Jo’s Monday walk : Bristol Blues!

The last time I was in Bristol was to see the highly spectacular Balloon Festival.  It had been my first visit to the city and I was quite keen to take an introductory walking tour.  Due to the volume of people in Bristol for the festival, in glorious August weather, the tour had been cancelled.  Little did I know then that I would have another opportunity.  But this time was very different.  The sky was an unrelenting grey, rather matching my disconsolate mood, and my weekend seemed to be unravelling around me.

You see, I had made a surprise visit for an 80th birthday party.  I flew into Bristol at 8 in the morning, and had the whole day ahead of me.  I had planned to spend it with my lovely friend, Gilly.  Not only was Gilly sadly unable to meet me, but I had neglected to bring with me a vital contact number.  I had no means of getting to the party.

Leaving Bristol bus station, I wandered into the city, trying to formulate a plan.  As so often, my camera came to my rescue and I started to observe my surroundings.  Bristol is well known as the birth place of Banksy and the wave of street art that took Bristol by storm in the 1980s.

I’m always ambivalent about street art.  Some, I hate.  Some, I love.  In this case it was a welcome distraction, highlighting good and bad in the city.  I especially felt for the semi-derelict St. John on the Wall church, on Broad Street.  Posters on the rusted grills covering the windows advertised for volunteers to enable the church to continue to be opened to visitors.  600 years of history hidden from view.

I was hopeful that the Tourist Information office might come to my rescue.  The battery on my ancient cell phone was fading fast and I needed somewhere that I might connect to the Internet. The phone number I needed was on Messenger.  At 9.30 on a Saturday morning the TI was still closed, but I had a map from my previous trip.  The Central Library appeared to be just behind the Watershed, where I now stood.   A spark of hope propelled me in that direction.

The sky maintained a dreary grey as I bypassed Millennium Square with its lofty wheel.  Bristol Science Centre held promise of an interesting haven from the cold, which I might need later. Crossing over the road I headed uphill towards the Cathedral spires.  The Abbey Gatehouse provided a welcoming entrance to the Cathedral grounds and the adjoining library.

10am was opening time for the library.  I turned my gaze upon the grand countenance of the City Hall buildings on College Green.

City Hall is a grade II listed building, the seat of local government in Bristol since 1956.  I had paid it scant attention on my last visit, when rain had driven me to the bosom of the Cathedral. I still had time in hand for a swift return to the lovely cloisters.

At 10 o’ clock precisely, the doors to the Central Library admitted me.  I was totally astounded at what I found inside.

Opened in 1906, the grade 1 listed Central Library was built on land adjacent to the gatehouse of St. Augustine’s Abbey, or Bristol Cathedral. Charles Holden, the architect, has created an Edwardian building that filled me with reverence.  Quietly I mounted the sweeping stairs, from the marbled entrance to the reference library.  Chandeliers dangled from the vaulted glass ceiling, between 2 tiers of galleries crammed with books. The history of Bristol was all around me.

To my enormous relief, there was an alcove where I could plug in my phone, and in a little while had found the number I needed.  There was a temptation to stay cocooned in the library, but it was time to set forth.  I had thought I might visit the botanic gardens at the University of Bristol, but the weather was still unsettled.  The TI was now open, of course, and there were leaflets outside proposing a number of walks.  Banksy perhaps? Just as I was contemplating coffee, I realised that the 11 o’clock walk that I had missed on my previous visit was all set to go. It was meant to be…

The funny thing was that my historic walking tour retraced many of my steps.  Back to Millennium Square, where we discussed Bristol and shipping, overlooked by the globe-shaped Planetarium.  Up to the Cathedral and College Green, this time with highly informative Ken, who covered the slave trade, imports of tea and Fry’s Chocolate factory.  Dates were affixed to the many beautiful architectural details.  While I very much enjoyed having company, one thing of significance did happen.  I had seen an illustration of a Banksy entitled ‘Well Hung Lover’, about which I was curious, but had no idea where to find it.  Would you believe that it was barely two steps from where I had been previously, that morning?

At the junction of College Green with Park Street.  You might have noticed that a watery sunshine was beginning to brighten the skies, and my spirits lifted like the prancing unicorn on the top of City Hall.

The tour continued past the huge old warehouses where Bristol Sherry used to be stored, down to St. Augustine’s Parade and the art deco Hippodrome Theatre, beloved of Cary Grant.  Back to the Floating Harbour and the incredible story of how the river was diverted to ensure that Bristol’s life force, trade and shipping, could continue to prosper.

Huge Queen Square next, and it’s grand Georgian houses.  The Bristol Riots took place here in 1831 and almost 100 of the buildings were burned to the ground.  They’re a feisty lot, Bristolians.  As we looked towards the Bristol Old Vic theatre, currently undergoing renovation, a tribe of Norsemen and their ladies stomped past.

Past the Welsh Backs, and a wonderful jazz pub, ‘The Old Duke’, honky tonk music tripping off the keys.  Our tour ended at St. Nicholas Market, where you can purchase almost anything your heart desires in the lovely old Exchange building, or outside on the busy street.

It was definitely time to take the weight off my feet and I found the perfect venue,  The Cosy Club.  Yet another grade II listed building, and a former bank, the ceilings romped with art and the music had my toes tapping.  A comfortable banquette was my resting place for the next couple of hours. And then it was time to head for the party!

I hope you enjoyed my wanderings in Bristol.  So did I, after a bad start.  If you saw my Six word Saturday you’ll know how the party went.

Definitely time for a cuppa, isn’t it?  I have some wonderful walks to share with you, again. Many thanks to all of you who take part, and to you comfy armchair types too.  If you’d like to join me, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  I’d love it if you could.

……………………………………………………………………………………………

What a privilege to be joined by Tish AND a gardening legend from our past!

Tulips’ Last Hurrah And A Gardening Legend

And if anyone can put a beautiful post together, it’s Debbie :

A Flowering Island

Wander back in time with Drake :

Historical flashback

Nice to see old traditions still observed, but with a modern twist.  Thanks, Lady Lee!

Maypole- raising

What’s Jackie up to this week?

Day 5- So Cal- Solvang 

And where would we be without Woolly?  Still serious this week :

Jo’s-Monday-Walk-Wk18-Anzac-Day-2

Enjoy the gentlest of ‘potter arounds’, with Susan :

Walking Small 

And a sequence of reminiscences and beautiful wistfulness, with Meg :

One tree beach

Eurobodalla beaches : One Tree Beach (the north end)

Delighted to be tiptoeing through the bluebells with Elaine.  Today I’ll be bluebell-ing in Durham, weather permitting :

Bluebell time

While Eunice shows us England’s green and pleasant land in all its beauty :

A woodland walk

My lovely friend, Cathy, is walking marathons around Japan, making the most of her time there :

From Tokyo station to the Imperial Palace Outer Gardens, topped off by a beer garden in Hibiya

That’s all for now, folks!  Hopefully I’m off to count bluebells this morning.  Have yourselves a great week!

128 comments

  1. Jo, what a wonderful post. I’ve not visited Bristol for years! I used to love the balloon festival. You have some fascinating photos of street art which seems to be the legal def of graffiti 🙂

      1. I am good, thanks. I’d taken a break from blogging for a couple of years as I’ve been heavily involved with a writing forum (writingforums.com) that absorbed most of my time. IT’s good to be back and find some of my favoutie blogs still alive and kicking. I must add yours to my blog list. 🙂

  2. Chuckling at ‘well hung lover’ 😀 What an interesting city. I would have dawdled at the gorgeous cloisters and library. Thank your the wonderful tour Jo.

    1. Thank you, darlin 🙂 I was just saying to Sue that everything seems to have greened up here in the last few days. I shall join you with pleasure. (and a hug 🙂 )

  3. Jo, a joy of a post both so informative, interesting and visually delightful. 😀 It almost seems to be serendipity that you forgot the number and needed to go to the library – what a magnificent building and I’m surprised you managed to leave so soon! I had no idea Bansky came from here and of course the wall paintings would have to be numerous! Yeah, the sun for you later…thank you for sharing your tour of Bristol. I’ve been once but now very tempted to return!

    1. There’s a lot to see, Annika. The waterfront is my favourite part but the Cathedral is a stunner and the library was such a great find- in more ways than one. 🙂 🙂 Thanks, darlin. Hope you’re having a good week.

  4. Another amazing walk Jo, so many fascinating places for you to explore. I really must get out more because there is more to see locally than what I’ve been photographing on my walks 🙂

    1. I find once I start I just get drawn into it, Sam. It gives me so much joy. My life can be pretty boring but once the camera’s in my hands I’m a different person. 🙂 🙂

  5. It looks like you had a party before the party, Jo! I’m so glad you found the number you needed, and stumbled upon the library in the process. It looks like a beautiful place. The street art there seems dark and somewhat goth-like, doesn’t it? That’s a strange one, that “well-hung lover!” I feel much the same as you do about the weather; I try to keep my spirits up under gloomy skies when traveling, but it’s hard, isn’t it? As soon as a bit of sunshine appears, my spirits lift. I wish I could learn to appreciate the rain, because we certainly can always use it. And cloudy day photos can still be lovely, as yours are. I’m so happy it all worked out, the party, the walk, the skies! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, darlin! You’ve got me smiling. 🙂 🙂 I was really lucky to be able to go and I almost messed up. The lover made me smile too. 🙂 Love you, Cathy!

  6. And there I was a few days before, wondering if I could remember the way to some of the Banksy stuff, so glad you found it. Well, you saw a lot more than you would if I’d been there, we would have been yapping all the time. I so wish I’d been able to get there x:-)x

    1. That’s true, darlin, but I would have been more than happy just to have your company. Some day we’ll make it happen. I meant to ask, will you get a puppy or maybe a refuge dog when you get over Daisy a little? I know it’s early days yet. How’s Dido?

      1. Dido is missing her, she doesn’t quite know what to do with herself, but I think each day gets easier. No plans yet for another dog, I don’t know how I’ll bear it when Dido goes so getting attached to another one . . .
        Yes, i know I’ll see yo sometime, you don’t get rid of me that easily 🙂 xx

  7. RJo – I agree with you about street art, but when it’s as gorgeous as all this, it really adds to the atmosphere. I especially like the people walking normally by the well-hung lover 🙂 Cheers – Susan

  8. Liesbet dropped me a note this morning and told me your latest post was bursting with street art. So I had to hurry on over. From the get go with Neptune, I was in love not only with the street art but with Bristol as a whole. I enjoyed your last trip to Bristol and am glad that this one ended well! I may have said this last time too…I never thought it would be there, but your post(s) have put Bristol on my bucket list of places to visit. Big hugs from Koh Lipe, Thailand

    1. It’s a seafarer’s city, Lisa, and you would be right at home there. The waterfront and Floating Harbour are quite incredible. Do you remember the Balloon Festival? Quite magical! I hope that life is being kind to you in Thailand. It’s wonderful to have you here. I’ll pop over to yours very soon, bearing hugs, of course. 🙂 🙂

      1. I do remember that magnificent Balloon Festival as well as the Cabot Tower, the Clifton Windows, the Bristol Whales and the cute little Shauns! Both you and the sea brings us to some of the most wonderful places! I did eight months of sailing in the UK in 2011, but my ship only brought me from Ramsgate to the Scilly Isles. Bristol next time.

      2. OMG you HAVE to go there. Truly my top highlight (among many highlights) of sailing England. Turn back the clocks 50 years (in a good way) and you are in the Scilly Isles – kids playing in the streets, friendly locals welcoming you with open arms, long walks across gorgeous landscapes.. Can’t miss.

  9. I have only ever driven through Bristol on the way to the airport (goodness knows why we went through the city centre) and it was not in the least joyful. Obviously the way to see this city is on foot and you showcase it beautifully. Another lovely city walk with you Jo, you really are the master 😀
    Hope you found lots of bluebells – I did!!

    1. Thank you very much for the kind words, Jude. 🙂 🙂 You obviously knew the outcome but I couldn’t resist ‘telling it like it was’. 🙂
      Very blue, the bluebells, this year! Though maybe that’s because there was no ethereal shaft of sunlight. Still cool and grey. Hey ho! We’d normally be heading back to the Algarve soon and part of me wishes we had it booked, but I do yearn for even just one English breakfast where I can sit in my garden with a book. Not happened, yet. 😦 😦

      1. It has been beautiful down here other than the weekend when we had a very windy day followed by a very wet day, but other than that it has been nice. Probably not warm enough to sit outside yet, but warm enough to garden in a T-shirt.

      2. Cheers! Been up since the lark but still in my jamas,’chatting’ on here. Meeting a friend at lunchtime so I’ll have to stir myself. 🙂

  10. Beautiful post, dear Jo… the city is beautiful. Love the architecture!… The graffitis are really artistic… I had the impression the first one could de an american Zeus, holding the torch like the Statue of Liberty…. I liked that one very much…. 😀 Wishing you a great week. Love across the miles! 🙂

  11. I’ve never been to Bristol. Clearly, that is my loss. Wonderful finds and photos, Jo. I almost choked when I read ‘well-hung lover’. Now I have to learn how to use the zoom thingy on my new Mac. 😆

  12. Oh I very much dislike the feeling of being without the information I need. Good for you to find a spot to reconnect! A grand tour came out of the distress. Happy Monday Jo!

  13. Bristol looks like my kinda place. There’s a gritty vibrancy to the street art and an austere charm to the buildings. I’m impressed by your resourcefulness at getting connected to the party. 🙂

    1. I was there for 4 days, Julie, and I couldn’t wander round Bristol looking for Joan for that long. 🙂 🙂 Needs must! I love the Bristol ‘vibe’- very much a city with attitude and pride, but good-hearted people too.

  14. What a diverse collection of things that you saw on your walk, Jo. I loved it all. I’m a fan of the street art in Bristol, having followed a blogger that posts photos of it all the time. I know there is an annual street art festival called Upfest there every year. I hope someday to travel there for it. I don’t always love every street art style, but I love how it makes me think – I guess that’s the purpose of any art.

    1. I very much dislike the ‘scribble’ that to me is just defacement of a wall, Susan, but these days street art has conquered the medium and there are some amazing pieces. It’s not a lot different than going to an art gallery, where I won’t necessarily like everything, but sometimes the backdrop on street art adds something transcendental. That is the case with St. John on the Wall. It’s such a sad old place and yet it could be magnificent. I hope you get there someday. 🙂 🙂

  15. Everything looks very big in Bristol. I assume the terms “Grade 1” and “Grade 2” buildings are related to their age and maybe cultural and historical value? So glad the sky opened up, followed by your mood!

    1. It is a city on the grand scale, Liesbet, but the area around the waterfront is very beautiful. (I covered that in my previous post 🙂 ) Yes, the grade system is a heritage thing and gives them protected status from builders/developers.

  16. A superb city wich deserves all your splendid photos!
    I figure you had to be quite tired after this walk…..
    But ,as I learnt on Saturday , you must have completely recovered all your energies for the party …
    Love this post!

    1. I was wrecked, Anna! 🙂 🙂 Fortunately I had good recovery time in the Cosy Club, and the party was a sit, eat, drink and chat affair, so I could manage that. 🙂 Thanks, darlin. Happy Monday!

  17. Aha! I am a mind-reader, then! So glad everything worked out after a dismal start (and I’m like you regarding spirits lifting when the sun shines) well done for resourcefully finding that phone number…and what a stroke of luck that you got onto the walking tour! You covered loads of ground in the time you were there, fabulous.

    1. I nearly dedicated this to you, Sue. Thought you might like the street art. 🙂 🙂 It’s a lovely city and I still didn’t make it to the botanic or up on the Downs. 🙂 I still have some Algarve walks to share but it never hurts to shake it up a bit, does it? Thanks for your company, and mind reading skills.

  18. I’m relieved it had a happy ending, Jo! What a great walk – you managed to show us so much in a short time.
    I’ve been to Bristol a couple of times on business over last couple of years and thought it looked a promising place. I must go back and do that walk. And I’d have to explore the street art.

    1. There is a Banksy walk that you can book at the TI, Debs (and maybe online- not sure 🙂 ). My link on Banksy takes you to the details of that walk on the Visit Bristol site, which is great for information. You have to go to The Old Duke on Welsh Backs as well. I spent an hour or two there on Tuesday teatime before I flew home.

  19. I’m so glad you got lost and forgot the phone number! Your wanderings produced stunning photos, and your words and images reflect your “I don’t quite know what I’m doing” state of mind. But being Jo you’re on the job, harvesting interest and beauty, and creating your own hit-the-nail-on-the head walking tour. My favourites this time? The wheel, grey against grey with the glimpse of spires; the sphere against the cloud sky; the thoughtful man with scroll and pigeon; all the Cathedral photos (especially all the Cathedral photos) – and food and a well deserved wine.

    You do for Bristol what Susan does for NYC. Make me want to visit. Chilly hugs from the other side of the world.

    1. Chilly? Am I on the wrong continent? 🙂 🙂 It’s a bit blowy here this morning but I’m hoping there’ll be bluebells. Thank you for always being so kind, Meg. I’m not quite sure how I manage to blend my wanderings into something readable but I love doing it. And it’s a great city! 🙂 🙂 Wrap up cosy hugs!

    1. It was a bit scary at the time, Carol. Mick dropped me at Newcastle airport and I’d already realised I didn’t have the number. I asked him to check our phone book and text me when he got back. I hadn’t written it in. He doesn’t use Messenger and I can’t access Facebook from my phone (password issues 😦 ). But I got there in the end. 🙂 🙂

      1. I’m quick off the mark this morning, hon. 🙂 I’d just paused for breakfast while writing my Monday walk, and there you were! Thanks a lot 🙂

  20. Oh I’m so glad that by mid morning Bristol decided to play along and cheer you up. Lovely walk in the end, and you certainly discovered all the nooks and crannies in the centre 😊

    1. I’ve rarely felt as dismal as I did when I stepped off the bus, Becky, but I got there in the end. 🙂 🙂 Thanks darlin. Enjoy your last couple of days.

      1. Oh bless you, thank goodness you made it to the party.
        We plan to….and I’ve posted just now a little something that should make you smile xx

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