A Flight of Colors

The new year has just begun and many people are compiling their lists.  Lists of new (or carried over) resolutions, trips to plan and goals to achieve.  Lists looking back on 2009 too, all sorts of “the best of.”  I love lists! I started thinking about my favorite travels, adventures and experiences.  Nearly impossible to come up with a short list, I decided to select one trip that definitely tops the charts.

Festival de Ballons, Château-d

Festival de Ballons, Château-d

For someone who jumps at the sight of one hot air balloon far, far off in the distance with a huge grin on her face, can you imagine the childish excitement I had when seeing an entire sky full of them?  Or how about a hot air balloon race?  Better yet, parachutists jumping from the balloons?

Festival de Ballons, Château-dFestival de Ballons, Château-dFestival de Ballons, Château-dFestival de Ballons, Château-d

Last winter we spent a weekend in the picturesque region of Gruyère, staying in the medeival, charming village of Gruyères, feasting on its eponymous cheese, fondue and raclette, as well as meringues with the famous, ever so rich double crème de Gruyère.  The highlight was by far and away our time in Château-d’Oex (pronounced day) during the annual Festival International de Ballons, the Hot Air Balloon Festival, now in its 32nd year.  The conditions could not have been more perfect: clear blue sky, sun shining bright and the mountains covered in a clean sheet of powdery white snow.  The most extraordinary backdrop for enormous, brightly colored hot air balloons to go up in flight. And apparently, it’s like that every year, as the Pays d’en Haut valley benefits from a particular microclimate, with little wind and the most impeccable conditions in the world for hot air ballooning.

Festival de Ballons, Château-dFestival de Ballons, Château-d

This year, the event takes place from January 23rd to the 31st, so you have two upcoming weekends to enjoy this marvel. Check out the program online to see what’s happening each day. No matter when you go, you’ll see a series of fascinating events and air stunts:  concerts and guests of honor, hang gliding acrobatics, paragliders parachuting down from balloons, balloons trying to land on targets and the David Niven long distance race (created in 1979)… The more I think about all we saw, the more I want to return this year!  Especially on Friday night January 30th, for the spectacular show called “Night Glow,” followed by fireworks.  And to see what special shape balloons there will be this year too, a favorite of kids and adults alike.  It’s a bird, it’s a plane… no, it’s not Superman, just a gigantic hot air balloon in the shape of a turtle! Or a man playing the bagpipes!

Festival de Ballons, Château-dFestival de Ballons, Château-dFestival de Ballons, Château-dFestival de Ballons, Château-d

Even with your own two feet staying on the ground, it’s an extraordinary event to witness. For a real taste of adrenaline and to put yourself IN one of those balloons, there are also rides for the public.  Passenger flights don’t come cheap, at CHF 299 per person – but then again, how can you put a price on being almost 8,000 feet (2500 m) high in the sky with other hot air balloons, in the middle of the Swiss Alps, having 360 degree views over the entire valley?!  A more accessible option is to take a ride in a helicopter (CHF 60), easy to reserve on the spot the day you are there.  I am extremely grateful to have gone up (and up and up…) for a hot air balloon ride, thanks to the team at Château d’Oex’s tourism office.  It will be an adventure I never forget… and not only because we landed with the sun coming down — on a hill just above the event’s ex-President’s house!  After a sporty team effort to deflate and fold up the balloon and drag the (very) heavy basket to the road, it was Champagne for all!

Festival de Ballons, Château-dFestival de Ballons, Château-d

As you gaze up at the sky, do you too wonder just those hot air balloons fly and don’t hit the trees or mountains, or land (literally) on someone’s house?!  The festival’s website is a fantastic resource with all you ever wanted to know about hot air ballooning, especially the question of how it actually works.

Festival de Ballons, Château-d

Has anyone ever been up in a hot air balloon before?  Share your stories below!

Festival de Ballons, Château-d

Festival International de Ballons – International Hot Air Balloon Festival
Château d’Oex
Entry price on weekends: CHF 9 (free during the week).

36 Responses to “A Flight of Colors”

  1. Lani says:

    OHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! WOW!!!!!! The colors come right out of the computer. It is a picture perfect postcard of the Hot Air Balloon event!!! I can just feel the cold air on my cheeks and the unbelieveable smile across my face watching the balloons go up up and away! To then see them land on fresh white snow in the Swiss Alps!! It just takes my breath away! Your photograhy is FANTASTIC….Thank you for sharing this experience….are you planning on going again?

  2. Andrea says:

    How incredible! Lucky you! Fantastic photos too. I’m so jealous 😛

  3. Sarka says:

    This is exactly the way how to enjoy snow – mountains, sun and snow. And together with those beautifully colourful hot air balloons it’s even better. Just reading about fondue and raclette makes me drool! 🙂 Beautiful pictures.

  4. Rosa says:

    That is a region I really love! Wow, lucky you!



  5. HT says:

    How beautiful! We have an annual Hot Air Balloonfest as well. It is in the autumn. But these pictures are just so beautiful with the snow as a back drop!

  6. Romy says:

    I love Switzerland. I love the silly duck balloon. And I love your photos. 🙂

  7. jkiel says:

    What a fabulous experience! It seems to me that, years ago when we stayed overnight in Flims (a lovely little town, we should have stayed longer!) that they have a balloon festival as well.. floating over the Alps has to have been simply magical!

  8. katy says:

    incredible pictures! beautiful post. I’m passing it on to a friend who is living in Vauderens, Switzerland. Perhaps he’ll be lucky enough to make it to this event.

  9. Samantha Sidney says:

    So cool. I love the balloon that is shaped like a man wearing a kilt. I have never seen anything like that before. Very cool pictures!

    xo, Sam

  10. Andrea says:

    Kerrin, you have lived my dream of flying through the Alps…do you ever wake up and pinch yourself? 🙂 My first and only experience in a hot air ballon so far, was when I was pregnant with my first child 16 years ago in Provo, Utah. We flew around the Rocky Mountains — playing the game “Turtle and Hare” during the annual huge 4th of July celebration, Freedom Festival. It was something I treasure and that I will never forget.

    Thanks again for these super neat photos!!

  11. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    What an amazing spectacle. I think I would have also shared your childlike grin at the vision of all those balloons in the air. That may very well have been accompanied with a clap or two of glee from my hands and, if I?m really excited, a little jump or two up and down in the air!

    I couldn?t imagine standing there. Taking this all in. Your photography has captured it wonderfully. A great annual event that is for sure.

    I am afraid I get motion sick (sad, but true), so a balloon ride would not be high on my agenda, but for me, those that suffer a similar fate, great to see a feast of food and beverages to enjoy while soaking up the atmosphere. Even if you can?t get off the ground! 🙂

  12. Kerrin says:

    Thanks everyone for the enthusiastic replies about the photos. I have to give more credit to that landscape than to me and my camera ! 🙂

    Andrea, yes in fact – I pinch myself quite often, thinking this must be a dream. I feel so lucky to live where I do and have all these experiences. I think about that all the time ! Meanwhile, going up in a hot air balloon around the Rocky Mts sounds quite fantastic as well – and pregnant… I assume your first child is not afraid of heights now ?! haha !

    Julia, ok ok, I’ll admit it – I was totally jumping up and down at the festival – more like running around high speed not wanting to miss a thing ! As you said, like the warm, caramelized gaufres they were selling and other delicious treats… no event in Switzerland is without its fair share of gourmet goodies – including of course, raclette !

  13. Mowie @ Mowielicious.com says:

    Oh wow Kerrin, such dreamy pictures! I’ve never been up in a hot air balloon before and it’s on my *list*.

  14. bethany says:

    These are fantastic photos Kerrin! Such a fantastic array of hot air balloons… And what an incredible time!

  15. uberVU - social comments says:

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by ShortTermRental: A Flight of Colors http://bit.ly/8iSOH8

  16. Meeta says:

    Lovely! Last year we had the exhilarating pleasure flying high in a hot air balloon (http://whatsforlunchhoney.blogspot.com/2009/05/flying-high.html). It was amazing! Although the backdrop was not quite as majestic as the Alps the Thüringia hills covered in yeello and green was breathtaking. Thanks for sharing this Kerrin! Loved it!

  17. barbara says:

    Fabulous pictures Kerrin. I went up about 10 years ago with a friend celebrating a birthday. One of my top experiences of all time. I once saw a similar balloon festival in Auckland but it didn’t look as stunning as yours does against the snow.

  18. Ancutza says:

    Wonderful photos and original balloons! I really would love to experience this! Have a great New Year!

  19. Stéphanie says:

    WOW, your pictures are fantastic and it’s not only thanks to the amazing landscape. Thank you for letting us travel with you, especially now that I can’t travel for a little while. Being pregnant is not always leading you up into a hot air balloon, but the good news is pregnancy doesn’t last forever! 😉

  20. kelleynr says:

    What fantastic photos! Have a great week!

  21. Tweets that mention A Flight of Colors | MyKugelhopf -- Topsy.com says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Amy @ The Q Family, Travel News, Kerrin Rousset, Kerrin Rousset, Kerrin Rousset and others. Kerrin Rousset said: [new blog post] A Flight of Colors http://bit.ly/8iSOH8 […]

  22. Yeye says:

    What a fantastic and colorful adventure! You are so lucky! I’m looking for bungee jumping from a hot air balloon. That would be the perfect spot. Any idea if this is an activity they offer? Thank you Kerrin for sharing. Keep up the beautiful work and stories …

  23. Kevin says:

    Yep – in Tuscany, with Robert at Ballooning in Tuscany. An absolutely unforgettable experience and I highly recommend the splurge.

    Those are some fantastic pictures.

  24. Nomadic Chick says:

    Once again, stunning photos. You make ballooning palatable to me, and I have a healthy fear of heights!

  25. Kerrin says:

    Thanks everyone once again; I really appreciate the enthusiastic kudos on the photos !

    And thanks to those who have shared their hot air ballooning experiences…

    Meeta, great link – your photos are fantastic as well ! The Thüringia hills are beautiful, as you said – those tones of yellow and green are so vibrant !

    barbara, what a fun thing to do for a birthday celebration, awesome idea !

    Stéphanie, merci merci ! I hope you are feeling fabulous ! Perhaps one day you’ll go up in a hot air balloon with your TWO children ! Glad I can take you on a few adventures here until you are ready to travel once again…

    Yeye, wow – bungee jumping from a hot air balloon ?! I never thought of that !! Wouldn’t know what to recommend…. Good thing Kevin was here to help !

    Kevin, thanks so much for the info. Wow – not only going up in a hot air balloon in Tuscany – but jumping OUT of it ?! I would love to go ballooning in Tuscany – but I think I would stay in the basket the whole time !! 🙂

    Nomadic Chick, glad you were able to “experience” a hot air balloon ride then ! 🙂

  26. Lani says:

    Yeye, bungee jumping from a hot air balloon!!! Oh my!

  27. Jess says:

    Kerrin-Thank you so much for this post. I think I sense a little road trip coming on. I’ve been meaning to go to this since moving here and each year we seem to miss (it always coincides with vacation season). This year we’ll be around for the first weekend though. Hopefully we can make it.

    Jess “Klutzy Chef”

  28. zenchef says:

    You have NO idea how jealous i am. 🙂 The photos are absolutely stunning!
    What an incredible experience.

  29. The Purple Foodie says:

    Brillanit photos! I’ve never been in a hot air balloon. Looks like this will go on my wishlist right now.

  30. David says:

    The last photo is truly awesome.It seems that you’re a professional photographer.I have seen such a beautiful picture only on National Geographic blog.Truly great job.
    Thanks for the pictures.

  31. Kerrin says:

    Jess, I hope you can make it too ! Be sure to let me know if you do. And check out the latest post here… something else you’ll want to add to your weekend plans ! http://mykugelhopf.ch/2010/01/say-cheese/ Have fun !

    zenchef, thank you so much, appreciate the kind words on the photography. It really was an incredible experience.

    David, wow, thank you ! So glad you enjoyed the photos. I’m not a professional photographer, simply love taking pictures. But when the landscape is just that gorgeous, you don’t really need to do much ! 😉

  32. Jane says:

    Hi Kerrin, I love your photos!! absolutely beautiful! Thanks for sharing!! My friend and I really liked them so much that we are planning a day trip from Zurich to go to the festival on Thursday. We are only able to go this one day and also taking my mom and another girlfriend who are visiting this week. I went to the program you posted and it does not have anything specifically happening on Thursday, however you wrote that there is always something going on… Should we be concerned that we may not see the balloons up in the air???? We are Jazzed and think this will be a very groovy day trip “)….Everything is really Fantastic and stunning!!! Many Thanks and Cheers, Jane

  33. Kerrin says:

    Jane, thanks so much ! What a fabulous idea for you all to go next week – how perfect that your mom and friend will be in town. You will absolutely see all those balloons in the air – even without extra festivities or special events, there is still plenty going on. Here is the schedule for the day you will be there:

    Monday 25th to Friday January 29th

    09.45 Fiesta Balloon Flights / Passenger flights

    ? David Niven Long Distance Hare & Hound
    ? The Two Gruyères
    ? Hare & Hounds
    ? Fly back
    ? Rougemont Target
    ? Don Quichotte Trophy
    ? Race to a line
    ? Friendship flight ?Saanen – Château-d?Oex?

    Enjoy, and let me know how it goes ! 🙂

  34. All Inclusive says:

    Wow, those pictures are amazing! This sounds like a wonderful way to spend a vacation. Love your blog!

  35. Steve says:

    O…M…G… these photos are GORGEOUS. Trust me, i’ve taken pictures of gorgeous landscapes, and they didn’t come out like yours. If you’re not a professional photographer, you should be.
    Kevin, did you actually bungee jump off the balloon? If you did, i have 2 questions: are you nuts? And what was that like?
    YeYe, I suppose you’re nuts as well 🙂

  36. Aqiyl Aniys says:

    This is awesome! I want to go on a ballon ride and go skydiving!

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