On a cold Wednesday night almost exactly eight years ago, I was dancing away with my housemate Kelly in our usual student haunt, an 80s themed nightclub in my beloved University city, Bristol. Drunk on £1 bottles of apple VK and deliriously dancing along to Wham, Madonna and the Dirty Dancing sound track I spotted a long-haired (equally drunk) 21-year-old Andrew across the dance-floor and the rest, as they say, is history.
We might be eight years older now, a damn site more solvent, sensible and less able to stay up drinking till the birds start singing, but Andrew and I still look back on our University days in Bristol as some of the best of our lives. So, given that we have only seven weeks left till we leave the UK we decided to head back up to Bristol for a final, nostalgic goodbye weekend.
Why I Love Bristol
There are so many things that make Bristol great, and as we walked around on our farewell weekend we saw and experienced many of them; the waterfront lined with bars and restaurants and the bustling city centre; the mighty Clifton suspension bridge which stretches over the Avon Gorge and Bristol Cathedral, a beautiful building where our graduation ceremonies were held. We revisited some of the lively pubs we frequented so often as students and caught a film at the Watershed, one of our favourite art-house cinemas.
But all that doesn’t describe the real spirit of the city – Bristol just has this special kind of quirky defiance. For example, it’s one of the only cities in the UK which has an independent mayor and is the only one to have its own currency. In Bristol the streets are decorated by the anonymous graffiti artist Banksy; there are trees full of shoes and rows of brightly coloured houses; cobbled streets and yellow castles that used to be mental asylums. This is the city that hosts annual hot air balloon fiestas, held the first ever zombie chase game and furiously protested over the supermarket chain Tesco opening yet another store in the city. To me the city says: f**k the rest of the country, we do things differently here – and that suits me.
Visiting Bristol – Memories and New Beginnings
Although it’s been a whole decade since I first left my home town to start University in Bristol, I still remember how colossal that move felt. I was 19 and suddenly living in a student flat full of strangers in a city I had no idea how to get around. I couldn’t cook or get drunk without throwing up; I had to live off a student loan, haul my shopping bags back from the supermarket on foot and wash my clothes at the laundrette. At first everything was terrifying – but exhilarating and new; the people, the places and the lifestyle. I felt like my adult life had finally begun. For me those feelings and that sense of freedom and independence are stamped all over Bristol and walking the city streets again takes me back to that magical place in my life.
It also occurs to me now that many of the things I loved about being a student in Bristol are the things I’m hoping to rediscover when I travel. I want to recapture that sense of endless possibility for the future, throw away the routine, get back into the habit of meeting new people and have the chance to learn and experience new things again.
Most of all, I’m looking forward to taking back my time. At University, my life was filled with time; time to learn, study and discuss, read, write, research and think about life. Back then I had endless amounts of time to spend with the people I liked most, to hang around in the Students’ Union between lectures, to sit with housemates watching afternoon telly, to get drunk and dance, to stay in bed for as long as I wanted. Sure, I didn’t have a lot of money and I had to work minimum wage retail jobs to make ends meet, but I was happy.
For all those reasons, a substantial slice of my heart will always belong in Bristol and visiting this amazing city made me nostalgic for the past but excited for the future we could create; a future filled with new places, people and experiences – a future filled with the time to do exactly what we feel like doing.