Bristol was a city of two days today. The first was blue skies and a few scattered clouds, the second was grey and wet. We started with the first, suffered the second and then returned to the first for the rest of the day.
Firstly we slept in. How wonderful was that. No Day-z barking to wake me up at 7am, no alarm waking me to go to work at 6:30am, nothing. It was the longest sleep I’ve had for a long time.
The hotel was very comfortable. The shower was ok, especially the shower door which pivots around to allow a bigger door without taking up any more space than a smaller one. Works well. The pressure isn’t as strong as I normally like it but the temperature was good.
In fact, the only real thing wrong with the hotel room is the bathroom door, which doesn’t shut. The bolt and the plate are not aligned. Clearly no-one from the hotel has tried closing the door.
We eventually left the hotel at about 10 and headed for St Nicholas’ Market for a lovely breakfast of bacon in a sour dough roll and lattes. All round delicious and a lovely way to start the day.
We wandered all through the market, admiring lots, buying nothing. We spotted some lovely fossils and rocks but Mirinda rushed us away before I could get too attached.
Down at the city centre, we learned the truth about the discovery of America. Apparently it wasn’t Chris Columbus, it was John Cabot and his son Sebastian, aboard the Matthew in 1497. They set sail from Bristol. I know because I read it on a plaque. He was actually quite amazing. He has a wikipedia entry here.
We wandered around to Queen’s Square or, rather, we wandered ROUND Queen’s Square, saying hi to William III just as it started raining.
We decided to walk as slowly as possible to the Hole in the Wall in order to get as wet as we could. It worked very well. By the time we arrived at the pub we were well damp. I noticed, to my great joy, that they had 6X on tap and all the cold and rain vanished in an instant.
I didn’t know this but the Hole in the Wall was so named because there used to be a hole in the wall where the locals would watch for the press gangs. When they spotted them coming along the harbour wall, they would yell “Press gang!” and everyone would vanish into the cellar where they could hide. The press gang guys would turn up at the pub and there’d be no-one there. Ha! Clever.
It is also rumoured to be the place where Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island. It was a lovely place where writing something about pirates would be great fun. Especially as Robert wouldn’t have had the Pirate Tour guy suddenly enter the pub followed by 50 tourists to show them the hole in the wall in the Hole in the Wall.
As he passed us, he told his charges that we were a pair of pirates enjoying our pints. I hope my scowl was piratical enough. Then, as quickly as they appeared, they all vanished. Without buying anything. Just went. Very odd.
When we left the pub, the rain had stopped and the sky was clearing. We wandered around the harbourside towards the SS Great Britain. On the way we passed a moored boat with a crew of dogs.
The Jack Russell is obviously the captain. When he came along the side of the boat, the other dogs all snapped to attention.
After spending far too long chatting to the canine crew with Mirinda taking miles of footage with her iPhone, we continued on to Brunel’s Big Boat.
We have been to many tourist places, visiting lots of places that are good, great, poor or dire. Rarely do we find a place as good as the SS Great Britain. It is up there with Bill the Bastard’s place at Falaise.
At first, the visitor goes into the original dry dock, beneath the ship. There is a thin covering of water within glass, which, as you go down the steps, you move below. You are now under the ship, looking up at the rest of the ship above the waterline. It is wonderfully perverse.
The underside of the ship is massive! The propeller and the rudder have been reconstructed to show how they worked but the rest of the hull is the original ship which, interestingly, was scuttled in 1937. Bits of it were then sold as souvenirs in 1939 by British servicemen wanted funds for Spitfires.
It wasn’t until 1969 that the work to bring her back to the surface, clean her up and return her to Bristol was started. It has had a lot of work on it over time, mostly because of rust and the repair of it. Also the dry dock area didn’t open until 2005.
The ship was originally launched in 1843 as a liner but she also saw service as a cargo ship. She was an amazing ship and she still is! The way you wander around, able to touch everything on the ship, go all the way into the cabins, feeling the lumpy mattresses, sitting at the dining table and toasting the Queen.
There is also a free talking guide which makes the whole thing so much better. Interestingly they have four versions. I took the maritime archaeology while Mirinda had the first class passengers. I was amazed that some people didn’t take advantage of them. The ship, while still looking great, had nothing to indicate what anything was. You either needed the talking guide or the guide book to get a completely satisfying tour.
We spent a long time wandering all over the SS Great Britain and loved it all. But it was soon time to eat so we wandered away, down to the cafe. I really felt like fish and chips but they only had jacket potatoes so we both decided to have one with tuna and cheese; an old favourite.
Unfortunately, it was awful. It’s difficult to make a jacket potato awful but this place managed really well. I really wish we’d had a packet of crisps.
We then caught the final ferry from the dock for a trip around the harbour, back to the city centre so Mirinda could lead us on a merry walk looking for an invisible cinema which turned out to be a car park in a seedy part of town with, oddly, a Greggs.
We eventually walked across Castle Park and back to the hotel for a well earned rest.
By the way, the title refers to a diary entry of 7 September 1852 made by E.T. Richards while aboard the SS Great Britain. He or she wrote: “Amongst the sugar at breakfast I found some little animals with many legs running races together, this is most filthy and not very pleasant.“