Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bristol, the unofficial capital of the West Country of England


Bristol is the unofficial capital of the West Country of England. Famous for its maritime history it also offers a great and diverse range of attractions, hotels, bars and events.  Bristol ranks fourth in England’s top visitor destinations. The best time to visit is in the summer when major festivals are held in the city.






Although cursed by horrible post war buildings and disfigured by a chaotic road system, Bristol is nevertheless an amiable, grooved, laid back city whose mellow vibe is reflected in the superb music of Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky, particularly the Massive Attack track "Lately" (from atmosphere of a warm summers evening of this historic and cultured city.







Bristol is the United Kingdom’s eighth most populous city (approximately 421,000) and the most populated city in South West England, making it a core city in England. It received a Royal Charter in 1155 and was granted county status in 1373. From the 13th century, for half a millennium, it ranked amongst the top three English cities after London, alongside York and Norwich, until the rapid rise of Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester during the Industrial Revolution in the latter part of the 18th century. Bristol borders the counties of Somerset and Gloucestershire and is also located near the historic cities of Bath to the South-east, Gloucester to the north and Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, to the Northwest. The city is built around the River Avon, and has a short coastline on the estuary of the River Severn where it flows into the Bristol Channel.






Although often overlooked as a tourist destination, Bristol has a lot to offer of its own and is an excellent base for exploring the West Country, with relatively inexpensive accommodation compared to some of the main ‘tourist traps’ (such as nearby Bath) and a huge choice of bars, restaurants and shops. It is one of the most culturally vibrant cities in the South of England, hosting a wide variety of visual arts, theatre, speciality shopping and live music. In the centre of the city, the visitor can find St. Nicholas’ market, built on the site of the Medieval Bristol Tolzey Court. This court had been a meeting place for Bristol’s merchants, and had jurisdiction over a wide range of cases, involving damage claims or disputed debts.   







In recent years, young people have flocked to Bristol thanks to the city's stunning and brilliant music scene - the likes of Massive Attack, Portishead, Tricky and Roni Size have contributed some of the most outstanding back catalogue of albums in the history of British music - not bad for a city which even in the early 80s was considered a backwater of the British music scene. Indeed, in 2010 Bristol was voted Britain's most musical city. The success of the Bristol music scene goes back to 1991 when Massive Attack released their magnificent opus "Blue Lines" which included the soaring "Unfinished Sympathy" and social critiques such as "Safe From Harm" and "Daydreaming". "Blue Lines" was partly recorded in Bristol, at the Coach House studios in Clifton (now sadly defunct). Never has any album in British music captured the atmosphere and vibe of a specific city such as "Blue Lines" - particularly the track "Lately". This track, with vocals by Shara Nelson and a bass groove sample from "Mellow mellow right on" by Lowrell so perfectly captures the atmosphere of a summer's evening in Bristol - particularly on the Clifton Downs - that with its warm, laid back vibe is practically a signature song for the whole city.

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