In this first part of these articles, I wrote about the huge iron-steamer from the 19th Century, the SS Great Britain. I also talked about the central Millenium Square as well as the giant Bristol Cathedral. Continuing with some of my favourite sights around Bristol, I'll talk a bit about the Clifton Suspension bridge and the Avon Gorge, as well as the International Balloon Festival.
Most of the best known and loved photos of Bristol will include this dramatic and remarkable bridge, that spans the Avon Gorge, more than 110 metres above the River Avon. At just over 410 metres and with 81 pairs of vertical metal rods holding this giant shape in place, it's one of the most impressive bridges in the UK, and really sets the scene for an entrance into the city of Bristol. Like the SS Great Britain mentioned in the previous article, the bridge was also designed by the renowned engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and due to his genius, has stood the test of time, moving into the modern era of large trucks and endless cars with no issues or complaints. The best place to see this amazing bridge and the peaceful way it sits in the surrounding landscape is probably from Clifton Down, the nearby park and open public space.
During the first weeks of August, 130 soaring hot air balloons take to the sky, and create a fantastically beautiful scene over this pretty city. Sometimes more than 100,000 people come to watch these floating baskets take off, and often the 6am mass rising as the sun is coming up is the most popular, but the evenings are still very popular so it's worth arriving fairly early to get a good spot to see the night-time fun (during the day it's not so important as the balloons are high in the air and everyone can see).
The balloons are not just a bit of daytime visual fun, as the balloon party also has a night-time element. The 'night glow' as it is known, is when the balloons go up at night, and light up in time to music in a prearranged and practised demonstration. During these night shows there is also fireworks and music to go along with the balloons. The event started in the late 70's, and has now become one of the largest and most popular hot air balloon festivals in Europe, with as many as 100 balloons all launching at the same time, which is normally dawn and dusk (around 6am and 6pm). There are not just balloons to watch and enjoy at the festival, as stands, rides, stalls and food all come along with the show,
The balloon festival is the perfect example of why Bristol is a little bit different that some other more commercial cities in the UK. The focus of life in Bristol seems to be a lot more tilted towards fun, culture and experience and less about rushing around as fast as possible.
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