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!

130 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

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