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Michael’s Travel Diary

Friday, 07 Aug 2009

Location: Bristol Balloon Fiesta, England

MapThe second weekend in August is the weekend of the Bristol Balloon Fiesta, a massive hot air balloon festival held just outside of the centre of Bristol that tends to provide inspiration for photographers each year and inevitably ends up providing post card images.

Charlotte and I headed out for the first evening of the festival last night as to what is known as Night Alight. It was a mission of a drive to get there due to the massive amounts of traffic, but we parked on the local cricket ground and then walked to the festival. At first (and second) glance it seemed particularly tacky, with carnival rides and amusements. At the back of the carnival there was a wide open area with all of the hot air balloons lying over deflated. We wandered around for a while and grabbed an ice cream as the sun lowered in the sky and dusk settled in.

Slowly the balloons started inflating and it was surprising to see just how many there were on the ground. Firstly the balloons were filled with fans of cold air to get some shape into them. Then as the jets of flame ignited, the sky lit up with these powerful flames. Once the balloons had taken shape, and appeared full, the colourful patterns on the balloons lit up the night. It was all rather disappointing, with the occasional whoosh of the jet flame and burst of light coming from the balloons which were arranged in a large oval. I was struggling to figure out why so many people were around. Then suddenly, the speakers kicked in with the “2001: A Space Odyssey” music, and the balloons started to ignite in time with the music. Finally something a little bit interesting. It continued on for a number of songs, and I asked someone nearby if they would be taking off and he said not until 6 am the following morning. It was at this point Charlotte and I decided to leave and get a jump on the traffic. Unfortunately due to road closures, we didn’t beat the traffic, in fact what would be normally a 10 minute drive took well over an hour, but it would have been much longer had we stuck around till the end.