If I’m going to write a blog that focuses a lot on living in Bristol, the fun child-friendly stuff you can do in Bristol (as well as family travel adventures in the UK and worldwide) then I figure I better tell you why I live here in the first place! If you’re thinking of moving to the city and are wondering what living in Bristol is like, or are just curious why I think the city is so special, here’s why I live in Bristol…
The University of Bristol gave me a degree!
Bristol became my home one sunny September day back in 2002. My dad dropped me off at my university halls – Hiatt Baker (or shite bunker as it’s fondly known by Bristol students) – and as I wandered up the hill to join the crowd of other Freshers, little did I know that this city would still be my home nearly two decades later. Yes, I’m one of those – one of the large percentage of ex-University of Bristol students who stick around the city once they’ve graduated, because they’re well aware that Bristol is an excellent place to live.
Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol
Bristol from a hot air balloon
I’d come from fairly quiet countryside life, in a village near the old market town of Stamford in Lincolnshire, following a gap year mostly spent working in London in an attempt to get experience in the television industry. London had seemed huge and overwhelming, but Bristol was green (there are over 400 parks and gardens in the city), walkable – we’d stroll across The Downs everyday to get to our lectures – and small enough to regularly bump into people you knew.
My uni friendship group was into surfing and they’d bust down to the Devon coast or Cornish waves every other weekend either independently or with Bristol University Surf Club. I’d never tried surfing, but I was aware of my FOMO and love for the beach, so there was only one thing for it – I needed to master the riding of the waves. So I did! And that is another peachy plus point about living in Bristol – the coast is easily daytrippable (Ilfracombe, Saunton Sands, Putsborough, The Gower, Clevedon, Brean Down) and being able to escape to the sea at weekends.
It wasn’t a dead cert that I’d stay in Bristol after I graduated in 2006 (I studied French so it was a four-year course with a year abroad on Reunion Island, in the Indian Ocean and Lacanau on the west coast of France). But my heart was set on working in TV, and Bristol, well-renowned for its wildlife television production, is where I aimed my gaze.
I was successful for a while – I spent some of the best months of my life as a ‘Runner’ for Tigress Productions and getting to know the city as a ‘young professional’, rather than a student. Those TV types like to party, and that was fine with newly-single me. I briefly left the city to pursue my career in London (working on Britain’s Next Top Model and sleeping on friend’s floors), but it was not the job, or lifestyle for me and I quickly flew back into Bristol’s arms.
It wasn’t long before I met my now-husband, Douglas, in a block of city flats on Queens Road just off The Triangle (once owned by The Beatles and seemingly one-time home of a friend of anyone you meet in Bristol) – he answered our ad for a new housemate on Gumtree and got himself a new job, new girlfriend and new place to live within the space of a month. And now, 11 years, 3 places to live, a brief stint in London, a 4 month honeymoon, 6 months living with the in-laws in Somerset while our Bristol house was renovated, and 2 kids later, we’re still loving living in Bristol.
Queens Road flats
The city has changed unimaginably since my university days. Where there was a severe lack of shopping for a big city, a huge glass-roofed Cabot Circus now stands with all the shops I longed for as a student. One part of the Harbourside has been transformed into trendy, repurposed shipping-containers housing independent restaurants and shops, and if you head to the waterfront on a sunny summer’s day, the city tangibly buzzes.
New attractions and awesome hotels pop up every year – 2019 alone saw The Wave – an inland surfing lagoon – and Bear Wood at Wild Place Project, and the list goes on… The city is an outdoorsy playground for big and little kids and I’m thrilled my kids get to grow up in such an exciting – and cool – place.
The city also has more festivals than you can shake your glittery neon headdress at (including some seriously spectacular ones like Bristol International Balloon Fiesta), if you’re into that kind of thing – which I am. A lot of them are family-friendly, and free and celebrate everything from Bristol’s maritime heritage, to its quirky street art culture.
And then there’s the gin, several micro distilleries in Bristol brew up some of the most delightful juniper-flavoured spirits that I’ve ever got my chops around, namely Psychopomp Microdistillery, 6 O’clock Gin, Bristol Dry Gin and Bristol Spirit, a huge selling point in my book.
Bristol International Balloon Fiesta
I’ve always been proud of living in Bristol and having so much to do right on my doorstep. One of my favourite things to do when people come and stay is act as their personal tour guide, whether they like it or not. Visiting the sights, going for brunch, eating out in one of many fantastic restaurants, trying beautifully-concocted cocktails, taking to the water, seeking out street art, hanging out in a baby cafe or lovely pub with an outdoor play area. It was fitting then, when back in 2015 I got myself a job at Visit Bristol – I’ve been geeking out on the city and singing Bristol’s praises ever since.
The Grain Barge and Cliftonwood’s coloured houses
My friends from university all departed for London once uni was over, and they keep promising me they’ll move back to Bristol one day soon. Others assure me all the time that if they were to ever move out of London, living in Bristol would be number one on their wishlist. 16 years later, I’m still waiting for at least ONE of them to return! But that’s ok, we’ve got buddies from all walks of life here – school, work, NCT, nursery parents and school parents and they’re a pretty cool crowd.
The jury’s yet out as to whether we’ll be here forever, but for now we love living in Bristol, being able to walk out to pubs and restaurants and fantastic kiddy entertainment, venturing out to rural countryside in a flash, exploring the South West from our convenient base and soaking up a bit of that creative, independent spirit that Bristol does best.
Cabot Tower and Brandon Hill, Bristol
Read more about Bristol:
- What to see in Bristol with kids: 25 family-friendly attractions
- Just off the motorway: family-friendly stop offs near Bristol
- Day trips from Bristol: family days out within 1 hour’s drive of the city
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