A week ago Benj and I made a brief visit to Bristol to go to the marriage of my nephew (and Benj’s cousin) James to Greta. I last went to Bristol 29 years ago, and only overnight, so I couldn’t remember it at all. It was wonderful to rediscover this beautiful city, and discover new things, like the wonderful dome in Millennium Square.

bristol dome

French air traffic controllers had been on strike for two days on the Wednesday and Thursday, and our flight was booked for early Friday morning, so we weren’t even sure if we’d get to Bristol at all. I certainly foresaw delays, probably lengthy. However, we left on time from Limoges and so were in the UK by midday. Back in a country where I can talk to anyone in my native tongue and not sound like a moron! I made the most by exchanging pleasantries with everyone I could in readiness for when I was back in France and limited to communicating with simple words and lots of hand gestures again.

The first fun thing of the weekend was meeting with author Marcia Turner. I’ve worked with Marcia for a couple of years now on her detective mysteries so it was great to meet face to face over a lovely cup of tea and bun at the Crazy Fox café.

Marcia with the Montlucon bag I brought over for her

Marcia with the Montlucon bag I brought over for her

After we said goodbye, I browsed contentedly in Marks and Spencers, Primark and Poundland, where I stocked up on teabags! Benj, meanwhile, was exploring on his own in another part of the city.

After that, the serious eating began! That night there was a family gathering at Krishnan’s Kitchen in Clifton Village for a very spicy meal. It was delicious but I’m not the best with hot food and did a lot of sniffling! It was lovely to see my brother-in-law’s brother and wife again (last seen 32 years ago at my sister Hilary’s wedding!) and to meet Jade, the girlfriend of nephew Ali, for the first time. You do get a bit out of touch being an expat, it has to be said.

Benj and I had walked to and from the restaurant, and we continued to walk everywhere during our break so we could pig out in compensation. Benj enjoyed tucking into a full English breakfast on the Saturday morning, while I went more multinational with a croissant, jam and a sausage.

bristol benj brekky

The wedding was at 11.30 am at the registry office so that gave us time to do a spot of sightseeing first. We’d hoped to have a quick look at the S.S. Great Britain, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, but it wasn’t open so we settled for going onboard the Matthew, the tiny wooden ship on which John Cabot set sail in 1497 and discovered Newfoundland. This boat is a replica that made the trip to America to mark the 500th anniversary in 1997. It goes out to sea still as well as does harbour trips.

bristol matthew There were other interesting boats to see, including the Balmoral, as well as the harbour’s old electric cranes.

bristol electric cranes

The wedding was a lovely ceremony, the first I’d been to for a long while. I wish James and Greta a long, long life of happiness together.

bristol sign reg

Here’s Benj with his cousins and Jade.

Left to right: Jade, Ali, Benj, JJ and Sophie

Left to right: Jade, Ali, Benj, JJ and Sophie

And here are James’ proud parents with the bride and groom.

Left to right: Charlie, James, Greta, Hilary

Left to right: Charlie, James, Greta, Hilary

The Registry Office was nearly opposite The Exchange, outside which are the four famous nails. These are where deals were struck and paid for, hence the expression ‘to pay on the nail’.

bristol pay on the nail

There was some time to fill before lunch – or wedding breakfast, I think it’s called – and as James, Greta and her side of the family had disappeared, the rest of us headed briefly to Brew Dog, a bar selling speciality craft beers. These seem to be very popular in Bristol.

Lunch/breakfast was at, would you believe, a French restaurant, and Benj and I were sitting opposite a man from Togo so we spoke a lot of French. Just like being at home!

After eating, Benj and I strolled off to the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which was right on the doorstep. We crossed it and then set off back to our hotel for a quick battery recharge and to watch the Boat Race.

bristol clifton sb 2Saturday finished with a long, long walk up Whiteladies Road to The King’s Arms for an evening buffet and reception. And, of course, wedding cake!

bristol rec cut cake

It was an enjoyable, exhausting day, but wonderful fun. And holiday wasn’t quite finished yet. Bristol Part Deux coming soon, all about the amazing S.S. Great Britain.