Not the song but a unique way of flying like a bird over incredible landscapes, meandering rivers and being one to one with our feathered friends and in a hot air balloon it’s an amazing experience. It might be to fulfil your childhood dream or an original gift idea for a special birthday but either one of these is the perfect way to remember an unforgettable experience. The hot air balloon is the oldest and successful human-carrying flight technology and is termed under balloon aircraft. The Montgolfier brothers invented this amazing aircraft in 1783 and on November 21st the first manned flight was performed in Paris by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d'Arlandes. Since then hot air ballooning started to become popular and even in today’s age of more sophisticated air travel the hot air balloon still holds mystery and excitement.
A hot air balloon consists of a bag called the envelope that is capable of containing heated air. Suspended beneath is a wicker basket which carries the passengers and the source of heat is an open flame. The hot air inside the envelope makes it buoyant against the cold air outside. As with all aircraft they cannot fly beyond the atmosphere. Since the mid 70’s balloon envelopes have been made in all kinds of shapes, such as rocket ships and shapes of various commercial products but the traditional shape still remains the most popular.
Most balloon rides take place within 2 hours of dawn to approximately 2 hours before dusk as this is when the air is at the most stable. Also the rising sun and sun setting is probably the most wonderful time to capture the sights. That’s not to say that flying during the day is not as wonderful, it is. A nice spring or autumn day is where the colours are at their best and the air is the clearest. The actual time in the air is approximately one hour and passengers are normally invited to participate in the pre and post flight preparation and dismantling of the balloon and this is all part of the experience.
The baskets are divided into compartments and generally no more than 6 people in each compartment. There are of course, private flights for couples who can also celebrate with champagne, often to celebrate their wedding or anniversary.
Clothing should be sensible and suitable if you were going for a country walk and of natural fibres if possible. Trousers for ladies are best with sensible walking shoes or boots. The reason being is the balloon will take off from a field and the grass may be damp or cowpats and stilettos or sandals would not do. A hat or cap is sensible to protect you from the heat of the burners. Space is also restricted in some baskets so it’s advisable not to have large rucksacks or bags.
Most hot air balloon sites will only allow children over 8 years old and over 1.4m tall and must be accompanied by an adult. Generally there is no upper age limit but you must be agile enough to climb in and out of the basket and be able to stand for at least an hour. In South West France there are quite a few hot air balloon sites ranging from the Dordogne where you will fly across the Dordogne River taking in sights of the majestic chateaux that line this meandering river or in Gascony where the countryside is lush with forests and some wonderful manoirs and chateaux
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