Friday, 25 January 2008

Chateau d'Oex - Festival de Ballons

On Sunday we took the panoramic train from Monteux to Chateau D'Oex for the Festival International de Ballons. We were lucky because this year it was the 30th anniversary of the event.

Chateau d'Oex has a strong history of ballooning with its unique micro-climate; Bertrand Piccard, from Lausanne, and Brian Jones, England, made a record-breaking 45,000km round-the-world balloon flight in 1999, starting from the little Swiss town.

We got up nice and early to catch the first flights of the day, however the train was completely packed and ran a little late so when we came around the corner approaching Chateau d'Oex we could already see a few balloons in the sky.

It was an amazing sight in the clear, cold, air, with the balloons drifting down the valley before lifting up into the sky above the mountains and somehow managing to navigate a circular route back to the take-off/landing area.

The last time we came to Chateau d'Oex it was freezing cold, windy and raining. This time the weather was perfect, with no clouds or wind, and the snow on the ground added to the spectacular view without our feeling any colder.

We eventually grew tired of watching the balloons taking off, and once we had seen demonstrations of parasailing, parachuting and wingsuit flying (which appeared as a streak across the sky) we took the teleferique up the mountain to the ski resort above Chateau d'Oex. Even at the top of the mountain the air was clear and still and the view over the town below was amazing.

After all this the sun was going behind the mountains and the temperature started to drop - we decided it was time to go home. We skipped the first train after it became apparent we would be jammed in with all the returning skiers and balloon-watchers, opting instead for a hot chocolate and plate of chips to warm us up as we waited for the next train.

By the time we got home we were sleepy from the train ride down the mountain, but very happy with our day of balloon watching. If the weather is as fine next year I think we will have to buy ourselves a ride in one of the balloons and watch the event from above.


Benjamin H said...

Hello Uncle Mark!

How did the balloons get up into the air?

Please come to my birthday party. Its a rubbish & recycling and a science party. I'm going to pretend to be a microbe eating all the rubbish.

We're going to have a special experiment book made of cake so you can eat it - its a type of food.

Can you fly overnight from Switzerland so you don't miss any of my party and get here quickly. Maybe you should fly in the quickest passenger plane ever.

Lots of love Barnaby (I'm turning 5)

PS Barnaby is pretty preoccupied with both rubbish and his impending birthday at the moment. No pressure to actually attend his party! He is starting school next week and tells me he is "a bit nervous"....which is nothing compared to me! Edward is as determined as ever. Hope you and Linda are well. Cate

Mark said...

Hi Barnaby!

The balloons go up in the sky because they are filled with hot air that is lower density than the cold air outside, which means they are light enough to float; just like how your toy boats float in the bath.

I'm sorry I won't be able to come to your birthday but I will try to send you a nice present! I'm sure your mum will make you a nice cake so you won't have to eat any real rubbish.