January 27-29 2001
Bad weather ... no flight. We had pizza in town, and then dinner at the Ermitage. Between these exhausting events, I took a nap.
My goodness, where have the days gone? We're suddenly nearing the end of the 23d International Week of Hot Air Balloons at Château d'Oex. As with all visits, this one started out slowly, with the adventures all laying out before us. With each advancing day, we accelerated,1 each day proceeding faster than the last, and now here we are about to see if our last flight will occur today ... or if it already has!
1 Given the relative sloth that characterizes our days here, the mere concept of "acceleration" is probably a bit inapt. Indeed, it may be, in some special application of one of the laws of relativity, that the days seem to go so fast because we are moving ever slower.
Again, I was the first person downstairs in the morning, and so I passed some time snapping a few photos of the Ermitage dining room.
Cindy left us this morning, so her last flight has definitely already happened. She needs to get back to Florida in order to report for work bleary-eyed tomorrow morning, so she hopped the train from Château d'Oex to the Geneva airport. She left the Ermitage right after breakfast. Sian, Watcharee and Annie, all in their pink Screwy Tuskers sweat pants (and Annie with her Kleenex), plus Hermann, waved goodbye from the outside the hotel. Up at the train station, Cindy's train swept her away from us at precisely 8:56 am.1
1 Most of the rest of us - Mike and Marg, Sian, and I - are going to be getting up at some godawful hour Monday morning for a Previa ride to the airport. Sian's flight to Britain leaves at 7:00. and our other flights (ultimately to Jamaica and Seattle) leave just before 8:00. In order to get to the airport, and to arrive in time for the requisite passport check, baggage check, and sitting around time, we will leave here at about 4:00 am. This means getting up even earlier. 4:00 am is 7:00 pm Sunday night in Seattle ... where my last flight segment is scheduled to touch down at 6:40 Monday night, almost 24 hours later. Warning to all drivers in western Washington: I will thereupon be hitting the highways for some driving in my sleep! If you see a little red Honda careening down the road, do not approach! Allow plenty of clearance!
What a day this was! It was the most spectacular festival day I have ever experienced at Château d'Oex. For starters, the weather was just perfect, with a beautiful sunrise. Down on the field, we watched the by now familiar inflation process. Also watching were Lars and Kylie, who will be assisting with our planned ballooning adventure in Turkey in September.
This was the closing weekend of the festival ... and since yesterday was a "bad weather" day, everything was concentrated into this one day. It was all just fabulous. The liftoff of the balloons from the main field was breathtaking.
Our flight today was spectacular as well. Once again, I was in Corkscrew Balloon II, piloted by Bob Swanson. The air currents let the savvy pilots do whatever they wanted. I was, once again, in awe. I was snapping photos like crazy, and yet no image can capture the magic of this day!
Our landing was lovely, too. We set down near Rougemont, in a field that the Bombard folks sometimes use as a launch site. It was flat and snowy and just right! (The envelope did briefly cover a ski trail during the packing process, but the crew lifted it to let skiers pass.)
We were soon joined by Corkscrew Balloon III on the landing field. Mike, who always seems to remain aloft longer than anyone, drifted in to join us. Against the blue sky and brilliant sun, we watched "the ladies of the cork" descend.
Then, we were all on the ground, engaged in our usual post-flight activities of standing around, chatting, and consuming bubbly beverages. On such a lovely day, after such a great flight (and a wonderful ten days), we were all feeling exhilarated. And then Alf brought out the preliminary drawings for Corkscrew Balloon IV!
We Previa'd back to the Ermitage, where the festival remained in full swing. With a large number of balloon watchers in town for the day, the inflation field was a very busy place. Constant inflations kept things lively. We had a great view, from the choice tables of the Ermitage's dining room. Here, over our last leisurely Château d'Oex lunch, we relished our last day of the festival as we watched its splendor right outside the windows where we sat. Lots of interesting balloons drifted left and right; one of our old favorites, The Scotsman "walked" around the valley.
And then, there was really nothing left to do but have our last dinner! I took one last look around the Ermitage ... truly our "home away from home." We met downstairs and had fried goat cheese salads and a selection of sorbets, and then we went to bed early.
By the way, since this was our last meal at the Ermitage, before we leave perhaps I should explain a bit about the Ermitage menus and the ordering process. While the selections on the Ermitage menu are quite marvelous, we always had a little difficulty in learning about them. The Ermitage offers its menus in both French and German, but none are printed in English. Thus, until we had experimented and actually seen many of the dishes, we required the assistance of Mike's French, Hermann's German, and the smattering of knowledge that the rest of us had. Of course, the waiters were quite helpful ... although they were often busy.
I did try running both the Main Menu and the Bistro Menu through a web translator, but the results were not especially helpful ....
Despite these difficulties, our days at the Ermitage were filled with wonderful meals!
Most of us went home!
Next: Alf's Post-Journal