MAB 2011: Sunday 31 July

Another wonderful edition of Mondial Air Ballons has come to an end. I’m very thankful I could share this exhausting but magnificent week with the most humorous, easy going and lovely people from the world of ballooning. Thanks everybody; see you in two years!

Sarah, Peter and Bennie earlier this morning after a nice flight with ‘Grand Britannia’

MAB 2011: Saturday 30 July

Not as much fog as yesterday morning; nice! After the briefing I went straight off to the France 3 studio. Finally, the preparations could be start for a short interview. Peter George put his balloon in sight of the camera, so I was filmed together with my favorite balloon taking off. During the interview the moderator and I discussed the Mondial Air Ballons fan page, the ‘waiting waiting waiting… cancel’ principle and the improvements made by the organization this year. It was a light ten minute talk and I felt very comfortable being interviewed about my biggest passion. Wanna see it? Just click http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/16325375
After the interview I took a short walk over the launch area with my dad. We enjoyed the slight sun and the huge amount of balloons still taking off. When we were about to go back to our car a French balloon team headed towards us. Clever lesson: never say ‘no’ immediately when a Frenchman asks if you speak French (that’s what a young couple standing near to us did). After a ‘un peu’ from my side the pilot invited us to join his flight since he didn’t have passengers yet. So, there we went, completely unexpected with both feet from the ground again. From the first moment onwards I had this strange ‘I hope this will all be ok’ feeling. Confused rushing crew members, the balloon not spread out towards the right direction, twisted wires, etc… What was I doing here? Is this French style ballooning? Eventually I climbed on board, keeping this uncomfortable feeling during the whole flight. I was surprised however by the amazing sight from above. The sun was doing its best to burn away some little sheep like clouds while still many balloons were happily flying over typical small French villages. After this moment of enjoyment I decided to close my eyes. Landing time. My goodness, we were heading straight towards a retrieve vehicle parked in the middle of our landing field. We had quite some speed and after lots and lots of burning the basket eventually just missed the car. Oefff! Then the actual landing came: BAM BAM BAM; an elbow in my stomach, a heavy guy falling on me and a propane tank which was not safely secured crushing my feet. What a delight to be out of that basket again. Luckily the morning ended calm. During refueling I had a little children talk in French with the pilot his son and his little friend. They for example asked me if I have animals at home. After my answer they proudly summed up all their pets. Sweet. The pilot’s son is blind but I was amazed by the brightness of this little fellow. He disconnected all gas valves on his own and was perfectly manageable to help packing the balloon. He did everything by touch, and it was great to see how well this worked out.
The evening started with Austrian schnapps and cookies, hmm! The Dutch-Latvian team from Hans van Hoesel asked if my dad and I wanted to join for a flight with the ladybird balloon later on. Of course! We got introduced to the Russian team and their self made balloon. Even though there was a slight language barrier the Russians left a really good impression giving us a nice Russian balloon magazine and some pictures of their balloon. In comparison with this morning I felt comfortable and safe right away with Hans and his son Andris both flying the balloon. It was relatively dark, however, the colors were good for the pictures. It was a very pleasant flight with a hard but way better landing than this morning.
During the slowly traditional British-American ballooning after party we enjoyed some cheesecake and champagne. Unfortunately it was also already time to say goodbye to some Americans leaving France tomorrow in the early morning again. This long day ended with a sweet comment from Priscilla: ‘I will call one of my kitty cats Nienke!’. Adorable.

MAB 2011: Friday 29 July

So much fog this morning! When driving towards the launch field we could only look some meters ahead of us. This continued the whole morning: fog, fog and even more fog. The organization still saw a possibility for takeoff and kept the pilots waiting. After a two our nap in the car I noticed the situation still didn’t change. My dad and I drove onto the field and met Hans Pravda and his still half asleep team there. We tried to keep ourselves awake with Austrian homemade schnapps. Good morning! The flight was eventually canceled, as well as the interview which was actually scheduled for today. Off to Nancy for a short city trip then! Together with my dad I walked the Art Nouveau route there. We had a look at Villa Majorelle and the museum of the School of Nancy. Definitely worth a visit if you’re into Art Nouveau. Lovely architecture and furniture can be found there. In a Russian food shop I later on found the curd snacks I normally eat everyday when being in Latvia. Hmm, happy Nienke!
The evening didn’t bring much good. The weather was getting worse and worse and the flight had to be canceled. Back at the hotel Peter, Sarah, my dad and I enjoyed a beer and a delicious cheesecake while watching pictures and movies from flights earlier this week.

MAB 2011: Thursday 28 July

After the shortest night till now I drove to the airbase together with Sarah and my dad. We saw two gasballoons; they took off already before the briefing started. The gasballoon with German pilots Dominik Haggeney and Astrid Gehardt was about to take off when the briefing just started. No briefing for me; my still well working gasballoon magnet sent me straight towards this mysterious envelop filled with hydrogen. The balloon eventually took off carrying a Norwegian flag. What a lovely gesture. The hot air balloon pilots prepared themselves for another morning flight. The sun tried its very best to show up, but after 10 minutes it failed already again.
This evening the sun surprised us all. It was there, the whole time! That didn’t happen during any day before. In the hangar I met Dutch balloon pilot Hans van Hoesel. We eventually figured out that Hans has an apartment in Riga, only a few blocks away from where I normally live. What a small world! I was pleased to meet Hans his wife and her son later on; they’re from Latvia but speak Dutch perfectly.
A while ago someone from the France 3 television station contacted me and my dad with the message that they would like to interview us about our Mondial Air Ballons fansite www.mondialairballons.com. My dad decided this would be a good job for me. We went to the studio, introduced ourselves and got all kind of information about how France 3 put this event in the spotlights, on television and on the world wide web. The interview is scheduled for tomorrow morning during takeoff, live from the launch field. Exciting!
American pilot Mike Shrum invited me and my dad to join him for the evening flight. He brought ‘Laristra’ with him; the biggest chili pepper ever. I was honored to step on board of this fascinating balloon. We took off accompanied by hundreds of smiling faces from the audience looking at us while applauding. Goosebumps! What a lovely moment. When my dad later on asked Mike why on earth he bought this difficult to handle balloon he pointed out that a happy audience makes every drop of sweat worth it. He’s absolutely right. We had a great flight with the three of us. Eventually 24 people helped packing the balloon. All these people later on stood in a big truck like cattle, going back to the airbase for some refueling. Another perfect day in France; a big thank you to Mike, Nick and their French help troops!
Laristra on the background, earlier this week

MAB 2011: Wednesday 27 July

I started the day with sleepy eyes and a warm bath at 04.30 a.m. Every day here starts with a one second thought: ‘why am I doing this to myself?’, followed by some mental images of a mass take off at Chambley. Then I realize again that all these early wake ups are definitely worth it. A line up was scheduled for this morning with the aim to set a new world record. It was a wonderful sight to see hundreds of balloons lined up and take off almost simultaneously. My dad made a flight with Austrian balloon pilot Hans Pravda while I stayed with two feet on the ground capturing today’s record attempt. Most balloons eventually disappeared out of sight because of some slight fog while some were still carefully lighted by some shy sunrays. I took a break reading the local newspaper and chatting around with a Dutch balloon spotter who nicknamed himself ‘Scooter Willy’. When Willy decided to hunt for some food I kept myself awake with some Finnish symphonic metal (even though I absolutely don’t like metal; a symphonic touch can do miracles). When my dad came back we joined Tarp and Desiree Head and Peter George’s team drinking beer and champagne while eating chocolate, sausages and cheese. What a lovely breakfast!
The afternoon was rather lazy. After a nap I took a small walk through Pont-a-Mousson. It was quite sunny and warm, but that changed once we got off to the launch area. Sarah and I filled the time we had to wait with our traditional two year update talk; lovely girly gossip once again. Peter invited me to fly with him and his G-UKUK today. Yeah, flight number 50! It was great to share this special milestone with Peter and Sarah, who also joined the flight. After half an hour we had to land because a big grayish cloud was approaching. What a coincidence, the weather was ok everywhere and right above the field and towards our landing spot this massive bad cloud had to appear. Our landing caused a big traffic jam since everyone passing us stopped to make a picture. Some curious French children ran towards us for a small welcome, however, once they heard the burner their scared faced showed up. When hiding behind their mom they were fine again. Isaac, Tarp and Desiree did some good retrieving and found us right away. With some teamwork we packed the balloon within minutes. One French spectator started asking all kind of irrelevant questions. I was unable to answer any of them since I couldn’t stop smiling about his 10 cm zipper being unintentionally opened proudly. I have some difficulties taking persons serious in such a situation. As soon as we closed the trailer it started to rain. What a shower! At the entertainment area of the airbase we eventually found some empty tents. There we built up a little table which we packed with food and drinks. Next to our tent was a ‘free fall simulator’; a huge turbine which makes you feel like flying even though you’re secured with some elastic ropes. That was some great entertainment during the late evening. 

MAB 2011: Tuesday 26 July

This morning some rain fronts were present at the area around the launch field, however, they were luckily far away enough to cause any trouble. Conclusion: flyable! It was an extremely grey morning but hundreds of pilots quickly changed it into a colorful one with hundreds of balloons. Some voluntary retrieving brought some nice shots of heaps of balloons over French little villages.
Exhausted Nienke in the early morning with a gigantic Swedish hygienic glove.
 
After a welcome nap my dad and I took off to Metz. We combined our visit with a short stop at the garage where we left our replacement car. The funny mechanic welcomed us with a happy ‘Oooh, mister Bos, hahaha!’. Our own Ford is repaired; dad’s wallet is a lot lighter now but in return we got a nice working car again. We took a cab which brought us from the garage to our hotel. The driver was very talkative. He guessed I was from Sweden and gave me some compliments about my light hair color. I rediscovered the fact that I learned French for some years. I somehow managed to have a half an hour long smooth conversation with the cab driver about balloons, Dutch tulips and Dutch people invading the French motorway. It was extremely rainy once we arrived at the hotel. Luckily the rain soon disappeared and allowed all pilots to make a pleasant flight without too much wind. Once again I had a wonderful time hunting around for nice shots at the launch area.

MAB 2011: Monday 25 July

We started the day with some slight rain, a rainbow and a nice reddish sunrise. After the briefing all the teams drove onto the field but there the weather only seemed to get worse. My dad and I found shelter against the drizzle and enjoyed some fresh breads from the patisserie at the press area. Eventually a sign was given for departure. Slowly all teams started unpacking and inflating their balloons. The weather got better and better. I was overwhelmed again by the enormous amount of balloons surrounding me. When wanting to take a ‘happy people ready for departure action picture’ German pilot Matthias Schlegel asked if I wanted to join. Ofcourse! Together with Matthias, Bastian and one of their friends I made one of my best flights ever. The abundance of balloons pleased Matthias’s team, who’s present at the Mondial Air Ballons for the first time. I’m sure they’re hooked now and will come back whenever possible. What a flight… The wind took us all over the launch area, a beautiful sun flower field and then back to the Chambley airbase again. Many balloons were clustering together, drifting over the field and back. After the event I’ll post some pictures of this flight which will illustrate the great ambiance way better than words can.
The evening flight can be concluded in only a few words: a lot of waiting, wind and the smell of burnt fabric. The pilots that eventually took off left the launch area almost immediately while still two big rain fronts were visible on both sides of the field. Gertjan Veldman was so kind to bring me and my dad a bag of crisps; we were definitely in need of that after all the walking and the cold of the last few days. The evening ended with the Brits and Americans again. French cheese, champagne, more crisps, and so on. Tasty food, some drinks and a bunch of ballooning people is a very nice combination! Now off to bed again. These long days and short nights are heavy to survive, but definitely worth the tiredness.