Bristol International Balloon Fiesta

This weekend saw dozens of hot air balloons take to the skies for Bristol’s annual Balloon Fiesta. Since living in Bristol I have often seen the balloons float over the horizon at this time of year, but I have never actually attended the event. This year we decided to fully embrace this iconic summer triumph and see the action up close.

We started on Friday night by finding the perfect spot on Troopers HIll, our local nature reserve and the perfect vantage point. There was a fantastic atmosphere as families gathered with their picnic blankets and snacks to wait for the balloons to ascend. It did feel like we were waiting quite sometime, but that is possibly because we were trying to confine a one year old to the space of our picnic blanket and he just wanted to crawl off to chase dogs/older children. It wasn’t particularly relaxing but as soon as the balloons started to rise from Ashton Court, it was really worth it. They looked like tiny spots in the distance but as more balloons filled the skies, the more impressive the sight was. Even Ted realised something special was happening, and sat on my lap saying “ooooh!” It was a lovely evening and got us really excited about attending the actual event the next day.

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On Saturday we woke up to glorious sunshine and high temperatures, the perfect weather for ballooning! My parents had come to visit us and to come to the fiesta with us, so we spent a chilled out morning at our house in the garden while Ted had his nap, and headed to the fiesta in the early afternoon. I had been given a parking permit from Bristol NCT as I was volunteering to do a shift in their Mother and Baby Tent the following day, so we literally drove to Ashton Court, and parked up – no problems! I had been preparing for a horrendous journey so was very pleasantly surprised. We headed in to the fiesta and realised the true scale of the event – it was huge! There was food and market stalls, funfair rides, live music, and people…….. EVERYWHERE! It was a great atmosphere and after mooching for a while Ted became a bit fractious and I was struggling with the heat. We found a perfect shady spot behind some of the stalls, away from the hustle and bustle and pretty much stayed there. It was just what I needed, Ted was so happy playing with his Grandparents and roaming about out of the heat, and I felt more comfortable too. We had such a fun afternoon, watching the helicopter rides taking off and the parachutists flying in to the arena, all from the comfort of our shady spot! We took it in turns to go out and venture round the site, and refuelled with an ice cream or a cold drink. When the time came for the balloons to ascend we headed out into the cooler evening air to see this spectacle. It was such a beautiful sight – the photographs we took do not do it justice and we loved watching the balloons inflate, rise and drift off into the distance. It was the perfect end to a lovely day. We decided not to stay for the Nightglow as it was getting late and Ted was absolutely exhausted, and had been so well behaved all day. We headed back to the car and the balloons followed us all the way home. We had absolutely no issues leaving the site, but saw the traffic backed up all the way into the city of people trying to enter for the evening, and we already knew at this point they weren’t letting any more people in to the fiesta as it had reached capacity. It really was absolutely heaving and I had started to feel a little bit unsafe, so I am glad we left when we did. Ted went straight to sleep when we got in and we had a take-away whilst watching the live-streaming of the Nightglow – perfect!

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The next morning my alarm was set for 5:30am to head back to the fiesta for my volunteering. I wanted to see the morning ascent before my shift in the NCT Tent started and once again I drove straight there and parked up with no problem. My only complaint is it took about 20 minutes to get a cup of coffee! But I sat and watched the morning ascent by myself and it was a really nice experience, really calm and much less people than the night before. I took loads of photographs and even Skyped my sister and nephew so they could see some of the balloons!

I then set off to start my volunteering shift, and after some terrible map reading on my behalf, I managed to find it! The NCT Bristol Tent was a place for families to come and use changing and feeding facilities during the fiesta. It was such a great idea to have this available at the fiesta which is such a family event. I met some really lovely ladies and babies whilst volunteering and was really pleased to be involved. NCT Bristol are always on the look out for volunteers, check out their Facebook page for more information.

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We rounded off our weekend with a bit of Shaun spotting on the Harbourside and a roast dinner. A great weekend with my wonderful family. Did you go to the Balloon Fiesta this weekend? How did you find it? Leave me a comment below and let me know! Xx

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