People have been going up in hot air balloons in France since 1783, courtesy of the inventive Montgolfier brothers. Today, hot air ballooning is a popular tourist activity in the Greater Daglan Area — and our village often has some close encounters of the surprisingly loud kind.
If you’ve never been near one of these craft, it’s probably the noise that will surprise you the most. Gas-fed flames roar like a small jet engine as they rush up into the balloon. Then the fire fills the balloon with air that’s much hotter (and therefore lighter) than the surrounding air, and thus provides the necessary lift.
Lately, because of the brilliant weather we’ve been enjoying, my wife Jan and I have seen quite a few of the balloons (or montgolfières) over the village. Typically, flights are in the early morning or late afternoon, when the wind tends to be fairly gentle.
Here’s a photo that Jan took from near our house a few days ago, showing a balloon peeking past a walnut tree and drifting towards the tower of the village’s church:
Recently we were in the centre of the village, having a coffee at the Fabrice le Chef boutique, when the same balloon happened by (same balloon, different day). Here’s a series of photos I took, starting with a view of the balloon coming towards us, over the post office:
And here it is, getting closer all the time, as the passengers waved to us:
At this point, the pilot hit the gas, the flames roared, and the balloon started to rise:
Now it’s getting even more altitude, probably in anticipation of the hill that it will soon encounter on the outskirts of Daglan:
And here it is just before a gentle wind carries it out of view:
As it happens, the smiling balloon in these photos is operated by Montgolfières du Périgord, but there are other companies in the area you can contact if you’re interested. They include France Montgolfières and Perigord Dordogne Montgolfières.
These are not cheap dates, by the way. A one-hour flight costs in the region of 150 to 200 euros per person, so it’s worth checking a few websites before you firm up your plans.
As for the staff here at Radio Free Daglan, we are quite happy staying on the ground and waving at the balloon passengers. Oh yes — and putting the 200-euro fee towards a lovely lunch at a Michelin-starred restaurant. But you probably already knew that.