A Bristol afternoon stroll

Or: What to do when on that day in December when you have no game.

This is a record of Bristol Rovers’ final opponents in the F.A. Cup each year in the last 8 seasons.

The second round is always played on the first weekend of December.

08 – 09 1st round V Bournemouth

09 – 10 1st round V Southampton

10 – 11 1st round V Darlington

11 – 12 3rd round V Aston Villa

12 – 13 1st round V Sheffield United

13 – 14 3rd round V Birmingham City

14 – 15 1st round V Tranmere Rovers

15 – 16 1st round V Chesham United

We have played on the first weekend in December on just two times in last 8 years. I know some fans book their Christmas Shopping trips on the first weekend in December in the pretty safe knowledge that the Gas will not be playing in the F.A. Cup that weekend. And so it was that she who is rightly obeyed and I decided to take a stroll down town. We contemplated a trip to Bath but it would be too crowded. We considered making a trip to Tyntesfield, only to see they were going all Christmassy. Ronnie and Bob were off to Moseley in their search for Rugby salvation. We would be child free.

Those of you who know me from my teaching days will recognise that I am partial to a Geography Field trip approach to walking around any town. We agreed that, in an effort to vary the usual pub crawl approach, we would take in some back streets and alternative amusements in between each pub. What evolved was a cracking day out of new and old pubs plus some familiar and not so familiar touristy bits. Thus this blog contains a couple of reviews and thoughts on some bits of Bristol to be explored further.

The train to Clifton from Severn Beach was full. Passengers included our regular friend Clive and his wife on their Bath version of our pub day out. They are stalwarts of previous trips, last mentioned in last week’s blog at the Exeter game.

The Brewhouse and Kitchen

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A Yankee Cabot was my first pint of the day. We settled to a window seat with the Guardian crossword and the initial wafts of cheese hitting the grills. I love the first look at the paper at the weekend. Today saw what may be shoots of realisation among the press that things may just be turning. Twitter tells me that the Mail apparently had printed a softer, more realistic appreciation of Jeremy Corbyn’s achievements of the last week. There is a nagging wish to shout loudly at the pollsters and press that they have been underestimating the strength of feeling among we Labour party newcomers. I have been pontificating in my usual smug way that people were in for a surprise when the Oldham result comes out. In some ways I feel that we need to encourage Jeremy to take even more of the brickbats on his broader than obvious shoulders. With every insult comes another set of voters wanting to shut up the press and the frightened Westminster elite. With every proclamation of Yvette Coopers and her friends in the Labour Party comes another marker of the end of the Blair and post Blair Tory lite, projects. I have to say, however, that I was mightily impressed by Ed Milliband’s approach to the events of last week. Unlike the trimmer Andy Burnham, he found some rare humility to play the loyal party member in support of the leader. If only Hilary Benn could have convinced the press in a similar way.

Back to the pub. Brewing is now in full production and the pub is a regular part of the Clifton Down circuit for me. I like the atmosphere, the friendship of the staff and most importantly, the range of beers.

The map below shows the nearby pubs for future reference should we decide to walk. This time we walked around the corner to catch a No. 2 bus towards the centre.

cliftgon down map

TOURIST STOP NO. 1

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

This place is a treasure that needs visiting and revisiting. I like doing small bits at a time. We never approach the place knowing what is on because the fun is in the surprise. The main exhibition was titled Death. That was not on my list of things to enjoy. There was also an exhibition called Erekunde. This term is used for the study of the Earth. As Geographers it drew our attention to the second floor and a piece in video that is apparently funny. We sat alongside another couple who found it to be so. Mirth was not stretching my mouth to smile. We exchanged bewildered glances at another trite play of words on the screen before us and left to see what else this floor had to offer. It took quite a time to depart as they have an outstanding collection of maps, engravings and diagrams of Bristol from the 15th century to the present day. It was this sort of display, alongside their fossil collections, that generated my interest in Erekunde as a youngster.

museum to lime kiln walk

TOURIST STOP NO. 2

St George’s Hall

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This was on my hit list of places to visit. We walked in from the back to the box office and picked up their programme for the next few months. You may be, like me, relatively unaware of this place as a new concert venue. We have in mind a few lunchtime recitals to visit. If Rose can get out from work then I have promised to venture in and be educated in to the works of classical musicians. I think we have planned and agreed joint Christmas presents of season tickets for the next few months. Bristol had just thrown me a huge curve ball that I am happy to smack over the bleachers.
The stroll continued across the foot of Brandon Hill and down to the second pub.

The Lime Kiln

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It took a while to get to the choice of beer in the Lime Kiln. Sometimes the description of a beer is just too helpful. The Vibrant Forest Brewery had brewed a Salted Liquorice Stout. That was it then. The Salt certainly worked. The beer was surprisingly well balanced and drinkable. We confirmed concerts in the programme and then watched others doing the beer choosing ritual. The pub could do with a board with tasting notes to speed things up a bit but as we know the pub is in the embryonic, suck it and see, stage of its regeneration. It does get better on every visit.

lime kiln to small bar

TOURIST STOP NO. 3

The walk through cathedral courtyards and across the harbour is a tourist event in itself but it included:-

Millennium Square Food Stalls
The live music was on a break but the stalls were not. We passed the crowded temporary ice ring but diverted through the localish traders and decided that a selection of scotch eggs looked promising. For the record our choices of four eggs came as classic, chorizo, chilli and bean and mushroom versions.

Small Bar

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We finished the prize crossword over a 2/3 pint of Magic Rock High Wire. The West Coast IPA can probably be described as something of a trend setter for much of the new wave of hoppy ales we enjoy in pubs like this. What they have created that is different, is a consistently good beer. When have you ever had a bad High Wire? The Small Bar was its usual popular young person’s pub. At this time of day it is often the crazy youth taking his / her parents to a place that they think Dad would like. It was two years to the day that the pub opened. Happy Birthday to you chaps and chappesses. Thank you for making your contribution to making Bristol a better place to drink.

small bar to strawberry theif

TOURIST STOP NO. 4

St. Nicholas’ Market

It was getting late, this was our concession to shopping. We wandered through, looked at a few hats. You don’t want to know! I decided to get one in South Africa, as you do, and we left shopping bag free.

Strawberry Thief (Belgian bar)

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I made the mistake of going to the bar. I took a shine to a Trappist Rochefort No. 6. Why? I don’t know. I had asked for a description. I wanted something dark. Most were described as wild or unpredictable. This doesn’t work for me. It led Rose to opt for a Whisky. Does that tell you anything? Two drinks were brought to the table for our £12. The beer was good and enjoyable. The room was full. The tasting notes on the table amused me and my childish mind. To be honest the place doesn’t do what is on the Belgian bar tin. It might offer full table service. It might offer a range of beers that include other European classics as Belgian bars tend to do. They might like to look at the Hops Belgian Bar in Crewe as a pub that has a better approach.

gloucester road

We took the No. 75 bus from outside the bottom of Christmas Steps to Horfield.

The Drapers Arms

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This Micro Pub opened yesterday. It is a converted shop that will doubtless become a second home to this Gashead heading to watch the Gas. It is, like the Beer parlour in Chesterfield, intimate, warm and has  very good design to help it work. The beers are all direct from the cask. The choice on this occasion was entirely of the Ashley Down variety, not surprising, given that Vince of that Brewery is the one serving the beer. Hickey was doing the genial host bit very well, testing out his new customers as well as selling the concept to the already converted. They have made clever use of the restricted space. A central island in the bar offers vital beer resting space, a key factor should the pub get very busy. The customer mix, on this their second night, shouted Bishopston local rather than Lockleaze escapee. This pub has been long anticipated among the CAMRA chatteratti. Regular readers will know that its opening is a godsend as I fall out of love with the nearby Wellington. It opens with a massive chunk of goodwill behind our initial visit. When the promised other local beers are on offer than this punter will be shouting his appreciation from whatever rooftop he might find.

The bus outside whisked us off to Cribbs Causeway and home for 8.30. The final Scotch eggs were tasted and marked for future reference. I was, for once, sober on a Saturday night and had my fill of culture with my new pub discoveries. As with all things Bristolian, good surprises are often just around the corner.

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