Saturday, June 13, 2015

Bristol by Accident

Apologies...again...for the radio silence. But every spare minute I've had on the computer lately has been used to nail down details for the family's impending visit. Finding lodging - well, affordable lodging, anyway - has been taking far longer than usual. I don't know if people are being turned off by the kids, Peri is 12 and Donovan is 7, but I've be declined by multiple AirBnB hosts who have listed their properties as kid friendly. 

Anyway, I have finally got our first week sorted, and second week is SAFARI, though there were complications there, as well. And then a lot of my time was taken up with, you know, actual traveling. I hated using some of my precious time in Paris to work on all of this, and it didn't feel right even doing it in London. As much time as I've already spent there, there is still plenty to see and do, so that's what I feel like I should be doing when I'm there.
I love this SO much.

I found myself with just over a week until Adrienne and the kids got here, so I decided to look for the cheapest English speaking place I could stick myself that had decent transportation links. While there were some lovely places out in the wilds of the English countryside, and the hosts would be happy to pick up guests at the nearest train station or bus stop, I knew that I would probably come up for air at least a couple of times during a week. At those times, I wanted to be able to unchain myself from the laptop and get out to do something.

I am, at heart, an urban dweller. No apologies.

Plus, I still needed to get shots for the safari, and I knew my chances were better for that in a larger city. So when I found a place at $178 for the week, and less than an hour on the train from Bristol, I jumped on it. It wasn't an entire place, just a room in a guy's house, but I figured I would just make it clear that I had a shit ton of work to get through. Hopefully that would be enough to keep me from being disturbed.

All of that turned out to work beautifully, but there were all sorts of extra benefits to this choice, as well. Not the least of which is I discovered Bristol. I  had never in my life planned to go to Bristol, nor did I have any reason to. I knew of it, knew exactly where it was - mainly because it's very close to Bath. But I went in to get my shots the other day and found a very nice medium sized city (pop. about 400,000) with two colleges, which often keeps a city from being boring.

It keeps amazing me how I end up in places I'd never planned to go and enjoy them immensely. It's like God keeps going, u r doing this wrong, let me just fix that for you. (Yes, my God is up on all the Internet memes.)

I didn't go completely ga-ga over Bristol the way I did over Bath, but it is still a place I'd enjoy spending a bit more time in. There was one place, Browns, where I didn't get a chance to eat and drink, and I want to correct that.

Also, I heard there is a fabulous old steamer ship, first to complete a transatlantic journey from England, and it was restored about 30 years ago. It is supposed to be fantastic, and I think the kids would love it.

Crepes kiosk out of sight on right.
So Bristol made it onto the family itinerary. There is also a crepes kiosk with better crepes than the ones I got at Luxembourg Gardens, though of course I wouldn't go back just for that. Probably.

Let me just say, as I've already mentioned on Twitter, that I absolutely love zipping around on trains. Some of the ones in the U.K. are much more expensive than in Europe, but a round trip to Bristol - which is just under an hour each way, is just about $12. On the other hand, getting to my little village from London was about $100 for a 2.5 hour journey.

In Italy, you can get a 2 hour journey, round trip, for $22. Still, I'm not complaining. Transportation is so much cheaper here than in the states, we can just choose to go almost anywhere on a whim, and I love that. And I love seeing all of the terminals and airports, too. Though some more than others, of course.

The Bristol Temple Meads station is one that I liked. The little waiting room had wood paneling and a fireplace, though they'd attached modern seats on all the walls. But it still had a cozy feeling and it was great to get out of the chilly wind blowing outside.

But I also liked the exterior, where the platforms were.

The whole thing was just very appealing. I like that little trim on the hangar, and what looks like a castle tower just sticking up right next to it.

I sent a text to the girls with the waiting room photo, telling them where I was. And Danielle texted back that I should go say hi to her friend Andy, at the old Duke"s Pub. 

A touring band had rented one of her AirBnB places several months ago, and she'd gotten to be very good friends with one of them. Besides being a musician, Andy bartended at this pub, which is a couple of hundred years old and has been featuring jazz and blues since the sixties.

So after I got my shots, I checked to see where the pub was. A little over a mile away, and there was hours of daylight left, so I set off on foot. It is a really great place, and the inside feels exactly like it could be in the French Quarter. 

The collaged pieces on the ceiling look to be mostly American jazz musicians. I had a glass of Rosé and chatted with Andy, who is a very sweet guy. He said he'd just been thinking about Danielle the day before when he was trying to learn some Professor Longhair. 

Of course, I texted all of this to Danielle as soon as I left, and she jumped right on What's App to chat with Andy herself. I'd told him we expected Danielle to be in Bristol next month, when she comes to join us, so I'm sure they were making plans. 

Considering how many mean and nasty people wander around the Internet, it sure has made life so much more wonderful in so many different ways, mostly by bringing people together. Lord knows, it's saved my bacon SO many times. Including during my time in Bristol.

Random gorgeous church
The first place I went for my shots, which advertised walk ins welcome and gave their opening hours, had no one in to administer vaccines while I was there.

Using my trusty phone, I found a second place, just a short bus ride up the road, but they stupidly required a half hour appointment if it was your first time and they had no half hour appointments available that day. Even when I explained I wasn't staying in Bristol but had come in just for shots, and already knew what I needed, the guy at the desk would not even ask the nurse if he or she could see me. 

So I stormed out of there, almost in tears, and - using my trusty phone again - gave them all kinds of shit over Twitter. Enough that they got back to me, apologizing and asking if they could help.
But by then, I'd found another place - by this time I was resorting to my iPad because I was too upset to deal with a tiny device. (Yes, I know the 6 Plus is not tiny, it's all relative), and was happy to say that they had done everything required in less than 15 minutes, so there was no need for a half hour appointment after all.

I also added that this type of no exception to needless policy gives me a long lasting distaste for companies and I would not voluntarily use them for anything unless I had exhausted all other options. Since they are a travel company and I am practically a constant traveler, which they will have seen on my Twitter profile, this was a very real loss.

In any case, I was ready for a glass of wine by the time I got to the pub. And I felt I deserved the added treat of crepes, when I left, since they were right there, after all. I did find this sign along the way fairly amusing.
Drinking in the streets must be acceptable in most areas, if they feel it's necessary to designate those few places where it isn't. I just wish they'd put the reason *why* it wasn't okay to drink in the designated areas. I was dying of curiosity.

But like the interior of the pub, it reminded me of New Orleans, where it is most certainly acceptable to drink in the streets. And, in fact, the street I walked down to reach the train station actually reminded me of Uptown New Orleans. It felt so familiar that it was very weird.

Even the sidewalk cafe.

And putting weird decorative shit in front of historic buildings.

And speaking of historic buildings, the schools were amazing. Of course, I can't begin to do them justice with my phone camera, but they were so incredible, I had to try.

The University of Bristol is an extremely well respected school, and the city is justifiably proud of that, to the point where it posts signs advertising the fact.

But what a fabulous place to go to school.

And the City of Bristol College ain't exactly shabby either. 

There is even an art school of some kind, also in a glorious building.

I have so much love for all the old architecture. I would love to live in a building like this.

And yet, the most remarkable thing I came across was in the bathroom at the train station. This will be the highlight of that post I keep saying I'll write, about all the bathrooms in Europe. OMG, this just left me literally with my mouth agape.

You see that thing that looks like a hand dryer? When you stick your hands under it, it squirts a bit of soap out. Then, after it's given you enough time to spread it over your hands, water gushes out. Then, after it determines you've had enough time to thoroughly wash your hands, it starts blow drying. And the sign tells you, just leave your hands under there until it is all done!

Of course, I still managed to use it wrong. I moved my hands too far away during the drying process and the dryer quit. Instinctively putting them back for the final bit of air drying only got me...yeah, a squirt of soap. Had to do the whole thing over again. So, not quite perfect in that it doesn't allow for stupidly human error, but still an amazing device. I'm in awe.

Oh, and it turned out that one of the absolute highlights of my entire trip happened on my first night in this area. My host has friends he's known for 30 years, and they all have dinner at each other's homes every week, rotating houses. My host told me I was welcome to go along this week, one of the others also does AirBnB, so they often have visitors join them. 

Ordinarily, I would turn down something like this, especially on my first night in a new place. And I'm not really sure why I didn't. But I had so much fun. You know when you just click with people? This happened with the whole group. Over three hours of nonstop fun, interesting conversation and laughter. Another reason to love AirBnB, making times like this possible.
And I was afraid of being expected to socialize, smack my damn head.

And there you have it. Bristol. I highly recommend it as a place to visit, and I plan to go there again soon. In the meantime, I'm keeping busy in my little village, getting stuff done. Including blog posts, more Paris coming soon

I have a lovely room, a bathroom that belongs in a magazine spread, two gorgeous cats for company and a nice view.

Life is good. And keeps getting gooder. 

I hope all of you are doing well, too, feel free to catch me up in the comments. If you're getting this in an email, just go all the way down and click on the link where it says MsNomadica. Then go to the Comments and tell me what's going on with you. Email photos, if you like. And that goes for the people I don't know irl, too. Always interested in other places, even those - like Bristol, that I didn't know I was interested in.

Oh, and soon I will be posting to Instagram and Pinterest, as well. So you can add me if you're on there, I'm MsNomadica on both. Not Facebook. Probably never Facebook. But I will try to get here more regularly. Should definitely be able to squeeze a few more in before I leave this place. A little more Paris, for sure, and maybe some from the backlog.

In less than a week, though, the perspective will change. We launch into European Adventure, Children's Edition. And I'm not ready yet. Not nearly ready. Gotta go look up all the [Insert Location] with Kids! info on the Internet. Suggestions welcome. See you soon. Hopefully. 

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