Bath, Bristol, Boats, Books, Beer and the Boar’s Head

Add together, mix well and serve with friends, for the perfect weekend.

View from Jane, Bristol harbour

View from Jane, Bristol harbour

Our trip to Bristol last weekend was a compendium of my favourite things. Instead of staying in a boring hotel, we hired a colourful narrow boat moored in Bristol harbour, as a base for our explorations. Jane was homely, if a little basic (nearest loo a brisk five minute walk) but the wood-burning fire was jolly and it was a great central location. We would have missed the early morning rowers, and the fighting swans, if we’d opted for creature comforts over fun.

My friend in Bristol had spotted an advertisement for an intriguing-sounding theatre event at her local pub, so we went along to see what it was all about. Midnight at the Boar’s Head, from Fine Chisel theatre company, was something else. We were transported to 16th century Cheapside, in a rattle through some of Shakespeare’s rowdiest tavern scenes from Twelfth Night to the Henry history plays, performed by a terrific troupe of players, who were also superb musicians. The music was an integral part of the show, with songs and poems by Shakespeare set to the group’s own foot-stomping compositions. I’m usually averse to audience participation, but the surroundings and the show meshed so well that I was soon on my feet, cheering Henry V’s rallying cry and preparing to do battle armed with party poppers and balloons. It felt like Shakespeare restored to its crowd-pleasing origins.

Mr B's Emporium

Mr B’s Emporium

On Saturday we took the train into Bath to visit two bookshops that I’ve long wanted to see. Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights is a stylish, quirky shop with lovely personal touches, such as the arm chairs and free coffee in the reading room upstairs, and the plethora of hand-written recommendations. I decided to challenge them to choose my next novel, based only on the information that my favourite recent novels were Andrew Miller’s Pure and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. I was impressed by their choice, Carsten Jensen’s We, The Drowned, which sounds right up my street. I’ll report back.

Around the corner was Toppings & Company Booksellers, which simply draws you in with its amazing selection of travel books,

Toppings and Company

Toppings and Company

outdoorsy books, nature writing and other non-fiction. It was refreshing to visit a bookshop where fiction is not the main attraction. I found loads of books on my reading list, including several science books that I’ve been meaning to read for ages. Finally I plumped for Richard Deakin’s diary Notes from Walnut Tree Farm, a book as delightful and eclectic as the shop.

Finally we repaired to the nearby Salamander pub for some excellent Bath Ales, which sustained us on a lovely walk along the river back to Bristol.

The Salamander pub

The Salamander pub

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Filed under Books, Out of Town, Reviews

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