For a couple of days last week we hosted Matt, a fellow blogger and traveller who I met though the internet. Matt has developed a great website called Nomadic Matt’s Travel site with tips, tales and photos from his travels and was in the UK for a few weeks on his European tour, so I invited him to call in and see us in Bristol.
As you’d expect, Matt is a pretty relaxed and experienced traveller and it was interesting to compare notes on our different approaches to travel. I discovered that while I might study the guide book avidly and make a mental list of places to see, Matt’s approach is to turn up, get a map and then wander around wherever the fancy took him. I noticed that he still managed to take in all the major sites of interest but they came to him as a charming surprise as if he was the first person to stumble upon them.
I asked Matt to share with me the things he had enjoyed most while visiting Bristol and it’s picturesque cousin, Bath and here is his list;
Roman baths – Bath
Normally Matt goes for the free things first, but he felt that this was worth the £11 entrance fee, especially as the audioguide was narrated by Bill Bryson. After all you can’t come to Bath without visiting the place that has attracted visitors through the centuries to the health-giving mineral waters. Matt was also facinated by the advanced plumbing systems that the Romans engineers came up with for heating and cooling the baths. Naturally he ignored the signs and dabbled his hands in the warm waters – if you don’t want to take the tour you can go into the pump room and drink some of the mineral water for free.
Pulteney bridge – Bath
This picturesque bridge over the river Avon is one of only four in the world with shops on both sides, and was designed by Robert Adam, a well known architect of the day who admired the Paladian archirecture of Rome and Florence. After checking out the shops you can go down the steps at the side for a pleasant riverside walk.
Castle park – Bristol
This green space in the heart of Bristol has an old church which was bombed in the war and now sits as an empty shell, overlooking the river. There’s a children’s playground and some formal gardens with interesting sculptures behind the church and it’s a great place to people-watch on a sunny day when the workers from nearby offices sit out having their lunch.
The Georgian House
Built in the 1790s for a wealthy Bristol sugar merchant, this house is now a free museum preserved with the decoration and furniture of Bristol’s Georgian heyday. Matt was taken by the plunge pool in the cellar where the owner believed a daily cold bath was good for his health and the unusual stone staircase to the upper floors.
Brandon Hill Park
If you want a great view over the city you can’t get better than the public park on Brandon Hill where you can look down to the harbour and the countryside on the far edge of Bristol. The Cabot tower at the top of the hill is sometimes open if you don’t mind the climb and is named after John Cabot who sailed from Bristol in 1497 from Bristol to Newfoundland.
Harbourside in Bristol
Once packed with tallships bringing merchant goods from all over the world, then an industrial port in decline, the harbourside area of Bristol has had a makeover in recent years. Now it’s full of trendy bars and restaurants with the old warehouses given a sleek modern look and Pero’s footbridge with the horn shaped weights which lift the bridge up when boats need to pass beneath.
The Moroccan restaurant in Easton – Bristol
Naturally we couldn’t let Matt go without sampling some of the great food in Bristol and deciding to eat ethnic we headed for the Easton neighbourhood of Bristol. Using the local mosque as our landmark and passing several Halal butchers as well as the odd English pub, we arrived at a Moroccan family run restaurant that my husband had raved about before. We weren’t disappointed was we sat on soft banquettes at a table covered in an ornate embroidered table cloth. We tried the cous cous, chicken tagine and a melting lamb stew, bread, olives and salad washed down with Moroccan mint tea and the bill was only £10 a head. Definitely not one in the guidebook as I forgot to note the name and couldn’t find any mention of it even by googling. Guess you’ll just have to take Matt’s example and come upon it by surprise.
You can follow Matt’s travels on his website, Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site