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Many people automatically think of London when you put the word England in your mouth. No wonder, this city dominates our world of ideas in Britain. And yet it is always the same as France says so well: Paris is not France. At least at that time, in my French book from the year 1982. That means: Paris is not the same as France, it is a world of its own. And so it is in Britain. London is a separate world, a very full and modern and huge city – but this city does not stand for the whole country.
If I could choose to live in one of the cities of England, it would not be London, but Bristol or maybe Manchester. But Bristol has such a beauty that you never really want to leave. In summer and winter, the city resembles a postcard motif with surprisingly many hills. Fortunately, I have found kinship in England and so to Bristol and am happy that I have this place to travel to again and again. Others travel to the Baltic Sea every year or fly to the South Seas. I can well imagine that Bristol is the place where I can go regularly with my children later.
What fascinates me about this city, I’ll tell you in this blog post.
Different than expected
If one thinks of England, one imagines the country either romantic transfigured like the Shire in Lord of the Rings or rather heavily wooded as with Robin Hood. Somehow we are influenced by all these many literary role models that we find in our literature. But Bristol is such a city that did not fit in my picture of England. While most parts of England are really shallow and the most gentle and sheep-populated hills grace the landscape and here and there a grove can be found, but all in all never really feel wild like in the dense forests of Sweden Bristol is a city that somehow does not fit into the typical English picture.
Of course, there are also, the typical snow-white terraced houses and clinker settlements of red brick, somehow typical English, like a finely sorted Lego city. But Bristol has all those hills, rows of houses with little houses in all the rainbow colors that look very decorative down in the valley and all the water. It is always a bit crazy in this city at the first visit. It is believed that you go a short distance because the app only knows the crow flies. In reality, you are then 1 hour on the road, because it is always only uphill and downhill.
The most beautiful view over Bristol
If you want to start your journey in Bristol, you should get an overview of all the hills. The nice thing about England is that while food and catering is a bit more expensive, you rarely have to spend money on attractions. So it is with the Cabot Tower in the heart of the city. Close to the modern Millennium Square, the Town Hall and the Cathedral of Bristol is a beautiful park in the middle of the hills.
There you will find mostly students who sunbathe and learn – the university is only a stone’s throw away. I just did not wear flat shoes this day. A mistake, as it turned out later. Best of all, do not do it right now and wear flat shoes, because the ascent to the Cabot Tower is a small challenge and not for those who are claustrophobic. Because the rise is already a bit tight and then come to meet one another … well, it’s free.
I highly recommend this tower to you at the beginning, as you can first look at what awaits you in Bristol. There is the harbor, which is really almost retro at the present time and is not like modern harbors in Hamburg, but has its very own and very touristy charm. We have many beautiful churches including the cathedral and a variety of pretty Victorian buildings. And one also suspects the museum ship SS Great Britain, which I can heartily recommend to anyone.
Time travel on a ship
I was lucky enough to get an annual ticket for the museum ship SS Great Britain. So it’s clear that I’ll return to Bristol at least once or twice over the next few months. But I can also recommend this museum to all of you directly on the water. It’s like a time travel and takes us through the different epochs, when the windjammer designed by the well-known designer Brunel still brought people from Liverpool to New York or loaded with coal passed the dangerous Cape Horn.
Today, the ship is the place in Bristol, where one feels most of the touristy flair and feels the love of the British to their museums. Let’s face it, usually in Germany such a museum visit is a rather passionless thing. There is the old school of museums, there one reads information board, looks at exhibits and there is a dead silence. And there are the hands-on museums like the Universum in Bremen, which is usually visited only with children and family and is more geared to the needs of the little ones.
Not only read information boards
In England it’s different, every museum is a happening – so I’m hereby warning you. If you enter a museum, you get sucked in, as if you were traveling in this time. Of course, there are also the typical information boards and exhibits, but the museum invites large and small to join in. You can dress up – that’s really essential in any museum in England that I’ve visited so far.
And everywhere there are employees, sometimes volunteers, who give a very lively and passionate lectures on the history of the ship. Sometimes it’s about the gold rush in Australia, sometimes about those who were looking for a better life in the New World. But I do not want to reveal too much. Especially the old dining room of the first class has enchanted me. The light that shines through all the decks here is really impressive. And the designer Brunel, who has also made many other inventions, is dedicated to its own exhibition, which opened its doors only in the spring of this year.
Overnight stays like a local
In the UK, I always choose airbnbs because the locals are just welcoming and welcoming. It’s always like visiting new distant relatives I do not know yet. It has also been nice for my Airbnbs that the concept of BnB is taken there too seriously. So there is not only a bed to sleep in, but also a breakfast. Sometimes it is very European, sometimes typical English. All our hosts have taken the trouble to deliver me a vegan offer.
In Bristol we had two different Airbnbs who were both equally beautiful. One was more on the outskirts on a hill with an even more beautiful view than the Cabot Tower. It was the evening of my birthday, and frankly I was quite flat, so I was already in bed at 8, listening to a neighbors child quarrel with their mother. The whole thing was really unbelievably British and so cute.
“Mom, I think it’s stupid that the others do not let me play,” she whined in a fine English dialect.
“Love, there is already food, anyway,” the mother replied calmly.
“But I do not feel like eating!” Exclaimed the daughter in a broken, shrill voice. It sounded like the beginning of a rage.
But when the mother replied with patience and yet determinedly: “Honey, it’s such a beautiful evening, why do not you just hide the table?”, The anger of the little ones vanished in no time.
And that’s what I love about Airbnbs. You are not just a human in a hotel, you live in the midst of people. Our second Airbnb was not a brick house on the hill, but a little world apart. There were shops downstairs, and upstairs were small, snow-white two-storey houses. In one of these we came in a spacious room that was fantastically located near the city center.
Shopping in Bristol
Bristol has a very special variety of alternative stores that you can not find everywhere. Of course, there is also the shopping street and stores like New Look are certainly worth a look. But thanks to the university and the spirit of the city, there are also many cool and alternative shops. this includes the Vx, where my husband once again drank a milkshake. The vegan bistro does not just have coffee drinks, a little food and delicious cakes. There is also a kind of small vegan supermarket, where we found to our surprise the good German vegan whipped cream. Even chic tea shops, board game cafes and Witschcraft stores can be found there. Esoretikladen may now be a rarity outside of the Christmas market stalls in Germany, but who saw the morning sunlit fog in England, knows exactly why you believe in a place like this still a little bit of magic.
The Christmas Steps
An equally nice place to shop and the reason I definitely need to go to Bristol for a weekend is the Christmas Steps. This staircase is lined with many beautiful shops of all kinds. Whether handmade acrylic jewelry or natural cosmetics – here are some beautiful, small boutiques with things that are unique. But there is one thing that I did not consider: many of these stores are open only on weekends. Unfortunately we visited the city at the beginning of the week and unfortunately we were only able to admire a part of the shops from the outside this time.
But it’s generally worth exploring on foot, as Bristol is an exciting mix of quarrels, historic buildings and Victorian flair. If you like photography, you will find plenty of inspiration and photo opportunities here. On the one hand, the city is clear and ideal for a short break, on the other hand surprised again and again, the diversity of this city again.
Bridge with a view
Probably the most photographed place is outside and is as much a tourist magnet as the already mentioned museum ship. Maybe it’s because both attractions have the same designer. In this country, the name Brunel is rather less common, but this engineer from Portsmouth was a technical pioneer in the age of the Industrial Revolution. In addition to tunnels, railways and their stations or just steamboats and other ships, he also thought up some bridges. One of them is the Clifton Suspension Bridge near Bristol and according to my relatives what you have to see.
Unfortunately, shortly before the maiden voyage of his largest ship, Isambard Kingdom Brunel suffered a stroke from which he never recovered and died in 1859. Brunel did not experience the completion of his bridges like the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Who knows what other great designs he would have conceived and implemented had he stayed among the living for even longer. To this day, Brunel is an icon in the UK and a good start to the conversation, because he is known to old and young.
It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that the Clifton Suspension Bridge is Bristol’s landmark. It leads across the River Avon and over a spectacular gorge. At the same time, the bridge is also considered a monument to the engineer Brunel, as his colleagues collected money after his death. So they wanted to finish the construction and thus appreciate their friend and colleague. Since 1864 the bridge is in use without interruption. Nowadays, the use of cars is chargeable, while cyclists and pedestrians can pass the bridge for free.
And if you are there, you can pay a small visit to Clifton. Because it is precisely the small places in England, which often come along very charming and lovable.
Discover the Southwest of England
Where we are already on excursions, I can also recommend the place Bath to you. This excursion is only a stone’s throw from Bristol, 20 km away. However, it feels like a completely different world. This city has developed from the time of Elizabeth, the first, more and more to a health resort. That may also be due to the climate. Due to the Gulf Stream, it is comparatively mild and pleasant compared to other places of the same latitude. Worth seeing here are above all the Roman baths, to which I will report in another blog post.