You Don't Look a Day Over 150.

Monday, December 8, 2014

When I moved to England, seeing "the bridge" sat high at the top of my to-do list. I Googled and Pinterest-searched pictures of Bristol in my spare time, and the Clifton Suspension Bridge was always the first image that popped up. 

Nestled in one of my favorite and most quaint areas of the city, the bridge is a Bristol icon. Towering high above the River Avon, it's surrounded by plenty of green space for jogging and picnics, or you can opt to take in the view from the terrace at the Avon Gorge Hotel with a pint from the White Lion or a full tea from the Bridge Cafe. 

This past weekend marked the 150th Anniversary of the bridge being opened to the public, after 33 years of construction. The man behind the design, Isambard Kingdom Brunel is often voted as the most important Briton of all time, coming in just behind Winston Churchill. A remarkable engineer even from a young age, you can see his work across the West of England from the iconic bridge, the Great Western Railway, the S.S. Great Britain, and many more engineering feats. Although he died before the bridge's completion, I'm sure he'd be proud that the iron work in the bridge you see today is 98% original and remains the symbol of Bristol 

To celebrate its birthday, Bristol hosted events all weekend to tip its hat to the beloved bridge. I spent a perfectly crisp and sunny Saturday afternoon perusing the pop up Christmas market along the Royal York Crescent – one of the longest crescents in all of Europe and most expensive streets to call home in Bristol. 

On Sunday, myself and 100,000 other Bristol residents bundled up and shuffled into any open spot we could find along the gorge in anticipation for the 12 minute fireworks show, which did not disappoint. Normally with fireworks shows (especially ones I am standing in the cold during) I'm pretty satisfied after 10 minutes and my attention starts to wane, but I never wanted this show to end. 

They had speakers set up along the river, playing music before the show began, telling stories about the history, a moment of silence to commemorate very upsetting and recent deaths in the gorge, and even an interview of a mother and her 8-year old son Harry who was born on the bridge and given the middle name "Brunel" to commemorate the experience. Yes, you read that correctly: he was literally born while his parents were driving across the bridge on the way to the hospital. I'll spare you the details of that, but how cool that they had the opportunity to stand on that bridge and push the lever to start the show!

If you'd like to see the fuss behind the fireworks, here's a great video courtesy of the University of Bristol student-run television station (UBTV). The bit that begins at 5:04 in the video below blew my mind. However cool it looks in videos or photos can't compare to how impressive it was to see first-hand, you could hear cheers and gasps from the audience near and far. 

Thanks, Bristol!

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