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.