Would it be smart to turn down the opportunity to get in a car with a few of your friends and drive to a place you’ve never been to before for a weekend full of exploration and new experiences? No it wouldn’t be smart. So when MINI gave us that exact opportunity we jumped at the chance. Our weekend adventure took us to Bristol in a beautifully crafted red MINI Cooper S where we set our sights on exploring a few of the gems the city has to offer.
As Londoners, we become accustomed to the big city life. So much so, that we sometimes forget that there are other interesting cities in the UK worth checking out. We’ve all done our Birmingham’s and our Manchester’s, but Bristol was one city any of us had yet to tick off. After only spending a short weekend there, it’s safe to say that Bristol is a little gem in the UK that has it all. The past, the present and the future is somewhat all combined in to a city that shows off impeccable taste in design, architecture and engineering. From the modern builds of the inner city infrastructure and the Banksy wall art, to the mind boggling engineering of the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the trendy restaurants and pubs, it’s definitely a place to keep your eyes open every corner you turn.
After far too many hours cooped up in the car, finally we were reached our destination. We got out of the car and stretched our legs with a quick walk towards the Cathedral. One of the things I immediately noticed about Bristol was how peaceful it was compared to London – the pace felt a lot slower.
The Cathedral which was founded in 1140 is one of the oldest structures in the UK, it took over 700 years to develop and it’s also known for its unique architectural features. I loved the level of intricacy of the design in the cathedral. The walls contain carvings dating back centuries and so did the statues and other monuments.
We gave ourselves a tour of the main areas in the Cathedral; we walked through the chapel to get a closer look at the alter and ceremonial spaces.
Bristol cathedral also features the stories of some of some of the people who fought and died during the First World War though interactive screens which we spent a bit of time educating ourselves with. The campaign is called ‘We Have Our Lives’.
Unfortunately we didn’t arrive at the right time to hear a ceremony, so after we sat down for a bit we headed out of the chapel and continued to explore the area.
We hoped back into the car and drove for what seemed to be a very short distance, however the sat-nav said that we had arrived at our next stop so out we jumped ready to soak up the sights of our next landmark The Floating Harbour. Called ‘The Floating Harbour’ because of the construction of the docks in a way that means the water level remains consistent at all times, Bristol Harbour is an iconic part of the city. Looking past the current leisure and commerce form of the harbour, you can only imagine the busy nature of this part of the city in its early days of use with ships coming in and out of the city.
With tidal problems meaning there wasn’t enough water in the harbour for big ships to move, the re-design was key to stop the ships getting stuck in the mud. A complex design of damming rivers and canals meant that a harbour could be made to keep all the docked ships afloat, despite what was happening with the tide. Genius. A short visit here, but we had a stroll around and took in the beautiful surrounding area.
The next stop was Cabot Tower which was built in 1897. A historical landmark located near Brandon Hill Park in Bristol’s West End. It was built in memory of Italian explorer John Cabot who made travel preparations in Bristol and later began to discover parts of the world like North America. At a staggering 32metres we climbed the concrete spiral staircase, brushing shoulders of those coming down who had witnessed something unknown to us and from what seemed like ages, we managed to reach the top. As we caught our breath we looked up and took in the amazing view of the city and of the beautiful park. Although the day was cold and grey, you could appreciate the beauty of the nature, the rich green grass, the tall trees, the high hills the buildings and architecture. In comparison to another city like London, Bristol’s hustle and bustle felt more calm and collected.
Though the Cathedral, Floating Harbour and the Cabot Tower were all nice places to visit and experience, especially the Cathedral, it’s safe to say that we saved the best landmark until last. The Clifton Suspension Bridge was on the top of all of our lists in terms of what we were most excited to see fortunately we weren’t disappointed.
Nothing short of breath taking is the only way to describe this architectural masterpiece. What is especially impressive is the fact that the bridge was opened in 1864. A fact that is absolutely astounding when you think of how dependent we are in this day and age on technology to help us in most aspects of life such as design, architecture and construction. How this was conceived back in a time where none of this technology was available is just mind boggling.
What wasn’t expected was how high the bridge actually is, 245ft to be exact. Its height exaggerates its beauty and makes for a simply stunning visual feature when viewing the bridge from a far. Its aesthetic simplicity is what makes its overwhelming structure that much more of a sight to see. The fact that it has clean white lines that aid the stunning view by helping the bridge blend into its surroundings whilst still managing to command everyone’s attention is testament to its design. Unfortunately we never got to see what it looked like at night but we can only imagine that it looks gorgeous. If you are ever in the Bristol area then this is definitely a must see.
Whilst admiring all of these sights was fun it has to be said that without a car to get us to the city our eyes wouldn’t have had the pleasure of indulging in this cultural getaway. Fortunately we were equipped sufficiently with the small but mighty MINI Cooper S. Just as the Clifton bridge, the car was visually striking in its own right. Its seductive red coloured body made sure that we weren’t to be missed as we passed by. An eye catching car with an eye catching group of individuals sitting on the inside was sure to draw attention, not that we’re big headed or anything.
This car is a drivers delight. Small (maybe too small inside!), agile, and comfortable. It was a pleasure to drive something that did exactly what you wanted it to do, and did it well. The Mini Cooper has changed a lot over the many years it has been around, but it has always been a car that has its own iconic design. From the big circular headlights to the round digital media system stationed in the center of the dashboard. It’s heavy use of circular shapes have become tantamount to its design aesthetic. Its shape is instantly recognisable.
Inside, this new build is a car of the future. While small in general (hint: it’s called a Mini for a reason), the car makes up for it with innovative design and futuristic gadgets. A clever digital HUD aids the driver at all times, while the digital display packs everything you’d want in a car in to one place. This Cooper S had it all. Comfort, gadgets, a smooth ride, and it looked absolutely stunning.
Not only was our weekend a lovely break from the hustle and bustle of London and our busy lives it turned out to be a culturally enriching experience as well as a design focused enlightening. Taking the time to observe such great architecture like the Clifton Suspension Bridge really heightened our appetite to explore more places and seek out stunning design and construction. Busking in the ambiance of the Cathedral was extremely calming, it’s peacefulness took us to another place mentally where we were utterly relaxed, something that we all needed even if was for a short while.