Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ballooning in Tuscany, May 2006

Today was one of my most memorable travel days yet - as in ever.
It will be hard to decide which overall travel experience is going to go down as my favorite of all time, chronologically they are so far:

Galloping horseback, surfside, along the Pacific Ocean in Peru. uncontrollable giggling as the horse thumped along the beach.

Flying over Whistler in British Columbia...

Volcano run in New Zealand. (giggling the whole way down - if you ever get a chance to run through scree, by all means, do it!)

Zorbing in New Zealand. (non-stop giggling. and I mean helplessly nonstop)...

and this morning... ballooning in Tuscany. (google that phrase if you want to know more).

It was such a pretty day and what magnificent countryside. Perfect weather and 50 miles viz. I got up at 445 AM and made my way to Montisi. I actually decided to do a dry run last night just to make sure I wasn't wandering around aimlessly at 530 AM today. It worked out well - I found the place last night just before sunset (a beautiful time to be out) and then went back to Pienza.

That drive between Castelmuzio and Montisi is now one of my favorites - it really reminded me of the Corniche drives above Monte Carlo and Nice. zoom zoom zoom. very twisty windy curvy.

Last night I also visited Sant'Anna in Camprena - the English Patient abbey (we also saw it from above today).

Robert and Liz (the balloonists) are a lovely couple and needless to say I now have new friends in Tuscany with an open invitation to come back any time I want (even if I don't go ballooning).

What a production to get it all prepared! He used big fans to get it partially blown up and he then used the flames to get the balloon itself to rise. The basket then righted itself and we all clambered in. Then the takeoff. I remarked that it reminded me of the Wizard of Oz - haha! We lifted slowly slowly up and up. It was such a gentle graceful glide and it appeared we were headed right for the trees but he didn't even graze them as we passed (but it sure looked close!). We saw the Abbey from way up above. Robert pointed out all the various spots off in the distance and let me tell you, Tuscany is now one of my favorite spots on earth. (it's in stiff company but it's up there to be sure).

We were up at 2000 feet at one point and a few other times down so low we were almost grazing the ground. As we passed some agriturismos the folks came outside to wave and take photos. That was when he descended to just above the rooftops - boy did they get a good view. We had dogs barking at us at various times, and saw many deer. Near the end as we landed in a field some horses came out to investigate. They were separated from us by a fence but as we were descending to land they were all lined up watching. What a hoot!

The other couple was from Phoenix, and, Robert's brother Mark (Robert is the pilot) went along as well. A very nice person, we talked quite a bit after we landed and come to find out he was Kristin Scott Thomas's babysitter way back in the day. Can you guess how that conversation started? Also come to find out his wife is the niece of the Duke of... (it sounded like he said Fief but I doubt that was right, I have asked one of my British friends who is very knowledgable about everyone in royalty to figure it out although we did exchange emails so I suppose I could ask him, he was very forthcoming about it all.) At any rate he knows the Queen as well as the Princes and so forth. I thought that was pretty interesting.
After landing we loaded it up in the jeep and trailer and headed back. On the way back Mark and I stood in the basket which was bungee'd to the trailer. We were warned that if Robert tooted twice it was the carabinieri and we were to duck down into the basket. (which didn't happen but of course I'd have real trouble not peeping anyway) It was so much fun - like a very bumpy convertible ride after a balloon ride.

All of a sudden Italian fighter jets ROARED overhead, doing very low passes, and then I really squealed and jumped up and down. There were four of them and I was enthralled watching them. I suppose we were lucky they didn't try that while we were airborne as they were definitely that low!

I will write more later...


ps. Scott - haven't seen the Giro, I don't think they are near where I am?

Dean, what is your number, I meant to call you y'day after the ballooning. You and Steph must try this when you come over!

Sandy - I will tell you more about Poggio Antico later, it was a real treat and I saved the menu for you. It was so much food I just wanted to take a nap afterwards and in fact didn't eat dinner last night as I was still too full. I will say this much though - the ballooning included a champagne breakfast afterwards, they spread out the food on the trailer (attached to the jeep - actually an UMM for anyone who digs old foreign cars...) It was a simple meal with local wines and also champagne, we sat in the grass in the 9 AM sunshine out in the middle of nowhere with the balloon stretched out next to us... and I must say I enjoyed that ten times more than Poggio Antico!


BaileyZimmerman said...

Beth...dear Beth...fabuloso photos!!!

Love, love, love the shadows on the poppy field and the shadows against the abbey!!

So much fun reading your lively new blog!!


amybatt said...

It's fun reliving your trips! Keep them coming!

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