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Phil's Travels - Bristol, England


Phil's Travel Blog - Bristol, UK (Oct 14)

This has been a busy week. Last Friday I flew to Cyprus with the family for a wedding on Saturday and we flew back Sunday; Wednesday and Thursday I was in Madrid for the official launch of a new hotel project we have been working on; and on Friday I was a witness at my brother's wedding in Bristol.

I got home from Madrid at 01.30 on Friday morning and we left the house at 08.00 to catch the train to Bristol. Thankfully, the journey was smooth and easy. We managed to get to the Mercure Brigstow Hotel in good time for us to change and meet other members of the family for a quick bottle of champagne before heading over the road to the wedding venue - an old boat converted to restaurant use.

The Glass Boat was excellent. Good space, lovely décor, attractive views and setting, and great service. We had an exclusive let for the wedding, which is just as well as my nephews can be rather rambunctious at times. I played pin to their bowling ball (aka "uncle-bowling") for the best part of 20 minutes, my suit will never be the same again.

We partied late into the night and the following day we visited another part of the incredible Floating Harbour complex that runs through the centre of the city. I had never appreciated the engineering genius of this early 19th century marvel. The harbour in its current form opened in 1809. It covers an area of over 30ha in the heart of the city and is called a Floating Harbour because it allows boats to float and moor throughout the year. This is achieved because the River Avon and its tidal range were diverted to the New Cut to the south, and locks at either end of the harbour regulate a constant water level in the Harbour. This extensive and stable harbour complex was the root of Bristol success in Victorian times and until its closure for commercial operations in 1975. Today, it has been regenerated into a blend of heritage sites, entertainment venues and wonderful walks.

For my nephew's though, the best thing about the Floating Harbour is the Bristol Harbour Railway, nothing to do with the water at all. All that investment in creating these amazing water-ways, and boys are still fascinated by steam trains. The ride is short, but you do get to contrast the majesty of the Harbour with the New Cut, which at low tide is a very sorry sight.

Did you know? (1) Before the Floating Harbour, boats had to prepare for low tide and the wobble of settling on muddy banks by securing all their goods twice a day, leading to the phrase "shipshape and Bristol fashion". (2) Bristol comes from Brigstow, which means the place where brigs (a kind of ship) were stowed (stored/kept). (3) In colloquial English, a lady's assets are often referred to as "Bristols", which comes from Cockney Rhyming Slang's appropriation of a local football club name (Bristol City), thus creating Bristol Cities = titties. In time, I am sure that the latter will no doubt become of greater interest to my nephews than steam trains and uncle-bowling. 

Phil's Travels - Bristol, England

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