It was the final Sunday of the Bristol Balloon Festival and I decided to walk to the top of Brandon Hill to see if I could spot any hot-air balloons. However, several hundred Bristolians had the same idea. Brandon Hill is the perfect place to sit and balloon-spot on a dry evening. There are plenty of park benches and a large grassy slope - a perfect amphitheatre. An enterprising ice-cream van was doing a roaring trade.
The Balloon Festival takes place a few miles southwest of Bristol in mid-August. if the weather is ok, dozens of balloons take flight at 6pm. So if it is too windy, or not windy enough, you are not guaranteed a free show :-)
This year (2005) the balloons took-off an hour late. Maybe it was because the wind was not strong enough. Or because the wind was moving towards Bristol Airport - aaaaaarrrgh!!!
In any case, two dozen balloons did take-off, rising slowly into the yellow evening sun and heading off towards Bath. Just about worth waiting for!!
- Theme Park Trips
- Hot Air Ballooning
After the Bristol harbour lost its role as the most important element of Bristol's economy the city started looking for other possibilities. In the second half of the 20th Century one of the most important industries in the city was the aviation industry, located in nearby Filton. A supersonic aircraft - Concorde - was produced here and in Toulouse. The last flight of Concorde hapenned on November 26, 2003 when Concorde 216 flew from Heathrow to its final base in Bristol. After reaching the supersonic speed over the north Atlantic the aircraft flew over Clifton Suspension Bridge where only 600 people were allowed on to the structure to watch the flypast.
There is an initiative to build a museum at Filton that would have Concorde as its main attraction. Meanwhile, Bristol takes part in creation of another aviation icon - the wings of the superjumbo A380 are made in Filton.
Archibald Alexander Leach
Archibald Alexander Leach was one of the most famous people from Bristol, and he finally got his statue in newly developed Harbourside area.
Archibald Alec Leach was born in Bristol in 1904. He attended Bishop Road Primary School. An only child, he had a confused and unhappy childhood. After being expelled from Fairfield Grammar School in Bristol in 1918, he joined the "Bob Pender stage troupe" and travelled with the group as a stilt walker to the United States in 1920 In the US he performed on the stage at The Muny in St. Louis, Missouri.
After some success in light Broadway comedies, he came to Hollywood in 1931, where he acquired the name Cary Grant . The rest is history.
If it ain't moving, paint it
There's an astonishing amount of graffiti going on in Bristol....... Banksy is just the famous one. (There'll probably be a banksy heritage trail before long, and now the Council will clean up Banksys that have been defaced.)
Stokes Croft, which features several hoardings that are regularly repainted with spectacular murals is now a tourist attraction: it's a rare occasion to walk down it and not encounter somebody taking photographs of the work on display. And postcards featuring the various artists are readily available.
The clock on the Exchange building in Corn Street is unusual in having two minute hands, one showing London time and another showing Bristol time.
Bristol is around 2º 35' west of Greenwich, so Bristol time is a little over ten minutes behind London time. The London hand is the junior, only being added when the coming of the railways made a unified time system for the whole country a necessity.
The exact time used to be of great importance in Bristol. In any port the tides are important: the tidal range at Bristol is the second highest in the world, and there's a lot of Avon to negociate before you reach the open sea.
Horology fiends should also take a look at the clock on the Baroque tower of All Saints church opposite the end of Corn Street. Only the usual two hands, but an amusing pair of quarter-jacks, carved and painted figures who swing out and whack out the chimes every quarter of the hour.
How far is the Moon?
Bristol's "At Centre" is all dedicated to science and explorations of the world that surrounds us. Next to the centre, on Millennium square there is a cool device that has a touch-screen displaying the planets of the Solar System, as well as the Moon. When you press on certain planet's image essential information is shown on display.
But for us kids the most interesting thing is the arrow that will rotate in direction of that planet, while the LED display will show the distance. Very cool!
I was thinking whether to put this under the Tourist trap, but I decided not to because it is very unlikely that you will note this spot in Bristol as a tourist.
Next to the Create Centre there is an abandoned rail bridge and some abandoned rail tracks. This is now labeled as a "Butterfly junction" park. Apparently, some butterflies were spotted here not long ago and this was enough for the Parks departments to put a sign here.
I tried really hard, but I must admit that I did not see a single butterfly there. In fact, I saw no other living creature - just some abandoned train tracks and wild vegetation.
How do you keep butterflies at one place anyway?
The Bristol L
In Bristol they say you never become a true Bristolian until you stop noticing the accent (a Somerset burr given a hard urban edge). In that case it's an impossible task. Note the slightly whining, rising intonation at the end of sentences (which usually end with 'moi lurrrve'), and the habit of tacking the first consonant of the next word onto the end of the previous one. This is also "I is" (rather than "I am" or "I be") country
The most characteristic feature is the addition of an L at the end of all words ending in an unstressed vowel. So you might hear a Bristolian say "Oi's wa'ring moi begonials moi lurve". The Hippodrome may be featuring the Welsh National Operal performing Toscal or La Traviatal (the one with the consumptive heroine Violettal). The three Muses who crown the Royal West of England Academy at the top of Park Street are known locally as "Eval, Idal and Normal".
Bristol's Most Romantic Son
Thomas Chatterton is the kind of hero I like, one who made the literary establishment of his time look extremely foolish!
Chatterton claimed to have discovered a series of poems by a 15th century monk called Thomas Rowley in an upper room of St Mary Redcliffe. The Rowley Poems were taken as genuine and a discovery of extreme importance. It took a long time for an even more startling dicovery to be made - that Chatterton had written the poems himself.
This is all the more remarkable for the fact that Chatterton took his own life before his eighteenth birthday. What he would have achieved had he lived can only be speculated upon.
- Arts and Culture
Street Art and Graffiti
The tradition of aerosol art and graffiti exploded in the US gang culture of the 1970's. Bristol was one of the first cities in the UK to embrace graffiti in a big way. Since London has become bristling with CCTV cameras, Bristol is again an important city. It is filled with amazing, intelligent and witty aerosol art. Often it brightens-up sad neglected spaces. World famous graffiti artist, Banksy, comes from Bristol. Many other famous UK graffiti artists started here - Sickboy, Copyright, Cheba, TCF...
Graffiti changes and is replaced often. There are several locations in Bristol with amazing street art. For example, Stokes Croft, the self-styled 'cultural quarter'. And the Dame Emily Park south of the River Avon, on Dean Lane. Bristol City Council has reluctantly decided to preserve Banksy's existing paintings (though they are not doing a very good job - several have been destroyed!!).
So, if you stray away from the historic city centre, keep a look out for Bristol's special culture.
- Arts and Culture
- Road Trip
The Clifton Suspension Bridge is a spectacular engineering feat serving little vital function: it's not that it doesn't go anywhere, it's simply that no-one needs to go where it leads often enough to justify such an effort. As such, it's a most appropriate choice for Bristol's signature image. For the city is absolutely rammed with bridges of one kind or another, and many push engineering ingenuity to the point of mannerism or beyond while being hardly necessary. And of course there's the Horned Bridge, which is in a category all of it's own.
Since the watereway is a working harbour, many of the bridges have to move to allow ships through. Sadly, although we have bascule bridges and swing bridges, we don't have a transporter bridge or a pontoon bridge (to complete the collection).... but nowhere's perfect.
I like bridges.....which is why I am (very slowly) adding them to my tips, generally under the rather inappropriate category of ' off the beatebn path'.
Watch the sun set
I wasn't too sure where to put this tip and it's not really something you can just go and see. I had lived in the East for about 24 years and you simply do not get the stunning sun sets that you get in the West. I've posted a few photos of the sky when driving home from work.
They are simply much more colourful and more oftenly pretty I feel, they make me stop in my tracks to view them and they change so quickly you'll never see the same sky twice.
On the May Day bank holiday (the first Monday after May 1st), you may see these strange people roaming around Broadmead - they are Morris Dancers, and the one that looks like a walking shrub, that's Jack i' the Green!
- Budget Travel
- Arts and Culture
August – International Balloon Fiesta
The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, Europe’s largest annual Hot Air Balloon event, now in its 34th year (2012) attracts 500,000 visitors during the show's four days and is free to attend. Teams from the UK and other parts of the world bring their hot air balloons to the site and participate in mass launches where up to 100 balloons may take off at a time, made twice a day, at 6am and 6pm, subject to weather conditions. Running alongside the event are over 250 trade stands and caterers, and a variety of other entertainments.
Don’t miss the fantastic Nightglow displays when balloons are inflated and glow to synchronised music after dark, followed by a spectacular fireworks display. These take place at approximately 9:30 pm on the Thursday and Saturday evening.
2012 – August 9-12
Thursday: 12:00 midday to 10:30 pm
Friday: 6:00 am to 9:00 pm
Saturday: 6:00 am to 10:30 pm
Sunday: 6:00 am to 6:00 pm
Ashton Court, Bristol
- Hot Air Ballooning
Almost everywhere with a bit of greenery has something one can eat. Over the past 5 years I've lived in Bristol I keep finding more and more that people just do not pick;
Damsons, Medlar, Quince, Apple, Bramble, Sloe, Mulberry, Plum, Rosehip and more!
I'm happy to tell people where I pick mine from if you're interested, I just enjoy walking around and remembering where I see them to come back in the Autumn when they're ripe to pick. I tend to make them into jams, jellys, flavoured alcohol and chutneys I take receipes from all over the place and generally just adapt them to what I have but again if you're interesting in making something do ask. I save glass bottles and jars throughout the year as just one batch of bramble and apple took up 10 you certainly do get through them. It's only cost me the price of the sugar and alcohol which isn't too much considering they're going to go inside Christmas hampers.
- Hiking and Walking
- Food and Dining
- Budget Travel
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