OOTS: Bumbling Around Bristol

My first festive contribution to this month's Out on the Streets is a little short on public planting, but is long on festive sparkle. For some reason my feet took me in totally the wrong direction on the way to Borders bookshop last Thursday, but once I'd realised what had happened, I relaxed and decided to take the more scenic route. After all, I had plenty of time before meeting my friends later and besides, this direction took me to some of the more interesting parts of the city centre. The following pictures are clickable for your enhanced viewing pleasure...

My first festive stopover was the aptly named St Nicholas Market: here's the Glass Arcade area with it's simple lights of stars and greenery. However, I felt these were in keeping with the place itself, and the florist on the left was doing her best to ensure there was plenty of real Christmas greenery around. Her wreaths in particular were adorning several other stalls.

Further on was another seasonally aptly named spot. These steps date from 1669, but how they got today's name is hard to tell. At one time this area was part of Bristol's quayside and was full of brothels and public houses. Today, just one of those pub remains: The Three Sugar Loaves which this street sign is adorning. I was standing close to one of the nation's oldest fish and chip shops when I took this photo, reputed to have been frequented by a certain Cary Grant, until he emigrated to the States to seek his fortune.

At the foot of Christmas Steps is a florists, who was making an effort to jazz up her outside display to make it more seasonal. There's a chance that fake snow might be replaced by the real thing this week.

This is half way up Christmas Steps and shows its simple decorations plus a hanging basket with flowers. As you can see it's a quaint steep alley way with small independent shops either side. Sadly some of these are empty, but there are signs that artists are again coming back to this area as I spotted a couple of new galleries. Update 16/12: I've just found out this area of Bristol was designated as an Arts Quarter in 2008 - a great way to start to rejuvenate this lovely part of the city.

After my buying frenzy at Borders, I walked down Park Street underneath its rather cold looking white LED icicles with blue LED snowflakes, to College Green. Most of the mature trees in this area had been decorated with simple strings of lights, which looked most effective in the descending dusk. The odd blue LED decoration could also be seen in the distance.

This took me back into town where I found my first outdoor real Christmas tree of the day. This is in The Centre, right outside the office block where I used to work. Like Chester's tree it's simply adorned with twinkling lights. I'm not showing you the whole thing though, because the bottom of the tree had rather ugly fencing around it and no lights.

Then I walked to Broadmead, where white and blue LEDs again ruled and formed 'nets' of lights above the shoppers. This arrangement reminded me a little of Strictly Come Dancing (aka Dancing with the Stars).

The Broadmead area was also hosting a traditional German Christmas Market, complete with wooden stalls and a central structure resembling those ornaments which you put over a candle or radiator so the whole arrangement revolves in the warmer air. This giant version also revolved and was accompanied by oompah band music. Most of the stalls seemed to be selling either German sausages or hot nuts, though there was the odd one selling little wooden houses and traditional decorations. The German Christmas Market in Birmingham is much better.

And finally to Cabot Circus where the decorations are on the grandest of scales. Here we have one of the bauble arrangements on the ground floor. And yes, I'm not doing any trick photography to fool you, that arrangement really IS BIG.

There's also giant reindeer sculptures, some reaching the same height as the first floor of the shopping centre and with a rather cheeky one peeping over the first floor balcony.

As always I'm more captivated by the photographic and design possibilities of this place, rather than buying anything. Here I'm exploring reflections and slow shutter speeds in the fading light. This was also the end of my walk around Bristol, as it's where I met my GNO friends for dinner and a gossip :)

If anyone would like to retrace some of my steps, with details of lots of other things I found on the way, you might like to try this guided walk.

NB If you have a contribution for Out on the Streets, or would like to know more, then this month's kick-off post is the place to head for.


  1. Delightful! Thanks for sharing with us.

  2. I don't know Bristol, but you've made it look very enticing with your photos and descriptions!

    We were in Manchester on friday - German markets everywhere you turned! The centre was heaving and I couldn't wait to get out! :( Bristol looks far nicer.

  3. I want to visit Bristol now - it looks fabulous. I took a photo of the 2 offical trees in Carrickfergus for you, one is okay, the other, hummmmm. Our lights are terrible and I just thought it best not to bother. Maybe some Belfast ones will be better, I started taking a couple there last week but I forgot the damned tree!!! xxx

  4. I'm diggin' your funky camera angles on these shots. I got OOTS festive shots foin Chicago, Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Ypsilanti--all cropped and read to roll--except I just finished a loooong post on Meijer Gardens. Must now catch up on commenting, then will post and link back here to my OOTS! Love seeing everyone's contributions.

  5. I love the Christmas steps, it is so charming. But I must confess, I like that reindeer peeking over the balcony too. I took some OOTS shots today in the mist & fog, but the lights weren't on, so they look a little blah. It's hard to get out & about around dusk.

  6. We really enjoy going out and about with you, VP. It gives a good feel of what these areas are like, the non garden ones. I liked the German stands that whirl around.

  7. I ran a second hand bookshop in St Nicholas' market for one of the best years of my life. I'd just graduated from Bristol University and didn't really know what what to do with myself, so I took 12 months out to sit and read the works of the worlds great authors in a big pile of crumbling hardbacks and pulp detective novels.

    The community in the market is fantastic, all the stall holders wander round giving each other cups of tea and chatting, and when the market closes you can go straight to the pub and spend the days takings. I sometimes wonder why I'm not still there.

  8. Interesting post, because I never really 'get ' Bristol' - I always wonder where the centre is.

  9. Hi everyone - I'm glad you enjoyed your walk around Bristol :)

    Carrie, Monica, MMD - I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with for OOTS. Carrie, don't worry about Carrickfergus, Chippenham will probably give you a good run for your money! Actually, I think most towns will do so Christmas tree wise - even the ones in Bristol and Chester were just decorated with lights. I wonder if there's an issue with vandalism or stealing if our outdoor trees are a bit more lavish? I also wondered if the lower branches of the tree in Bristol were bare for the same reason.

    Ben - I know that bookstall! I used to go there regularly in my lunch hour when I worked near there and also to the stamp stall. I love the atmosphere of the market, you get a real sense of community walking around, it must have been quite special to have been a part of that.

  10. Oops forgot to say:

    Mark - it's weird isn't it? How can a place have 3 'centres'?


Your essential reads

Write Away: #SpringNatureDiary

Postcard from the 'Top of Europe'

The Great Green Wall Hunt: Paris

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day: The Best of Summer

A Muse for National Poetry Day

Unusual Front Gardens #31: Halloween II

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: 'Just Add Cream'

Wildflower Wednesday: Alpengarten

Flowers for Mum: The bouquet that keeps on giving