Come Fly With Me
On Friday, our first day in Napa, we awoke bright and early for an exciting experience: a hot air balloon ride. Ashley had been once before, in Turkey, but this was my first time. We'd chosen a package tour with Napa Valley Balloons and Platypus Wine Tours that included the balloon ride, a champagne breakfast, and a day long wine tour. The experience was all incredibly well organized, remarkably affordable for what we got, and so much fun! We were picked up from our hotel, coffees in hand to get a boost, and brought to the meeting place at Domaine Chandon. Here they informed us that unfortunately, thick fog had rolled into Napa Valley and so we would need to drive to the next valley over in order to fly -- Yolo Valley (and yes, this did constitute several "You Only Live Once" jokes). We were given some pastries and coffee for a light breakfast before the flight and loaded into vans to drive the hour to the next launch site.
Upon arrival, we were ushered quickly towards our balloon and our pilot Bob made sure we were the first to launch and thus the first to land and consequently, the first ones to the bubbly back at the Domaine Chandon (most balloon rides are followed by a champagne breakfast). The balloon ride was surreal. I've done my share of crazy aerial experiences, from zip lining to paragliding to jumping off a cliff in Zimbabwe on a contraption called the Gorge Swing, I've flown in airplanes and helicopters of various sizes all over the world, but this really didn't feel like any of that. In fact there was almost no sensation of take-off at all, just that one second we were on the ground and the next second the ground was getting further and further away. Because there was no take-off sensation, it felt very floaty -- my body didn't feel like we were airborne and the only indication of flight was through my visual sensation telling me we were off the ground. Paragliding wasn't so dissimilar a feeling, though there was more exertion to get off the ground by running down a hill off a mountain and I think that kind of took the place of the take-off feeling, the the floaty feel once in the air was the same. If you can't tell by my laundry list of aerial adventures, notwithstanding my relative comfort living 44 floors above Manhattan, I love heights, and I especially love the feeling of flying. Hot air ballooning is easily one of my new favorite methods of transportation and I'm so planning to do it again and again whenever possible. Ashley and I even discussed getting a ballooning license -- turns out it's only about a 10 hour certification! What do you think, should we give it a go? Our landing was smooth and we just casually alighted down into a field off the side of the road, where we were hurried into the vans to head back.
"You can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning," was the motto one-liner of the day since one of the guides had included it in his instructions that morning. I think both Ashley and I took this motto to heart (and possibly then some). Three mimosas and a full breakfast later, after snapping some photos around the gorgeous property at Domaine Chandon, we hopped onto the bus for our day of drinking with Platypus Wine Tours. When we walked up with mimosas in hand the guide seemed a little taken aback, but she soon agreed it was just a sure indication of how ready we were for more wine. More to come on that soon...