New Things – January

One of the main things we intend to do with this blog is to try a new thing every month, in and around Bristol. This is part of improving my (Becky’s) mental health and also just having a fun first year of marriage. Sometimes we may even do more than one thing a month, but we’ll see how it goes!

This month we visited Bookbarn International, a second-hand bookstore and warehouse situated about a 30 minute bus ride from Bristol. We also went for a vegan Sunday roast at The Tobacco Factory in Southville. It was a really fun weekend filled with new (to us) books, great food and fun with friends.

The reason for our fun day out was Dydd Santes Dwynwen, a day celebrated for lovers from Wales, much like Valentine’s day. As we are both Welsh, we chose to celebrate on the 25th January (Dydd Santes Dwynwen) instead of 14th February (Saint Valentine’s Day). It is also, coincidentally, Burns Night (Scottish celebration), so one thing we often do is have a Burns Night supper (with vegan Haggis of course!). This year however we decided to visit this bookstore and then have a quiet evening in with a nice meal and a film.

From Bristol we caught the 376 bus from by Temple Meads train station and alighted at White Cross, a small stop near Temple Cloud. Google maps assured me the bookstore was less than 10 minutes walk away, and indeed within 5 minutes we found the small retail park housing Bookbarn International.

It is essentially a warehouse. It was a very cold day when we visited and it was cold inside too. Probably perfect for keeping books at a good temperature, but we browsed the aisles with our coats and scarves still firmly in place! There is a main reception/counter area which had a lot of vintage books on sale. We had a good look through and reminisced about books we remembered from our childhoods. There are also computers to access the book archives, of all the thousands of books not even out on the shelves. A room full of antiquities to the side is well worth a nose and a vegetarian cafe provided us with a delicious lunch. I adored the dairy free hot chocolate, it even had a steamed ‘milk’ frothy topping.

My favourite thing about a bookshop is the smell. Even old, dusty second-hand book shops smell good to me. But the presence of a cafe and a cold, big warehouse significantly reduced this joy for me. I found the labelling of aisles easy to follow and we spent a good few hours examining them in detail. In the end we found six books we wanted, all at just £1 each! Plus we picked up a birthday card for a friend from their selection. Gareth also found a few crates of vinyl unexpectedly and bought some records. I loved the little room of antique books and could have spent much more time there, but sadly we needed to leave for our bus home.

Bookbarn International

We decided that we will definitely visit again, leaving some months in between to allow stock to rotate. They even sell old books in bulk (by the yard!) for use on film sets or as cafe decorations, which I enjoyed the idea of. One of my favourite things was a display dedicated to things they have discovered in books (old photos, poems, letters, drawings, bookmarks, postcards). Even though they have a successful online shop, I think I prefer visiting in person, and the added extras of the antiquity room and cafe cemented that deal. If you have children, the kids book section is great and there is space to sit and read as well.

The genres I read most of (next to poetry and non fiction) are horror, sci-fi and feminism, but there was nothing in these sections for me this time. Oh well, all the more reason to return!

As it was nearing the end of Veganuary, the next day we met with friends for Sunday lunch at The Tobacco Factory. For the whole month they had an entirely vegan menu, which we were all keen to try. Myself and Gareth are vegetarians (nearly vegan, but we lapse a bit) and we had one carnivore and three vegan friends with us. It was a large menu with so much choice. This is delightful when you’re used to visiting restaurants and having only one or maybe two choices on an entire menu.

I opted for the vegan meatloaf roast and Gareth had the vegan brisket. Both were tasty and well cooked. They came served with roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables and a lovely gravy. We sincerely hope one of these stays on their Sunday roast menu going forward as we certainly will be coming again! Our friends ordered from the brunch menu instead and enjoyed various avocado on toast or breakfast tofu hash combinations.

Vegan Meatloaf Sunday Lunch, Tobacco Factory Bar

The Tobacco Factory, as well as being a bar and serving food in Southville, is something of a community hub. The bar also has live music and a monthly swing night. It is situated at the end of North Street, by Aldi (always handy) and has a theatre and meeting room space attached. We have seen some fantastic events at Tobacco Factory Theatre over the years, the most recent being a wonderful, fresh, topical adaptation of Snow White. At the back of the building is a large yard which is home to a weekly Sunday market, definitely worth a visit for great food and local crafts, and an outdoor bar. It is also host to all kinds of events from a silent disco to a Christmas market, to regular DJs and food stalls plus an art gallery space. If you are in the area check out their website, there is bound to be something on for you!

The food was great, the wait was very reasonable, as was the price. Add this to catching up with great friends and we rounded off our weekend in the very best way.

Next month we try an escape from in the centre of Bristol with seven friends.