As a family, we’ve travelled around Europe a lot recently, so when an opportunity arose to work with Mercure Hotels and explore some of the most exciting and vibrant cities in the UK, we jumped at the chance.
The gauntlet was laid – we decided upon ‘8 cities in 8 months’.
We started our journey in Bristol.
I’d asked for recommendations from our Instagram community and was so touched with the consideration and suggestions put forward. Bristol was buzzing with things to see and do – so much so that I actually created a schedule (very unlike me, but I didn’t want to miss anything in our 48 hour window).
We set off around 9am Saturday and, after a few nibbles along the way, we checked into our home, Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel, in the city centre. We soon set off for a late lunch at Pigsty. Pigsty is a restaurant within a series of shipping containers called Cargo near the harbour. You know when you’re enjoying good food – when that silence descends across the table – which it did. We can highly recommend the scotch egg.
As parents of a child who doesn’t seem to need sleep, we’re always on the lookout for good coffee. Just around the corner from Pigsty was Little Victories. It was a really interesting space – light and airy, with a Danish vibe. Not to be left out, Stanley tucked into their millionaires shortbread.
We had just enough time to walk around MShed, Bristol’s transport museum before it closed for the day. Located at the harbour, it’s flanked by a steam engine that operates on selected weekends. Stanley has been obsessional about trains since he was two – one of his first words was ‘Percy’ (from Thomas the Tank Engine). The engine went up and down the track. It’s just a five minute journey, but it’s a great experience for the enthusiast.
On Sunday morning, we were up early and visited Bristol’s science musuem, We The Curious. This is a pretty apt name, as it’s a word people often use to describe Stanley. This is paid entry but well worth it, as you can easily spend a day exploring.
The ground floor housed lots of experiments and has a science feel, with upstairs catering for arts, creativity and engineering. I was pretty pleased to discover a deck chair that overlooked a ‘construction site’ I enjoyed a nice little break whilst Stanley played with Daddy.
Following We The Curious, we grabbed a bite to eat from Squeezed. The guys who served us were so friendly and patient, despite a hangry four year old. From there we enjoyed a ride on the steam train between showers and nabbed a a caffeine injection.
The only must-see for me personally, was Greyson Perry at Arnolfini, so we took Stanley towards the end of the day, hoping it would be a bit quieter but it was packed, which was great to see. Stanley sat drawing his interpretation of the infamous bike piece and I noticed a few people taking a peek at his work!
Towards the end of our action-packed day, Stanley was very tired so Bobby carried him on his shoulders so we could see a Banksy in situ. We’d explained about Banksy’s work to Stanley and tried to articulate how art needn’t be confined to a gallery – and that we can appreciate beauty and creativity in many forms.
We arrived home to pre-booked dinner as well as cocktails for the adults and a mocktail for Stanley. By now Stanley was understandably overstimulated and a bit overtired, given our adventures during the day, but still, the staff and guests made us feel so welcome. We certainly weren’t judged for our fidgety and restless little boy!
The recently refurbished Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel is in the heart of the city and was the perfect base for exploring Bristol. Had we had more time, we’d love to have used their spa and pool! We’ve actually discussed visiting again in the summer (to enjoy the harbour in the evening).
Even with the best laid plans, it can’t always go smoothly. We’d checked out on schedule, with the intention of visiting Bristol Art Museum first thing. We buckled up and turned the ignition key but the car didn’t start! So Stanley and I left Bobby in the multi-story car park to wait for the AA and to sort a replacement battery. Meanwhile Stanley and I went to see the current dinosaur exhibition and had lunch together.
Early afternoon, with our car back on the road, we took the decision to still do what we’d planned and get home late. Bobby was starving so we got lunch from Pinkmans, a Times top 25 bakery. We had a coffee and Stanley tried their sourdough doughnut.
Bellies full, we drove over the Clifton Suspension Bridge and parked up. I’m not great with heights but we decided we’d walk across. Stanley broke all the rules and took his scooter! I stopped off midway to FaceTime my dad from the bridge. We’d watched a couple of videos before we visited which explained the construction, so I was particularly excited about seeing it for myself. It was a mild but misty afternoon which just added to the experience.
Next up in our ‘8 cities in 8 months’ tour of the UK is York.
We drove and stayed for two nights at Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel.
Ate at Pigsty.
Coffee at Little Victories.
Visited MShed (transport museum).
Saw Banksy’s work.
Steam train at MShed.
Explored We The Curious (science museum).
Burgers at Squeezed.
Greyson Perry at Arnolfini (contemporary art museum).
Pinkman’s for Sourdough doughnuts (Times best 25 bakery).
Pliosaurus exhibition at Bristol Art museum.
Walk & drive over the Clifton suspension bridge.
Words and photography by Fiona Burrage.