“Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where everybody could draw whatever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring.” BANKSY
Last week we went on a little two-day road trip to Bristol to visit my eldest son, who has just returned to the city for his final year at university, as well as a spot of shopping, sightseeing and catching up with extended family.
I love Bristol, it’s such a great multi-cultural city and reminds me of a mini London, just much more accessible and with some lush accents too. It seems that I am not the only one who thinks highly of this little gem in the South West as coincidently I was reading The Independent yesterday where it was reported that Bristol has just been voted the top most liveable city in Britain. In a survey by MoneySuperMarket, Bristol was the top city to live in out of twelve contenders, with its dwellers having the highest disposable income growth and one of the lowest unemployment rates.
You have to love the British high street, carbon copies of each other imprinted throughout the country and I always enjoy the familiarity of the shops which signify that I am home. Bristol planners obviously have had a sense of humour over the years, where you can start at Primark and follow the road round the corner and you are at Harvey Nicks, one extreme to another! We amused ourselves in Cabot Circus shopping centre, where the teenager ticked Pret duck salad off her home ‘to-do-list’, while the eldest tidied his new city centre accommodation ready for parental inspection.
Bristol Harbour on a lovely sunny Autumn day
Inspection passed with flying colours, we all headed off to Stoke Hamlet to the fabulous home of the other half’s cousin Sam and her hubby Paul and had a great time catching up with everyone. Good wine, fab food and marvellous company all the ingredients of a fantastic evening, with thanks to our gracious hosts.
More of the redeveloped harbour
On day two of our little break, the sun was out on a lovely crisp Autumn day and I, inspired by a walking Graffiti tour of NYC last year, was on a culture mission (insert teenage sigh here). So armed with a map (looking like such a tourist) we set off on a walking tour to the waterfront looking for a Banksy located there, taking in the lovely redeveloped harbourside and the history of the area along the way. We finally located, after my map reading skills led us the wrong way (more teenage sighing) and an impromptu coffee in the Arnolfini Gallery (obviously completely planned) the infamous piece of street art painted on the side of a social boat, The Thekla moored in the murky green harbour. When I say located, I mean if you strained forward and closed one eye, you could just make out the outline of the ‘Grim Reaper’ painted there. Yes, it was the right boat but we were on the wrong side on the bank to see the art in full view, oops!
Onwards and upwards to the next location, which was luckily easier to find and in full view this time. Walking up the beautiful Park Street, we found Banksy’s ‘Well Hung Lover’ on the side of a sexual health clinic (artist with a sense of humour obviously) in Frogmore Street viewed from Park Street bridge. With some Banksy ticked off my art trail, we carried on up the steep street to the site of the University of Bristol, a fabulous building steeped in history and on the teenagers list of potential universities.
Meeting up with the eldest, who had finished lectures for the day, he took us to Cabot Tower, located in the oldest park in the city, Brandon Hill Park, where you can see stunning panoramic views of the whole city skyline and Harbourside area below. The 105ft tower was built in 1897 to commemorate John Cabot’s famous voyage from Bristol and the continent of North America, four hundred years earlier. Well worth the climb up the twisting steep spiral staircase inside the narrow tower (nearly killed me though) if you are ever in Bristol and have some energy, to see the amazing views.
Views from Cabot Tower
Next stop for the hungry males of the family was for Goat Curry and some jerk chicken (so glad I am veggie) in the Caribbean restaurant Turtle Bay and then off on another street art tour ‘See No Evil’ courtesy of the eldest, taking in some historic buildings on the way, Bristol Cathedral and City Hall in College Green among others.
Bristol Street Art in Nelson Street nestled alongside some beautiful old architecture
Nelson Street in the city centre hosts the biggest and most ambitious permanent street art project in the UK, ‘See No Evil’. The colourful offerings brighten up what was a characterless corridor of bleak, grey old city buildings. This project was the vision of street artist Inkie, who alongside Bristol music promoters ‘Team Love’ and the support of Bristol City Council, brought leading international street artists from around the world to Bristol to transform the frontage of ten multi-storey buildings along the street over the course of a week, making Nelson Street one of the world’s largest outdoor art exhibitions. Bristol has long been known in the UK for its street art movement, being the home to a host of famous artists. The art was impressive and again well worth the walk if you are ever in the area.
With the culture box fully ticked and an abundance of great photos, we all set off back to Surrey. Thanks Brizzle, it was ‘gert lush’ as usual, hope to see you again real soon. Advance bedroom tidying warnings will be issued.
Family members in front of the Marvel street art
Top 5 liveable cities in Britain (according to MoneySupermarket as reported in The Independent)
For more information about Bristol visit www.visitbristol.co.uk
Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2013. All rights reserved.