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I spent six years living in Bristol, and by the time I (gladly) left to move overseas I'd come to terms with the place in a kind of hate-hate-tolerate way. You have some beautiful areas around the city centre and up Park Street towards Clifton, some okay areas such as St. George and Fishponds (where I lived for most of my time there) and then some downright horrible areas, like Easton, where I was unfortunately enough to spend eight months of my tenure living. Likewise with entertainments, you can go out during the week and have a nice, relaxing time, or go out on the weekend and step into the carnage of drunkeness, violence and resentment that seems to permeate out of the bars into the streets, spreading over the city like a dark, viral stain.
Thanks to several university friends (I studied at UWE) and my sister still living there, the only times I go (reluctantly) to Bristol these days I seem to enter by the portals of the bus station or the airport. The bus station, despite still being pretty new, is bad enough (no left luggage lockers, groups of smackheads hanging around it like a second home, no onward city bus information and a tiny shop that never seems to be open), but it is the airport that just has this ability to fill me with hate before I even get into the city itself.
I used it three times over a recent trip back to England, once on a short return trip to Europe with a friend, and the second time flying in from Edinburgh late at night with my girlfriend.
On the outside it looks like a nice enough airport. Small enough to be easy to navigate, big enough to offer some decent destinations. However, more than anything it is the access to it which causes the biggest problems. I shall explain.
My friend has a car so we decided to drive and park in the long stay car park (we were only going for two nights). Getting there was the first problem. The airport is way, way out of the city, and its not until you're halfway there that there are even any signs. We got lost even using a SatNav.
Parking was no problem, but on returning after our trip we had to deal with paying. The internet site said you could pay inside the airport or in the car park, yet the Paystation signs led nowhere. Only after asking a member of staff did we discover we could only pay in the car park now, at one of the "Pay points". Out we went. We walked to three, with their little lights glowing in the darkness. All were out of order. In desperation we drove to the exit, where we found a near pile-up of cars all trying to do the same thing - get the hell out. But there was no simple exit toll booth here, you had to park your car, get out, and go into a little building to pay. Of course, there was nowhere to park so cars were backed up, waiting for the first people in line to make their payments and get back to their cars. And while it's my first experience of parking at an airport, but I felt that 38 pounds for just a two night stop was nothing short of extortionate.
Otherwise, inside the airport hadn't been too bad. We'd had no trouble checking in, and while another reviewer has complained about the limited number of retail outlets, while there weren't many I felt there were enough. What I did find frustrating was that after going through immigration we had a fifteen minute walk to our gate, despite the relatively small size of the airport. We were running a little late and actually had to run, so perhaps some warning of the distance might have been nice.
Coming in from Edinburgh with my girlfriend we had to face up to the other major nightmare - public transportation. My back was put up immediately when I tried to change some money after I came through the arrival gate. "5 pound commission," the girl said, glaring at me with my clutch of Euros left over from my Europe trip. Over six airports I passed through on my recent trip, Bristol was the only one where commission wasn't zero. I told her to forget it, and in that same defiant glare and nochalant shrug I was reminded of the utter unfriendliness that characterises Bristol as a place to live.
Outside in the cold, it was impossible to forget the friendly, chatty taxi driver in Edinburgh, or the Airlink bus (3.50) that did a loop of the city, or indeed the rail link. In the cold dark of Bristol the best public transport you get is a single bus (6 pounds) that goes only to the bus station, therefore being useless for the majority of Bristol residents.
I went into the taxi office to equire about the cost of a taxi from the bus station to Fishponds. 'Oh, they'll rip you off from there.' Nice. Welcome back. Might as well get a taxi. '30 pounds,' she said. 'It's 26 just to the centre, you know.' As if that justified it.
Bristol, like most other third world cities, is full of shark, unfriendly taxi drivers who haven't heard of the invention of the meter. To be fair, our driver at least said 'hello' as we got into the cab. His only other word would come fifteen minutes later, when in response to my girlfriend's question, I incorrectly labelled a faceless suburb street as Brislington. 'Bedminster' he grunted, as though I'd offered up a personal slight, and lapsed back into silence. Also to be fair, he at least helped us get our cases out of the boot when we got back to my friend's house in Fishponds, before collecting his 30 pound fee (the flights only cost 35.99 each).
You might very well find yourself forced to use Bristol Airport at some time in the future. Try not to hate it like I do. Just get someone to give you a lift and pick you up, turn up in plenty of time, don't try to change any money and don't expect anyone to be nice to you. If you do all of these things you should be fine.
Thanks for reading.
This review will probably appear sometime under headofwords on Ciao.
Bristol airport is the worst airport I've ever been to in my life. The two times I've used it have been horrifically sressfull and I will not give it a third chance. The terminal building looks ok from the outside, but once you get in, it's a completely different story. The queues for check-in, security and passport control were a mile long and lasted for ages, security took the best part of an hour. The amount and variety of shops, restaurants and food outlets is appaling. To be precise there are six shops and six eating/drinking facillities after security, and only three eating/drinikng facillities and two shops before security. Most airports this size have atleast ten of each after and five of each before. Getting to the airport from all directions appears to be chaotic and the car parking is shocking. The public transport links are also very limited with no rail service and a lack of good bus services. This is a big problem as the airport is quite far away from Bristol considering the size of the city and the airport. Bristol is an airport I will difintely never use again in my entire life.
I recently used Bristol Airport to fly to Toulouse for a long weekend. I haven't been to Bristol airport for many years, so my experience was akin to using the airport for the very first time.
I should first mention that I phoned the airport about a week before departure clarifying their rules on liquids on the plane - purely because we were travelling with a 6 month old and needed to take milk andfood! The lady I spoke to was very helpful, informed me on the guidelines of baby milk and food, and also advised on taking the buggy to the boarding gate.
Upon arrival we made our way to our check in desk and were checked in quickly, having to make a small detour to a special check in desk for more 'delicate' items where we deposited our baby car seat.
With the exception of a coffee shop and confectioners shop, there wasn't much before security, so knowing we wanted to have a decent meal before flying, we heading through security.
This is my main complaint about Bristol. Through the initial stages of security the staff were very chatty and helpful, but when we got to the stage where we had to empty our pockets, remove our daughter from her pushchair, go through the security gate, and then proceed to collect everything back up again...they really let themselves down. Firstly, they had no patience. As my daughter is quite small and has a rolled up blanket behind her as she's sat in the buggy, I really needed my husbands help briefly to hold her while I re-arranged the buggy ready for her. For some reason the security guard didn't like the look of my husband and wanted to 'pat search' him. Not a problem, but would they mind literally 10 seconds while he held his daughter to help me out? They eventually allowed us, but purely because we were holding up the line! There just didn't seem to be a child friendly system in place (unlike Toulouse airport - see my review on that.). Secondly, I had completely forgot that I had a child's beaker of water in my bag (granted, before hand I had measured it strictly to the 100ml level, plus my daughter had already drunk from it!), not put in one of those clear plastic bags, and it wasn't checked or questioned at all after my bag had slid through the x-ray machine. Considering I was made to taste my daughter's milk, I was a little surprised.
The area beyond security is very well equipped. Many different types of restaurants and food outlets, shops, newsagents...can't really fault them here. Our flight was slightly delayed so the wide choice of refreshments was very welcome.
When we were called to our boarding gate - boy is that a long walk!! - we were pleased to be sent down a separate queuing lane to the majority of travellers so we would be allowed on the flight earlier and all give us time to settle into our seats with a baby. Granted, the speedy boarders were allowed access first, but it was lovely to be given this opportunity. There was a further delay at the gate, with lack of communication as to why there was a delay, but it appears it was more the airline and their staff's fault regarding this.
Upon arriving back in the UK we sped through passport control and through to baggage reclaim. All our items came through on the luggage belt in good time (unlike in Toulouse where the more 'delicate' items were transported separately and a little later), and we were out very quickly.
Overall a good airport and one we'd be happy to fly from again.