A Wet and Windy Weekend in Wales

Just back from a wet and windy weekend in Wales, I thought I’d quickly share just ten photos from the trip (yes I know I’ve a huge backlog of Canada photos to share… all in good time!).  

I’ve been to south Wales a few times in autumn and winter but it’s the first time the weather has been quite so bad.  Rainstorms and gusty winds overnight meant some missed sleep, but luckily the worst of the daytime weather came when I was under cover.  

Saturday morning was rained out, and Plantasia in Swansea offered a watertight glass dome filled with plants and animals.  As the weather brightened up a lunchtime trip to Verdi’s Cafe in Mumbles gave the opportunity for views across Swansea Bay.  Being close to 5th November there were lots of fireworks to choose from in the area, and seeing a bonfire and fireworks in the shadow of Coity Castle was a treat.  

On Sunday a trip to the Cats Protection Bridgend Adoption Centre left me feeling a little sad that there were so many cats waiting to be adopted.  But I was perked up by a visit to St Fagans, and all the dark clouds didn’t lead to a drenching.  This was my second visit to the museum, which is a huge site with various buildings from all over Wales.  The buildings are dismantled brick-by-brick and rebuilt at St Fagans.  The St Teilo’s Church, for example, took twenty years to dismantle and move.  Autumn is a great time to visit and see all the buildings set amongst the colourful trees.

Bristol Balloon Fiesta 2015

It’s been a few weeks since the last blog post, due mainly to a wonderful trip to Canada.  Before I start to process the 700 photos from there it’s time to share these with you, just ten photos from the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

In 2015 the Bristol Balloon Fiesta celebrated its 37th year, and although I used to live close by this was my first visit.  The hot air balloons do an early morning and late afternoon ascent on each day, and wanting to guarantee good photos I opted to check the weather and head there for the afternoon and evening.

The weather was perfect for taking photos, but it drew in people in their masses.  The Fiesta is a free event, and it got so busy that Bristol city centre became gridlocked and the organisers had to turn people away.  I’d heard an estimate for 250,000 visitors, and it’s by far the most people I’ve ever seen in one place.  It explains why it took me nearly three hours to get out of the car park after the event – I hope for better traffic management in 2016!

The majority of the balloons were a normal shape, amongst them balloons from Cameron BalloonsBailey BalloonsBristol BalloonsVirginthe Royal Navy, and Loughborough University.  The stars of the show were the penguin shaped balloons from Fly Penguin.

The afternoon ascent and gentle wind gave balloons the chance to take off and drift towards the city and Clifton Suspension Bridge.  After sunset the night glow started – tethered balloons firing their burners to light up the sky.  And to finish some fireworks.

I’d have liked to have gone up in a balloon to get some photos from the sky looking down but didn’t get the chance.  When I was a child my father worked with someone who was on the team that flew Richard Branson and Per Linstrand on the first transatlantic hot air balloon flight in 1987.  I had the chance to go in a hot air balloon with them, and at the last moment got scared and decided against it.  A decision I rue to this day.  I will fly in a hot air balloon one day!

A Sunday Drive in the New MX-5

Everyone knows that I’m a big fan of the Mazda MX-5, the best selling roadster of all time.  If this is news to you then you should check out my posts Happy Birthday, Little MX-5MX-5 Owners Club National Rally 2014, and Goodwood Festival of Speed.

This month marks the UK launch of the fourth generation of MX-5.  I’d already seen the new car on a static display at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, but was delighted to be invited by Mazda to a VIP event in the Cotswolds where I’d be able to drive the car.  Needless to say I took my camera along too…

It was great to be able to compare the new MX-5 to my 20 year old first generation model and see how the design and technology have moved on.  For a start, the 1.5l engine of the new car is great and so much more spritely than the 1.8l in mine and I guess more economical too.  There is a 2.0l version of the new MX-5, but I can’t see why you’d need it.  That said I did have some fun with a fellow test driver who had the 2.0l model – he couldn’t match me on the corners (due to my skill, I’d like to think!), but on a hill climb he beat me comprehensively.

The short-throw gearbox makes for quick gear changes and the brakes are really sharp compared to my car.  The accelerator pedal seemed odd at first but I quickly took to it.  The new car certainly has a lot less rattles too!

The gadgets and gizmos really put my car to shame.  Integrated satellite navigation and entertainment system, power steering, built-in USB chargers, nifty cup holders (which I found also make great lens holders!), climate control, heated seats had me drooling with desire.

For me it’s an almost perfect car, greatly doing what it’s designed to do.  The only three niggles I could name are that the steering feels too light for me (I think it’s ‘fly by wire’ and you get very little feedback), the two exhausts are on one side rather than one on each side (my OCD likes symmetry), and the lack of pop up headlights (due to pedestrian safety laws).

So, will I be buying one?  Absolutely.  Well, in a couple of years when the prices fall.  Of course, if any readers want to do a car swap or buy me a new MX-5 then get in touch!

Oxford Christmas Market 2014

Over the last few years German Christmas markets have become very popular in the UK, with stalls selling traditional German food, drinks, and gifts.  In a similar style local Christmas markets are popular too, like this one in Oxford.

The Oxford Christmas Market is run by Nicole Rahimi (who, ironically, is German), and for its first few years was run in the picturesque Oxford Castle complex but after a one year break popped up in Oxford’s Broad Street.  Broad Street is much less photogenic but better for the market as it’s next to the main shopping area and attracts lots of passers by.

These photos were taken after dark, and next year I hope to spend a bit more time at the market to get some daylight photos too.

Mayflower Park Fireworks

A few photos from the fireworks at Mayflower Park, Southampton, 8th November 2014.

All of these photos were taken with the camera handheld using a variety of techniques.