Ages ago, my Mum started going on about this Hot Air Balloon Festival in Eastbourne, East Sussex. At the time it was far too soon to start projecting into the future and decide whether I would be free to go to it, so I neither accepted nor rejected her invite to go. She got tickets anyway, and it turned out that by the time it came along, I was actually free and in a good enough mood to drive all the way there on a hot Summer’s day.
Firstly, it wasn’t a hot Summer’s day. Not at all. You’ll read more about that later, but for now, let’s just say, I was wearing a jumper and packed an umbrella just in case. I hopped into the car, programming the post code into Maps, and headed off. Within minutes, the little man in my phone told me to go a different way than I was expecting. Ah well, around here, everything all kind of leads to the same place eventually, so I went with it. Soon though, I found myself driving in the most random directions, through several villages before pretty much doing a loop back to where I’d first been diverted. A minor blip. Only slightly annoying. I would still get to see balloons at the end of it, and maybe even get to ride in one!!! Woo!
Towards the end of the journey, I became distrustful of the little man in my phone again as he seemed to be sending me off towards Brighton, not Eastbourne, but then, signs to the festival started popping up, so I followed them instead. I then came to a closed road, and men in neon jackets were redirecting the traffic. I had to turn around in a bit of an awkward spot, and eventually came across the entrance to Hampden Park, where the festival was taking place. But that road was closed too! I saw a sign showing the way to a designated parking area for the event, so headed off up the road. It was a residential road with cars parked tightly along both sides. This made it very tricky to squeeze past the oncoming traffic while looking out for somewhere to park up. Some wise guy even beeped at me for no valid reason which irritated me. Eventually, I realised that I didn’t need to find a spot on the road as the nearby school car park was open for the event. Cool. Finally, after well over an hour, we had arrived!
But then, THE RAIN CAME…
Hoping this would only be a light shower, we got out the car and headed along to Hampden Park. There were quite a lot of people wandering around, braving the rain, and I had high hopes that my long, slightly stressful journey would all be worth it… We turned into the gate and… well, there wasn’t an awful lot to see. Most of the park was empty and there was a cluster of fairground rides and stalls in the middle, with a couple of food vans off in the distance, but that was kind of it. Meh. Never mind. It was the balloons I’d come to see!
Battling with umbrellas and heavy backpacks, we strolled across the wet grass in search of the balloons, but there was no sign of them. There wasn’t even a sign to suggest that any particular area was worth waiting around in just in case some might show up. Could the rain have put a stop to them? Surely they could have at least had some there to look at, even if they couldn’t fly… But no. No balloons.
Off in the distance I noticed a van selling waffles, so I decided to get myself one. There was no way I was going to drive all this way to walk across a wet field, then turn back and go home again. I had to find something enjoyable here! And luckily, the waffle was very, very enjoyable indeed. Chocolate chip with chocolate sauce. Amazing. The only downside was, there was nowhere dry to sit, so I had to awkwardly poke at the waffle with my fork while trying to keep my umbrella over my head.
Once the waffle was gone, I’d pretty much given up all hope of enjoying myself here, so suggested we go home. There was no sign of hot air balloons, we’d already seen everything there was to see, and I was soaked. Note to self: wear waterproof shoes in the rain next time, yeah? We headed back across the field, had a quick wee in the portaloos (they didn’t have sinks – ugh), stopped briefly to watch some drummers (who were all facing inwards so we couldn’t actually see them properly) and headed out of the park.
Now, here’s the highlight of my day… On the way out of the park, I met a cute dog. Honestly, had his owner not been watching, this adorable pooch may well have found himself being bundled into my bag and taken home. He was genuinely the perfect dog. I miss him already…
We left the festival feeling utterly disappointed and underwhelmed. The selling point was the chance to see hot air balloons, and we didn’t see a single one. I had such high hopes of catching some awesome shots of them in flight, and maybe even experiencing my first ever hot air balloon ride, but all we saw were a few stalls and some not particularly good singers. Thank heaven for waffles and dogs, that’s all I can say! Back in the car, I actually felt relieved to be on the road again, and despite the torrential rain, it was quite a pleasant drive (I decided against trusting the little man in my phone and just followed the signs instead). It’s just a shame that the event was such a wash out. Ah well, you win some, you lose some! At least the tickets were free!