Last week, I went to visit my friend Bonny in Bristol for just about two days (although due to unforeseen travel complications on her end, it really ended up being only one day) but it was love at first sight.
To begin, the airport is actually a reasonable distance from the city, and a bus ticket to the city center is only 11£ return! Already loving it more than the 28£ or whatever you have to spend to take the train from Stanstead to the London city center. Not to mention almost everyone traveling from Alicante to Bristol is a retired Brit with a summer house in Spain, so I was actually the only person with a non-EU passport, meaning immigration took me five minutes instead of an hour.
While Bristol is by no means the crazy, bustling metropolis that London is, it’s still a really modern, diverse city with lots of shit to peak your interest. (Depending on various metrics, it’s either the 9th or 11th largest city in the UK.) London, like Berlin, sometimes feels like it’s a separate country from the country it’s actually in. I didn’t meet any actual English people in London, save one drunk Jordie at a chicken shop at 2 a.m. Even all the guys who hit on me were Australian or Kiwi or Spanish. So while musing over all the international stolen treasures at various free museums is probably the most British thing you can do, Bristol felt more quintessentially English. (Which, by the way, does not mean all white people. If you’ve ever watched Skins you probably know that.)
So after Bonny got back from London and we had some Japanese take away, watched Die Another Day (how did I not remember how bad Bond movies are?) and American Pie 4 (wow, so British). The next day we went on our grand walking tour of Bristol: through the urban hippie farms and autonomous collectives, the posh neighborhoods up a hill, the high street full of charity shops where I bought some trousers for 7£, the public-art anti-police neighborhood, Brandon Hill, the city center full of amazing Gothic buildings. As our feet were aching, we stopped in for a gin & tonic and found out Margaret Cho was doing a show that very night. Bonny’s friends picked us up and we laughed our asses off.
I was disappointed to have to leave so soon, after less than two full days. (I was seriously checking flights that left on Thursday and Friday, which were only 20€, but I had work and no internet connection at Bonny’s place so it was kinda a non-starter.) Bristol is not really the type of place I ever expected to visit, but I fell in love immediately. It’s the perfect mix of edgy and traditional, stately English-ness and outspoken modernity.