June 11-19, 2002
It was a last minute decision.
Fourteen hours before Watcharee and I were booked to fly from Saint Petersburg, Russia to Paris ... and then on to Bangkok ... well, we changed our minds.
"Hey, let’s go to France! We’ll leave Russia, drive back to Helsinki ... stay at The Torni Hotel ... take the overnight ferry to Stockholm, and then head on down to Beaune!"
"OK! Let's do it. Out of Russia! On to The Torni!"
Slowly ... we are moving from Helsinki to Beaune. First by sea and then by land.
Yesterday we drove from Stockholm to Denmark ... enroute crossing by an indifferently manned (benign?) border and over a great big expensive1 suspension bridge.
Also, many kilometers later, we weathered a windy ferry ride from Denmark to Germany. It wasn't until midnight that we checked into the Hotel Montana.
Today we drove from Hanover to Beaune: the home of contemporary corkscrews. One shop in particular is the shrine for all contemporary corkscrews.2
Now, after 1535 miles of driving: Saint Petersburg - Helsinki - Hanover - Beaune ... it's time to fall into bed.
We will be fresh tomorrow....for ballooning in Burgundy.
1 Our four vehicles paid about 300 Euros (about $285.00) for the single crossing.
2 Yes, dear reader, look at the shop. It is right across from our hotel: L'Hotel de Beaune. But, look closer ... it sells almost nothing but corkscrews. And, dearest reader, look closer; do you see those stickers on the door? Yes. They are from years past ... from our ancient patronage. Paul may even be able to find links from long ago when we visited the shop and took the owner for a ride in our corkscrew balloon. Or even when I dined at her home along with her son and his girl friend.
Saturday, June 15, 2002
Corkscrew Balloon #3 is back home: Beaune.
Tonight she (C-B3) had her first flight over French soil in more than two years.1 We inflated her in a quarry near Nolay. Dan the Dent Man practiced his Frisbee hand inside the mother ship while the inflation fans were at work ... (and he was not)!
For the take off we had 10 crew, 1 pilot, Watcharee and myself (the latter not seen as I was taking the picture).
Dan was totally responsible for the in-flight meal ... one Thai dish, five French dishes and one supermarket tub of ice cream.
Watcharee and I were the only paying passengers.
The landing was uneventful.
1 It was about two years ago that I brought Watcharee out of Thailand ... for her first trip abroad ... and that was to Vault du Lugny. Becky's place is just about an hour up the Autroroute from Beaune; and that is where Watcharee first saw the 'flying ladies'.
Today French voters went to the polls to choose a new legislature. We did not! We went Go-Karting ... and, due to French apathy on the 'track', we had the whole 'route' to ourselves.
The sky, too, was empty. We had it to ourselves, as French voters1 were glued to their televisions awaiting the results of their votes.
Chateau Laborde, as well, was empty (save for us) as all of France had eaten dinner before we had even left the kitchen (that's Dan, at the cooking station).
By the way, we are the only guests in our hotel ... but this is because L'Hotel de Beaune has just now opened for business. Anyway, it only has seven rooms. We are in room #2.
1 More than a 15% turnout was expected.
Rarely does The House of Corkscrew Balloon Dot Com allow previously unvetted passengers to ride in one of its great machines. However, tonight an exception was made for the Receptionist at our hotel: Marie-Aurelie.1
Nothing more need be said.
Tomorrow Watcharee and I will fly back home to Bangkok.
1 Dan vouched for her.
We spent eleven and a half hours on Air France ... from CDG to BKK.1 It was aboard an Airbus that had just one row of first class seating: 2 - 2 - 2 (Seats 1A, 1B, 1C, ID, 1E and 1F). Behind that were a dozen rows of Business Class: 2 - 3 - 2 (2A, etc. to 13G). Further back the Economy rows went from 14 to 127: 4 - 6 - 4 (14A to 127N).
Watcharee was in 1A. I took the picture from 1B.
The best in-flight entertainment was the moving map. The best part is always just about when you are on the far side of Calcutta. The turbulence is fun or terrifying for everyone except for the Valium takers.
We had dinner at The Oriental. Watcharee, again had the best seat.
Please tune in tomorrow for the next chapter: Bangkok Just Before Elephant Polo.
1 Paris to Bangkok.
Next: Back in Bangkok