Seeing: more wet yellow leaves on the sidewalk, the Irish coastline, clouds
Smelling: Toffee Nut soy latte, brie on a sandwich
Tasting: spiced scrambled tofu
Hearing: the drone of the airplane machinery
Feeling: a fatigue-distorted sense of reality, cold hands
This was the day that should have been post-concert/post-enlightenment recovery, but it wasn’t quite yet. And there’s no problem with that. I had to drag myself out of bed early and my eyes were not happy about it, but I was happy to finally take a shower. I had a slice of my banana and oat loaf and a mug of black tea and eventually got myself out towards the Clifton suspension bridge.
The walk there was beautiful as it took me along the harbor, which was practically vacant. Eventually I had to switch from dockside to sidewalk and from flat to steep. Seriously, the hills in that neighborhood rival San Francisco’s. Even though Clifton isn’t particularly fancy or rich-looking, it was still beautiful and charming to walk through.
By the time I reached the bridge, I was fatigued but it was too cold to be sweaty. And the view didn’t hit me until I actually got on the bridge. I could see much of the city, the beltway, the river and the craggy gorge that rose up over it. An informational sign explained to me that there were so many plants that were endemic or almost so to the gorge and there were many efforts made to preserve them.
Then it was time for the descent (for which I was thankful I had my anti-slip hiking sneakers) and checkout. I had holiday gifts for my friends and family that were small but kind of delicate, so packing those carefully was of importance.
I wanted to soak up some Bristol and brunch before I left, and there was an art gallery in Bordeaux Quay that appeared to be closed but whose café was open. This time I got another veggie-fied version of a classic breakfast.
Then it was off to the bus stop. I had to stand for the whole ride and didn’t mind too much, but the espresso I had was being mean to my stomach so I was trying hard to keep myself steady.
Check-in was a little interesting when the desk agent had to check to see if it was okay that I used “IJ” instead of the name on my passport on my boarding pass (it was) and security hit a hitch when in my haste to be an efficient traveler, I forgot to take the plastic bag of liquids out of my suitcase. That meant that they had to do an extra check on it, and since my shampoo bottle was a little too big they confiscated it. Oh well, I had almost finished it anyway.
Of course since the espresso I had at brunch was strong, I had to get a seasonal latte at Starbucks. That’s smart, right? They don’t have Chestnut Praline here but they do have Toffee Nut, which I’m pretty sure is the same flavor.
Other mildly interesting things that happened on the way back:
- The flight was very full and about half an hour delayed. I got a free bag check.
- I was sitting in a middle seat and thought I had a whole row to myself, and when someone sat to my right I offered to move to the window seat so we could both have more space. Then just before the safety demonstration, someone took the middle seat. But I’m glad I switched to the window.
- There were two preteens at Dublin arrivals who were holding signs welcoming Dan and Phil (of YouTube fame). I don’t know if they actually had their flight information or how they obtained it if so. I had to catch my bus so I didn’t stop to ask about it. Later I saw that Dan and Phil were indeed performing in Dublin that night, but the curtain time seemed too close for them to have arrived between 4:30 and then. I could be wrong though.
- The bus went directly to Cork and skipped Dublin city centre, which not only shaved off 20 minutes of the predicted schedule but helped us avoid traffic. So we arrived quite promptly in three hours.
In review, my experience in Bristol was one of the best weekends of my life. Like, I’ve had weekends where great things happened, but bad things happened in between the great. In this case I was just non-stop happy. And I really felt like I was surrounded by love the entire time despite traveling solo. I saw pieces of everyone I loved wherever I went. One shopping street (or really diagonal alley), Christmas Steps, had at least one shop to remind me of each of my closest friends and family members.
It was like the Philadelphia history plus the Boston port plus the Bethesda development, but so much quieter than any of them. I didn’t want to leave. I return to Cork feeling inspired to put positive energy out in the world, just like Bristol gave to me. If any of you visit Bristol in the future, please bring me along. Or don’t– it’s lovely on your own.