Wednesday 20th September 2022.
OK then, here we are at Leigh Delamere Services just west of Swindon on the M4 in UK. Last night’s room was in Travelodge a UK chain. It was OK, no worries, clean and tidy etc. First stop this morning was to the food services across the road for some breakfast and to find a map of the UK to see where to go. Had a quick bite, couldn’t get a map and set off for Bristol. As mentioned after 22 years of driving in UK, I knew my way around, but not in detail anymore as things had changed in over 26 years, of course.
We headed down into Bristol not really knowing where we wanted to go so I headed straight for the city center. I love Bristol as a city, always did and use to know my way around there backwards. So we were off the motorway (freeway) and heading down into the city. No problem for me, but Betty was white knuckling every now and then. We were in and out, up the curbs, just missing pedestrians. It was great, I was back home again! Americans, please don’t try this. We did notice that there we tons of these scooter rentals. They were pink in color and they were on the pavements and in little off road areas everywhere. We never figured out how they worked. But we reckoned they all had a built-in GPS system so the city could locate them and round ‘em up at anytime. They were all over the place and people were on them zooming in and out of pedestrians on the pavements and even on the roads. Holy moly! It was GREAT to be home again.
Anyway, we went through the city and out the other side heading for Clifton and its Suspension Bridge which is famous the world over. We did several yews that morning and ended up in Avonmouth, which again, I knew. I saw a sign for Severn Beach and knew all about that too. At Avonmouth, we were not only at the mouth of the River Avon, but also at the entrance to England’s longest river – the River Severn, which rises in north Wales somewhere and empties out into the Bristol Channel at Avonmouth. So we headed for Severn Beach which was a nice little village-style community with one or two shops and a road the led to a pebbled beach. The tide was either in or out here and when it was coming in, it flowed up the river a few miles until it reached its peak, then presumably, it flowed back again. This morning it was out but we had a great view of the Severn Bridge crossing on the M4 to South Wales. The river was the border. The councils had built a nice promenade-type walkway and there were quite a few people out and about walking. Betty and I are not great walkers to any extent… 2 hours and we start getting tired legs and have to stop. But this was different and quite nice. We walked about half an hour and then found a beachside cafe which was open and we headed there for lunch. This is where we found the real value of the pound and how prices had risen, and jeepers, what a shock. It was about £15 ($18) for a baguette-type sandwich and 2 diet cokes. Oh well, Betty had told me not to question everything; we were on vacation and to just go ahead and pay what they asked and enjoy ourselves. So I did just that and kept it going till we got home and I questioned the price of $3 for a coffee in Denny’s.
We moved on from Severn Beach and determined to find our way up to Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. Hey! We had a sat-nav so we type it in and hey presto, off we went and got up to Clifton Downs and onto the bridge. We found ourselves having to go over there damn thing as we couldn’t turn around. This is where we started to find out that virtually EVERYWHERE in the UK, including Scotland and Wales used the “tap and pay” system for nearly everything. Go into a store for a newspaper: tap and pay. It is everywhere. And we had just bought a bunch of UK £££ in cash. Oh well, tap and pay is really good and the UK as far more advanced than the USA in financial terms. We couldn’t believe it. It took about 5 seconds to pay for anything. It was amazing.
So we went onto the bridge, came to the barrier, tapped and paid and over we went and were lucky to find a parking spot just over the other side. We parked up and walked back to the bridge. After al, my experience in the UK, I had never actually been onto the bridge before, so it was new for both me and Betty. It was a beautiful, warm and sunny day and it was so nice up there in the bridge area. We walked across the narrow walkway to the other side stopping to marvel at the views to the north and south of the bridge. Beautiful day, sunshine, blue sky and fluffy clouds to boot. We were so high up that when you looked down it was scary. I don’t normally have any real fear of heights, as in vertigo and such things, but I knew in my mind that thousands of people had jumped off this bridge to their deaths by suicide for many, many years, and I was conscious of this and imagined what that must have been like for them. A local told me they are still jumping quite regularly. On the other side of the bridge we followed a trail up to what is know as Clifton Observatory – a sort of lighthouse domed type building. It was still in use but there was more activity in the cafe on the ground floor. We got some really nice pictures from this location. (I’ll put a link in somewhere to go see them.) After a couple of hours walking around the bridge area and snacking and drinks we headed back to the car.
Back in the car, it was about 4pm and we had not yet decided on where we would; stay that night. We decided to stay in the Bristol area as we both liked it, and there was a Ramada Inn not too far down the road – about 20 miles or so. So, out comes the iPad and using the iPhone as a hotspot we checked out the Ramada and booked it online with the iPad and headed on down there. Only took us about half and hour with the sat-nav and we arrived no problem. The Ramada was very clean and tidy with nice room and quite spacious.
One thing we always try to get to make us feel comfortable, is the dining facilities of the hotel we are staying at. Travelodge for instance, does not have dining facilities within the hotel itself. They have a breakfast but it is a “take out” type of thing where they throw a box of cereal and a croissant into a box, charge you £5 and you are out the door. Betty and I like to sit down at a table and take our time drinking two or three cups of tea, checking our phones and iPads while we are at it. So we always try to select a hotel with dining facilities. Nothing fancy, just simple stuff, but enjoyable. Travelodges do have sometime an eatery nearby, but we don’t always want to go out after driving around all day. Holiday Inns are our favorite. They are a little more expensive to include a free breakfast, b ut a Holiday Inn breakfast is a full English buffet breakfast with as much best back bacon, eggs scrambled or fried, proper thick port sausages, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and anything else you can think of. Sometimes though, we would opt for the continental breakfast and grab a croissant or two, plus muffins, toast and jams etc. Whatever you choose, the breakfast added just £10 a night for the TWO OF US. And for this type of breakfast, £ is really cheap so we took full advantage of that as much as we could. However, not all Holiday Inns are price competitive. There are the HI Expresses which are a little cheaper and that is what we like best as there is hardly any difference between them. However, sometimes even the HIEs are more than we want to pay and then we would look at Travelodge or others on offer. But it was always HI for us whenever it was in our price range. Oh, we weren’t tight-wads in any way. We are naturally frugal anyway, but we loosen the purse strings on vacation to ensure that we have a good time. So we fluctuate between the two chains but HI Express is our hotel of choice. Also, what facilities are in the immediate vicinity of the hotel makes a difference to us too. And very much so. For instance, the Travelodge in Caerphilly, South Wales, was an OK hotel, but didn’t have any dining or lounges or even a bar. However, it did have a terrific Marstons Ales Red Kite restaurant right alongside. We practically lived in that place for food when we were there. Great beer for me, Zinfandel for Betty and some of the best food of our vacation. We loved that restaurant.
After stopping and checking in at the Ramada just south of Bristol on the M5 motorway, we nipped around to the stores in the service area which were all very nice. Two or three cafes, a Marks & Spencer shop, WH Smith store for snacks, newspapers, clothes items and general stuff including a really good road map of the UK. So we grabbed a map and Betty headed for the Cadbury’s aisle – say no more! We had a good night there, relatively quiet and all OK.
This has been part 2 of a series of posts highlighting the trip of a British ex-pat in the US when he returns to the UK for a vacation. He shares the experiences with us here on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the next few weeks. I hope you will enjoy reading them as much as I have, and seeing the areas he (and his lovely wife) visit, through my friend David’s eyes. ~ Sherry
Need to catch up on David’s story? Day 1