6 Hours in Bristol England

We spent a good deal more than 6 hours in Bristol England, but the majority of our time was spent in the harbor which isn’t for everyone. This post will cover the things we did on the main land portion of Bristol, for those less interested in boats.
Brandon Hill and Cabot Tower
Brandon Hill was originally grazing lands for the Earl of Gloucester’s livestock, granted to him in 1174. Over the years the land was often used as a local meeting place and in 1843 30 thousand people gathered to watch the SS Great Britain leave port for America. Today is a really lovely park, the tallest location in Bristol it provides views of the entire city, and your vantage point can be improved by an additional 105 feet by the Cabot Tower which sits on the highest point of the park.
The red sandstone tower was built in the 1890s on the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s voyage to America. He made landfall in Newfoundland Canada a number of years prior to Christopher Columbus’ journey to Central America. Not much is known about his initial journey which is thought to  be the first European voyage to the American continent since the vikings. Other than it was before his second which was in 1497 and that Columbus references this initial voyage in letters of his own on his first voyage.

We had thought about climbing the town, but while I don’t mind heights I do mind places crowded with people. So instead we chose a nice sadly bench with a great view and bought ice cream from a truck that was perfectly situated as the first thing we saw when we created the hill. It was delicious.

In addition to views and delicious ice cream. The park also has a good number of walking trails which weaves around all sides of the park into different parts of town. We chose to follow a nice tree lined path and then followed a very impressive architecture tower in the hopes of finding out what it was.

Bristol Cathedral
The tower we were following turned out to the part of the University of Bristol, which is a very impressive grouping of buildings and includes Willis Memorial Tower attached to the facade of the Law School. Since school was in session we chose not to poke around the building and rather went down Park Street toward the water. We popped in a few shops on the way down the hill and then came across this beauty that is the Bristol Cathedral.

Like all churches in England built early enough, during the reformation they were stripped of all things making them Catholic and often fell to disrepair over the years. This church was handed over to the Church of England and was kept in relatively good condition. Having previously been  Catholic Cathedral it is quite large, and blissfully empty when we visited. If you are in the area you should definitely check it out. It is really impressive and really empty. They also have a cafe and gardens around back that looked really nice.

St Nicholas Market and St. Peters Church
Two things I knew I wanted to do in Bristol were to visit the St. Nicholas Market which is a very large outdoor market and the St. Peters Church which is right across the street. Unfortunately for me, while the St. Nicholas Market is open Monday through Saturday, it is evidently closed on holiday weekends so I did not get walk around as planned.

Rather we popped across the street to Castle Park which is home to St. Peters, one of the oldest churches in Bristol the foundation dates back to the 1100s. The building went through restorations over the years but sadly during the Bristol Blitz it was nearly destroyed. Today all openings to the church are understandably bared off but it does look as though a restoration organization is attempting to raise money to shore up the walls so the location can be used for other purposes, even though it would never have a roof again.
Temple Church
Our last stop in Bristol was not a planned stop but one we happened upon while heading back to the train station. A gorgeous little park that used to be the grave yard of the Knights Templar church that was build on the site of the church that stands today in 1130. The knights were suppressed by Henry the 8th and then finally bombed out again during the Bath Blitz. If we walk up to the side door you can peek inside and see the original circular church foundation which is very neat to see. Another charming fact about the church is that the tower leans at a 5 foot angle. Construction of the tower began in the 1390s and quickly started to lean, as such it was never fully completed as to the original plan.

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Rome, Italy

I was most excited to see Rome in Italy and it truly is an incredible city. But it is a city, a giant city. There is more to see and do there than a single vacation could ever cover and we were only there for two days. My number one tip for Rome would be don’t go in the summer, especially if you want to to visit the Vatican. We tried to skirt around the crowds as best as possible while still managing to see some fantastic things. It would have been easier in the off season though.

The Roman Forum was probably my favorite stop while we were there, we spent almost an entire day there. And since there was more vegetation here than other parts of the city the air was much cooler. There are also drinking fountains fed from natural springs under the city all over the place which really helped us keep going. It is also conveniently located near the Collosseam which we also toured while there. I personally liked the Forum better as the area was larger and you were free to wander on your own. A lot of the Collosseam was at least at the time mostly only accessed by tours. But given my love of history and architecture this whole area is just a dream.
I have no memory of the name of the hostel we stayed at, though if I went back I would most likely pick a hotel or short term rental. I am way too much of a light sleeper for dorm rooms. I also have no memory of the name of the restaurants we ate at other than it was small, we stat outside on the street appreciating the cooler temps after the sun went down and ate something delicious with eggplant.

Our second day in Rome was dedicated to Vatican City which is quite a trek away from the Roman Forum. From our hostel near the Forum we hopped on the trusty street car and rattled our way across town.

I personally was not aware until we got there exactly how huge Vatican City was. In fact  I wasn’t really aware that it was anything other than St. Peters and the Sistine Chapel. There is a lot there, including a lovely little market selling prepared food, groceries and jewelry among other things. I still have the pair of amber and silver earnings I bought that day, the dried fruits and other snacks we picked up were gone that night. So good.
Aside from the unaffiliated market, Vatican City consists of St.Peters Basilica and the surrounding square. As well as the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museum and Gardens, several other smaller churches, large grounds with sculpture gardens, and a variety of other buildings. If visiting I would suggest studying the area and know going in exactly what you want to see, it could take days to see everything and while I enjoyed my time there I left feeling a tad overwhelmed. And I didn’t even get to see it all!

We chose to meander back to our hostel on foot so we could see the Pantheon on the way. Which was very cool to see, it was significantly less crowded than the Vatican and very cool inside which I appreciated given how hot it was the entire time I was there. There is a McDonalds across the square from the building which at first I was snobby about and slightly annoyed. But I was very appreciative when it turned out later I needed a restroom. They also served the most delicious soft serve (European McDonalds serves different food than American ones). This would have been not my first nor my last ice cream of the day either.

The walk back to the hostel turned out to be a really fantastic idea.  I loved walking around knowing that some of my favorite movies like Roman Holiday and Three Coins in the Fountain were filmed on those streets. And while it was several miles I really enjoyed seeing all the tiny side streets and businesses along the way. One of my favorite ways to see a place is always by foot because you never know what you might accidentally stumble on. This time it was more ice cream and I was not at all sorry about it.

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