Ballooning has a real sense of occasion, and a pre-take off glass of champagne helps steady the nerves. Naturally, the pilots stick to a cup of tea or coffee. For a special treat and to see the beautiful Gloucestershire countryside at its best from an incredible vantage point, consider a champagne balloon flight.
Most hot air balloon adventures begin or end with a glass of champagne or sparkling wine to celebrate your flight. It will be the darkest hour before dawn when you gather for your pre-launch briefing and the sunrise hours are when the winds are at their most gentle for ballooning. Some hot air balloon operators offer a night into day experience where you take off in the dark and watch the sunrise from your airborne position or alternatively take off at sunrise and watch the world wake up below you.
Passengers are encouraged to help with the inflation of the balloon, unfolding it, and laying it out on the launch site. Firstly, the balloon is inflated with cold air and then the trickiest part of ballooning takes place – climbing into the basket or gondola. There are foot holes in the side to climb into the basket but it is not a very elegant way of embarking a mode of transport.
Usually two guy-ropes attached the basket are also attached to the chase vehicle that follows the balloon as far as possible by road. The burners to heat the air in the balloon are noisy and when the air is sufficiently heated the guy ropes are dropped away and the balloon effortlessly ascends from the ground. The launch is so smooth and gentle you are hardly aware of the distance growing between you and terra firma.
As the balloon is at the mercy of air currents, your voyage can take you anywhere although the pilot can dictate some sense of direction and adjust the height of the balloon. As the balloon gains height it is an incredible feeling to see a 360-degree panoramic view spread out all around you. Balloons can fly at 1500 to 2000 feet, and some can fly at 5000 feet, depending on prevailing airspace restrictions.
Over the Gloucestershire countryside, you will see the precise patterns made by the stone walls and trees and enjoy the beauty of the pastoral scene as you drift over villages and gentle rolling hills. On a clear day just like in the song, you can see forever or if not forever, the taller buildings in cities yonder in the distance. You notice the peace and stillness, there is no sense of movement in the balloon just a feeling of lazily drifting with the blue sky above, and as you climb higher, you are literally floating above the world. It is surprisingly warm with the occasional heat from the burners when they are operated. Otherwise, all is noiseless and peaceful. Most pilots have great knowledge of flying as well as of the area you are flying over and will keep you occupied pointing out places of interest down below. Once in a while a pilot will drop the balloon and fly low skimming over the tops of trees to give you another view before the burners re-heat the air to take you sky bound again.
Part of the beauty of hot air ballooning is the unpredictability of where you may land and what your flight path will be, but there is no need to worry as your chase vehicle will be there at the landing site to take you back to the rendezvous point. Sometimes on landing, the gondola can be dragged sideways and this is perfectly normal, passengers have rope handles and safe seats to sit on, although some find it part of the thrill of ballooning. Mostly, the balloon lands gracefully and softly and you do not realise you are down.
Time for yet more champagne then!