My Canadian holiday last year was split between two cities – St. John’s followed by Toronto. St. John’s is a city on the east coast of Canada, about as close to the UK as you can get and just five-and-a-half hours flight from London. In fact you can fly directly to St. John’s Airport. It’s where my friends live, who kindly offered to put me up for eight nights and show me the sights before heading onto Toronto.
Surrounded by the natural beauty of Newfoundland, pronounced ‘Newfinland’ by the locals, St. John’s is built around a harbour and overlooked by Signal Hill. It was my first experience of Canada and the North American continent and it definitely lived up to my expectations with wide roads, big cars, and friendly people.
The city itself sprawls from the harbour to the countryside, with the downtown area being a hub of offices and shops. It’s quite different to a UK town or city, as the ‘centre’ doesn’t have a high street with full of commonplace stores, they tend to be on retail parks and malls dotted around the city.
I explored the bars, restaurants, and shops downtown. What made it stand out for me was colour of the jellybean row houses, the sight of arriving cruise ships, and the views from Signal Hill.
I also used St. John’s as a base to explore some of Newfoundland, and even with a week in the area I only managed to cover a small part of what Newfoundland has to offer (the part known as the Avalon Peninsula) getting as far as Come By Chance.
If you get to visit St. John’s I recommend visiting these places… Tim Hortons for amazing coffee, Quidi Vidi for lovely walks and a local brewery, Signal Hill for views over the City, The Bagel Cafe for the best breakfast known to man, the Johnson Geo Centre for some entertaining education, George Street for endless bars and the opportunity to be screeched in, and The Yellow Belly for Canadian Poutine.
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 Balloons, Bailey Balloons, Bristol Balloons, Virgin, the 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!
When I heard about the Festival of Light event at Longleat I knew I had to go and get some photographs for the blog. In terms of night time light events I’ve experienced it’s second only to the ‘fire garden’ event at Stonehenge as part of cultural celebrations of the London 2012 Olympics.
The Festival of Light is the first cultural event of its kind in Europe and consists of twenty hand-crafted displays built and placed by a team of over one hundred from the Sichuan province in China.
The scale of the works, dotted around Longleat House, is simply amazing. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of people on the evening I went and as you’ll see below there was lots of space to get photographs.
Because of the dark conditions and high contrasting lights I took my trusty Olympus OMD E-M1 and 25mm f1.8 lens (a great combination for low light and sharp photographs) and one leg of my Three Legged Thing tripod called Brian as a monopod. Someone walked past and commented that it was the biggest selfie stick they’d ever seen… sometimes I despair! Most of the photos were taken in aperture priority mode and using the monopod to reduce any camera shake.
I really hope Longleat do something similar next winter, I’d love to spend more time wandering around getting even more photos.