Thursday, October 13, 2005

In my beautiful, my beautiful balloon

Although this didn't exactly take place in Sicily, the idea originated there, as did the players . . .

Last weekend, Columbus Day LONG weekend for us government employees (aka your tax dollar$ at work!), a group of about a dozen of us drove a million miles and back (so it seemed) to a hot air balloon festival up near Naples . . . and it was well worth it! Despite a horrible ten hours each way in the world's most uncomfortable tour vans, we all seriously enjoyed the balloon rides and the festival itself.

Probably 12-20 balloonists from different countries in Europe were there, and the coolest thing was that we all rode in different balloons. Two colleagues and I were lucky to ride with a handsome young Frenchman (Matthew) and his pretty wife. The only condition of his taking us, besides paying, of course, was that we had NOT voted for Bush. No problem.

Early Saturday morning, it was foggy and not too promising. However, patches of blue sky were appearing, and suddenly all the balloonists began at once to unpack, unroll, and inflate their balloons with large fans and jets of fire. When our balloon was indeed upright, we hopped (or rather scrambled, struggled, hoisted ourselves) into the wicker baskets and OFF we went!

This was not my first balloon ride, but it was as thrilling, even without the champage breakfast. The coolest thing about the balloons is that you don't feel any movement, any sensation of rising or lowering, but you can see that you are by the position of the earth.

This captain was great. We skimmed the tops of huge pine trees and then shot up through the clouds and came out above them to bright skies and sunshine. Delores and I recalled a few lines of "Up, Up and Away" ala the Fifth Dimension (remember them?). As we drifted, the sun burnt away most of the clouds and fog and we could see the gorgeous Italian countryside below before landing (a little roughly) in a plowed muddy field. I took a hundred photos, as did all the others. Every one of us loved the experience!

We celebrated afterwards with a fabulous special "ballon festival menu" at an agriturismo restaurant where every couse was a beautiful work of art as well as a gourmet delight. That and plenty of wine sent us all back to the hotel for a long afternoon nap in preparation for an evening at the town's festival. There, I saw for the first time the "knights" on galloping large horses attempting to grab the brass ring with a long lance. The horses were large! And the galloping fast! Sparks flew from their hooves on the pavement. We all bought little balloon souvenirs and generally just enjoyed the quaint and picturesque little town, the vendors, the contest, and each other. Bravo for ballooning!


At October 19, 2005 12:53 AM, Blogger Colleen in CA said...

Sounds like a wonderful weekend! Last year I went on my first hot air balloon ride in Napa, CA, and loved it! So peaceful up there in the sky ... I enjoyed looking down at the ground from the level of a hot air balloon.
Great photos!


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