Sunday, 15 May 2016

Flying Elephants

Balloons over Chalon - photo from JSL
Every Whitsun weekend there is a display of hot air balloons in Chalon. We have never managed to see the balloons fly and so this year, yet again, we decided that this was the year we would actually see them. Checking out the programme we spotted that the balloons were to fly at 19.00 on Saturday, but I also spotted that at 17.00 there was going to be the opportunity for “dou dous” to fly in special small hot air balloons.

While flying dou dous may sound strange to English ears, I should clear up any confusion by saying that a dou dou is the French word for soft toy or comforter, so you could take your favourite soft toy along and it would be able to fly in a hot air balloon. There seemed to be no age limit for the owners of the soft toys, so I decided that a member of my little menagerie should be treated to a flight.

A flying elephant
- with a little help from photoshop
Timothy, my trusty teddy bear who has accompanied me around the world on all my business trips, is getting on a bit on years now (being only a few months younger than me - which may not be old for a human, but it is very old for a teddy bear) so I decided that he might not survive the trip. It then fell to Guus my fluffy elephant to be the one to venture into the unknown.

The only trouble was that we had a gite changeover, so the new giters had better turn up early or he would miss his flight. They didn’t arrive until 17.45 and Chalon is more than half an hour away, so I had little hope for Guus as we left. We headed off anyway as the other part of our mission was to see the main balloons flying - at least we would be on time for them.

As we neared the balloon launching site, many cars were coming the other way- not encouraging. The tops of the trees were swaying rather a lot and I feared that the wind was getting up too much for a flight. Undeterred, we walked up to the launching site with Guus under my arm, just in case the dou dous were still allowed to fly, but as we approached the main area it became obvious that all the balloon flights were cancelled.

Certificate to "prove" he actually flew
Guus and I looked wistfully at the miniature balloon baskets which had been grounded and as I started to take photos of what might have been, a man approached me, not saying a word he whisked Guus from under my arm and took him to one of the baskets for his “flight”. Guus was thrilled to sit in a basket, but sadly, as with the large balloons, it was too windy and hence too dangerous for the little ones to go up. It didn’t stop that lovely man from giving Guus a certificate marking his initiation in the ballooning world and he made one dou dou and its owner very happy.

The real balloons eventually went up at 06.00 Sunday morning when I was still tucked up in bed, so I have stolen a photo from the Journal de Saône-et-Loire website to show you what a sight it really was.

As we say every year - we really must see this next year. Who knows..

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