Saturday, 12 February 2011

Weekend in Bristol: Exploring Clevedon

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to Bristol. A friend of ours, Zina, lives near there and invited me out for the weekend. The main focus of the weekend was a charity ball for the Old Vic Theater and I was going as Zina's companion, which meant that David was left at home whilst I had my first on-my-own adventure in the UK.

Ready for the journey
Zina lives in Clevedon, about thirty minutes from Bristol, and I admit that I was nervous about the journey as it involved several train changes and navigating the London Underground between stations. My wonderful husband, who always knows the things I would never voice, decided to work at the British Library in London on Saturday so that I would not have to figure out the trains on my own. The journey was uneventful and I remain impressed with how easy it is to get around England—the hardest part of my trip was transferring trains at Bristol since I only had five minutes to find my platform and run across the large station!

The journey from London to Bristol was beautiful. I was in the 'quiet carriage', meaning no cell phones and no noisy children. The train sped through the countryside, along the river, stopping every twenty minutes or so. I was most excited when we reached Bath. What I saw from the windows was beautiful and my heart kept pounding with the thought "Romans were here".

Bath from the train

My first stop in Clevedon was Zina's house. She lives in a delightful little house—it was built in 1854 and is tucked away down a small path and surrounded by garden. I met Buttons the Persian cat, Zina's mum made us a delightful lunch (mostly Mediterranean food, so I was in heaven), and Zina's dad (a poet) read out one of his poems. Then it was time to head into Clevedon for my tour of a beautiful Victorian seaside town.

We browsed antique shops, bought local chocolate, and walked far out on the Clevedon Pier (which can be seen in Never Let Me Go). The wind blew strong, and it was so wonderful to smell the salt air, to feel the wind off the sea, to see the rocky shore—it was like being home, although this estuary off the Atlantic is so different from the Pacific. Standing at the end of the pier I noticed a hazy land mass which Zina informed me was Wales, and my mind struggled to comprehend that I could actually stand in England and look across the water into Wales. I could almost see the ghosts of the past.

Clevedon Pier
Looking towards Wales

When we left the pier and Zina took me along Poet's Walk, a walk made famous by Lord Tennyson who spent his summers in Clevedon and walked that very path while composing In Memoriam. It is a beautiful path, with steep hills on one side and a sharp drop to the sea on the other. It winds up towards the church where Arthur Hallam is buried. The graveyard is beautiful, with graves overlooking the sea and a cool breeze tinkling chimes in the trees. It put me in mind of L.M. Montgomery's The Old Man's Grave.
Poet's Walk

A lookout on the walk

Leaving the graveyard we continued up the steep path which winds 'round an old Saxon hill fort. Then it steeply descends into the outskirts of Clevedon and we prowled around the neighbourhood until we found Tennyson's house. We then walked to a little village where Zina's dad picked us up and gave us a quick tour (we saw a hare), and then it was back to her house to get ready for the ball.

Looking down from the Hill Fort

Tennyson's House

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