I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since Dexter and I went to Bristol, and I really should have written this up sooner, but … life. But better late than never, and it turned out to be one of our favourite weekends away so far, so I have lots to tell you.
Firstly, this was all possible because of Visit Bristol, and the lovely Wendy, so a big thank you to her for being so fantastic – it was the most jam-packed itinerary to date, and I know how much hard work goes into these things so it’s much appreciated.
Anyway, we travelled up to London under our steam late Friday morning. It was Dexter’s first day of the summer holidays, and it was a great way to start them because … we got to travel First Class from London to Bristol, courtesy of Great Western Railways! That might not be a big deal to some of you, but it was our first time travelling First Class and to be honest, we’re easily impressed. Plus it meant I could relax instead of worrying about motorway traffic. The seats were so comfy, there were ALL the charging points for our combined technology (which I’m surprised didn’t take out the National Grid), and then the best bit – free food and drink. God, can you imagine Dexter’s face when I said he could have what he liked? OK, we didn’t go too mad, but it sure is nice having the option!
Bristol is only a two hours’ train ride from Paddington, and it went by so quickly. We were staying in the Hilton Doubletree, another first for us as I’ve never stayed in one before, but the journey to find it was quite … eventful. Siri steered us wrong and we ended up in a rather less salubrious part of Bristol, by several blocks of flats, where some bare-footed man was being arrested. There were 7 police vans there, and we weren’t sure whether to be comforted by that or not! But we did a bit of a U-turn and found our hotel which was only a five-minute walk away from the station – God knows what Siri was playing at!
The hotel was lovely. We had to wait to check-in, but that’s no-one’s fault really … I just don’t do queueing! Once we were served, everything went smoothly and we went to our room. I believe this was a standard twin, and had everything we needed. Oh, and one lovely touch, we were given a big cookie each by the lady on reception. I mean, she gave one to everyone, but still, that’s nice isn’t it?
The best thing about the hotel? Breakfast, and, in particular, the staff at breakfast. Now I’ve been lucky enough to stay in a fair few hotels, and service is just so important – trust me, I’m the first to moan when something isn’t right, but the staff went above and beyond – from poaching me the most perfect eggs, to one waitress spending time with a family to recommend a local family-friendly farm that she thought their toddler would like. Anyway, great food + friendly and helpful staff = happy me! I’d definitely stay at another Hilton after this experience, which is the best recommendation I can give.
As I said, our itinerary was pretty full, and the first thing (and one of the best things) we were going to do was watch gelato being made at Swoon Gelato. Except our taxi was late, so we missed the making of it, but got there in time to taste it! I’ve only had gelato once before, in Rome of all places, but it’s so much nicer than ice cream. Less airy, more creamy and, a rumour has it, a little healthier too. I’m not sure how, but I’m running with that one. Especially because, Dexter and I, erm, may have actually gone back three more times over the weekend! Purely for research purposes, but we can safely say that lemon was the nicest flavour. You’re welcome. But if you’re in Bristol, you must go – it’s on College Green, and the bottom of the big hill, opposite the cathedral.
We were sated, for now, and next on the agenda was pizza. And not just any pizza, but pizza at a brand-new restaurant called The Pi Shop. We had a lovely hour’s walk wandering through Bristol, taking photos, and walking by the waterside, until we found the restaurant. It had only opened that week and was next door to the very well known Casamia, and is run by the same family.
The venue itself is pretty special, but the food was outstanding. The menu isn’t super extensive, which I liked – they did a handful of flavours, but they did them exceptionally well. I plumped for ‘Sausage and Egg’ and of course, it wasn’t quite that simple – moreover, a special Italian sausage, with a parmesan covered egg yolk in the centre. And I know it’s ‘only’ pizza but, two weeks on, I still remember this meal and that tells me that a) I need to go back and b) I need to go back. I also had it on good recommendation via my lovely blogging friend Erica, that drinking IPAs is where’s it’s at, and so we drank USPA ales in the sunshine, right next to the harbour, and it was just fantastic. A night to remember.
We didn’t have room for the strawberry and tarragon ice cream that was on offer, but on our way back through the restaurant we took time to chat with Pete, the owner, and admire the glorious copper pizza oven and coffee machine. Honestly, they were SO pretty – as far as machinery goes I mean, but you can really tell that there’s a lot of love in the team that work here – for each other, and for the work they do, and they certainly don’t see it as ‘just’ a pizza restaurant. Because it’s not – it’s much, much more than that.
After a lovely breakfast at the hotel, Saturday was Upfest day! You may have heard about Upfest before, but it’s Bristol’s annual urban paint festival. Bear with me. It takes over a large part of the south of town, and artists have to apply to be able to share their work via murals – on sides of buildings, houses, even buses. You take a walk down the main High Street and your eyes are drawn left and right down each side road, where you’ll see something like this:
I can’t recommend Upfest enough. Loads of food and drink stalls, a great atmosphere and it was amazing being surrounded by such a creative buzz – something sadly lacking in the town I live in. We were lucky enough to be taken onto the roof of the Tobacco Building, which is at the start of the festival, and we could look down at some of the work taking place. Few heart-stopping moments when Dexter decided to dangle his legs over the edge … but overall, what a view!
We ended up spending most of the day there. I even bumped into a very old blogging friend of mine, Gemma, that lives in Bristol, after she spotted Dexter in one of the parks! We found a nice pub and chilled there for the afternoon, whilst Dexter took a wander to play Pokemon Go, and the sun was shining and … oh, it was glorious.
Time for dinner, and we were booked into a restaurant called Thali Cafe – a big, bright and bold Indian restaurant with a difference. Thali means a round platter to serve food (according to Wiki!) but basically, it’s made up of a selection of various dishes – bit like a Pick ‘n’ Mix … but for curry. It was really busy, but the staff were kind enough to accommodate all of us. The first thing that came out was a beast. Not an actual beast, but a massive savoury pancake filled with vegetables. To be honest, I can’t even remember what Thali I ordered, I just pointed to one and said, “Lamb?” What came was delicious though – accompanied with little pots of vegetables and sauces. Pretty sure some battered chips were involved too, but I was so full up by then, I think I was in a curry-coma.
The rest of the weekend was spent wandering around Bristol. Wendy kindly told us about some exhibitions that were on, and the other bloggers went to, but those of you with children know what it’s like – you need to have alone time and just do your own thing, so that’s what we did. I forked out another £1m to top up Dexter’s Pokeballs, but he was quite happy pottering around the harourside looking for Pokemon … whilst I enjoyed Laptop Club and a lovely coffee. Win/win.
It had now started to rain, so we decided to make a move and go home mid-afternoon.
We loved everything about our weekend in Bristol – and you know me, I tell you how it is. If there was something I didn’t like, I’d say. But I honestly couldn’t fault it. I wish I’d had the opportunity to see more, but I was the only blogger there with a child and I wanted to try and find the right balance for both of us, which I think I did. But I would love to go back on my own to explore more of the city. I’d still go back to Swoon and Pi Shop though!
Thanks Bristol – you were awesome.