Bristol Balloon Fiesta had been gracefully suggested to me my Facebook a few months ago. An undecided “Interested” then, became a definite “Going” last week, when I saw that the weather seemed to keep stable and good for this weekend.
Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is a four day, yearly event that takes place… yes, you’ve guessed it! – in Bristol. Actually not exactly Bristol, but Ashton Court which is an estate a few miles away. The first such event was back in 1979 and now, this is one the largest of its kind in Europe, with close to 100 balloons ascending (nearly) at the same time. Over the four days of fiesta, it attracts crowds of nearly 100 000 people per day, so expect it to be crowded, especially if the weather is good.
I saw this as the perfect opportunity for a weekend break in Bristol – which I might have normally not really considered as a weekend break destination, to be honest.
So Saturday morning, bright and early, we were in the car, all packed and ready for an exciting weekend getaway!
3 hours driving later, we were in Bristol and we’ve spend most of our day wondering around, visiting the city and enjoying the sun. Bristol is a lot more vibrant and interesting then I thought, but I might tell you more about that in another post.
The Balloon Fiesta is a free event, but you need to have where to park if you’re driving in – and that costs. We’ve booked parking online, on the event’s website and paid 14£ for what they call “advanced parking”. Although they urge you on the website to not follow your navigation and to follow event signs instead, the signs were not the best and we ended up driving around in circles for half an hour. My advice, read the directions on the confirmation email that you get, set your navigation on that and drive along – they are accurate. Oh, and btw, apparently you need to get into the carpark by latest 5PM – we got there at 5:30 PM as we had trouble finding it, as I’ve mentioned. Nobody seemed to be bothered though and we were let in, together with maybe hundreds of other cars.
From the parking lot there’s another 15-20 min walking to the launch site and to where most of the fun is.
There’s also a bus from Bristol that you can alternatively use.
In addition to the balloon launch site, which is fenced out for obvious reasons, there are, as you might expect, food stands and trade stands, fairground rides and other entertainment. You can visit their Website for more details.
There’s ample space (further away from the launch site) for picnic or barbeque on the grass, so it makes for a pretty nice day out.
All until you need to use the toilet, for which you needed to queue for a good 20-30 min, at least in the afternoon. So I rethought that beer that I was gonna have, not worth it.
And the crowds, oh my, the crowds! Soooo many people!
Two ascents were planned for every day, at 6AM and 6PM and on Thursday and Saturday they planned a “glow in the dark” event and fireworks, all of course, WEATHER dependant. The Fiesta did not start off very well, with a few ascents postponed due to clouds and wind, but on Saturday afternoon, about an hour and a half later than planned, we had a lovely spectacle of a few dozen balloons rising to the sky! It was kind of magical, I must say!
Next year, I’d like to be in one of those baskets that raises from the ground and I’ll tell you the story, from the sky instead! Done my research and for an exclusive flight (2 people + pilot) it’s 270£/person, while for a shared basket (with up to 15 people), 140£/person, with Bristol Balloons.
Hot air balloon wanders goes on my bucket list now!