Thursday, 1 September 2011

Cottaging with John Cabot and two prototype blow-up dolls

I often have the privilege of showing visitors around my  home city, Bristol, but rarely are they such good company as my first cousin once removed, Jack, and his friend, Mia, both of whom are newly arrived this side of the Pond to spend a semester working at The Globe as part of their further education.  Having spent a few days soaking up the atmosphere (and whiskey) in Dublin, they have a few days here, staying with relatives, before heading up to London.  


It's not new territory for Jack, as both his parents originate from Bristol and he has visited many times. He'd never trespassed on university land and clambered down the side of the Avon Gorge to visit Burwalls Cave, however.  Nor had he walked across the Clifton Suspension Bridge to visit the Observatory, with its Victorian Camera Obscura and the Giant's Cave beneath.  I was a bit concerned by just how quaint and parochial these activites might seem, compared with the sophisticated tourist destinations of their home country, but they took it in good humour.  And when they return home and read Bill Bryson's 'Notes from a Small Island', it will have far more resonance for them.


Next - obviously - we had to slide down the nearby rock face.  Mia and Jack asked if it had been waxed, but its slippery, shiny surface has been caused by generations of Bristolian bottoms.  



We then walked back across the bridge and drove down to the city centre, where we parked and wandered alongside the Floating Harbour for a spot of cottaging.  Jack's mother, my cousin Sandra, had insisted that we do this, as The Cottage Inn was where she and Jack's father, Martin, had their first ever date.  We had a lovely lunch over looking the water, washed down with a pleasant pint of Ashton Still cider, brewed locally. 




After meandering back along the quay, we visited the Cathedral. I was hoping to show them  my favourite room in the world, the Chapter House, but we could only peek through the glass doors as the flooring was being relaid.  There were lots of other interesting things to look at, however.






I'd never noticed these rather lewd women on an otherwise sober tomb of some long dead worthy.  They look like the 17th century equivalent of blow-up dolls.





Our final port of call was the newly restored and reopened Cabot Tower on Brandon Hill, which was built in 1897 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot's historic voyage from what was then the separate settlement of Redcliffe to Newfoundland.   From the top there were moody views over a greatly changed city.








Summer is over and the trees are tipping into autumn, but Jack and Mia's adventure is just beginning!

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