Vault de Lugny

July 1998

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My Turn Again

Since I don’t have my trusty Newnes Dictionary of Dates and Anniversaries with me IHT (6297 bytes)I must rely on the "IN OUR PAGES: 100, 75 AND 50 YEARS AGO" section of the International Herald Tribune for my traditional "what happened in the past" trivia bits. From July 7th onward most of these will be from the somewhat daily IHT. Those that I miss I shall make up. It is your guess which are the ones that come from my mind.


Tuesday, July 7, 1998

Paul is somewhere else; perhaps on the polar route to Seattle; perhaps stuck in the Amsterdam airport. In either case he will be fretting about his checked luggage. "Once bitten, always fearful." I don’t remember who said that first ... perhaps Ruth.

Anyway, the pen is now in my hand, at least until the 19th of the month when I can again put it back in the drawer.

The "departing five" (Paul, Lisa, Brian, Stephani and Robin) left the hotel at 4 this morning for the drive to the Florence airport ... hoping to connect to their flights back to the USA.

The "lingering two" (Annie and Alf) barely made it out of bed before 9AM. But, by 10 we were boarding the Previa, powered by Dan (The Dent Man). Stephani (15928 bytes) Just as we were about to roll, the man in charge of the hotel safes ran out to ask if Stephani and cleared out her safe deposit box. Now, if it had been LeeAnna whom he was asking about I would have said "Of course not ... but, when she gets to the airport she’ll feel the effect of not having a passport and an air ticket ... so, don’t worry ... she’ll be back with the co-key to your safe". With Stephani: "Of course she cleared it out". BTW, Stephani, where is the poor man’s key?

Mike predicted that it would take Dan about 14 hours to make the drive from Siena to Vault de Lugny ... assuming, of course, that Dan stuck to the Bombard imposed 70MPH speed limit. The Road (11736 bytes)However, once out of Bombard range the speedometer nudged its way to a comfortable cruise rate of 90MPH ... thus shaving hours off our driving time.

However, we were slowed by heavy rain, lagging lorries on the hills and a bottleneck going through the Mount Blanc tunnel (13 clicks in the dark). Oh, and of course, we dallied over an Italian Auto Route lunch consisting of stuff that you would expect on an Italian motor way: good things, far better than what is found on the French side. On the other side of the Italy-France line we picked up speed and charged directly to the Chateau.

After all those hours on the road it would have been a crime to ban Dan to the local prison hotel. So he stayed where we stayed, slept where we slept, ate where we ate, lounged where we lounged. Also, he had breakfast in bed. After all this pampering Dan is muttering about organizing the workers at Laborde.


Wednesday, July 8, 1998

Annie (12919 bytes)After our noon wake up call Annie, Dan and I repaired to the reclining lounges in the sun filled front gardens of Vault de Lugny for Bloody Mary’s and a good read of the International Herald Tribune.

Two hours later a lengthy al fresco lunch was served.

Then it was nap time.

Dan is now grumbling about prior working conditions. He is upset about having to read stupid maps, drive up stupid muddy roads, don stupid gloves, run up and down stupid hills, pull on stupid ropes, wrap up stupid balloons and eat stupid spaghetti three meals a day. And, why can’t the crew be treated just like the clients!!!! And he came up with a clever phrase: "Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains". That young man is going places. Perhaps there will be really big bronze statues in his future.

Time for dinner. Hmmm ... wonder if there will be any caviar?


Thursday, July 9, 1998

Good Grief Charlie Brown! What is going to happen today? Mike has definitely abandoned us to pursue a fun filled afternoon at Laborde! Yet dear Annie’s little nose is still pressed to the window, and her rosary beads are still all a-jangle with prayers that Steve will not do the same.

Hmmm, but lunch is vaguely calling. A definite priority for me! Maybe I can convince Annie that the stomach is more important than the womb.

Yes! Simone (Becky’s mother) came to the rescue for both of us with her precious green salad and her genius creation of an omelet. Almost everything that went into our stomach came from the gardens of Vault-de-Lugny. On the Steps (19411 bytes)Needless to say, all of the salad stuff came from her turf; with respect to the omelet: the eggs, potatoes, tomatoes, (Quayle, Which one did you do wrong?) came from here also ... only the cheese and milk had to be shipped in.

Well, the Chablis did come from a few kilometers away ... but, it did have a long park in the cellar of the Chateau before it lost its cork.

Dinner is only hours away.

Dear Reader, you can obviously tell that we have a lot of free time on this leg of the journal.


Friday, July 10, 1998

Drizzle ... sun ... drizzle ... more sun ... more drizzle. What can be done? At first the day looked like a sinker ... then it looked flyable. Back and forth ... and back and forth again ... like a carriage return on an old Remington typewriter.

It’s a Friday and if we really can’t fly I’d like to take "us" out to a three star restaurant for dinner. But, since it IS a Friday, tables are at a premium and any last minute cancellations will surely be punished by the restaurant owners with hexes and plagues and things that go bump in the night.

At this very moment that I speak to you Steve is doing a weather walkabout at Lugny, to see if this evening will either be a fabulous balloon launch or just a three star restaurant kill timer. At the moment it looks good for the balloon ... the drizzle has stopped ... the wind is down ... and, within an hour Steve will make a call to the troops ... either demanding readiness or ordering them back to their beers.

In any event tomorrow will be a very special treat for all of us. The daily calendar will peel off to Saturday the 11th. Simone and her chief chef have been toiling in the kitchen preparing this very special crew/client meal. It is a closely guarded secret as to what will be on our plates.

More later as this demanding plot unfolds.


Later is now here.

Sigh, the weather had it in for us. Leaves were blowing off the trees and all of the Chateau roaming chickens and peacocks were seeking shelter and solace ... anywhere they could find it for the balance of the storm. The dogs were on their own: Diva, the young bitch, hung around with us to see what was going to happen ... Camel was necessarily stapled to the ground, as there was a "freshly in heat female" just around the corner, and her owner understandably did not want any more of Camel’s genes in the neighborhood.

Polaroids (16065 bytes)So, instead of flying we just used up some film in preparation for the 1999 crew calendar. This is an ongoing Annie project ... .to put together a beefcake calendar made up of our balloon crew during the 1998 flying season. Lots of fun.

After fussing with film and stuff and family, Becky and I drifted a couple of kilometers away to a local restaurant: Auberge des Chenets. This is a small restaurant in even a smaller town; but, in France you get far more than what you expect. Another wonderful meal groaned on our board.


Saturday, July 11, 1998

Steve & Annie (15735 bytes)Shortly before 1pm Mike and the crew (Al, Matt, Paul and Dan and the BEAUTIFUL and talented Shamane) arrived at the Chateau for some preprandial restoratives ("Cremant de Bourgogne Framboise et Eau de vie de Framboise"). We were joined by Annie and Steve; and, of course, Becky and her mother, Simone.

Simone was the mind and the hands behind this afternoon’s magnificent lunch. For starters we had "Risotto au Parmesan et Fruits de Mer". Saturday Lunch (16103 bytes)The superb wine was a magnum of "Chablis 1st Cru ‘Mont de Milieu’ Regnard 1988". The major food offering was "Agneau en Croute de Sel et Gizolles". This was readily washed down with a magnum "Chambertin Grand Cru Clos de Beze 1992 B. Clair". We tapered the afternoon off with "Fromages" and "Souffle au Grand Marinier". Both were accompanied by "Champagne Pol Roger".

Naps were on the horizon.

As the weather was not being overly friendly we were not too worried about how much we drank.

Naps were held.

Sure enough, 8:30PM rolled around and the wind was still whipping the branches all about. However, we clustered around the balloon and its paraphernalia hoping for a last minute break. It did not come.

Hmmm ... time for dinner.


Sunday, July 12, 1998

Hardly anybody was talking about anything else! The World Cup final in Paris, of course. What else! The fact that France was playing the world champion Brazilian team insured that while this match was up and on practically nothing else in France dared to happen. Babies were not born and people did not die. More importantly, television sets were moved into dining rooms or food was brought before television sets. In my case I had room service deliver up the lot. As you know, France won 3 - 0. Paris went totally insane. The Champs Elysees was wall to wall intoxicants topped with a ceiling of fireworks. In my own bucolic part of Burgundy a score of us celebrated with Louis Roederer Brut (non-vintage).

For these last four days (9th through the 12th) the French weather gods have not been on our side. I hope they are not holding a grudge. Tomorrow will tell if my balloon is being singled out for some slight that I might have given these fickle rulers of the winds. Hey, I just thought of something! Could these gods know that I have a Brazilian daughter in law tucked away in Florida? Even so, surely now that Brazil has been so deeply buried beneath French soil, couldn’t these gods just mercifully suck back their huffs and puffs and let me get on with my little indulgences.


Monday, July 13, 1998

The highlight of the morning: While reading the IHT in the salon I glanced out of the window only to see Diva and a guest Airedale (gender unknown) chase one of the Chateau’s rare chickens into the shrubs. Dear Diva would not have done this on her own (at least not in the front courtyard in full view of Mistress Becky). But, I guess her canine companion provided a bad example and a temptation that she could not resist. Whatever, this reporter has not yet been able to ascertain if the fowl succumbed fatally to foul play. Of course, we shall know at lunch time ... barely an hour away. Hmmm ...   I do find a lot of chicken on my plate while I am staying at Chateau de Vault-de-Lugny.

Monday Flight (12848 bytes)YES! We flew tonight. However, I assure you that no pilot or crew thought it would be possible, even as late as six or seven this afternoon, that we would have dared lift inches off the ground, even on an umbilical tether. But, we DID ... albeit, after a spectacularly clear sky apparently did give divine forgiveness to my little balloon. The French wind gods were obviously pleased with what happened yesterday in Paris. "God bless you little French gods. But, do go back to minding the kitchens and wine cellars and allow the winds to be minded by others less mercurial with their whims." Anyway, we flew just to the west of Avallon for a little less than two hours. Our sunset touch-down was in a field of freshly cut hay. At the landing site five or six locals roughed the turf in order to share some of our Mumms.

We shared it gracefully! Though the Coke that the little kid drank will probably keep her parents up all night. Mike usually gives Coca Cola ("American Champagne") to any child under four or five years of age who manages to drag his or her parents to the down site. He thinks parents should always suffer at the hand of kids, even if only indirectly.

Reception (14572 bytes)There is a good chance that tomorrow morning we will have a 5 am make up flight. Becky won’t be able to fly, if we do, as she has lots of clients who need to pay their bills and she wants to be at reception to collect the money. Roget, our trusted sommelier will stand in her place. This will be his first balloon flight ... though he HAS dropped from the sky via parachute in years past. Probably with the French military.

After a near midnight dinner at the Chateau we are off for a short slumber.


Tuesday, July 14, 1998 BASTILLE DAY ... and, even more important, ANNIE’S BIRTHDAY.

The alarm/wake up call came minutes after we had drifted off to sleep. Well, it did seem like only minutes had passed after we closed our eyes on last night’s wine. Anyway, Mike’s cheery voice announced that the balloon was in the first stages of waking up ... and, that we should be there to join its tossing of the hair (so to speak), without savoring our own personal luxury of bathing or flossing or doing those things that humans usually do before they meet each other in the morning. Becky immediately called Roget at home and shook him out of bed and told him the same.

We grumbled onto the field ... just across the road from the Chateau ... as the fans and burners were bringing full form to my flying thing. Flying light we bounced into the sky like a cork from a bottle of Madame Bollinger’s finest. All around us was a beautiful ground hovering mist ... well, I lie a bit ... it was actually a patch work thing ... most of the mist was actually coming out of the valley. But, it was very pretty. I have never seen this area so sexily clothed.

Our chase crew (Dan, Al and Ben), had a major laundry disaster in the field where we landed. The winds, combined with the vagaries of our under-loaded balloon, allowed for much dragging and scraping of crew bodies. As these are young men I was not worried about their bones too much. The calories that they burned will allow them to drink countless beers deep into the "road show". Most of them will be with us through Prague and Austria and we need them to be in good shape.

Another nap, just before lunch.

This afternoon Mike, Simone, Becky and I revisited one of our favorite Michelin starred restaurants: La Cote d’Or. It is located about 30 minutes away in the town of Saulieu. It is also located at: http://www.integra.fr/relaischateaux/loiseau/.

Mike and Simone (20488 bytes)Alf and Becky (18373 bytes)The owner/chef, Bernard Loiseau, greeted us at the door and gave us a tour of the new construction which is going on outside. If you remember from our last visit here, I likened the site to a dowager with perfect innards having an extensive exterior face lift. After looking at the work being done on the spiral staircase (using ancient wood) we settled in for a complimentary bottle of bubbly and a long read of the menu. Since Becky and her mother have become vegetarians for the summer I decided that it was much simpler to follow their path through the courses. Mike struck out on his own, the adventurer that he is.

The dining room at La Cote d’Or lends itself to longish meals; I mean, you just don’t want to leave the place. We arrived at 12:30 and left just shy of 4:00. Small dish after small dish kept appearing. Wine glasses were constantly being refreshed. Even napkins were changed out after each course. And, of course, there was no shortage of words being exchanged. My Lord, how the French love to talk!

After returning to Vault-de-Lugny there was precious little respite. As the weather was still kind we would have been nuts not to take the opportunity to fly despite our afternoon of food ladling. Since Becky and Roget had much work on their personal horizons I invited Simone to come along for the ride. Since the winds looked fairly gentle we also invited Ben (the newest member of the crew) to fly with us. He jumped into the basket at the last second. This was his first balloon flight. I think that he enjoyed it. Unfortunately, he did not have his camera with him so his Mom will have to log on to the Internet to track his trail.

Shadowy Landing (10960 bytes)Our tract this evening took us understandably close to our 24 hour ago route. And, we managed to do yet another "dirty" landing. Dan took the major drag today as he was the first and only one on the drop rope before we scraped to a halt. Fortunately, we landed in a grass field without cow pies and he suffered only a minor cut after being pulled a few hundred feet. But, major laundry again! Dear Reader, as you must know if you have been attentive to what happens when crew meets balloon at the "end game", there is a nasty chance that benign grass will not always be the welcoming pad. Nettles are painful. Barb wire is hell. Cow shit stinks. Steep slopes are a bitch. Rocks hurt.

Dinner was very late tonight. Post midnightish when we pushed the chairs back.

And almost twoish before Becky and I were in bed ... due to a long discussion about Corkscrew Balloon III.


Wednesday, July 15, 1998

We had another really outstanding lunch today. We ate outside again ... just the three of us: Becky, Simone and I ... plus all of the assorted Chateau fowl (including numerous ducks) who unashamedly walked around our table legs ever on the look out for crumbs (fallen or given). By the way, the Chateau does produce a fantastic duck pate. Which leads me to my next paragraph.

And, yes for sure, ducks are cannibals. Well, at least so if one of their own comes out of the Chateau kitchen cooked in its own aspic.

And, I had yet another lengthy talk with Becky about why I should or should not build my third balloon. It was a classic "Men Are from Mars; Women Are From Venus" discussion. But, I am sure that I shall build the balloon.

Shamane (12743 bytes)Tonight was sushi in the sky. The Chateau chef (Delente Olivier) had never flown in a balloon before so he proposed that he offer us an in flight meal tonight. Normally, these in flight meals have a very French accent. Ask Shamane. Flying Sushi (14232 bytes)However, Becky and I had been craving sushi of late; her chef must have read our palates, because shortly after reaching cruising altitude ample quantities of raw salmon, wasabi, and soy sauce appeared as a starter course. This mysteriously was followed by what I can best describe as a very spicy Tex-Mex pizza. What fun! How eclectic!

Then to bed.


Thursday, July 16, 1998

Becky and Alf (15367 bytes)Late this morning Becky and I left the Chateau for the three hour drive to Reims, located in the soul of the Champagne countryside. Since Becky was driving her Porsche it only took about two and a half hours to cover the distance. And that included a stop at a French Auto Route cafeteria. Abandoning proper cuisine we scarfed down hamburgers, hot dogs, salami and French fries before tooling on.

Becky chose the hotel here. It was a place that she had stayed at many years ago: Les Crayeres ... a four star hotel with a Michelin three star restaurant. Excellent choice, Becky.

After a three hour nap in Chambre 24 we pointed ourselves in the direction of the restaurant, with a restorative Champagne diversion at the bar. The House of Pommery is a co-owner of the place so the bubbly was predictably labeled. This is one of the most beautiful hotel bars in which I have ever raised a glass.

But, the dining room ... well, read on:

And, for the wine:


Friday, July 17, 1998

After a lengthy "sleep in" we had an uncustomarily full course room service breakfast ... followed by a leisurely in bed read of, respectively, the International Herald Tribune and Le Figaro. Hmmm ... I don’t think that my last sentence makes sense, but if you read it twice it should splice together. Anyway, Becky truly deserved this R&R as she has been toiling non-stop at the Chateau for months.

Paris (8723 bytes)Just moments before our normal lunch time Becky dished us off to Paris at her customary 160-180 KPH gait. Hey, but we actually did skip lunch today. That is a first for us. But, after that ample breakfast and the prospect of a mega sushi at our favorite Japanese restaurant tonight, we decided that shopping would be more fun than eating.

After checking into 47 Place Maubert we went our separate ways: she pointed herself toward clothing; I browsed camera and computer shops. Thank God that Becky has her apartment in the Sorbonne area of Paris; I can walk to where I want to shop ... she has to drive to where she likes to buy things. Ever thoughtful, she found several nice shirts for me. Ever unthoughtful, I didn’t bring her some exciting new products from Microsoft or Kodak. She didn’t care.

After a brief nap ... God, yes, it does seem that we do take a lot of these naps ... we found the Porsche a parking place directly in front of our Sushi Shrine. By the way, French parking habits and etiquette are worthy of books and books of what to do and not to do.

I find it amazing that Japanese restaurant owners in Paris speak French. But, I am a child when it comes to languages. Hey, can you imagine waiters from Thailand speaking Norwegian in Oslo? Moreover, can you imagine the "food shock" that they must have! Though my friend Paul and I have deep Norwegian roots, we would both feel uncomfortable offering chilled pickled and "still skin on the herring" to veterans of the staff at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok.


Saturday, July 18, 1998

A triple header with the IHT:

On my last full day in Paris I had lunch in Saigon. I am eschewing all things French at the moment. Well, there still IS a French connection in Vietnam, albeit thin. So, I have not cut the cord completely.


Sunday, July 19, 1998

My best estimate of what will happen today:

I’ll fly home.


More Photos:

Annie and Steve

Mike

Becky

The Crew

Bye! (10342 bytes)
bye!

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