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Monday, August 10, 2009

Up, Up and Away

Last Thursday evening Doug and I shared one of the most wonderful experiences we've ever had. We went on a hot air balloon ride over our beautiful city of Stockholm, Sweden. Stockholm is the only world capital that allows balloons to fly over the city center. We've decided that if you live here, you are a fool to pass up this great opportunity. Many people have expressed fear in taking a hot air balloon ride, but believe me...there's no fear. It's only beauty and joy and adventure.
Doug gave me this great gift for Christmas last year and after one cancellation, we finally scored a truly beautiful evening. The whole experience was very memorable. Upon arrival, you find your name on one of several lists and locate the vehicle to which you belong. Then you drive to an open field where you work as a team to unload the basket and the balloon. Everyone is given a special task and assigned their position in the balloon. We were to help with the line ballast as the balloon was inflated and we got prime spots on the end of the basket. All around us balloons were beginning to inflate and it was an awesome site to behold.

Finally we were ready for launch! When the pilot cranked up the flame, the heat was intense! And before we knew it, we were floating over the city!

Kids on their bikes chased after us and soon enough, we were high above
the houses, floating through mid-air, taking in the beauty that surrounded us. Stockholm is such a beautiful city and to see it from above was breathtaking. We flew right over Gamla Stan and City Hall. We were very close to our house at one point. We later learned that we flew very close to some friends' of ours and they were able to get a picture of our balloon in flight!

This is the photograph that Robert took of us from his balcony!

We just soared and soared and every new look was thrill. Eventually we knew that our ride was going to end, but our pilot overshot the field and we got to stay up for 20 more minutes! I was a little nervous on the landing but it went quite smoothly and before we knew it, we were safely back on the ground.
Upon landing, the entire team worked together again to get the balloon back into the bag and the basket loaded onto the truck. Then we gathered together for a little speech on the history of hot air ballooning all the while being eaten by the swarm of mosquitoes that have greeted us upon landing! Finally the pilot cracked open a bottle of champagne and poured a bit over each of our heads, officially christening our first hot air balloon ride. We were then invited to enjoy a glass alongside of some wonderful cheeses and of course, hard Swedish flat bread. It was all so very Swedish that I just had to chuckle and take it all in. It's actually very sweet.
As we were landing, we flew right into the sunset. Then after being on land for a bit, the full moon began to rise up opposite the setting sun. It was absolutely magical. The beauty of the evening, the peacefulness of the ride and the romance of sharing it with my husband are treasures I will cherish as I remember this great night with joy.