I believe I can fly : Bristol Balloon Fiesta

11838602_10152971672230966_3270047361781513894_o

If you tell people you live in UK or England, chances are that you will hear the traditional list of cliche used to depict this part of the world :

  • The bad weather and the rain ( .. well – not too far from reality)
  • The wrong legend that British food is not good and limited to Fish & Chips, Roast beef. UK actually has a lot of great food and recipes and I would need a full post to talk about all of them.

UK is also too often “reduced” to :

  • The city of London, Edinburgh, Manchester / Liverpool  if you are a fan of football
  • Queen Elizabeth, Kate Middleton, Harry and William and all the Royal family
  • Home of Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Shakespeare … you name it

All this to say that in the South West of England, there is a lovely city called Bristol which has A LOT to offer to put an end to the cliche people may have about England ( besides the rain thing … Yes – I must admit that quite often, it is pouring in Bristol).

Bristol is home to a great arts and overall culture scene, lovely food, cute coffee shops and summer/ spring festivals. From May until September, when the nice days kick-in, you will be able to find a festival pretty much every week-end. One that I particularly enjoy is the Bristol Balloon Fiesta that happens every year in August, in Ashton Court*. If you like Hot Air Balloon or want to spend a nice week-end with family and friends, this festival is for you, so make sure to spend few hours there if you are around.

What is the Bristol Balloon Fiesta?

It is an international Festival, featuring several hundreds of flights of Hot Air Balloons, and welcoming thousands of visitors over 3 days. On top of the balloons flights, the festival features 2 night glows, and a firework on the Saturday night. ( See the video of the night glow)

There is also a Fairground with lots of attractions for kids and adults. You will find wine and local food stands, local music talents. Long story short, everyone should be able to find attractions to be entertained during this festival.

The Bristol Balloon Fiesta is free and open to public.

It goes without saying that if you want to fly during the Balloon Fiesta, you would have to book in advance your flight. Note that prices to fly during this event are (for me) excruciatingly high compared to the prices that are practiced the rest of the year.

For me the best way to enjoy this festival is to go to Ashton Court in the mid-afternoon on Saturday, to enjoy a nice picnic with friends until the night kicks in, so you can see the night glows and the firework.

My advice if you want to go to the Balloon Fiesta :

Access by car is NOT recommended. There will be hundreds of cars and if you want to avoid being stuck for 2 hours to do less than 3 kms… avoid taking the car ( especially to leave after the firework, I REALLY do not recommend it.) There are buses services arranged for the event, and if you can come by foot – it is for me the best option.

Be prepared to see A LOT of people around. If you are with kids, or buggies : this may be a bit of a challenge. However, you do not need to go to Ashton Court itself if you want to see the shows or the balloons flying. You can have a great view from Clifton, or the White Lion Terrace  – so depending on your situation and whether you like crowds or not so much – you have several options available to you so you can enjoy this event.

The success of this event relies a lot on the weather:

  • If there is too much wind : balloons will not fly. As the whole point of this festival is to see those hundreds of balloons flying … it can be a bit of a non-event if they are to stay on the ground.
  • If it is rainy, the picnic and event in the park can be a bit challenging ( but not impossible) : back to 2014, it rained pretty much the whole afternoon and night but we were still able to see the night glows and the firework. We were blessed with a nice and dry summer in 2015 and the event was simply great.

Bring cash if you want to buy food or drinks ( but you can also bring your own picnic) , take sunscreen with you : when the sun kicks in, it can be quite strong and you could end up with a nice sunburn if you are not well prepared.

I really like this Festival because for 3 days you will see the Bristol sky full of balloons, which I found very pleasant and “romantic”. I also love to get to the festival on the Saturday afternoon to picnic with my friends  : it is a great moment to be all together, catch up and chill … one of the many little, simple pleasures in life.

If you need any additional reasons to go to Bristol  :

  • The street artist Banksy is said to be from Bristol : you can find a lot of his famous graffiti all over the city, including Naked Man,Mild Mild West, Girl with the Pierced Eardrum … (You can even see more if you walk around or go for the Banksy Tour organized by the city)
  • Bristol is the Europe Green Capital for 2015
  • We have amazing coffee bars, such as Brew, Bristol Coffee House, Spicer & Cole…
  • There are many lovely food places and restaurants which will put an end to the legend saying that UK food is not good or limited to roast beef, fish & chips, jelly puddings …
  • The great singer George Ezra is said to have studied and lived in Bristol for a while,

Ashton Court* :  

Ashton Court is a huge park (850 acres), with gardens, a mansion and many grasslands. There, you can walk, bike (but again I do not recommend you bike during the Balloon Fiesta), bring the kids over to play and enjoy outdoors.There is no admission fee to enter the park (But you may have to pay to take part to events organized at Ashton Court) There is a parking – it costs £1.20 per vehicle per day.

Advertisements

An elephant in the room

elephant

Before I start this post, let me quickly explain: “An elephant in the room” is an expression used to refer to a big problem that is easily noticeable but that nobody wants to discuss or even acknowledge. The Oxford English Dictionary credits the New York Times from June 20th, 1959, as the first recorded use of this phrase.

I am a big fan of expression and I think the best way to understand their meaning is to visualize them: can you imagine if you were in such a situation? Sitting with a group of people while an elephant is gently standing in the room, and where everybody decided to ignore it despite how big and noticeable the animal is?  That would sound quite awkward and uncomfortable, or even make you think you are not normal, wouldn’t it?

But have you ever wondered why some people would decide not to mention that bloody elephant?!As different as one can be, after all, having an elephant in the room is maybe not an issue for everybody. Maybe among the group :

1) some of them actually grew up in a circus and seeing an elephant in the room won’t be such an issue;

2) some of them are animal lovers and do not feel much bothered by that;  

3) last hypothesis : you are lucky enough to be in one of the Buckingham palace room – which have ceiling of 5 meters high and a surface of about 80 square meters for some of them, so after all,  the room is big enough to welcome it… why would they bother mentioning it!

On a more serious note : what can sound like a problem for you is maybe not perceived as such by someone else.  The best that can happen if you do not mention ” the elephant in the room” is that you feel annoyed about it and start worrying or being under pressure, if not highly frustrated at some point : that is not sustainable.

Perceptions vary across people. Instead of feeling weird or uncomfortable about that “elephant” , try to subtly bring it to the conversation to get a sense of what others think about it. In most situations, when there is an “elephant in the room”, everyone is impacted but nobody really knows how or when to mention it. Discussing the problem – as tough as it can be- can only help to work towards an improvement of the current situation.

It is all about discussing and clearing ambiguity – any issues can be solved if one takes the time to discuss, analyze it and see how to sort it out. Hence my motto is : “there are no issues, only solutions:”

I tried to be light in this post – No offence to anybody – to explain how speaking helps sorting out tough situations before they worsen.

Finally, if you happen to see an elephant in the room and that you are not in a zoo, or at a Natural Science museum… it is maybe worth you mention it loudly! 😉

On an art/culture note, in September 2006, the British artist Banksy set the phrase in visual form with an exhibit of a painted elephant in a room in the Barely Legal exhibition in Los Angeles. The picture I put in this post comes from the site : http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/sep/18/arts.artsnews