Saturday, June 10, 2017

Bristol, Babies, Bath, Bicycles, and Besties

On Monday morning I headed to Victoria Coach Station to take a bus ~2.5 hours west of London to Bristol. Although I am loving London and am so thankful for the opportunity to come here, my initial request (begging) was to be placed in Bristol this summer. The city is similar to cities such as Austin, Denver, and Portland in that it has a lot to do but is not too overwhelming as a city. It's population is pretty young, hip, and trendy. There a lots of cool independent shops and restaurants. And some of my favorite people live there.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by my friend Vikki who accompanied me to my hotel. After a coffee and catch-up she had to run to take care of some errands, so she dropped me off at nearby Ceres Coffee where I was meeting my good friends Andrew and Victoria (yes, my two friends named Victoria both live in Bristol! 😂). I have written about Victoria before and encourage all of you to check out her fashion/lifestyle blog She and Hem, which she writes with her friend Jo who will be mentioned later in this post.

For brunch I had the Square Mile - sweetcorn fritters, smashed avocado, grilled halloumi, kasundi, and a poached egg. Really delicious and highly recommended if you ever find yourself in Bristol.
As I mentioned in my post when we met up in London a few weeks ago, Andrew and Victoria are newish parents to an adorable 5 month old baby, so I got some wonderful baby cuddle time while we ate. After eating, we walked in the Stokes Croft area of Bristol which has a high concentration of independent shops and restaurants. Then we walked to their home where we all sat around trying to amuse little Ada. In the late afternoon I headed back to my hotel to work for a few hours before Vikki came to meet me for a late dinner at an Asian restaurant next to my hotel. I had looked up the menu online when trying to find a place to eat and was super excited that they make salt and pepper tofu, which was a dish I ate frequently in Bangor but I have never seen at any place in Austin. It is slightly crispy, salty tofu stif-fried with various peppers and has a wonderful kick to it.

On Tuesday I worked in the morning and didn't get out of the hotel until around 1pm. I spent quite a bit of time wandering around the city center doing some shopping, including spending way too much time at the Seasalt Cornwall pop-up shop. The shop was selling off last year's lines at good discounts and featured lots of cute fabrics and flattering cuts.
Rain kept sweeping over the city in waves and at one point it even started to hail on me.
For a late lunch I had a burger at Roll for the Soul, a bicycle community cafe and workshop space that serves all vegetarian and vegan food.
Their table number markers were made from bike chains.
Looking at their events calendar made me wish I had more time in Bristol.

Next I walked over to the harbourside area and took cover from some rain at the Arnolfini, a contemporary arts center. Their current exhibit was by Basim Magdy - The Stars were Aligned for a Century of New Beginnings
I really enjoyed the paintings and physical images portion of his art, but he also had several video pieces that were a bit too out there for my tastes.
 In one of the exhibit spaces there were two versions of posters that visitors were welcome to take, but I couldn't think of a way that I would be able to transport them without ruining them.

 Bristol as a port city has significance for American history in that this is where explorer John Cabot set out in 1497 under the commission of Henry VII and "discovered" North America. 
 The cranes were once very important to the port and the one of the far left is currently a 1 bedroom "treehouse" that can be rented out for overnight stays, starting at £185/night. But, you had to be one of the lucky people to win a lottery to even have a chance to book a stay.
The idea of love locks on bridges has spread to Bristol.

In the evening, Vikki and I met up for dinner at Cosy Cafe, then we headed over to Milk Thistle, a prohibition style cocktail bar that is unmarked from the outside.

I texted this photo out to some people saying a spider had fallen from the ceiling and drowned in my drink
Wednesday I woke up extra early and was at Jake's Bikes to hire a bike as soon as they opened. Bike secured, I set out to find the Bristol and Bath Railway Path, which is something I had been wanting to do and couldn't make time for during my last visit almost two years ago.

In the late 1960s, the former Midland Railway closed to passenger traffic and from 1979-1986 the rail line was converted into a paved bicycle and pedestrian path. The path itself is 13 miles long, but when you add in getting from city center to city center, your trip is about 16 miles each way.

Most of the journey is spent with views like this, full of lush greenery.

In some spots, you can see the old train platforms, which make for nice spots to rest and soak in the nature.

It also features a somewhat long tunnel that rains down wet, dirty kisses from above. 
Every now and then the trees clear and you have views like this of rolling hills and a few rivers or canals.
Don't watch for children. BEWARE! Beware of children!
Since the bike cannot take pictures of me, you get pictures of the bike
There are a couple of places with pieces of art and unique sculptures.The centurian above marks the crossing of a Roman road.
This guy was accompanied by this:
The road was
The worst hallucination 
Of them all
Leading towards home
And away from it
With too many signs
And no directions
-Ben Okri

Arriving in Bath, it drops you off near an industrial estate, so you have to cycle an additional ~1.5 miles along a towpath in order to get to the city center. 

Upon arrival, I locked up my bike and headed to the Thermae Spa, recommended to me by Victoria. 
For the privacy of other guests, they do not allow phones to be used inside, so I couldn't take photos but you can see some of their website here
It costs £35 for a two hour visit, with an additional 30 minutes for changing and showering before/after use of the facilities. There are two pools, an indoor one on the lower level and a roof top one that is fed by the waters of the UK's only naturally warm spring water and which provides great views of the city. I previously wrote about my visit to Bath with a student group, where we toured the Roman baths, and this spa is built just a couple blocks away. On top of swimming in the mineral-rich pools, there are two steam rooms, an infrared sauna, and an ice chamber. 
I had to soothe my legs and back after that ride, after all! 

After my relaxation time, I walked around the city, did a little shopping, and filled up on calories at Cake Cafe with a mocha and rocky road bar. 
Then, it was time to head back to Bristol to return the bike before the shop closed and to shower and get ready for dinner. 
After 32 miles on a heavier bike than I am used to that probably could have used a seat adjustment, I was actually surprisingly sore. My poor knees and nalgas! 

For dinner, I walked to Wahaca and was met by Andrew, Victoria, Jo (of She and Hem) and her husband James, along with babies Poppy and Ada.With finally meeting Poppy, my UK Tour de Babies was finally complete and I got to put my bouncing and soothing skills to the test.

Thursday morning was spent working and in the afternoon I met up with Victoria, Jo, and the little ladies for my first ever proper afternoon tea. Of course I have drank tea in the afternoon before, but afternoon tea is normally a slightly fancy afternoon meal consisting of tea, sandwiches, scones, and  cakes or pastries. We met at Cox and Baloney, a favorite of Jo and Victoria and where they held their joint baby shower
I loved the dainty tea cups and wall colors.

After a leisurely tea, we all went for a walk and sat in a nearby park for a bit, then Victoria and I headed back to hers for a last bit of conversation and baby time, before we had to say our goodbyes. 

Vikki picked me up and we headed to the hotel to get ready for the evening. 

We had dinner at Sticks and Broth, a ramen restaurant recommended by Andrew and Victoria, and it was quite delicious! Normally if I have to choose, I will always choose pho over ramen, but Sticks and Broth had a really nice vegetarian version and the chili bomb addition gave it a good kick. 
Next we headed to Pipe and Slippers for a drink and I tried the fruity cocktail concoction Pipe Dream, which has a recommended limit of 2 per person.
Don't worry, mom and dad, I stuck to only one.

Next we walked to The Bootlegger, which offers certain drinks as 2 cocktails for £10 most weeknights. Since that's a pretty good price, I wasn't expecting much but they were actually well crafted and the bartenders put a lot of effort into them. There was a jazz band playing as well, which made for a lovely atmosphere.

On Friday I had to make my way back to London in order to prepare for the arrival of new students and Andrew was nice enough to meet me at the bus station for a coffee before I left. While expecting to be in depressed moods from the UK elections the night before, the conservative party did not have a sweeping victory like polls were suggesting, so spirits were slightly higher. We had a good chat about politics and then it was time for me to go.

Although it may be my only visit to Bristol this time around, I'm sure I will be back someday.


  1. So lovely to have you here and happy you got to Sticks and Broth! Vx

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