Bath

February 25, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Posted in General, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Bath, with its Roman bathing history, Jane Austen love affair and historic buildings and streets is an enjoyable day trip from Bristol or London.

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  • Bath Abbey and Heritage Vaults – Just by the Roman Baths is the town’s grand Abbey. The architecture and finishes are, as you might expect from a building of this size are of a high quality. You can also pay a fee to go up to the tower. When I visited the heritage vaults were open but they are now closed for refurbishment. The vaults consisted of a history of the abbey, it’s religious order and the town through information boards and artefacts.
  • Bath - Roman Bath (7) Bath - Roman Bath (12)

  • Roman Baths – One of, if not the major attraction of the town are the well preserved Roman Baths. Famed from antiquity to today for alleged healing properties. There’s also a modern equivalent but enough of fancy spas let’s get historical. With audio guide in hand you’ll wander through the complex. It’s largely self guided in as much as you can choose whether to key in the audio prompts or not. As you’d expect through the tour you will learn about the history of the baths and their construction. Personally, I’d not fully appreciated the size and scope of the original complex, particularly in comparison with the remaining ruins. There are several places on the route (especially by the bath itself) where you can sit and relax.
  • Bath - Roman Bath (30) Bath - Roman Bath (32)

  • Jane Austen Centre – From what I’ve been told Jane Austen (famed author for anyone who hasn’t heard) didn’t necessarily enjoy her time in Bath but don’t let that put a dent in your visit to Bath or the centre. The content in the centre are informative both of Jane’s life, her writing and her society. However in order to access it you have to visit at two set times in order to sit through a mandatory lecture by a volunteer. Frankly, this could be done just as easily by a looped video so people aren’t forced into waiting.
  • Herschel Museum of Astronomy – A wonderful hidden gem that outlines the lives of siblings Caroline and William Herschel. In the 18th century they were one impressive duo not only were they talented musicians but also astronomers. William made highly accurate telescopes and discovered Uranus, while Caroline found many comets. Some of the rooms can be a little sparse but the video overview does help to set the scene.
  • Bath - Herschel Museum (7) Bath - Herschel Museum (4)

  • Bath Postal Museum – It’s a museum about the postal service in the basement of a modern post office. If you’re interested in the development of postal communication or stamps then this might be for you. Alternatively if you’re a little bit bored and need something else to do then this is an equally valid choice. You just might learn something too. There are some neat items inside.

The town and surrounds, with their period buildings, parks and waterways offer a pleasant chance to walk around and soak up the atmosphere. Some suggestions include taking a walk over Pulteney Bridge

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and along the river and over to the Royal Crescent.

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Photos at Flickr.

Map at Google Maps.

Bristol

February 23, 2011 at 1:00 am | Posted in General, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | 1 Comment
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Bristol in the south west of England offers a pleasant respite from the pace of London but that doesn’t mean it’s quiet.

I got a good deal on Expedia for accommodation and spent three nights there although you generally need a lot less time. If you’re planning on exploring further afield you may want to consider hiring a car. Bath is accessible via train (there’ll be more on that tomorrow).

So after checking in it was time to hit the sights. Here are a few things to do:

  • Brunel’s ss Great Britain: One of the city’s major attractions at this museum you’ll get the chance to wander through this historic ship (while listening to audio stories) and learning about Bristol’s maritime past. One of the coolest aspects is that the ship sits in a drydock that affords the chance to walk underneath the craft and on the water line they’ve placed a glass ceiling with water running along it. Providing an excellent atmosphere.
  • Bristol - Brunel's ss Great Britain (3) Bristol -  Brunel's ss Great Britain (76)

  • Waterfront walk: Walk along the river and canals, soak up the atmosphere, the people watching at the bars and walkways while also looking out at the countryside beyond the city and Bristol’s colourful buildings.
  • Bristol -  Brunel's ss Great Britain (141) Bristol -  Brunel's ss Great Britain (71)

  • Clifton Suspension Bridge: A bridge over the river? Why would you go you ask? Well it provides an opportunity to see some excellent views and if you walk over and go to the visitor centre you can find out its remarkable history as the concept struggled to come to fruition. You’ll also get the chance to wander through the charming Clifton Village and our next Bristol stop.
  • Bristol - Clifton Suspension Bridge (38) Bristol - Clifton Suspension Bridge (2)

  • Clifton Observatory: On the top of the hill by the bridge is the observatory. You can go upstairs to the Camera Obscura or take a wander into the depth’s of the giant’s cave. I went down to the cave and it’s not exactly built for a giant but as long as you don’t mind crouching a bit it leads out to a nice view over the river valley.
  • Bristol - Clifton Observatory (2) Bristol - Clifton Observatory (15)

  • Bristol Museum and Art Gallery: The city’s museum features a wide range of topics from natural history to Egypt and aviation. While all of this is interesting the one thing that it lacked for me was a history of the city. As a tourist I’d like to find out how Bristol came to be and develop. Otherwise it has plenty to offer.
  • Bristol Cathedral: The architecture and craftsmanship was good and worth the time to stop in and have a look. There are pamphlet guides to help you learn about the building.
  • Bristol - Cathedral (3) Bristol - Cathedral (4)

  • Brandon Hill Park and Cabot Tower: One of the main park’s in the city with a picturesque tower at the peak. When I was visiting the tower was closed but there were still superb views.
  • Bristol - Brandon Hill Nature Park and Cabot Tower (43) Bristol - Brandon Hill Nature Park and Cabot Tower (29)

  • Arnolfini: A modern art gallery located on the waterfront it features a rotating display so pop along (it’s free) and see what’s on during your trip. Failing that you can always grab a bite in the cafe.
  • Royal West of England Academy: A more traditional art gallery but when I was visiting they were preparing most of the galleries were shut while they prepared for a new exhibition. What I did see appeared to be pleasant enough pieces. Hopefully you’ll have better luck!
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  • At-Bristol: While I didn’t go I can see the appeal of this hands on science centre for the science lovers and families.
  • St Nicholas Market: A covered market with a variety of stores from shirts and music to food and drinks. Check it out.
  • Castle Park: Another park with a small church and sits along the water.
  • Bristol - Castle Park (2)

  • Frogmore Street features a Banksy while it and Park Street have some worthwhile shopping, eating and wandering opportunities. Similarly, historic Queen Square offers a good spot to relax with a coffee and a book and the Christmas Steps offer a quaint historic shopping area.
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I enjoyed Bristol and the break it afforded me. While I’m in no rush to go back I’d certainly recommend it for a gateway.

Google map here.

Photos on Flickr.

Hampstead Heath

February 22, 2011 at 9:00 am | Posted in London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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I’ve been meaning to visit London’s famed Hampstead Heath and one Saturday I made the trek from South London to the North.

The park is vast and encompasses wonderful views of the city, a free art gallery, playing fields, outdoor swimming pools and large areas to just wander and get lost in.

It’s the latter that I found both a strength and a weakness. There’s something wonderful about the (imaginary) prospect of getting lost and exploring. Having said that there are a few notable places (or at least places highlighted on maps) I couldn’t find as within the park there are very few signs so it’s quite possible to miss out.

A friend says this is so only locals know all the best bits. Whether this is true or not it may be a good idea to have a local take you around – but only after you’ve gone for a self guided ramble first.

The gallery, Kenwood House, at the north of the heath is in a stately home and a good stop off to have a wander through. I particularly liked the library. While free they appreciate a donation. There are also a few cafes there so it’s a good spot to sit and recharge.

I look forward to going back in the summer to try out the pools and maybe have a picnic.

Pictures on Flickr.

Dead Space 2

February 21, 2011 at 10:30 am | Posted in Gaming | Leave a comment
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It’s been forever since I’ve reviewed a video game (have I ever?) and Dead Space 2 seems like the perfect game for such a post. It is all about death and rebirth after all, well that and dismembering killer creatures.

If you’ve not played the first here’s a two sentence synopsis. In the future a human colony discovers an artifact which causes the colonists and a helpful spaceship crew to turn into savage creatures. You, as Isaac, are sent to help the ship and soon get caught up in the chaos.

An even shorter version. Shoot stuff til they die and the game ends.

If you liked the first game you’ll enjoy the sequel. While it is largely similar in mechanics that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is still satisfying to successfully fend off a wave of bad guys. Best of all there isn’t a stupid asteroid game.

Narrative wise, it’s fine. I’m not expecting anything of quality and the at times heavy handed flourishes (eg text smeared on walls) do help me to understood this world more while simultaneously rolling my eyes right out of it again.

People call this a horror game. I don’t know if I can agree. I’ve never played Silent Hill, which seems to be the benchmark for the genre, but for me this is just a shooter. A shooter that startles a lot but that’s it. I had the same reaction to the first game too but have spoken with others who in both games did get scared.

Based on that if you’re looking for a shooter that’s more than head shots or a (possible) horror game then Dead Space may be what you’re looking for. Assuming you’re old enough to buy it that is (18+ in the UK).

Mea culpa time (again)

February 21, 2011 at 9:00 am | Posted in Blogs, General, Random | Leave a comment
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This is the third, fourth or hundredth in my mea culpa series. Procrastination as always has slowed down my submissions and general day to day life has kept me from further sightseeing. That is quite frustrating.

On the plus side over the next few days I’ll be catching up on some places I went to a while ago and long term readers know that this means abbreviated posts. That might be a good thing.

Thanks for reading!

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