Excursions from London: Newport and Bristol UK

I might not have made use of Celtic Manor’s pool and spa during the mid-December SRHE conference in Wales, but I invited Aongus to join me out west for the weekend following SRHE so we could make up for missing out on those amenities. The Manor was already booked, but I found rooms in Newport (in Wales, for Friday night) and Bristol (in England, for Saturday night) so we could relax and explore new sites.

Newport

Knoll Guesthouse

We stayed at the quaint and reasonably priced Knoll Guesthouse on Stow Hill in Newport. It was a great value! This stately Victorian home was built in 1897, a year after my former home in Portsmouth, Virginia. The gorgeous stained glass surrounding the entry vestibule delighted us. Also noteworthy were the cooked-to-order breakfast and the friendly and knowledgeable host, Barry Peters.

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Double rainbow viewed from Stow Hill, looking across the street from Knoll Guesthouse. We knew good fortune would follow us for the weekend!

Belle Vue Park

Barry from Knoll Guesthouse suggested a visit to Stow Hill’s Belle Vue Park and gardens. Despite the rain, we admired the park’s Victorian-era bandstand, conservatories, and tea house, all restored but dating back to 1894.

 

St. Woolos/Newport Cathedral

Then we found St. Woolos (aka Newport Cathedral) which has a lovely Romanesque design. Our experience was made complete with a very talented choir singing delightful Christmas carols.

 

Downtown Newport

We wandered through the shopping streets in the center of town, admired Calatrava’s innovative pedestrian bridge, and purchased salads-to-go before dashing to the Newport train station, en route to Bristol Temple Meade train station.

 

Bristol

Mid-day o Saturday, we boarded a train for Bristol.

 

Around Temple Meads Station

Entering Bristol via Temple Meads Train Station is always a delightfully Victorian experience. The splendor of this station’s exterior is unforgettable. I’d booked a room at a luxury hotel a short walk from the station, which would give us a place to store our bags the following morning when we checked out.

 

Mercury Bristol Holland House and Spa

This Mercury Bristol Holland House and Spa are located directly across the street from St. Mary Redcliff Church. We booked in for massages in the hotel’s spa.

 

St. Mary Redcliff Church

We spent several hours exploring St. Mary Redcliff Church, which was adorned with Christmas trees donated by local organizations.

 

Old Town and Waterfront

We walked through Queen Square and the Old City on Saturday evening, visiting St. Nicholas Market and a restaurant in the charming (but grungy) Old Stock Exchange.

The next day we retraced our steps through Queen Square as we headed toward the Watershed craft market and then walked along the quays to Brunel’s SS Great Britain (which we had not enough time to see). Heading back, we stuck to the path along the northern side of the river, so we could catch the best sun.

 

Bristol Cathedral

On the way back to the hotel to pick up our bags, we made a stop at Bristol Cathedral and listened to the choir practice.

 

Piemiester

We enjoyed two lovely pies, and then headed to the train station for our trip home!

 

Dreaming of Birmingham

Birmingham UK 4

Shannon burried in books and papers.

Shannon swimming in books and papers.

I’ve been buried in books and papers for days.

I’m working overtime on a research proposal… trying to find funds to return to Dublin so that I can follow up on findings I’ve made and keep learning new research skills by working with experts and doc students here.

The last time I got to go outside and explore was last week in Birmingham.  Wikipedia explains that Birmingham is:

city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlandsof England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London with 1,074,300 residents (2011 census), an increase of 96,000 over the previous decade.[2] … A medium-sized market town during the medieval period, Birmingham grew to international prominence in the 18th century at the heart of the Midlands Enlightenment and subsequent Industrial Revolution, which saw the town at the forefront of worldwide developments in science, technology and economic organisation, producing a series of innovations that laid many of the foundations of modern industrial society.[5] By 1791 it was being hailed as “the first manufacturing town in the world”.[6]

I’ll share pictures of that city today, in all its splendor….

Leading SEFI at the University of Birmingham, UK

Prof. Kamel Hawwash

Prof. Kamel Hawwash

Last week I travelled over to the UK to visit professor Kamel Hawwash, the incoming president of the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI).

Prof. Hawwash has done a great deal of  work in attracting and retaining diverse students in engineering, a topic known as “attractiveness” in the UK, and one in which I’m aiming to do more research.

Prof. Hawwash’s SEFI presidency will focus on two main topics:

1) employability and skills

2) attractiveness

We had much to discuss and we met for nearly two hours!  After our meeting, I had a chance to look around the University of Birmingham campus and then explore the city before flying back to Dublin via Ryanair.