walking tour

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.

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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!

Jo’s Monday walk : City of Birmingham (24 hours in Brum)

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Britain’s second largest city, Birmingham, stormed my senses from the moment I first saw it.  Approaching by coach from the north, I gazed in horror at the piles of rubble and the cranes, skulking behind billboards.  In these testing times, it felt not a little like the scene of a recent disaster. But I needn’t have worried.  Apparently Birmingham is constantly reinventing itself, and I very much liked where my footsteps led me.

Frugality being one of my traits, I was staying a little off the beaten track.  As I raised my camera to take a shot of some Lemonade Fizzballs in a shop window, I was unaware that I was colliding with the city’s industrial past.  The Back to Backs on Hurst St. are all that is left of the cheap housing, swiftly erected to cope with the boom times of the Industrial Revolution.  Every imaginable type of industry thrived in Birmingham at that time.  James Watt, Matthew Boulton and William Murdoch, the luminaries in my lead photo, were pioneers and members of the Lunar Society- a melting-pot of scientific and industrial ideas.  I hesitate to admit that ‘rag rugs’ are part of my childhood memories.

Directly opposite, ‘The Old Fox Theatre Bar’ gave me a warm welcome, as it waited for customers from The Hippodrome Theatre.  The area adjoins Chinatown.  Noodle bars galore and a feast of eating opportunities.  The following morning was not quite so welcoming, and I returned to the city in a fine drizzle. Still, I had a smile on my face, for I was going to be Meeting Gilly.  The couple of hours till her arrival time were not to be wasted, and I set off in a clockwise direction.  The landmark buildings The Mailbox and The Cube were on my agenda.

Cheerful lanterns lit the path beneath the subway, then I dripped my way up The Mailbox steps.  What a revelation!

The Mailbox is a combination of art gallery and shopping complex, within the structure of Brum’s old postal sorting office.  I was in need of a little warmth and comfort, and the tulip-shaped chairs of the Bellini & Espresso Bar were pure invitation.

Just as I was settling in to a mouthful of luxury, the alarm bells began to ring and a stern voice announced that an investigation was taking place. Evacuation might soon be called for!  Fortunately, nothing further occurred, but just for a moment…

All too soon I was back on the streets, if anything, even damper than before.  Well, if I was going to be wet, I might as well head for the canals. Boats always boost my mood.  As I turned the corner to The Cube,  I glimpsed water.  Closely followed by soggy boats and dripping padlocks!

You might recollect that this pub in Gas Street Basin is where, later, I ate with Gilly.  The vegetarian menu looked promising, if a little damp!  As I looked back at The Cube, I thought I saw just a hint of sunlight.  Was I fooling myself?

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Back under the subway, I headed along Navigation St. in the direction of New Street Station.  This building had been beckoning to me for a closer look ever since my arrival in Birmingham.  A futuristic train shape, from a distance it intrigued.  Close quarters revealed a multitude of reflections.

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And THEN my eyes lit up.  Trams!  A source of much childish delight for me.  I studied their comings and goings for a few minutes, but it was almost time to go and meet my accomplice for the day.  The skies had brightened at last as I headed towards the coach station.  Just as I was consulting my map, looking for an elusive Mill Lane, a burst of sunny rain hit me.  Up went the brolly again, and I hopped onto the steps of a small, friendly-looking police station.  Seconds later, my phone rang.  ‘Where are you?’ a smiling voice asked.

Now I don’t know quite why, but a little voice inside my head was singing ‘if you want to know the way, ask a policeman!’  Well, why not?  In I went, and the police were every bit as friendly as their station looked.  They insisted on going online to find Mill Lane for me. By the time they had done so, my ray of sunshine had arrived.  Grinning from ear to ear.

Meeting Gilly tells the story of our day.  Linking arms we set off, first in search of refreshment, and then in the general direction of Birmingham Library.  A peep inside St. Martin in the Bullring was just enough to reveal the ravishing stained glass windows by local artist, Edward Burne-Jones. (Sorry- no photos allowed).  Bypassing The Bullring, reincarnated in style, and on into New Street, where we both delighted to find old style shopping arcades with beautiful ceilings.

So much to love about Brum!  By now I was starting to take the cranes and the billboards for granted.  I could forgive much in a city with a library like this one.  I wish I’d had time for the Secret Garden on the 7th floor and more than just a glimpse at the Shakespeare Memorial Room.

I guess what I’m saying is that 24 hours in Brum is not enough!  I still need to know more about Brindley Place and the sensory clock. And we never did manage to fit in St. Philip’s Cathedral with it’s Burne-Jones stained glass masterpieces.  Nor even try Fumo’s restaurant, recommended by my good friend Richard (A Bit of Culture) and the Rough Guide.

Get yourself a city map and take a walking tour.  You won’t regret it!  And now, for goodness sake, where’s the coffee?

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Thank you so much everybody, for putting up with me and my rambles.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Birmingham with Gilly.  If you have a walk you’d like to share, you can join me anytime.  The details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page, or just click on the logo. And now the best bit- some wonderful shares!

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First past the post again this week!  Drake’s lovely ‘home’ island :

Same style, but different

I missed one last week so humble apologies to Liesbet in Massachusetts :

(Super)Natural Wonders around us

Becky made me smile with some wonderful memories of Lisbon (and a bit of humph-ing!)

It’s a Monday so it must be time for a walk

And from the Azores… be still my beating heart!  Thanks, Susan :

Walking and Walking and Walking in Ponta Delgada, Portugal

Prepare for a lot of knowledge about the Hurons!  Jackie’s on the case :

Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons

Something a little different from BiTi this week :

Let’s hike the Stanford Dish Loop Trail

And Geoff is ambling along a river bank, being smug.  With Dog, of course!

Summer strolls#walking#suffolk

Violet Sky has found the nicest garden to match that nice town.  Have a wander!

A nice garden in a nice town

Cathy’s latest is huge!  Check out the Orangery :

Philadelphia’s Longwood Gardens

Jaspa’s building up a sweat in among some beautiful Mayan ruins :

Climbing an Ancient Mayan Pyramid at Coba, Mexico

And cooling down by the water in a lovely Cornish village.  Different, huh?

Boscastle Harbour, Cornwall, 12 years after the Floods 

One of the loveliest walks it has ever been my privilege to feature.  Meg, you’re a love!

Vignettes from a morning walk, 5

What a corker from Corey!  Jude, you’ll love this one :

Westchester’s Hidden Gem : Untermyer Park and Gardens

Carol in Cairns!  Has a good sound to it, don’t you think?

Riding The Waves

And an encore from Badfish!  Only now he’s playing at Knight’s Templar in a sublime setting :

Another Side of Malta : Day One

Sorry if I’ve walked you to exhaustion this week.  I promise to be kinder next Monday.  Have a great week and take good care of yourselves.

P.S I just popped over to Monday Escapes and it reminded me to say ‘White Rabbit’!