On our last trip to Paris I wanted to do something different and exciting; as if just being in Paris wasn’t exciting enough! I think this was our fourth or fifth trip to the City of Lights and we’d pretty much made the regular tourist rounds; the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, Rive Gauche, and all the other must sees of the French capital. Not that you can see everything you want to see in a few trips, I’m not even sure you can do that in a life time!
Paris is an amazing city! There is always something to do and see. The place is filled with art and culture. I’ve been to more than my fair share of museums multiple times; the Louvre of course, the d’Orsay my favorite, Les Invalides, Pompidou Center, and more. I’ve viewed the Eiffel Tower from just about every perspective; from the Seine, the top of the Arch de Triomphe, the Trocadero, and from within the tower. And we’d taken day trips to Versailles, beautiful, but not quite exciting unless you get a thrill from the slow moving electric cars you can drive around the estate.
This time I talked my husband into a hot air balloon ride. It couldn’t be that much different from parasailing I reasoned, and he loved to do that! Luckily we were in Paris during the ballooning season which is from April to October. So I booked our adventure with France Montgolfiere a couple of months before our trip. The tickets cost 399 Euro, just under $450 for a couple, that was the best deal they offered at the time. That’s how we found ourselves Ballooning Over Chateau de Fontainbleau on a cool October evening!
Fontainbleau is a commune in the metropolitan area of Paris. It’s located 55.5 Km south-southeast of the city center and is known for its scenic forest and historic Chateau de Fontainbleau which once belonged to the kings of France. It is easily accessible by Ter trains departing from Paris-Gare de Lyon. Take the train to Montereau / Montargis and get off at the Fontainebleau-Avon Station(Zone 5). The trains run from about 6 am to 11:30 pm. The train ride is just over an hour. Once at the station you can walk to the chateau, just follow the signs!
Here’s what to expect once you’ve booked yobur tickets, by the way be sure you include your contact information when booking AND be sure you have your cell phone turned on to make and receive calls and text messages in Paris.
A day before your flight you must contact the number on your ticket to confirm your flight, they will give you instructions on where and when to meet. They will also tell you that he will contact you the day of your flight if there are any changes. Remember this activity is dependent on weather and wind conditions, if either aren’t favorable the pilot may cancel the flight. Should your flight be canceled they will reschedule or extend the validity of your ticket. I’m really not sure if they issue refunds for cancellations due to weather, you should contact them for more info before booking.
On the day of your flight dress comfortably with comfy footwear, leave the heels at the hotel. Arrive at the meeting spot at the appointed time and wait for the pilot to pick you up. Unless you booked a private flight there can be up to 15 to 17 people with you, depending on the basket size it can hold up to 19 people. You can’t miss the pilot’s van, not only does it have the company name on the side it’s towing the basket behind it!
In our case we choose the 5 pm flight so we met the pilot in front of the Chateau de Fontainbleau around 4:30. He determines the take-off spot, it will vary depending on wind direction. We got lucky and took off on the chateau grounds! You will drive to the take-off location with the driver and fellow passengers. You’ll probably find a second balloon at the spot with you, it seems they travel in pairs. It sure makes for amazing photos!
At the take-off spot your adventure begins! The pilot and his helpers will unpack, set up, and inflate the balloon. Passengers are expected to help too! It’s part of the experience! It takes many hands to hold down the balloon while the pilot inflates it! The balloon is anchored to the van and ground, but it still needs to be held down!
The husband and the other men did most of the helping, the rest of us snapped photos![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Once the balloons are inflated it’s time to climb into the basket. [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
With baskets loaded and anchor ropes released the balloons start to rise. You get an awesome view of the other balloon as it rises not far from your basket! That’s just the beginning!
You’re in for an amazing ride! We flew over the chateau and surrounding forest before drifting over the French countryside. The ride takes about an hour, it goes by all to quickly!
While in the basket you will need to be standing, there are no seats, but believe me you wouldn’t want to sit down anyway, you don’t want to miss anything![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
It seems all to soon the pilot will tell everyone to bend your knees, crouch down and hold on to the basket, you’re about to land. When the pilot gives these instructions do so immediately! That’s the only warning you will have and it means that landing is literally seconds away! So hunker down and hold on, the landing can be bumpy!
The basket hits the ground, ending up on its side, and dragged a few meters along the ground before it comes to a complete stop. I have to admit this was my least favorite part of the adventure! But it lasts moments and soon you’re crawling out of the basket.
You’re met on the ground by the ground crew who will help stow the balloon and take you back to the meeting point. In our case the farmer and his family came running out to greet us, it seems we landed on his farm. It turned into a festive occasion with everyone pitching in to fold and stow the balloon.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Finally the traditional landing toast! Trust the French to do it right complete with bubbly, glass flutes, and flowers![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
After the toast the crew will take you back to the initial meeting spot, or in our case they drove us back to the station for our ride back to Paris.
You can choose to hang out in the town, you can even stay there if you like. There are many hotels in the area. You may want to spend some time there to tour the Chateau, hike in the forest, or just hang out in the town.
We had arrived early to explore the town and have lunch at a local creperie so after our flight we were ready to return to Paris.
I know this adventure wasn’t cheap but it was so worth every penny! It was amazing! I know we will remember it for the rest of our life! Actually I’m thinking of doing it again sometime!
Here are some photos from our Ballooning Over Chateau de Fontainebleau adventure!