Bridges, Badges, Badgers, Bristol.

by Heidi Obermeyer

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Okay, so I’m going to save you the suspense of skimming the rest of the post to see if there were actually any badgers involved in my visit to Bristol- there weren’t. I’m sorry I lied to you. But how much better of a post title is that agglomeration of alliteration with “badger” added in?! I mean really. It was the only sensible choice here.
On Saturday I left Bath for the first time since taking the Foreign Service Exam in London on the 11th, and it did my soul good. I like Bristol. I imagine Bristol as Bath’s older, cooler, 32-year-old punk-rock brother who is straight-edge but also really into heavy metal music. And is vegetarian because of the climate-change impact of raising animals, not the ethics of killing them. You know. Just subversive enough. In contrast, Bath is a 17-year-old Jane Austin character, and definitely not Elizabeth Bennett- we’re talkin’ Darcy’s younger sister, the one who’s weirdly locked up and alone all the time but is really good at playing that small piano thing that people played back then.
Bristol actually reminded me a lot of Berlin, and it was kind of fun to hop back into a grungy scene again. We travelled there by train, which is way faster than the bus and also costs about the same or less than the bus if you have a few people- in 15 minutes we had left the ghost of Mr. Darcy behind and started walking towards what we were told was “pretty much the biggest tourist attraction in town,” the Clifton suspension bridge. The bridge is kind of a long walk from the train station, but being the fit young-in’s that we are, we traversed town with no problems and even saw some of Bristol’s other nice parts while we were at it, including the cool silver orb near a science museum and the SS Great Britain.
To get to the Clifton suspension bridge, you have to climb up a fairly strenuous hill, a hill that does not show up on google maps and that had me completely convinced that the internet was going to get the last laugh and get us lost during this adventure. To our great relief, the top of the hill was indeed where one could start a walk across the bridge, and we got nice views of the surrounding countryside and a fairly large gorge in the opposite direction of of town. I would say that the highlight of the visit was the tiny bridge visitor’s center that awaits you at the opposite end of the bridge, where you can buy all manner of Clifton memorabilia, including postcards of its very dapper architect AND buttons (badges to these silly Brits) that say “I crossed the Clifton Suspension Bridge.” Never one to shy away from displaying my accomplishments in public through a tiny piece of plastic pinned to my clothing, I obviously bought a button- as did the boys- and we proudly wore them for the rest of the day. It was fantastic.
An entire paragraph of this post also needs to be devoted to the bridge’s architect, not only because he designed and supervised its completion over a very scary gorge in the late 1800’s like a boss, but also because his name is maybe one of the best names I’ve ever heard- Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Yes, you read that correctly. No, you don’t need to go back and make sure that didn’t say Kingdom of Brunei. It didn’t. We are talking a man, not a country here people, although he accomplished what was probably a similar amount to many small-to-medium-sized nations for the time. This guy had his hands in everything Bristol, from the design of the railway station that we pulled into from Bath to the SS Great Britain that now hangs out majestically on Bristol’s waterway leading up to the Clifton suspension bridge. I mean, just look at this man. Is there anything you can’t admire?

Isambard Kingdom Brunel- a total BAMF.

Basically, our whole day was influenced by this guy and we didn’t even know it at the time. How exciting! So after traversing the bridge AND paying for a somewhat-anti-climatic visit to the nearby cave/viewpoint (above in bright yellow on the cliffs), we huffed and we puffed and we climbed out way out of the cave/viewpoint and headed back towards downtown Bristol.
In case you weren’t aware, another famous man of the ages is from Bristol- the one and only Banksy! Bristol has a solid amount of really cool street art, including a whole street of pieces on huge buildings that will eventually torn down, hence their grafitti-free-for-all status. I don’t think we saw any original Banksy pieces, but I was pretty happy with the large street art that we did see as well as the Banksy work that I google image’d afterwards.
It was kind of a spontaneous day that turned out to be great fun- I only decided to tag along about 5 minutes before I needed to leave the house, I had no credit left on my phone so I couldn’t get ahold of anyone, and I probably would have just spent the day toodling around my apartment and baking/eating cake if I hadn’t gone. So, overall, it was a better use of my time to check out Bristol than stay at home, and I’m sure I’ll return before my time in Bath runs out. Here here!