Rising Above It All: Ballooning in France

I always find crossing things off my ‘things to do before I die’ list extremely satisfying. I’ve had this list, annually reviewed and updated, since I was in my teens. Little did I know that on a recent driving holiday through France I would have this chance.

While planning our next move during our stint through France, I happened to notice a blurb about hot air ballooning in the Lonely Planet I was flipping through — something I had already mentioned that I wanted to do. For it to fulfill ‘the list’ criteria, it had to be ‘hot air ballooning over the Loire valley’ – who are you to argue with a list.

We were in Amboise, chatting about this possibility when we both looked up at something coming into our view – the very first balloon we’d seen on the whole trip happened to drift by. We looked at each other spookily and realized that this was the very place where it all happened. Although it was too serendipitous to ignore, I knew we were leaving the area early the next day. I quickly put it out of my mind and decided it would remain on my list for some other day – we’d just have to come back.

The next morning before breakfast, unbeknownst to me, a call was made. I couldn’t believe it when I heard that by later that afternoon we’d be in a hot air balloon taking the last two spots available for the entire season. I was ecstatic at the prospect of hot air ballooning over the Loire — never mind that it had been done as a surprise! “We’ll have to adjust our plans — is that ok?�? he asked. Hmmm. Ya, I think so.

Two groups of about 10 people drove from Chenonceau Palace where everyone met up, to a nearby field. After waiting around for the wind to be just right and watching the two balloons inflate, which I must admit was quite fascinating, we were ready to climb in. I was still quite giddy and angled my way to see right up into the brightly colored balloon and over the edge. It was much smoother than flying, and as someone who is normally not very comfortable with heights, I found it strangely relaxing.

We floated right over Chenonceau Palace, which in itself was worth the ride — it was so beautiful. We found ourselves over vineyards, old villages, people waving and even a dog trying to chase us from far below. It was spectacular. It was made even better as we could watch our sister balloon also floating through the air, giving us some perspective to what we ourselves were doing. The trip lasted just over an hour and was worth every penny of the 230ish Euros each we had spent. Landing was smooth and after everyone helped to collapse and fold up the balloon, we relished in our ‘ballooning high’ with a glass of complimentary champagne.

After such a successful surprise, I think I’ll make my ‘things to do before I die’ list a little more public.

For ballooning through France check out www.france-montgolfiere.com.

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  1. Sounds beautiful and romantic! What a lovely excursion.

  2. Betsy Husband says:

    Well written! Makes me dream and gets me excited for more traveling!

  3. Hey look – I’m writing to see if you’re the same Elaine Sipos I met on Crete about 15 years ago. I can’t tell from the photo, as you don’t look quite the same, but then it has been some time, so, who knows? Anyway, it’s Steven here, and we hit it off pretty well way back then in Heraklio. So, Elaine, if that’s you, I’d love to hear from you. I’m still painting, only a bit better these days.
    Yours, Steven.

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