Friday, August 15, 2008
Napa Valley...Day Five...and there were Balloons!
Up at 6 a.m. to clear skies...by 6:30 a.m., I was rushing across the Vintage Inn parking lot, heading for the two balloons that were ready to take flight from the V Marketplace parking lot. Already, the sky was filling with hot air balloons, a sight that always makes my heart race a little faster.
Within minutes, the second of these two balloons was up into the air.
Almost immediately, another truck arrived with another balloon. As I mentioned the other day, the balloon companies are in a race against the rising sun and heat that create air currents that won't allow ballooning. It is in the calm of very early morning is when it all takes place.
The following sequence of photos shows the 10 minutes or so, from the arrival of the truck with the balloon packed up in a bag to the actual takeoff.
The balloon arrives all packed up in a not very big bag
First it is layed out on a tarp.
Then, it is unfolded.
Once unfolded, one of the balloonists starts a fan to start filling it with air.
Next, they start heating the air to the point where the balloon goes upright, along with the passenger basket.
Then, the crew and passengers climb into the basket. There are a few holes on one side of the basket on which to climb into the basket.
And, they are ready for takeoff.
Within seconds of takeoff, the balloon is high above the buildings and trees.
Hot air balloon rides in the Napa Valley last about an hour. The truck and crew follow the balloon and pick up the passengers, crew, and balloon where ever it lands...when you are at the whim of the air currents and a bit of fire, you could wind up in Farmer Brown's pasture!!! Most balloon rides end with a champagne breakfast. As the story goes, in France, balloonists used to carry a bottle of champagne in their basket in case they did, in fact, land in Farmer Brown's pasture or tree...it would be a peace offering.
Having balloooned but once, I will never forget the wonderful, weightless, peaceful feel of it.
After this early morning excitement, I was famished! So it was breakfast back at the Vintage Inn and then a run across the street to Bouchon Bakery..one of Chef Thomas Keller's Yountville ventures...
for several loaves of bread and some pastries to take home as memories of our wonderful week.
The rest of the morning I spent swimming, sunning, and packing...so sad, the latter.
But, there was one more wonderful treat before the drive home: Lunch at Angele in Napa, on the patio overlooking the Napa River. When we walked by Angele after our breakfast at Sweetie Pies on our way to Yountville at the beginning of the week, I noted that Angele looked like the restaurants on the French Riviera. Angele has been open for a few years, but today's lunch was my first meal here.
We ordered our South of France favorite lunch dishes: Croque Monsieur for J,
Salade NIcoise for me,
and a side of French Fries for all of us, including Louie who tasted his first frite when I dropped one on the patio floor.
When we asked our waitress about the Banana Gratin,
she told us that it is Angele's signature dessert. We were not disappointed with what is a sort of Banana Crisp made with creme anglais and topped with a crumbly crust and ice cream. One serving is enough for two to share.
I always say that being in the Napa Valley reminds me of my time in France. Lunch at Angele brought me back to Nice, Cannes, and St. Tropez.