city slicker; Bristol

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The Independent Culture
On Saturday, a recreation of the Matthew Ball ship, in which John Cabot first discovered North America in 1497, will be lifted into the water at Bristol's Redcliffe Quay. But there are other reasons for dropping anchor here:

Etymology: The city's name is believed to have transmuted from its original Saxon, Brigstowe, due to the local habit of adding an "L" to final vowels ("Good morning, moi lover, oi'm from the Encyclopaedial Britannical").

Most common Christian names:

Dirk, Hayley, Isambard, Kingdom. (The latter two are after the revered 19th-century engineer, Brunel, who built the Clifton Suspension Bridge.)

Tippler's Bristol: Celebrated for its trading links with Bordeaux, Jerez, Oporto, and the home of both the prawn cocktail of the beverages world, a schooner of Bristol Cream sherry, and its low-life cousin, a pint of scrumpy (rough cider).

Regional cuisine: The faggot, a succulent tennis ball of minced pigs' intestines in caul, traditionally eaten tapas-style with a schooner of well-warmed Bristol Cream, or as a plat de resistance, with plenty of chips and curry sauce, accompanied by a bone-dry litre or three of scrumpy.

Music: The "Bristol sound" of Massive Attack, Portishead et al is now so famous as to be passe. (Recently, I bumped into a Japanese record executive in a Hong Kong night-club musing wistfully as to how Tokyo could ever aspire to produce a Bristol sound.)

Restaurants: Bristol has produced its fair share of good ones - Keith Floyd's highly laudable Harvey's, Markwick's and Hunt's - but Bristolians are traditionally suspicious of innovation, subtlety and the necessity of opening their wallets, leading some of the best newcomers, such as Mario and Franco's up-market trattoria and Mulligan's excellent fish and chip brasserie, to go under.

Last year, the husband and wife proprietors of Lettonie - one of only six Michelin two-star restaurants in the country - complained in print that they couldn't survive on the local trade they were getting, thus unleashing what the Bristol Evening Post described, under the headline "city's sour taste for top diner pair", as an "eating-out row".

Mini-celebrity spotting: Bristol's institutions of higher education are a magnet for society offspring. For the forward-looking paparazzo, Bristol is a gold-mine, with the likes of Stephanie Beacham and Lesley Caron dropping into town to visit their kids. Until very recently, Haiqa Khan (nee Jemima Goldsmith) could often be espied at chucking-out time, deep in discussion of Islamic jurisprudence over a table full of non-alcoholic scrumpy tankards in the Prophet Mohammed lounge at the Albion, in Clifton.

Wheels: Cut a dash in the M32 traffic jams in a Range-Rover and customised trailer, bearing the legend "[your name] Financial Services Balloon Team". Or capture a more retro mood, at the wheel of a sleek 1950s Bristol 403, product of the city's very own bespoke automobile company.

When to visit: In 1997, when the celebrations commemorating the great dual anniversaries - 500 years since John Cabot discovered America and 40 since Russ Conway released the Party Pops LP - are expected to make Rio Carnival look like a wet Monday night at Lettonie.

Ending it all: Hastings may be Britain's suicide capital, numerically, but Bristol is streets ahead style-wise. Georgian garret blow-outs may be due for a comeback, in the manner of the 18th-century poet, Thomas Chatterton, but most still opt for the classic jump off the Clifton Suspension Bridge. If you're wavering, check in to the once-magnificent Avon George Hotel, overlooking the Bridge, and let the tawdry corporate bungle that has brought the fine old establishment low, tip you over the brink.