For Christmas this year, Sam gave me a ride on a hot air balloon over the stunning Napa Valley and basically after a gift that good, he could stop giving me Christmas gifts for all time (although I hope he doesn’t). We went up to Napa the night before, after dinner in Berkeley at Gather, which is an excellent restaurant. We waited until after dinner time because we wanted to avoid traffic and in the late evening, it was only a 37 minute drive, which basically means super easy and why aren’t we in Napa more often, ya know?
We stayed at the Inn on Randolph where we had our own little cottage. There was a fireplace and they left us a bottle of wine, so we stayed in for the evening and relaxed and went to bed early. The next morning we got up at 5:45am and were in Yountville by 6:35 am, which was plenty of time to get there and get checked in before they started inflating the balloons.
Aloft knows what they were doing and the whole experience was a friendly, neighborly, well oiled machine. We headed out with our balloon group and watched them inflate the balloons as the sky started to lighten. I can’t say enough how dang LARGE the balloons were in person. These were extra big since the baskets can carry 12-14 people, but still. Even the small ones were much larger than I expected. I hope you can get a bit of scale from these photos. They were truly huge!
When the balloons were ready, we got in and then did a little more hot air inflating and then we were off. It’s unlike flying of any other sort that I’ve done (although somebody I talked to said it was similar to hang gliding). It’s quiet and magical and the sun comes up over the mountain and drowns the valley in golden sunshine. It was chilly out, but bundled up in my jacket I was plenty warm. The flight was an hour and our landing was easy breezy. I cannot say enough good things about the whole experience – it was a top travel experience of my life, no questions. Can’t wait to get up in one of those again soon, I hope! xx