Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bristol Day 3

Well, Leena woke up with a hangover (rolling with the big dogs will have that effect after all). The sun was out, so after a breakfast that Jules cooked and most of us ate (guess who didn't have an appetite) we headed into town, Jules having the day off, and hit a bunch of bars, starting with the chain of Lloyds/Wetherspoons, a bar known for its obscenely cheap drinks. We met up with Ben, one of Jules' friends from university and headed to the Waterfront for a liquid lunch. Ben was on his break, however due to a recent liquid lunch that turned into a bit of a heavier outing he had set a limit on the amount he was drinking during his breaks now (specifically, nothing) so he had a soft drink. Not to be distracted from the goal of trying new brands of beer Jules and I gladly indulged. Ben had to get back to work so the four of us headed over to the Grain Barge for lunch, a boat restaurant across the river from Isambard Kingdom Brunel's S.S. Great Britain. Just in time for last call from the kitchen (they stop serving food at 3pm) and I was pleasantly surprised with my open-faced salmon and asparagus sandwich.

By this time we had walked a fair way already, and Ali hadn't seen the Clifton suspension bridge before so we grabbed a taxi up to the Avon Gorge Hotel, where the girls needed the bathroom. Thought it would be rude to stop in and not have a drink so sat in the sun on the infamous White Lion patio overlooking the bridge. It really is a marvel of engineering - so simple, and yet so sturdy. As it turned out, Ali didn't have any desire to actually go on the bridge so we got a taxi back to the Marriott hotel in the centre of town, grabbed our jackets that we had left at the Arnolfini and headed home for a rest.

While Jules threw together a pasta and meat sauce dinner, I slept restlessly on the living room armchair. I briefly recall talking to dad on Skype, (although it was just a Happy Birthday from my nap) and next thing I know, it's 7.30pm, we're throwing food down our throats and prepping to get back to the Old Duke where we were meeting more people for the fabled "Big Night Out."

Our team: Ali, Jules Leena, and myself, with additions of Dave & Kirsty (a couple from Jules' uni days), Ollie (a friend of Ali's) and Anna (from Monday night). Our plan was to go and listen to some live music, and the Duke is never a bad choice for that. Blues shit all over the walls (the name refers to Mr. Ellington, rather than any arstocrati connotations). An old guy with a slide guitar - that's my kind of night! Unfortunately, one of the girls figured we'd be sitting down, and thus didn't wear shoes that one could deem as "comfortable". Inexplicably. Why have shoes if they aren't comfortable? Anyway.

From there, we headed over to the Big Chill, a funky lounge style bar with half price cocktails and a sweet vinyl DJ on the decks. There for a couple, (2 for 1 cocktails… be careful, they'll jump out at you) and we realized they were getting ready to close down at around midnight. The two "locals" Jules and Leena, were brainstorming as to where we would go next; the night was but young. I suggested they ask the bartender where he would suggest. Jules went to talk to him.

At this point, I must confess that I am torn as a writer on what to do with this story. We went to the sweetest place but I refuse to ruin it by telling everyone where it is. In the spirit of this, it shall be known as the Secret Bar.

Jules came back from the bar, looked at me, and said "We're going to the Secret Bar." You have no idea how excited I was . He had mentioned this place the first night we were in town; he knew of it, but didn't know exactly how to get there. Until now. We walked toward it, wondering what our backup would be ("if its busy, they'll be open, if not, they'll be shut already"… on a Wednesday night, we were covering our bases). To think one of them, in retrospect, was a Wetherspoons! By the time we got to the general area, I was ten steps ahead of them, now obsessed with finding this place.

We got there; an unmarked door with a peephole, and a doorbell. We rang, and waited. A woman answered, looked us over, and invited us in.

Fuck yeah.

It was wall to wall with 1920s memorabilia, right down to the chaise longue on which we sat, and the clothing worn by the bartender. A sizeable cocktail list (of real cocktails) was handed to us along with a decanter of water. The waitress didn't even flinch when I ordered an old-fashioned (not on the menu) and went straight into the varieties of bourbon they stocked. Drink in hand later (with a single ice cube the size of a small apple), and the blues music playing, I did a quick seat count and it was definitely less than 40. I can honestly say that it was the best bar I have been to in a long time, and when I come back to visit, the Secret bar will be high on my priority list. My only regret is that we found it on our last night, rather than our first - it would be an amazing place to become a regular.

How can you top that? Paid the bill with a heavy tip and thanked the two staff members, then got in a cab to go home. Honestly, it couldn't have been a better night.

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