Budapest, Belgrade, Bulgaria, Bath; I love them all, but Bristol just isn't hitting any notes at all. The postcode is BS and that's just the start. The housing is dismal and the geography is confusing and the city is unfocused; much of the architectural heritage was bombed out of existence in WWII and the rest of it is rapidly being destroyed by unplanned urban redevelopment that doesn't seen to have any respect for history. Public transport is difficult to get your head around, starting with the fact that there are two Bristol railway stations and the central bus station is almost impossible to find even when you are basically standing at the door. There are no suburban rail services but there are a billion bus routes if only I could make sense of them, I'm here in the height of summer but I have not gone out one day without wearing a layer of merino.
Banksy, bridges, boats, balloons and bikes; these seem to be Bristol's claims to fame. And there's something called the Bristol Sound, which may or may not exist. Beth Gibson, lead singer of Portishead, says there's no such thing. Portishead tuns out not to be an invented name but a seaside suburb of Bristol. I do like Portishead but can't say much about the other big names on the Bristol music scene - Massive Attack and Tricky.
Those walls may be showing works by Banksy or maybe it's some other street artist. Sure, there is plenty of street art, but does lots of graff really make a great city?
In terms of bridges, the Clifton Suspension Bridge is the pride of the town. It will be closed during the Balloon Festival because of the risk of collapse under the weight of too many pedestrians - so would I cycle across on a normal day with all the traffic? I might skip that.
Boats - yes, Bristol was built on the shipping trade. Notably shipping slaves from Africa to America. It is also home to SS Great Britain, the first iron-clad propellor-driven ship. When launched in 1843, Great Britain was by far the largest vessel afloat and she may well have carried some of your ancestors out to Australia in the 1850s and 60s. Now a replica in dry dock is probably the main tourist attraction. Enough said, though I'm assured its a great day out.
Balloons. Let's hope they might give me a bit of a buzz. The annual balloon festival happens this weekend and I have high hopes...
Random facts about Bristol - it's the home of Wallace and Gromit. And Ribena was invented here.
Meanwhile, I'm off to Bath on the cycleway.
|One of Bristol's bridges|