Bristol is the second largest city in the South of England after London and the largest shipping port in England. Although Bristol suffered from extensive bombing during World War II and more recently, a steep decline in its manufacturing industry, it has remained a prosperous and attractive city thanks to an influx of commercial investment. The port of Bristol grew up in medieaval times around the confluence of the rivers Avon and Frome, requiring ships to navigate the tidal and precipitous Avon Gorge that flows out into the Severn Estuary at Avonmounth. It was from this tidal harbour that John Cabot set off in 1497 in his ship Mathew and became the first European to discover America. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, this tidal port was turned into the enclosed Floating Harbour by the construction of locks and the New Cut (an overflow channel for the River Avon). Because of way this was done, the floating harbour winds its way through the city center in quite a different manner to the way most enclosed docks turn their backs on their host city. With the advent of larger ships the tricky passage of the Avon Gorge became too much of a liability and Bristol's commercial shipping long since moved downstream to modern docks at Avonmouth and Portbury. But the floating harbour lives on as a real unique selling point for Bristol, providing mooring for leisure craft and preserved ships, a home for the city's industrial museum and a setting for numerous bars, restaurants, apartment complexes and offices. Although it's often overlooked as a tourist destination, Bristol has a lot to offer of its own and is also an excellent base for exploring the West Country, with relatively inexpensive accommodation compared to some of the main 'tourist traps' (such as nearby Bath) and a huge choice of bars, restaurants and shops.