Taking two-day trips to see Matt are the only good thing about him being on tour, but so far my biggest trips to see him have been marred by my headaches. It’s very hard to enjoy shopping in Birmingham, or exploring in Edinburgh while it feels like your left eye is going to blow out of your head. With that said, our trip to Edinburgh was one of the most exciting trips we’ve had, and I caught the city-break bug from it, so I was hugely excited to go to Bristol. I’ve passed through Bristol dozens of times, but I’ve never been able to properly explore it – and with the weather being so good, it seemed like the perfect time to go! Armed with my headache tablets, I jumped on the train, and off I went!
Our first day together in Bristol was very similar to Edinburgh, in that we wandered up steep streets to the zoo. Bristol Zoo, though apparently one of the smaller zoos in the world, was one of the best I’ve been to. To make up for the lack of space, the enclosures were designed to give the animals the most room, and most fun during their stay! There were some interesting enclosures too, like Twilight World where the area is lit in the daytime as if it is actually night. This way, we were able to see a lot of nocturnal animals as they would be at night. It was really exciting, and the animals were so active – searching for food and playing! The Twilight World then merged into an area that showed how animals lived in human homes. The area was laid out like an average English kitchen, but transparent, so you could see every bug, spider, mouse and rat that was living there. It was amazing to see the tiny spaces a huge rat could squeeze itself into – and though I’m not scared of rodents it was a bit nerve-wracking to see how much of your home they could cover!
Another exciting thing in Bristol Zoo were the Zoolympics. Matt seemed to have seen these before, but they were totally new to me. Across the zoo there were 10 activities relating to an animal, and a space for you to pit yourself against others to see who came out on top. Me and Matt were equal on standing one leg, Matt beat me at long jump and high jump, while I beat him at running speed and reflex speed. There were some activities that I didn’t count in the score because they weren’t competitive, such as height, and tongue length!
Bristol Zoo was also home to the touring animatronic display DinoMania. It features a number of life-size robot dinosaurs, so it’s my idea of fun. I had seen them before a few times in Chester Zoo, but it’s always fun to see dinosaurs! The robots were in the Zoo’s gardens, so some were really well hidden and I’m not quite sure I saw them all. Still, they were hugely impressive!
After the zoo, we made our way back into the city centre. With it being so bright I had a small headache starting, so we decided to do one more activity before it kicked in fully and headed up Cabot Tower. Cabot Tower was built to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s trip to Canada. The tower is 105 foot high, but I can promise you with its extremely narrow winding staircase, it felt much higher. I panicked a fair bit on the way up and on the way down, but seeing Bristol from that viewpoint was worth it!
After a brief and fruitless trip to Forbidden Planet, we wandered around the docks for a few hours. There was a section of dock that wasn’t blocked by rails, where people had parked their canal boats and were sitting in the sun. They were surrounded by swans, and even though the place was filled with people drinking, and loud music, it was quite relaxing! Some people were learning to row, which looked really fun, but the instructor seemed a little strict so we didn’t want to give it a try! Time passed quite quickly while we were just wandering, so before we knew it, it was time to go back to Matt’s digs. As the family we were staying with had school age children, we didn’t want to come stomping into their house too late!
Our plan for the second day was to go to Berkeley Castle, as Matt had to go to work at 4pm, but it turned out to be shut on a Thursday, so we went back to the dock area to look around M Shed. M Shed used to be a shipping container, but was made into a museum of Bristol. It was vast, covering so many things that are, or were once, a part of daily Bristol life – from public transport, to home life, clothing and events. Some of the exhibits were actually taken from the streets of Bristol, like old postboxes and out of date fire engines, while others were given by the locals. M Shed also had dozens of interactive exhibits alongside – but there was a school trip on so we couldn’t really get close.
Upstairs, M Shed had 12 skeletons on display that had been found in or around Bristol. Alongside the skeletons was a small piece on the daily life and supposed death of each person. It was quite surreal, but hugely interesting. Some of the skeletons had suffered injuries, and you could see where the copper weapons had stained the bone green. Others had badly healed fractures, and almost all of them had rickets. At the other end of the room was a pretend diagnotics lab, and seeing as the schools weren’t allowed in the area, me and Matt decided to become doctor detectives for a bit! It’s great to see how hard museums work to make exhibits interesting to children!
Our final stop in Bristol was a trip to Bristol Cathedral, which we had passed many times the previous day. I didn’t know this at the time, but some of Wolf Hall was filmed in Bristol Cathedral, and it’s easy to see why. The cathedral was beautiful, and had many smaller chapels off it for different kinds of worship which were all just as stunning. It was steeped in history, with some of the gravestones inside dated from the 13th century. Bristol was hit heavily in World War 2, so some of the stained glass in the main church had been changed to remember the soilders – which I’ve personally never seen before. I’d have liked to stay and explore it for a lot longer, but I always feel a bit uncomfortable peaking into places of worship, so we left and just admired it from the outside.
Suddenly, it was 3pm, and we had to get back to Matt’s digs so he could change for work and I could pick up my bag, and that was the end of my trip to Bristol. I spent another 4 hours in the train station, but that isn’t an interesting part of the story.
Bristol was beautiful, like Edinburgh, full of steep streets and big hills, like Edinburgh and also packed with history, like Edinburgh. I wish I’d have had more than two days to explore it, but I’m grateful for all the things I did get to see in that time! I’d love to go again soon, and possibly explore some of the surrounding areas.
Have you been to Bristol? What would you be good at in Zoolympics?