But these weeks are also very exciting as we remember what it is that we so love about each of the places we are fortunate enough to live in. I have talked about the contrasts between the two places before – but this time coming from Albufeira to Bristol seems to have been more extreme.
Two lots of cleaning, it’s a bizarrely northern thing I suspect. I spend hours cleaning one apartment so that it’s nice to come back to, and then spend the first day back cleaning – even though nothing has happened in the apartment whilst we were away. This time the cleaning took on additional focus as a relative will be staying in our Portuguese home whilst we are in Bristol – so I have discovered yet another level of clean – ‘relative that isn’t your parents, sister or nephews’ clean!
The last time we came was for a flying visit so that I could go on the Hen weekend in Bath, so I barely had any time to spend in Bristol and so didn’t fully appreciate it. This time we have come back for the wedding – which I am very excited about and we are here for a few weeks. Husband did ask me last week what it was I was most looking forward to about being here and it was the wedding. Now I am back here, I realise there was so much more that I miss about Bristol.
Bristol is home. Despite my best efforts to make our Albufeira apartment as homely as possible, without moving lock, stock and barrel, there are ‘things’ in Bristol which make it home. For a start there is my wedding bouquet which I made from Coalport brooches; then there are my Grandad’s books along with his certificates proudly displayed on the wall, as they have been since 1945 I imagine; my Nana’s vase and balloon lady; the dog’s radio (the dog passed over 2 years ago now, but for some reason that radio which never gets used survived downsizing); the gifts I received from good friends at my first wedding and were the treasures I took with me when I left; the daft bits and bobs that my sister has bought me for Christmas over the years. It’s not just about me, there are ornaments from my mother-in-law’s home, things that she loved and which are of sentimental value to my husband. There are other bits and pieces that represent our life together as well as those we separately bought to our home – silly little things that make a home.
Of course, there are our friends. We were fortunate enough to have lots of friends visit us during our stay in Albufeira, including the mother of the bride at the forthcoming wedding and it is so lovely to be able to catch up with them again. Or last meal in Albufeira was at an excellent restaurant, The Country Cockerel Kitchen, with our good friend Graham Evans amongst others. We also have reservations at a couple of beautiful restaurants in Bristol during this stay, along with a visit to the ‘Mighty Gate’ to watch Take That! Food, in particular, is one thing that both husband and I genuinely miss when we are in Portugal. The choice in Bristol is immense and so varied. Already this week we’ve eaten falafel from Eat a Pitta, (nothing in Albufeira has come close to the standard of these falafel) had Caribbean food from the Friday street food market outside St Nic’s market, gone along to the farmers market on Whiteladies Road. Whilst the food in Albufeira is lovely and there is a wide choice of good quality restaurants, nothing really compares to the variety on offer in Bristol – much of which is relatively cheap and of outstanding quality.
Bristol is generally a fantastic, vibrant, diverse place to be. There is no ‘normal’ that I can identify. People are just themselves, content in the knowledge that it’s ok to be who you want to be, but nobody bats an eyelid, nobody feels the need to conform. Vintage and second hand shopping is as popular as high street shopping as people hunt for unique pieces that will set them apart from the crowd. I know that I myself feel more relaxed here and under less pressure to fit in. I’ve recently watched a programme on Netflix, ‘Call to Courage’ with Brene Brown. One thing that really struck a chord with me is that fitting in isn’t the same as belonging. When you try to ‘fit in’ you change aspects of yourself to make yourself more acceptable, more popular, more normal. When you belong, you can just be yourself. I belong in Bristol, I ‘fit in’ in Albufeira and that, in a nutshell is the key difference. I’ve always been a bit quirky, a bit of a lone wolf and during the last years of my teaching I lost my individuality a bit. It’s beginning to come back now, and when I am in Bristol I truly feel I can be myself, without judgement, no matter how bonkers that might be.
Yesterday, I had a fantastic morning walking the length of one of the main routes in Bristol. From Wild Oats, a health food shop at the top of Whiteladies Road, right down to the library on College Green, past the beautiful Will’s Building which dominates Park Street. Along the way I encountered most of what Bristol has to offer, including a walk for Crohn’s and Colitis, and a motorbike rally raising awareness of Soldier F. Bristol is loud and busy, with a constant soundtrack of cars, buses, sirens, skateboarders, late-night revellers, the slush puppy wheelbarrow man, all set in a backdrop of the old city. I love it here and would be sad not to be able to experience it any more.