I’ve had a busy week enjoying my grandchildren and my city.
The children have been on their Easter break. Their parents and other granny entertain them with the fun things like adventure playgrounds, which I’m happy to visit occasionally but don’t want to go on a regular basis. I prefer to introduce them to different experiences. So I was delighted to see an unusual tour that I thought might be right up Mikey’s street.
We Bristolians are justifiably proud of our many landmarks, some thanks to the great man Isambard Kingdom Brunel, responsible for Bristol’s Temple Meads Station buildings, the SS Great Britain (when launched in 1843 she was the largest ship in the world and the first screw-propelled, ocean-going, wrought iron ship), and of course the iconic and beautiful Clifton Suspension Bridge – opened in 1864, it has carried traffic over the Avon Gorge ever since. On the Clifton side, the rock face of the gorge is fairly perpendicular to the river below, whereas on the Leigh Woods side it slopes at an angle, making the span at the top wider than the engineers thought at the time was possible to span. So they built an abutment for the tower on the far side to sit on. Over the intervening years the original plans were lost and it was believed that this abutment was a solid structure.
It was only discovered in 2002, quite by chance, that the structure was actually constructed with 12 domed chambers. It is now possible to take a guided tour of a couple of these chambers, the largest of which is the equivalent height of three double decker buses. The tour involved hard hats, hi-viz jackets, a climb down a ladder, a crawl through a tiny tunnel and finally a breathtaking view of the highest vault festooned with long, thin stalactites – fascinating for children and adults alike. I highly recommend the tour which you can read about here.
The next day was Sophia’s turn. The ‘Van Gogh experience’ is on in Bristol. I had already seen a version of this show in Málaga on the eve of my last camino in 2019. I enjoyed it a lot and decided that another visit was in order. Sophia is a budding artist, always creating wonderful imaginative drawings and colourings so I thought she would enjoy this experience. Well, this show has matured since my last visit. It was a feast for the senses. Lots to keep minds of all ages entertained, with an immersive lounging area where all four walls are adorned with moving images of Van Gogh’s paintings, a drawing room (actually a colouring room) where outlines of his works are provided along with crayons where you can display your framed masterpiece on wall. And finally a virtual reality stroll through his house and all the scenes from his works. It was extremely excellent, though we were both a bit woozy when we removed the headsets and walked back to the train station (the one designed by Brunel).
And to finish the week off I took a walk along the river Avon this morning. The tide was quite high allowing boats to navigate. It’s quite unusual to see large boats on the river but today I was treated to two. The first one interesting but not very beautiful. Oh, but the second one approached just as I reached my favourite spot on the river at horseshoe bend The Matthew (a modern reconstruction of the original Matthew that John Cabot sailed to Newfoundland in 1497. The modern Matthew was built between 1994–1996 on Redcliffe Quay in Bristol for the 1997 voyage to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Cabot’s most famous journey to Newfoundland and back). That was a real treat and a fabulous way to round off the week.
Now I must get back to sorting out my pack!