Thursday, September 30, 2010

Loire Valley: Hot Air Ballooning

I would like to mention that I have "issues" with heights and vertigo. Airplanes don't bother me, but glass elevators with a view make my feet tingle and my palms sweat. High-rise buildings with ceiling to floor windows freak me out and roller coasters where my feet dangle are out of my ability. I'll ride roller coasters that have a bottom to them, but scream the entire time.

So, on our visit to France, my darling husband asks our friends there to set up a hot air balloon ride for us over the Loire Valley. Huh? Since I know my fears are completely irrational and only in my mind, I agree to the adventure, silently hoping the weather will rescue me and the ride will be canceled.

The weather did not meet my expectations. So we headed to Amboise for a balloon ride.

Take a look at the video I captured. A few notes:
  • The jitter is not from the balloon ride. I was shaking the time we were in the air. 
  • The first part of the video shows the filling of the balloon. This was a totally awesome process and fast, even though the first time they turned on the fire to heat the air I freaked out. Seriously - that is a wicker basket there with fire like 3 feet away from it!!
  • You'll also notice how silent the video is in the air until the jets come on. They are loud and very, very hot. You feel the heat and the taller guys in our basket (just thinking about that basket makes my palms sweat again) felt a bit singed. 
  • Please also note there is no bathroom on-board the basket. If sheer terror makes you feel like you have to pee -- too bad. 
  • You stay up in the air about an hour, but the whole adventure takes about 3 hours. 

Our balloon crew were France Montgolfier and were truly lovely people. Our pilot, Pierre, was fantastic and had a wicked sense of humor. When the balloon landed, the guys in the basket were asked to help move it closer to the truck and then everyone pitched in to roll up the balloon. We were treated to some fruit bread and sparkling wine afterwards, while hanging in the field in which we landed.

It was an experience I will never forget - I am very happy I braved it and conquered my fears. It was incredibly memorable, I would honestly recommend it to anyone who isn't terrified of heights and even to those who are but think they can manage it. That being said, I don't expect to sign up any time soon for the balloon rides just north of my home in Napa Valley.

-- Happy Ballooning!


  1. I was looking for reviews and stuff on Moulin Bregeon and I came across your blog. I am considering staying there when I go to the Loire valley in late September of this year. I was also considering taking a hot air balloon ride from this company. Do you remember if it was a long drive to Amboise? Did you find the location of the Moulin convenient for sightseeing?

  2. @Amy: Moulin Bregeon is about 30 minutes from everything! It is the country, so there is that - but it is very central to the entire Anjou area.

    It was a fairly long drive to Amboise, maybe 45 minutes? But I do highly recommend the hot air balloon group we used. They were just so amazing! We made a day of it and visited Amboise itself and Da Vinci's residence there.

  3. Amy, I stumbled on your blog and love it. I travel with a bunch of nurses and one of the stops in May 2011 is Amboise. I'm going to arrange the balloon trip. Are you supposed to tip the pilot?