Bristol City Break

_MG_0147Easter approached fast this year and 1 week out I hadn’t made any plans, but knew I wanted to get away from London for the weekend. I had been reading a lot about Bristol and when you added up the cost of a train ticket and a cheap business hotel, it was a pretty good option for a last-minute weekend. So my sister and I packed our bags and our books and jumped on the train.

We were a bit hampered by Easter bank holiday closures. But an Easter chocolate fair on the waterfront and sunny winter days made up for it.

Here is what we got up to in Bristol:

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A great first stop when you arrive at Bristol Temple Meads is Hart’s Bakery. They sell lovely fresh breads, a variety of cakes and sweet things and, Kiwi’s will know what I’m talking about here, good cabinet food! By this I mean a good selection of lunch stuff that’s just ready to go like savoury muffins and quiches. I love that stuff.

_MG_0018mint green wall, BristolWander along the colourful Harbourside to Brunel’s SS Great Britain.

_MG_0124When the ship was launched in 1843 it was the world’s largest and fastest ship due to the new steam engine powering it. Technology advanced quickly in the 1840’s though and by 1852 the now obsolete engine was replaced and the ship converted to a sailing ship. The ship worked for decades carrying emigrants from England to Australia. It was fascinating to see how passengers would have travelled. I definitely wouldn’t be able to squeeze into even one of the first class beds. They are tiny!_MG_0070Β  This is Claire and I goofing around in the first class dining deck.

_MG_0105Beers on Bristol HarbourDrinks on Bristol HarbourDrinks on Bristol HarbourWe saw a few smart souls had grabbed beers and perched themselves on the docks to sit and watch the winter sunset. It looked like the perfect way to rest our legs and we quickly sourced beers from Arnolfini Cafe & Bar and sat people watching as the sun went down.

Garlic bread at The Stable, BristolDefinitely tuck into pizza and the cider tasters at The Stable on Bristol waterfront.

_MG_0141 Take a stroll around Millenium Square at night._MG_0187 _MG_0193Or check out the mirror ball and bronze sculptures there during the day. I just read that there is one there of Cary Grant who was born in Bristol. I didn’t pay enough attention to the sculptures, I have about 5 mirror ball selfies instead.

_MG_0179I can recommend the Glassboat restaurant for a breakfast or a coffee on the water. No surprises for me, I had the muesli and an English breakfast tea when we popped in. Both were exactly what I need to get me ready for a second day of exploring.

_MG_0210We wandered past the Bristol Cathedral in search of street art. Bristol is known for its street art scene and is home to a number of Banksy pieces. We went looking for ‘Naked man’ which is on Park Street, but stumbled across ‘Swinging Girl’ too. We thought this was a Banksy, but reading more about it now it seems it may have been a copy-cat, either way it was nice to look up and see it brightening up a very dull area of town._MG_021320150405 March iphone Bristol 225 _MG_0222_MG_0236Tuck into some gorgeous Indian food at Thali Cafe. This is a Bristol institution, every tourist guide and Bristol blogger mentioned Thali Cafe and I am going to continue this trend. Go and try this fragrant and delicious indian food!! There are 5 branches and Bristol so you’ll never find yourself far from one.

Thali Cafe BristolOur last stop was the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Before we got there I kept thinking that this was the bridge over to Wales. Nope, that’s the Severn Bridge, much bigger than this local one. On the plus side though, we could easily walk to the other side of this one. Well easier for some than others, Claire was holding on to the rails for dear life – she’s not one for heights.

_MG_0253 _MG_0260If you make it out to the bridge do take a stroll through the nearby Clifton Village. It has some interesting boutique shops and cosy little cafes.

We finished off our weekend in Bristol with a warming hot chocolate at Za Za Bazaar where I fell in love with these purple lanterns. I have about 20 pictures of them – no joke.

_MG_0274I’m sure I haven’t even scratched the surface of what Bristol has to offer, so if you have any tips please pass them on. I definitely want to take Ben and show him around one day.

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Paris Winter Weekend

_MG_0526My sister and I both have a bit of a city crush on Paris. Claire for the many galleries; me for the gorgeous food. So when we booked a winter weekend there in February, we knew we would have to make plenty of time for both, as well as sightseeing and general hanging out.

Here is what we got up to. If you have any tips for my next trip please share them.

_MG_0250We stayed in Monmartre, so our first stop after dropping off our bags at the hostel was a walk up to Sacre-Coeur, the famous basilica of Monmartre. Claire is shielding her eyes from the sun, which was a lovely surprise after leaving a grey London that morning.

_MG_0284_MG_0297We paid to go up in to the dome and the views were spectacular. I must have taken hundreds of photos of the Eifel Tower in the distance, much to Claire’s dismay as she can’t stand heights and was edging her way around the dome sticking as close to the building as possible. I will admit, it is a long way up, but even Claire admitted once safely on solid ground, it is well worth doing.

_MG_0256 We then wandered around, fantasizing about what it would be like to live as a Parisian in a lovely apartment like the one above, overlooked only by the basilica…..

Our next stop was the Pompidou Centre, which is a surprising building that kind of looks like a swimming pool with lots of tunnel slides around the outside. On the inside you walk into a huge atrium, flanked by six floors of galleries and cultural spaces. There is a library, cinema and cafe, among exhibition spaces and public performance areas. 20150405 March iphone Bristol 022The highlight for me was the Jeff Koons: A Retrospective exhibition. The huge collection of works from Koons was fascinating and impressive. I loved the balloon dog, pictured. Claire had hoped to see the modern art collection which has works from Matisse (her favourite artist) Picasso and Duchamp to name a few. However, when we got there we found that this particular gallery was closed for refurbishment. Noooo! This is not the first time Claire has been caught out by refurbishment . We also travelled to Antwerp last year, mainly to see MOMU, the famous fashion museum where works from the Antwerp 6 designers are displayed, only to find out that was closed in between exhibitions.

Although it wasn’t all bad, we spent the next day in Musee Picasso, a lovely sleek and modern gallery that is hugely popular. We definitely recommend booking in advance as you skip the long queues, we pretty much walked straight in._MG_0356 _MG_0371Last time I was in Paris we discovered this company, Fat Tyre, running bike tours of Paris. I had been on the day tour, which was brilliant, and so this time we opted for a night tour which included a boat ride on the river Seine. After meeting and picking up our nice comfy bikes, we cycled off to see all the main tourist spots at night, Notre Dame, the latin quarter and the Louvre before getting on a boat and being whisked down the river while drinking wine and watching the lights go by.

_MG_0445 _MG_0475 _MG_0482 _MG_0498I would highly recommend these tours, just rug up if you’re doing the night tour in winter. It was freezing!

We spent our last day wandering around the Notre Dame. It was so beautiful inside, and I got to practice my night-time photography.

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_MG_0677This bridge is nicknamed the “Love Lock bridge” and it is heaving with the weight of millions of padlocks. A romantic tradition or thoughtless vandalism, it definitely is a beautiful site. Notre Dame rises in the distance and when we were there we were serenaded by an enthusiastic accordion player.

As you already know, we did eat our fair share of macarons on this trip. We also had our first savoury crepes, or galletes as I now know they’re called.

20150405 March iphone Bristol 027 20150405 March iphone Bristol 046Finally after a weekend of indulgence, I thought I would go for a healthy option and have a salad. Luckily this salad came with a whole round of camembert.. mmmm…

I can’t wait to go back to Paris, I have vowed that the next time I go it will be in summer. My next must see will be the Palace of Versailles.