We got an early start on the day, catching the now familiar train to Bath and then taking a bus to our fourth Couchsurfing hosts apartment in Bristol. We were unsure of what to expect from Bristol. Before leaving Aberdeen we had gotten the impression that it was just another big city, a place to cut out of an itinerary if you lacked time. However our wonderful Couchsurfing hosts in Devizes, Pash and Sheila (read about them here!), swore that Bristol was one of the best cities in the UK.
Couchsurfing in Bristol
Bristol is known for being an extremely bike friendly city full of street art and craft beer, therefore it seemed like renting bicycle would be the best way to explore. However we first needed to drop off our bags and meet our Bristol hosts, Wes and Paula.
Wes had alerted me that he was working the night shift prior to our arrival and so I should just “keep repeatedly calling” until he woke up. Thankfully a text message was all it took, and before we knew it we found ourselves in a spacious, clean apartment talking to an extremely tall and friendly polish man. Although it was easy to tell he was groggy, Wes sat down, introduced himself and quickly pulled up a map to show us his favorite parts of Bristol. Without wasting much time we had grabbed what we needed and were back out the door with Wes making sure we knew that we should enjoy the city and not worry about making the trek back to his apartment for dinner.
Typically with Couchsurfing you are hosted without charge and in return you cook a meal and get to know the people who are putting you up. With only one night in Bristol we were unsure of what would be Wes and Paula’s expectations – Wes was so laid back and made sure we knew to enjoy the rest of the day without a worry, we couldn’t have asked for a better situation.
Cycle the City & St. Nicks Market
We took the bus to the city center and rented our bikes from Cycle the City at Harbourside No. 1 (£11 for a half-day). Dalton had spotted a the St. Nicks Market from the bus window with tasty looking street food, so we cycled over and ate authentic Szechwan noodles and pork while watching a lively, talented street band.
Clifton Suspension Bridge
Our next destination was the Clifton Suspension Bridge. We took our time getting there, riding along the harbor, up into Clifton and then across to the bridge.
We, once again, had quite low expectations for the bridge; I mean it’s just a bridge, right? Wrong. We both looked at each other in amazement once we arrived. Spanning a deep gorge high above the city with a thrilling and dramatic view of Bristol. The bridge itself is an incredible piece of civil engineering and was one of the first built of its kind. We took our way walking across, with goose bumps the whole way.
We continued our ride through a park, coming down on the opposite side and ending on Spike Island. It was interesting to see the city from the other side of the river and eventually we made it back to where started.
The theme for the second half of our bike ride was beer and street art. Banksy, the famous and political street artist grew up in Bristol and many of his well-known, original graffiti still exists.. With a map in hand we were able to see the Well Hung Lover, Girl with Balloons and Mild Mild West before making it to the craft brewery, Zero Degrees.
Craft Breweries in Bristol City Centre
Zero Degrees was a modern building shoved into the side of the hill. Almost looking like a fancy dining restaurant we were a bit confused until we found the bar downstairs. We ordered our pints, pleasantly surprised that thanks to happy hour they were only £3 each! We sipped them on the sunny balcony both in complete agreement of how much we loved Bristol.
After returning our bicycles we decided to continue our craft beer tour of Bristol on foot by heading to the historic Kings Street. The entire street was lined with craft beer pubs – we were in heaven! We started at Small Bar, a craft beer tap house before continuing onto The Beer Emporium.
This was another place that left us speechless. Located in vaulted brick semi-circular rooms underground, it was definitely our favorite pub of the night.
To soak up some of the beer we got burgers from a Three Brothers Burgers at the end of street (which were phenomenal) and enjoyed them with cider from an eclectic little stand called The Apple. Our final stop was the King Street Brew House before (thankfully) stumbling home safely.
The following morning we cooked Wes and Paula pancakes and got a chance to really chat. They were such a warm, fun Polish couple and we were pretty bummed that we had to leave that afternoon. Wes is an engineer in the oil business and typically works for a year, saving his money and then travels for a year. He lives his life from trip to trip, constantly planning his next adventure. Paula was an amazing woman who was working with the low-income students in the city, creating programs in order to educate and better their lives. They are definitely people we want to meet again down the road.
Back to London
We caught the afternoon bus back to London and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the city with our packs before heading to our final Couchsurf of the trip.
We hadn’t gotten the best feeling while communicating with our host and sure enough it was not our favorite stay of the trip. However we learned the invaluable lesson that when Couchsurfing typically you know the kind of situation you are getting yourself into before you arrive. Every host we had though would be great was awesome. The reservations we had about hosts usually were spot on.
The next morning we started our full day trek back to Aberdeen. We arrived home exhausted, but incredibly happy and grateful for the enchanting trip we had in South West England!