The beauty of Bristol is in the details. During my first walk around I wasn’t so impressed. It was cloudy, quiet, and everything looked dull and rough around the edges. But as I spent more time here, this quickly changed and Bristol managed to not only change my mind but turn me into a believer. There are a lot of things to love about Bristol but what I really loved were the details which you can only see if you go exploring.
One example is the fantastic graffiti found all around the city. I planned half of my trip simply around finding and admiring all of the famous, not yet famous, and not famous enough pieces of street art found hidden on sides of buildings, high up above your line of sight, or in alleys. There is even an artist who paints on pieces of old gum on the sidewalk. There are quite a few Bansky’s dotted around town. His works of art, located in the most unlikely corners, are not only beautiful but thought provoking. Banksy is homegrown talent, but not the only one. Walk down North Street to see more (make sure you look up). You can visit during Upfest, Europe’s biggest graffiti festival. Regardless, make sure you sign up to take Blackbeard to Banksy the Ultimate Bristol Walking Tour with the fantastic Duncan Mckellar to get the full story.
But before you start off on your Bristol adventures, visit the St. Nicholas Market. If you arrive early most of the stalls won’t be open yet, but that’s ok, Ahh Toots is. Sit yourself down, order some breakfast (the oatmeal was great) and a hot chocolate (bitter, unsweetened cocoa powder) and enjoy as the market comes to life. Everyone working in this market knows each other. I listened to an hour of “hello, how are you?”, “how was your evening?”, “weather looks good for today”, “think its going to be a busy one”, as well as stalls being built up and frying pans turned up high to get food ready for the lunch rush that was only a few hours away.
It’s easy to loose yourself in the world that Ahh Toots has created. Little bunches of pretty wild flowers adorn all the tables. Warm, colourful blankets are tucked under benches to rug up on colder mornings. The walls and counters are covered in bits and pieces, little jewels and treasures collected over the years.
Of course the main attraction is the old wooden wagon set up in front of their stall, piled high with the most gorgeous looking cakes ready to be photographed for a magazine. I was mesmerized watching a woman behind the counter creating a layered chocolate creation, cake and then icing, then cake, then icing. It was therapeutic and torturous at the same time.
You can even pay for your hot chocolate with Bristol pounds if you have any (yes they have their own local currently to support local business…another of the many things I love about Bristol).
Verdict: My local, if I lived in Bristol, which unfortunately I don’t. Maybe some day…Ahh Toots, 4-8 Glass Arcade, St Nicholas Market, Bristol, United Kingdom