Bristol for beginners

“You must hate the commute” they say to me, my friends. “I walk 5 minutes to the train station, sit on my arse in a semi-comfortable seat for an hour, I get off and walk 10 minutes to the office” I reply, “It’s not exactly strenuous”.

I left the company that I started in May 2009 to experience more new things, that and the working relationship between me and my business partner had become strained through all the late night working and creative differences. I took the choice to start working a regular job again, doing what I do best, being a developer. A perfect opportunity at a perfect company came up, but with just one drawback – the company is based in Bristol.

They offered to pay for my season ticket on the train, I accepted with the notion that I would give it a try. I like trains, I find the time “in transit” to be serene and in a way quite gainful. I can write, I can read or I can just watch the countryside go by – I find it less stressful that being sat at a desk where my only prerogative is to write.

So I’ve been travelling to Bristol every day for about 12 weeks up ‘til now and the city has really grown on me. It has some of the best eateries I have ever been to, the people are generally friendly and it is certainly more established than my home city of Cardiff.

Cardiff is a city in transition, a city that is finding its identity, building its repertoire – it’s a young city and it’s still finding its place in the world, and in my view it’s being taken on the wrong course by city planners who are too eager to maximise profit. They have this freaky idea that “big chains means big reputation”, but it doesn’t, there needs to be a good balance of the two – this is the biggest failing in Cardiff’s much fought-over development plan.

Bristol for food

As I just mentioned, Bristol has some of the best food outlets that I have come across anywhere in the world. I would never have guessed it, it’s certainly not something that people say to me when I ask them their views of Bristol.

St Nicholas Market in the Old City is a haven for independent small restaurants, a model that could so easily be brought to Cardiff. In their indoor market there is space set aside for an avenue of small cafes and in it you can find food from Morocco, Jamaica, south-east Asia as well as pies and sausages from a range of different themed open-fronted stalls, each with a small area to sit and eat.
My absolute favourite is the Moo Pie from Pieminister, but the tajine from Al Bab Mansour is to die for and some of the vegetarian curries from Spice Up Your Life are definitely not to be missed. It’s a real treat to work so close to such a place and if I haven’t gained a few pounds since June I would be very surprised.

As well as St Nicholas Market the harbourside also has a large cache of eateries, a few of which I’ve tried and would wholly recommend including the Olive Shed (awesome burgers) and Bordeaux Quay for which you cannot beat for early morning coffee and toast with the summer sun beating down on you.

Bristol for nightlife

Having friends who live in Bristol, formerly from Cardiff is something that I’m lucky enough to have and we’ve had a few nights out – both raucous and civilised.

I am totally, absolutely in live with The Apple on Welsh Back. I love cider, I love cheese – who doesn’t? The Apple is a boat, it primarily serves cider and they won Strictly Come Ploughman’s last year, which means a bloody good range of cheese, crackers and pickles are available too, we’ve spent many nights outside on the terrace sampling some of the dozens of different ciders and cheeses – always go home happy.

Bristol for entertainment

The Bristol harbour festival was held over 30th July – 1st August, I went up on the Saturday to sample some of the things that were going on and was surprised at the turnout, there thousands upon thousands of people spread over the entire site – which appeared to be the entire city. In each corner of the city there were different things going on, two stages, street theatre, food stalls, boat trips, you name it, they had it – think of Cardiff’s harbour festival, plus the International Food Festival and the Big Weekend all rolled into one three day event and you will have some idea of what the Bristol Harbour Festival is like, all put to bed with 30 minutes of continuous, very impressive fireworks. Put it in your diary for 2011.

It’s safe to say that I’m smitten with our west-country counterpart, but I won’t be leaving Cardiff just yet.


  1. Hey….came across your blog on the longlist. It’s really great coming across other Cardiff/Welsh bloggers. Love this article, as I am about to commute to Bristol twice a week from next week to finish my degree in Professional photography – went to Bristol today and had a coffee at Boston Tea House, I love all the old buildings, college green and the feel of the city. Anyway was wondering if you wanted to link exchange??


  2. I’ve also done this but in reverse – I went to Bristol Poly back in the day and commuted to Cardiff on a regular basis to see my girlfriend. I always (and probably still do) loved Bristol and found it a more vibrant, exciting and edgy city than Cardiff. (I’ve lived in Cardiff for the last 16 years, but that’s another story…)

    “Cardiff is a city in transition, a city that is finding its identity, building its repertoire – it’s a young city and it’s still finding its place in the world” … that’s a nice summary, just as applicable today as 16 years ago…

  3. I commute from Cardiff to Bath every day and get the same mock sympathy “Oh my god can’t believe you commute ALL THAT WAY!!!” at least once a week. Especially from people who live in London…. which has surely got to be a joke if we’re talking about commuting hassle.

    I’m not going to say I LOVE commuting, when the trains are delayed (most of the time) it can be a bitch. But that said, the opportunity to read and write uninterrupted, as well as catch up on some TV is fantastic – I can’t really understand why people just don’t get it and constantly ask “so when are you moving?”.


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