There’s nothing like a good outdoor market, whether it’s the Christmas season or not, and Bristol has plenty to choose from.
I’ve often blathered on about Bristol in blog posts: firstly, it’s one of the UK’s best and most vibrant cities, particularly for anyone interested in arts and culture; secondly, both sides of my family have history there, so I think of it as a home-from-home. From Bristol’s coffee shops to its street art, there’s always something quirky to see.
My sister and I were lucky enough to visit our Bristol-based cousin last weekend, and she is as much of a culture vulture as we are (when she lived in London, she introduced me to a fabulously-named café, Tina We Salute You, and countless art exhibitions). Going to a market was a no-brainer for us.
‘All the world’s a stage’, but let’s remember that not all stages are equal. If you’ve sat through a performance in a cramped or strangely pungent space, you’ll know it can be quite distracting (unless you’re at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, in which case it can be a selling point, and the smell of damp is strangely comforting).
On World Theatre Day, it’s time to take a look at theatre facts: some of the strangest pieces of trivia from theatreland, including the playwright who became President, and the ghost who was used as a mascot.
Writing longhand seems like a guilty pleasure these days, but one stationery shop in Bristol makes it unashamedly cool again: Papersmiths.
This Clifton store offers a carefully curated selection of pens, notebooks, cards and accessories, not to mention a vast range of fashion and lifestyle magazines to rival those stocked by London’s best newsagents. I popped in during a quick trip to the city and, being a self-confessed stationery addict, I was quickly won over by most of the stock.
Brands in store range from the minimalist design-centric (Hay) to the infinitely quirky (Herb Lester travel guides). Visual merchandising is simple but effective, with pencils arranged in colour order, and copies of The Gentlewoman slotted between thick woollen rugs and bowls full of chunky erasers in the window, so you start to picture your own home gradually being transformed into a Papersmiths palace.
There’s nothing like a walking tour to immerse yourself in a city, but being guided by a pirate is an added incentive. During my recent stay in Bristol I finally got to try out the famous Pirate Walk, led by Pirate Pete, which covers swashbucklers, slavery and 18th century life. Pete is a lively entertainer, with his eye-catching costume and Jolly Roger flag, and you can tell he loves his job – after all, he’s been offering tours for 15 years, and has even given lectures in Florida about the famous Blackbeard.
This year I’m determined to travel differently. Though I’ve taken self-catering holidays before, I’d never booked an apartment, so when I was recently introduced to SACO (the Serviced Apartment Company) the time had come to see what I’d been missing. Apartment rentals are a rapidly growing part of the travel industry, celebrated by 2015 trend reports and highlighted by the likes of Travel + Leisure magazine. But what gives a serviced apartment the edge over other types of accommodation?
2012 was all about London courtesy of the Olympics and the Golden Jubilee, whereas 2014 saw Yorkshire in the spotlight thanks to the Tour de France, resulting in a tourism boom that lasted long after the cyclists had left. As for 2015, I predict it’ll be South West England’s year. Here’s what you should aim to do when you visit the region.
Step Inside Wolf Hall at Montacute House, Barrington Court and Wells Cathedral, Somerset
The latest BBC period drama is based on Hilary Mantel’s hugely popular novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, which cover life at Henry VIII’s court for Thomas Cromwell and others close to the king. Historic locations across England, particularly in the South West, were used as backdrops to the program. Montacute House (open for the season from 3rd March) stands in for Greenwich Palace, with scenes shot here including jousting sequences and Anne Boleyn’s arrest. The house itself is Elizabethan and contains a series of Tudor and Elizabethan paintings loaned by London’s National Portrait Gallery. A whole generation of my ancestors used to work at Montacute so I’m particularly fond of it!
You don’t need to be a fan of street art to enjoy Bristol, but it helps. In the homeland of the mysterious Banksy, who inadvertently brought graffiti chic to the masses (by way of the mechandisers who made money out of reproducing his designs), it’s only right that there should be a focus on the city walls as a canvas.
As some of these photos reveal, I spent a lot of time in Nelson Street, which – as I’ve recently discovered – is home to Britain’s largest street art project, called See No Evil. This project involved 72 artists from around the world contributing graffiti, which is permanently displayed here.
Once upon a time, before the arrival of Starbucks and Pret a Manger, there were local coffee shops peppering the British high street, each with their own distinctive style… Now and again, when I’m not shamelessly stocking up stamps on my Caffe Nero loyalty card, I try to make the effort to seek out the smaller companies, many of which focus on high quality coffee and a huge range of speciality teas, catering to an audience that wants more than a one-size-fits-all approach.
On a recent trip to Bristol, a city which is something of a mecca for independent businesses (and formerly the home of Carwardine’s coffee, where my mum once worked), I decided to boycott the recognisable chains and discover the best locally-endorsed places to grab a drink. Three very different shops stood out for me, and I hope some of them will stand out for you.
Calavera (Span. feminine noun) = skull. A travel blog with a love of culture, dark tourism and the unconventional.