What a magnificent experience!
Having lived in the Dordogne since 2004, I’m pretty well acquainted with the stunning sights of the region. But, nothing prepared me for the wonders of a high-above-the-tops-of-the-Dordogne’s-tallest-trees balloon flight.
Ian had hinted at a hot air balloon ride from the very first day we arrived to live in the Dordogne. His hints were sometimes subtle (staring up at birds in the sky, he’d say, “wow, imagine the view they’d have from there”) and sometimes not-so-subtle, stomps feet, flaps arms, “when are we going on a balloon ride?” he’d wail. Then finally an excuse arrived, in the form of his father’s 80th birthday.
Secretly thinking the money could be better spent elsewhere, I reluctantly followed Ian and his parents to the meeting point where Patrick, pilot of the balloon, was waiting for us.
Upon meeting Patrick and his assistant Cedric, my fear of balloon flying subsided somewhat. They are a dream combination of calmness born out of experience, and wry, French humour. Hearing them talk with insightful confidence, I felt we were in very capable, very experienced hands.
Together we travelled to the take off site in the park of Chateau de Monrecour. Whilst Patrick waited for the wind to pick up and worked to inflate the balloon, we enjoyed the beautiful, opulent gardens of the chateau.
Watching Patrick work, calmly, methodically and intelligently my fear of the balloon flight subsided even more.
Once the balloon was inflated, Patrick showed us how to get into the basket and then, excited and full of anticipation (well, except for me, my nerves had rocketed skyward again) we were off! Up, up and away in our very own, very beautiful, very calmly floating balloon!
The evening was still and calm and the balloon floated quietly and smoothly. As the beautiful, bird’s eye view of the Dordogne unfolded beneath us, I forgot my fears and concerns about the cost and became enraptured at the unique perspective the flight was giving us of such otherwise familiar sights. We were awe struck by the magnificent views of the beautiful, meandering Dordogne River flanked by meadows filled with the colours of spring. We floated over the limestone cliffs of Beynac, over the tips and tops of Milandes, over the medieval towers of Castlenaud, the swirling gardens of Marqueyssac and the beautiful village of Roque Gageac, which, from this perspective appeared tiny and snuggled at the foot of its backdrop of limestone cliffs.
People on the ground – both in the charming tourist villages we are so familiar with as well as private homes and chateaus we’d never seen before, so hidden they were amongst dense, leafy vegetation – stopped and waved up at us.
In stark contrast, deer, water birds, birds of pray and farm animals ignored us entirely, carrying on with their business in a manner that spoke, “there goes those crazy humans in that wicker basket tied to a balloon again – sigh!”
The peace and tranquillity of the flight mixed with the joy at seeing the Dordogne from such a unique angle, was sublime. Life seemed, in that moment, as perfect as one could make it.
We wished we could float forever, but all things that go up must eventually come down, and here arrived my third concern: the landing. I gripped the edge of the basket, preparing for a jolty, bumpy ride, but, much to my surprise, the landing was completely smooth, bump and jolt free!
Once back on the ground, Patrick offered us a glass of local cider, which we enjoyed whilst sharing excitedly our stories of this amazing, over-much-too-quickly experience. The balloon, now deflated, created a colourful wash of silk across an equally colourful spring-flower-filled meadow and, as Cedric packed it away, I think we were all secretly wishing he’d re-inflate it so we could take off again.
The balloon flight left us overwhelmed by the beauty of this region in which we live. We are very eager for our guests to have the same, wonderfully memorable experience and are delighted to offer a 10% discount on balloon flights with Patrick to guests who stay at Le Chevrefeuille for four days or more. (see our special offers for details)
You can find out more and book at www.montgolfiere-du-perigord.com
And if you’re a nervous flyer? Don’t worry! I was too, but now I’m the one hinting that we should go on another balloon ride!