You know the expression – to feel like a red-headed stepchild? That’s always amused me. I could be mistaken but as I understand it, the combination of being a red-head AND being a stepchild is not the best. That said, all the red-heads I know are gas craic, happy, well-adjusted people with just the right amount of crazy to make them special. And the stepchildren I know, be they red-headed or not, seem to be fine.
In the UK last week, the term was just to describe the relationship between the sibling cities of Bath and Bristol, with Bristol feeling a tad overshadowed. Certainly, Bath is beautiful, far more quaint, with lots of eco-stuff going on, and has far better buskers. And in truth, when I visit that part of the world, I rarely get further than the train station at Bristol Temple Meads as I, too, head for Bath.
This time though, I stayed put. In Bristol. And what an eye-opener that was. The city, once a major departure point for the slave trade and a less than glorious history, is lovely. There are plenty of green spaces and it has more than its far share of bombed-out churches that are still magnificent. My favourite is Temple Church. No question. A stunning 12th-century ruin in Temple Gardens that just begs quiet contemplation. I don’t think I could ever get tired of it.
Bristol Marina has been majorly revamped with the Brunel’s SS Great Britain the main attraction. Time wasn’t on our side so we didn’t go in to see what all the hoo-ha was about but it’s on the list for the next visit. The colourful terraced houses that look down on the docks would be more my style than the lavish penthouses that line both sides of the river. Mind you, I wouldn’t turn up my nose at one of them either. There are myriad cafés, brew pubs, cider houses, and restaurants to choose from with boat taxis to ferry you every which way. Think Venice without the striped t-shirts. A lovely way to spend an afternoon.
The St Mary Redcliffe, billed as a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, has stood tall for over 800 years. Like many other buildings in the city, the ones that managed to dodge the bombs like the University’s Wills Memorial Tower, it, too, is gobsmackingly gorgeous. Again, with time being at a premium, the tour of this tower has also made it to the list of things to do next time around.
And in sharp contrast to all this stylish splendour, Shaun the Sheep was everywhere. Seventy sheep have been scattered around the city as part of a fundraising campaign for the Children’s Hospital. And cleverly positioned near places of interest so that some little bit of cultural exposition might sneak past. It was my first time spending any time of note in the city and I liked it – a lot. I’d happily go back . Anytime. I won’t forget Bath, because she’s been good to me, but perhaps its time the red-headed stepchild got some more of my attention.