Friday, 3 June 2016

A weekend in Bristol - the Open-Top Bus Tour and Bocabar

So, yesterday I talked about our afternoon Bristol Harbour
Wallace and Gromit street art 
walk and today's blog will focus on a different method of city exploration - the Bristol Insight open-top bus tour. We were surprised when Gemma and Simon suggested this entertainment as they have lived in Bristol at least a decade and we wondered if they wouldn't already know everything! This turned out not to be the case though as our guide, Jackie, was very knowledgeable and kept up the nuggets of information for ninety minutes as Ian drove us around. Tickets for the tour are £15 for adults, £13 concessions and £8 for children. We thought this good value as it's a long route. We caught the bus by Millennium Square At-Bristol. It drives around some of the harbour before heading out under the suspension bridge, up over the Downs, past Bristol Zoo and into Clifton, down Park Street, out to Cabot Circus and Temple Meads before returning to Millennium Square. I won't spoil the on-bus commentary by telling you what we learned, but there's lots of history and we were given a page of discount vouchers for other attractions too. I think if you went round them all, you might even get your bus fare back!

Prior to the bus, we had popped into the Bristol Old Vic
Bristol Old Vic theatre 
theatre which was hosting a street party to celebrate its 250th anniversary - the oldest continuously running theatre in the country. I'd never been there before. The event turned out to be mostly food stalls, but I was interested to see inside the foyers and public space. Sadly the auditorium was being set up for a later performance so we couldn't be nosey there. However, if you head towards the upstairs toilets, just through the double glass doors there is an uncovered section of wall that's preserved behind glass. It doesn't look anything special, but we learned that it is part of the original front wall of the building from 1776. I loved seeing the large production photographs lining the theatre walls too. There had been a Crucible production on not so long ago!

From the theatre, we strolled a short distance to Bristol
Keith New window at
Bristol Cathedral 
Cathedral, another place we hadn't previously visited. The Cathedral is free to enter with donations towards its upkeep welcomed. We later learned (yes, on the bus!) that Bristol's Cathedral escaped destruction by Henry VIII's men because it swiftly became Protestant. It was damaged during WWII though and the stained glass in the large windows is modern. I particularly liked this window created by Keith New in 1965. I saw it as an abstract dragonfly although it is a representation of the Holy Spirit. Older stained glass windows are preserved in the cloister. The arts seem to be strongly encouraged at the Cathedral and I noticed quite a varied What's On programme on their website. Television programmes Wolf Hall and Sherlock were partly filmed here and events include music recitals and book talks.

By early evening we were all pretty shattered so walked up to the Paintworks which bills itself as Bristol's creative quarter. The renovated industrial zone now has artists workspaces and studios, and offices for creative businesses. It also has Bocabar! This large bar-restaurant serves Brazilian style pizzas and has an extensive cocktail list. Indoors the seating is mostly huge sofas with fairy lights and modern art for sale on the walls. Outside there is a little sun-trap terrace. We were lucky to arrive at a quiet time - apparently Bocabar can get very busy, especially for their Sunday lunches. We had a couple of drinks and staayed to eat. I think Dave enjoyed his pizza and I can recommend the Halloumi Salad!


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