turned around and headed right for the tow path. Luckily, the boat gently made its way in and the sailing guide gallantly removed the spider. Disaster avoided!
(Boats with no wayward schoolchildren onboard)
(The learner sailers. The blue boat on the right contains the girl for whom tragedy almost struck.)
Other highlights of Bristol – we saw the protesters camping out in front of the council buildings in a public green. It took us all four days there to work out that they are protesting in solidarity for the “Occupy Wall Street” people. Other than that, we’re not sure what their cause is. We also got caught up in a protest against social welfare cuts, where disabled people and their supporters were marching the streets to protest cuts to disability benefits and the like. We took a look around a Georgian Manor house, set up to show what life was like for its former owners and their servants. Unfortunately they’d just had massive roof leaks, so half the house was cordoned off to dry out and undertake repairs.
Just up the road from the Manor House was a beautiful park and wildlife refuge, though all we saw was squirrels. Not that I’m complaining! They are grand. We bought a flat white (!) from a coffee stall next to the protesters and drank it in the park next to some squirrels. Bliss.
We also visited the M-Shed, a museum of life in Bristol that has only recently opened. It has quite a contemporary feel, including a whole room that goes through the suburbs of Bristol and their history/key features. People have the chance to comment on little cards, and these are exhibited throughout the museum. It really is designed as a museum for non-museum-y type people, and there were plenty of people there who I think wouldn’t normally visit a museum.
(Cranes along the wharf outside the museum)
My favourite part had an Anderson Shelter (backyard air-raid shelter) and a fire-watching booth – where men used to sit in small metal booths high on rooftops and watch for German incendiary bombs! My history – the stuff I came across for my dissertation last year! And for anyone who is thinking of visiting, the M-shed café has a great selection of slices/muffins and does a mean cappuccino and pain au chocolat.
(Us watching for fire and bombs, respectively. We both agreed that the job of fire-watcher wasn't for us.)
In a more traditional vein was the Bristol Museum. Situated on the top of a hill, next to the University, the museum (and university) is in a beautiful old building that was a sight in itself. The museum had a really interesting Egypt exhibit, featuring some cool artefacts and a couple of mummies. Again, it’s amazing what archaeologists can tell from bodies – for example the jewellery buried with a body, the diet eaten, etc. I also loved the pictures drawn by Egyptians – I find it amazing to think that these are the real representations of life so long ago, not copies or representations, but actually Egyptian life as drawn by an Egyptian. Cool.
Bristol also had a few things that reminded us of home – a moa skeleton in the museum, a couple of coffee stalls offered flat whites, and the Gourmet Burger Kitchen featured a kiwi burger that came with one of those rubber wristband things with kiwis on it (and a donation to some kiwi park in the North Island). Adam got the kiwi burger and was pleased to have beetroot again – though English beetroot has more vinegar than ours does.
We got up early on Sunday morning to watch the rugby, heading down to a pub to watch. There were a few other kiwi supporters, including a friendly Asian couple who sat next to us who both had All Blacks tops on (though from what I could tell, they weren’t kiwi OR british) and one guy with a crusaders top on! Boy the game was tense. We were on edge almost the whole game, and we definitely appreciated the kiwi supporter a few tables back who kept yelling at the tv too. What a result though!! About time, New Zealand!
And finally, I will briefly mention the Clifton Suspension Bridge. One evening, not wanting to go back to our "bed and breakfast" too early, we drove to a secluded park high above Bristol harbour, in the suburb of Clifton, to do what Engineers do best: Look at bridges.
The Suspension bridge spans the Avon Gorge, dreamt up in the 1750s when some guy decided it would be nice to get to the other side (don't you love history?!), and was eventually finished in 1864. It was the perfect time to see the bridge, and we got to see it light up as dusk fell. At the weekend, we returned for a tour and Adam got to have a good look at the bridge – more about that in a later post.
So that was our trip to Bristol. We were quite impressed with the place, liking its busyness and the appeal of the harbour. Plus there was quite a youthful vibe, having a big university. And, of course, there was the bridge and the squirrels – two very important factors. Bristol gets a tick of approval.
I shall leave you with some trivia: The M-shed featured the story of John Horwood who, upon being rejected by his former girlfriend, threw a stone at her head. She was taken to hospital and died after an operation on her fractured skull caused an abcess. In 1821, Horwood (aged only 18) was sentenced to death and (listen carefully, children) it was decreed that his skin be stripped off and tanned to make the cover for the book of legal documents relating to his case. (Yes, you heard correctly. Aah the 1800s.)