After a lazy morning and a longish lunch Becky and I set off for Beaune in Simone's car.As Becky needed to pick up a large order of wine from a shipper in Vosne Romanee, she first deposited me and our luggage at Hotel de la Poste before continuing on up the road with one goal in mind: to stuff and wedge her trunk and seats full with cases of Romanee, Richebourg, La Tache and assorted other great red burgundies. Yes, her Chateau wine cellar is really becoming quite formidable, even by Burgundian standards.
My daughter, Annie, and her two boys had already checked in to the hotel room directly above us. They had arrived at CDG in the morning aboard a flight from Seattle, via an inconvenient Cincinatti connection. As Chris and Cam had never been to Paris before, Mike, the greeter, gave them a quick "drive by" view of a few of the "must sees" of the city.
Very late in the afternoon (or early evening? ... I mean in which visual bracket does 8PM CET time fall during the summer months?) our mini convoy made up of a Previa and a Jeep (with the balloon basket in tow) headed in a vaguely westerly direction toward a special spot in the town of Couches. Almost three years ago, at this same spot, Corkscrew Balloon One had its maiden flight. This "spot" being Chateau Marguerite de Bourgogne, a beautiful fortified assortment of buildings that range in age from the 11th to the 15th century.
It was a mint perfect evening for our flight: a clear sky and a gentle wind. That was good as we had a near virgin chase crew: for two out of the three of them this was the first time that they had ever seen a balloon this close up. The inflation process took a bit of time as Mike used it as a useful teaching vehicle.
The flight was another seamless beauty.
The near midnight post flight dinner was held at the Beaune headquarters of the Crippled International Jet Fighter Warehouse (aka the jet junkyard compound with a trashy motorcycle annex). The candle lit dinner in this surrounding of twisted metal was very surreal but everyone enjoyed it.
This morning I paid a visit to my favorite shop for new and faux antique corkscrews. It is Marcel Louis's "Le Vigneron", located at 6 Rue D'Alsace in the heart of Beaune. I first discovered this place a couple of years ago when I was aimless in Beaune. Then ... yes, back THEN, the owner was just closing up for the mid day break and, surprisingly, she invited me to her home to have lunch with her family. It was a very enjoyable meal accompanied by a bottle of wine from the year that her son was born. I still have the cork from that memorable lunch.
So, every time that I return to Beaune I revisit her shop in quest of "new" corkscrews. Or, corkscrew souvenirs for my ground crew. Though my crew seem pleased when I give them these cork extractors, I think that they would prefer money or things from Rolex.
I guess that I really am a creature of habit. For today's lunch we returned to our favorite site for moules and frites, Les Marinieres. It is located on the ring road: the road that circles the old section of Beaune. I have visited this place many times before, somethimes with camera in hand. Previous web-recorded visits occurred in October 1996 and October 1997. I was also there on September 6 and 9, 1997, although I didn't shoot any photos then.
The weather was awfully sticky today. Sunny and wonderful for being out of doors; but way too windy for safe ballooning. So, the balance of the afternoon was a bit of a wash for us. In the evening we returned to the CIJFW for a dejavu (did I spell that right? Maybe the letters run together too much?) meal.
Today was a real double dip for flights.
At about 5:30 this morning the phone rang with some good news: the cold front that was due to arrive here turned totally benign ... no rain ... no gales ... no anything bad. We spirited ourselves off to an abandoned soccer field for our take off, praying all the time that the nasty thermals would not kick in and screw up our day.
Great flight! I don't want to bore you with the details: but after about 90 minutes in the air we landed in a very hard to find location. ... My guess is that this trip was a cleverly designed test for the chase crew: a learning experience for the guys. ... Hey, can you find us?
After returning to the hotel, Annie and the boys and I visited the market in Beaune. Every Saturday there is a blocks long super street market in town that offers everything from fine wine to furniture. Anyway, after walking for a couple of hours we stopped for restoratives at Route 66, a bar with an American road theme, as you can sagely guess from the name. We lingered for a while watching the shoppers.
As the boys were not hungry, I went by myself to Le Bistro de L'Huitre for a dozen of their best. Every time I come to Beaune I pay at least a couple of visits to this oyster Mecca. If you want the address for the best it is: Le Bistro de L'Huitres. 45, rue Maufoux dupuis, Beaune. You can phone him at 03 80 24 71 28.
This evening we spent two hours drifting in the balloon. By the time we landed it was almost dark. By the time that we finished the obligatory Champagne it was very dark. We finished dinner at midnight.
I was going to return for lunch to Le Bistro de L'Huitre for another dozen of the same, but the boys were on a pizza and pomme frites roll. So, we compromised on a thinly veiled non-vegetarian restaurant: "The Pig and Beef." Well, in French it IS spelled a bit differently. Whatever, this ring road restaurant is a favorite haunt of my ground crew ... a group of guys who eschew crepes, quiche and dainty foods of that ilk.
Anyway, this evening we took off from the shore of a small lake not far out of Beaune. The weather was ideal for the locals: they were fishing and picnicking by the water and doing all sorts of fun things. They showed only a mild interest in our inflation process ... but, once we were in the air their attention was fixed. Maybe they were wondering if we would drop like a stone. The French are that way, aren't they? Curious, but not overtly so. But, when we landed we had convoys of locals doing their best to help ease the balloon into a safe spot, away from the high tension power lines that shift trillions of watts all around France. We rewarded the adults with Champagne (Mumms) and the children with American Champagne (Coke).
Like last night, we had another late buffet at LaBorde, the world headquarters of Bombard Balloon Adventures. The actual dining area is in a former greenhouse that now doubles as a balloon basket warehouse AND a place for entertaining. The place is entirely illuminated by candle power. Dozens of empty bottles of Mumm Champagne, all sprouting white candles, are all over the place. It is a really nice place to end the evening.
This afternoon we made the transit to Vault de Lugny. In the Previa it took us about 90 minutes (note: Becky covers the same route in 59 minutes flat ... but, she has the advantage of Porsche power).
Le Roy room had not changed much in my four day absence: a lamp or two was moved, a table was shifted ... gee, why am I so into meaningless detail? I guess I just wondered why the prior guest felt the need to rearrange the furniture.
We lifted off from the lawn right in front of the Chateau. This is one of the most beautiful spots from which to launch a balloon. It was about 8PM when we left the ground. And, Becky willingly abandoned her hotel guests to join us for the evening ride. We had next to no breeze tonight so we hardly went anywhere: up and down a lot, but not much else compass wise. Hey, after a full 90 minute flight it took us only about 10 minutes to get back to the Chateau in our pokey Previa.
The only disadvantage about ballooning during the summer in Europe is the time shift. Because the sun lingers so long in the sky we are at the mercy of thermals until very late in the afternoon. This means that dinner is always shifted deep into the night. Port and cheese consumed at 1AM certainly don't welcome juice and corn flakes a few hours later.
The air was still today: good conditions for a high pop up ... it was boiling hot on the ground, so we decided to take advantage of Mother Nature's own air conditioning system: height. At almost 11,000 feet higher than the ground it was sweater cool wonderful weather. We lingered there for about 45 minutes before heading down to a tree tops level. As, at that high altitude ground speed is a bit of a guess, we outdistanced our chase crew by miles. We were on the ground for about 15 minutes before they made their show. But, that was not a problem as the usual assortment of locals were there to greet us.
The wind changed today. It was out of the west (or, maybe the east ... gosh, I can never remember whether a "westerly" is coming there or going there) ... anyway, we floated right over the medieval city of Avallon. All the times that I have come here I have never been able to make this course work, even though Avallon is only a few kilometers from the Chateau. The city is much prettier from the air than from the ground. But, that is usually the case, isn't it? We had a little strawberry balloon with us as our vague companion for most of the flight. I think it is a Cameron 105. Anyway, it took off from Becky's chateau a few minutes after we were airborne. It roughly paralleled our track.
When we landed it looked like there would be no locals with which to share our Champagne ... ahh, but, we were wrong. Just as the bottle of Mumms lost its cork a couple arrived on the scene. I think it was a father and daughter as the father took a keen interest in Annie. Within minutes he proposed a tennis date. Annie begged off. Anyway, the "daughter" took a photo of the two of them together drinking the obligatory Champagne. I am really going to have to marry this girl off or get her a serious chaperone.
Today's excitement: as for me, reading in a hammock, was the "escape" of one of Becky's horses: Nimrod. He crossed the stream into a neighbor's field and chased the lambs into a frenzy. The shepherd called and we were hastily dispatched to capture the rogue beast. When he saw us coming he wisely re-crossed the field to his home turf. Tomorrow, up goes an electric fence.
Thunderstorms squashed the idea of a flight tonight. As I write, rain and thunder is all around us. Actually, it is a pleasant break from the sunny stuff of the past couple of weeks.
Anyway, in lieu of a flight tonight my crew and I are going to have a final dinner at the Chateau. Becky is going to prepare something special for everyone.
After a three hour drive to CDG I flew Air France to Miami. At least that was what was on my schedule.
See you all in Italy, when Paul takes over the pen.