Breakaway from the crowds and explore the luscious Clifton area awash with grand Georgian crescents, cafes, boutiques and some of the best views across the city and the surrounding countryside. Clifton is definitely the sophisticated cousin of the more edgy parts of Bristol. It manages to ooze luxury but not uncomfortably so. It’s the perfect place for a girlie getaway as three of VisitEngland’s ladies found out…
The hop-on-hop off sightseeing bus picked us up just outside SS Great Britain and took us towards Bristol Zoo, stopping off on a few hot spots along the way. With the Avon Gorge by our side and Brunel’s legendary Suspension Bridge at the far end, we were graced with striking views and made sure we took plenty of snaps to remember the moment. The bus drove around the huge expanse of greenery that is the Clifton Downs and our guide mentioned that property owners in the 19th century forbade anyone to build on that piece of land, no wonder it felt so peaceful and remote.
As we approached the zoo, we passed a flock of huge gorgeous Georgian houses, some of them with a tropical feel adorning palm trees and exotic plants. Unleashing our inner youth we excitedly strolled through, getting up close and personal with its furry residents. We’d all forgotten how much fun zoos were! We came across lemurs with their adorable little faces, scary yet majestic iguanas lazing about and saw cheeky sea lions and seals all pumped up for feeding time. It’s hard to tell who was more excited: the children, the seals or us. The highlight though, had to be the fruit bats coming out of their enclosure to greet us. We went gaga with squeals of joy and a gush of ‘awws’ as the flying teddy bears with plastic wings showed us their social side. We almost wished they’d come nearer so we could give them a cuddle.
Clifton is like a treasure trove for any keen shopper. It’s far from your average high street, full of unique boutiques. The place that really caught our eye was The Clifton Arcade, where we curiously mooched around a Mexican shop selling ponchos and Mexican produce and a vintage shop with fashions ranging from the Victorian period through to the 1970s. They even had a pair of tiny women’s lace-up boots dating back to early 1900s that were in amazingly good condition!
The place where we spent most of our time was in a small art gallery owned by local artist Jean Jones. Her works lured us in with their vivid bursts of turquoise, dark blues, purples and gold. Through her paintings it’s clear to see she has a passion for Bristol’s landscape, with Clifton Bridge in a range of styles being her trademark. It was fascinating chatting to her about her work. And we just couldn’t resist taking a souvenir home.
Clifton has a quaint café culture with tearooms, coffee shops and bars spilling out onto the streets. Whether you fancy a quick cuppa, latte or perhaps an afternoon tea of lavender scones or toasted sandwiches with salsa and Somerset brie served al fresco at Cordial & Grace. We stopped off here because one, shopping is thirsty work and two, we just couldn’t resist its colourful window display popping with pretty flowers. If we hadn’t had a train to catch we have checked out their sewing courses. Other cute cafes worth checking out include the Primrose Café, perfect for a lazy brunch and Bar Chocolat where you can go cocoa crazy.
Disclosure: Claire Tibbles, Nadia Guetat and Katie Rowe visited Bristol as part of a hosted trip by Destination Bristol in July 2012.