Continuing from The Palio
Friday, July 3, 1998
A very quiet day of relaxation. We had breakfast, we went back to the same place for lunch, we sat around by the pool, we had dinner, we went to bed. In between, we just took it easy and read books.
Tomorrow we'll resume our ballooning, weather willing. Upon our retirement for the night, however, the weather didn't look very willing: It had been windy for a couple of days, and a cold front was heading in. Buddy told us not to set our alarms. If the weather did clear up, he'd call us at 5:00. Otherwise, we could go on sleeping and we'd later head into Siena, around 9:00 or 9:30, for some sightseeing, followed by another lunch at Marisa Cardini's lovely apartment.
Saturday, July 4, 1998
Surprise! The weather cleared up and turned out to be good after all. Buddy called at 5:04, and I found myself wishing that I hadn't stayed up until 12:30. Getting up was certainly worth it, however: This morning's flight was absolutely spectacular.
We drove only a very short distance to our preselected takeoff site, which was a parking lot just north of Siena. The trial balloon released by the crew went up and quickly went to the south. Its lateral motion was much more pronounced than any of the previous days' tests. But apparently it was not too strong, as the crew began spreading out the balloons on the pavement.
There had been a change in personnel for the other Bombard clients: The ones who had been with us since the beginning of the trip had completed their adventure and were gone, and now there were two balloons full of other passengers. Our little group remained the same.
Our flight took us through the nooks and crannies of Siena. Mike maneuvered our craft with astonishing skill over the city, right past its major landmarks. At one point, we noticed that we were very close to Marisa Cardini's apartment; Mike actually managed to reverse our direction, so we could go back and get a better look. I have no idea how he is able to do such things; does he control the wind? It is simply uncanny.
As we passed right next to the windows of the apartment, Marisa Cardini herself opened the blinds and waved at us. Perhaps the burners had awakened her. We waved back enthusiastically, and told her that we would see her in a few hours for lunch: Our plans called for us to return there today, along with the new batch of Bombard clients who were not with us for the first lunch.
At our chosen landing spot, we arrived in time for the balloon's burners to awaken someone not quite ready to begin her day. Mike, as diplomatic as ever, smoothed ruffled feathers. Although it was still very early in the morning -- only 8:30 or so -- it was already shaping up to be a warm day.
July 5-6, 1998
The Tuscan heat continued through the remaining days of our trip. It really felt like summer, like the wonderful hot summers of youth (and not so much like the more temperate ones that my current western Washington home experiences). We spent the next two days flying over San Gimignano and Siena ... and then most of us, sadly, had to leave Siena for home. Check out our photo album for these last few days of flight.
Post-Siena Escapades: Alf's Journal