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'Seeing the sights on foot'

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: August 22, 2013

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HOME to 80 giant Gromits in and around the city centre this summer, Bristol is a more exciting place than ever to head to for a break.

The giant, 5ft-tall hand-painted sculptures, modelled on the iconic and triple Oscar-winning animated character, form a major new public art trail around the city.

A variety of mapped walks lead visitors from one Gromit to another across some of Bristol's best-loved landmarks, including such family-friendly attractions as At-Bristol, M Shed and Windmill Hill City Farm.

Each Gromit has been uniquely designed by artists and celebrities including Zayn Malik from One Direction, The Snowman creator Raymond Briggs, and Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park.

Everywhere we went on our two-day break, we bumped into families, their noses in maps, trying to spot the next colourful canine.

It was a great adventure for my six-year-old who happily walked around the city in her quest to see every one of the Gromits.

Of course we didn't manage to tick them all off, but it was a great way of seeing the sights on foot – and there were plenty of them to enjoy.

Our visit was the first time I had been to the city to stay for any length of time – and it is certainly a place I will be returning too.

Set around a historic harbour, it is a bustling, commercial and creative city. In recent years, it has enjoyed an impressive renaissance, finding its heart and soul as never before.

Its cityscape is a fusion of elegant Georgian and Victorian architecture and stunning modern buildings and developments.

We travelled up on the CrossCountry train service from Exeter and were there in just over an hour. While we relaxed in our seats we were able to plan our itinerary – and we had plenty of activities to choose from. Bristol Temple Meads Station is just a short walk from the city centre – and it was there we spotted our first Gromit.

We stayed at the family-friendly Hotel du Vin, home to another of the Aardman creations.

And what a hotel. It opened in 1999, the third in the thriving chain, and it reflects the company's passion and enthusiasm for creating unusual hotels that combine an individual charm of their own with all the best things modern hotels have to offer – Egyptian cotton sheets, luxury bathroom fittings, DVD players and Internet access.

They also place an emphasis on excellent, locally sourced food and good wine, serving interesting dishes from the best produce. The Sunday Brunch is a feast in itself and at a great price.

The sumptuous four-course culinary treat, including a lavish French market table of seafood and crustaceans and, of course, a traditional roast, costs £22.95 for four courses and £9.95 for children under 12 years.

You can enjoy it in the stylish bistro while listening to jazz music.

Conveniently located in the heart of the city, it is a short distance from the River Frome – a clue to its original role. The Sugar House was built on the site in 1728 when Bristol was England's second city and a thriving merchant port.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, sugar from the Caribbean and around the world, along with tobacco, were two of the principle commodities traded through Bristol.

The development of steam engines to refine the sugar changed the industry and it wasn't long before this was the only remaining Sugar House.

It was later utilised for a wide range of industrial uses, but by the time Hotel du Vin came along it had been empty for 11 years.

Using unusual properties – in this case a Grade II-listed industrial building – and converting them to hotels gives the resulting accommodation a unique appeal.

Our room was light and airy, with a luxury bathroom that housed a huge enamel bath and a tiled, walk-in shower.

The staff were friendly and helpful and couldn't do enough for either of us. That helped make our stay feel extra special.

Bristol may no longer have a thriving sugar trade, but it does still have a lot to offer commercially – excellent city centre shops, Cribbs Causeway and Ikea nearby, as well as restaurants, bars, clubs and theatre.

We enjoyed an afternoon at the Hippodrome watching the acclaimed touring production of Hairspray and there are plenty of other great productions coming up including Exeter's very own Will Young in Cabaret from September 17 to 21.

Visitors to the city can also plan their Gromit experience around some of the other great family attractions and events taking place this summer, including DinoZoo2 at Bristol Zoo Gardens, Bristol International Festival of Kites and Air Creations between August 31 and September 1, the award-winning At-Bristol science discovery centre, Brunel's ss Great Britain and M Shed, the museum with a difference. They are all great places to explore with the family and each has a Gromit on site.

We made use of the City Sightseeing's distinctive red open top buses. And as well as an informative tour were able to hop on and off at the attractions we wanted to visit.

It was a great way of seeing all the city has to offer – including some of the Gromits we missed on foot.

To keep up to date with the latest news on Gromit Unleashed visit www.gromit-unleashed.org.uk, for more information on Bristol including family-friendly places to stay and visit go to www.visitbristol.co.uk and for more information on the Hotel du Vin visit: www.hotelduvin.com or call 0117 925 5577. For ticket information on the Crosscountry train service visit www.crosscountrytrains.co.uk/ tickets-timetables/summer-travel

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