Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Luft Lust? Or Just A Lot Of Hot Air?

Have you noticed that there seems to be a lot of hot air balloons floating around lately? (Very poor pun, sorry.) Hot air balloons have always been a particular favourite of Jules Verne-style travellers, old-fashioned romantics and modern designers with a penchant for the steamy, heated and hair-raising. But now they're fast becoming a hot new trend. (Oh, another bad pun there!)

I thought I'd post some of the high-flying flamboyance I've seen rising up from the cultural landscape lately.

{Beautiful image above by Studio Flower Power, available to buy on on Etsy}

Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner rode a balloon to the edge of space on Sunday, saluted and stepped off.

The former soldier hurtled through the sky at more than 830 mph, breaking the sound barrier in his four-minute free fall before popping his parachute above the New Mexico desert.

Then he fell to his knees. Understandable, really. Felix, we salute you back. {Via Sky}

Parisian department store Le Bon Marche's 160-year anniversary is currently being celebrated with a spectacular display of gorgeously graphic luft machines, which perfectly suit the store's famously graphic ceiling. These lovely images are via Vicki Archer and the always-insightful French Essence blog.

A fantastic 3D 'balloon book by artist Lizzie Buckmaster Dove.

A lovely old vintage balloon print, from the Old Maps and Prints store on Etsy.

One of the most beautiful new hotels in Paris, the Versailles-sized St James. The hotel is situated on the site of the first ever hot-air balloon airfield, and because of this the hotel features the balloon as its brand. Whimsical, but strangely uplifting. (Will stop with the puns now.) Bookings through Mr and Mrs Smith or the hotel itself. {Images via Mr and Mrs Smith and St James}

Book illustration on the history of balloons, from 1890.

An astonishing image by photographer Scott Williams that captures the magnificent festival known as the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, held in New Mexico each year. Doesn't this make you want to go and hitch a ride on a balloon? {Via Wiki and Scott Williams}

John Derian's beautifully simplistic interpretation of a hot air balloon for his 'Paris hot air balloon' plate, available as part of his collection. {Via John Derian}

Jules Verne's most famous character, Phileas Fogg of London, and his newly employed French valet Passepartout, set out to circumnavigate the world in 80 days in 1872, in order to win a £20,000 wager (equal to £1,324,289 today) set by his friends at the Reform Club. The novel of their adventures, Around The World In 80 Days, has since become a literary classic. But Jules Verne wrote another balloon adventure before this one, called Five Weeks in a Balloon, or Journeys and Discoveries in Africa by Three Englishmen (Not quite sure of the title but in French it's Cinq semaines en ballon). He used this earlier novel to perfect the style that would elevate his later work to bestseller level, skillfully mixing a plot full of adventure and twists with passages of technical, geographic, and historic description. Oh – and lots of hot air balloon flights!

The pinboard above my desk. The tiny hot air balloon gift card is from John Derian's enchanting store in New York. It was all I could afford in that store!

And one more from the fabulously glam St James Hotel in Paris...

And while we're on the subject of travel, I'm not going off in a hot air balloon with a French valet for company (sadly), but I am off for a few days to do some research and finish a photo shoot. I had emailed a photographer I know to do the job for me, but she hasn't replied, which means she must be terribly busy – as I suspected she would be. Consequently, I need to do the shoot myself. So I'm taking my aging, complaining, works-when-it-wants-to camera and going off to finish the job so we can stay on deadline. However, I will be seeing some beautiful places on the way, so I promise to post lots of lovely pics. (If you can forgive the blurry photos.)

On a little aside, those of you awaiting news of the Garden Tours for 2013 will be pleased to hear that details of the itinerary and costs will be posted next Friday (26th), as I am currently tracking down the cheapest deals and awaiting quotes. I sincerely apologise for not having details sooner. It has been rather complicated owing to the fact that people are flying into London from all over the world and so many replied! But I can also tell you that there will be some horticultural treats in store! And for those of you who are Planners Well Before Time (like my Virgo partner), you can feel reassured. All the 2013 Early Bird Special air fares are only just going on sale now. (Chelsea tickets aren't even on sale yet!) Au revoir for now.


  1. Inner metaphors/visions have been schooner ships for years.

    Last Friday I celebrated a HUGE life event.

    Within ours had inner vision of Hot Air Balloon.

    You know I loved this today !

    Garden & Be Well, XO T

    1. So thrilled you celebrated a big life event - and with joy and typical Tara joie de vivre! Hope it was a wonderful occasion. xx

  2. hello janelle. by any chance did you see the fella jump out of a balloon at 30k ft yesterday? he was in a nasa spacesuit and jumped trying to break the speed of sound. he missed but he did free fall to the earth at speeds of close to 700 miles an hour. you can google it and watch. looking forward to the details on the garden tour.

    1. Oh my gosh Janet, I'd meant to open with that image, but was distracted yesterday by a million things going on here. Thanks for the reminder. I think my mind is off in a hot air balloon at the moment! Wasn't the jump amazing? I'm so inspired by people like that, who dare to live their dreams. For the rest of us, it's enough to go to Paris and climb the Eiffel Tower! xx PS Would love to see you on the tour. You'd be wonderful to travel with.

  3. Looking forward to Garden Tour details! My inbox is being bombarded with offers from Best Flights and they look pretty good. Stunned that you were warned that Americans and Australians don't play nicely - I feel confident that everyone will get along fabulously. 2013 is going to be a good year.

  4. I know Kate! I just hope the Americans can tolerate us extroverted Aussies! xx

    1. Dear Janelle and Kate
      Back in the late 90s (during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia) husband and I were on a 4 day bus tour of the Meteora monasteries and Delphi. About 20 people, all Americans except us and a Kiwi couple. The Americans were feeling rather sensitive because people in Greece and other places were being very unpleasant to them at that time. They said, "Everyone loves Australians, you're so lucky!" I replied, "Except New Zealanders, they hate us!" As the Yanks were really shocked I had to explain that I was joking. The Kiwis were sitting just in front and had been listening and laughing. They laughed even more when I said, "You know what I mean don't you!" and replied, "Yes, underarm bowling!" Which is a bit too boring to explain but it's an old old thorn between otherwise good neighbours. (We lived in Wellington for 3 years and still have dear friends there - the Kiwis are the kindest and most genuine people but they never stopped rubbishing us about the cricket.)

      Anyway, we all got along famously on that trip as I'm sure the Aussies and Americans will on the wonderful Garden Tour, you lucky people! Best wishes, Pamela

    2. I agree Pamela. I like New Zealanders too. I always loved that stat about Kiwis (or is it an urban myth?), which states that there are 4 million New Zealand passports and only 3 million actually living in the country. Meaning that there are an awful lot of Kiwis travelling overseas at any one time... x

    3. Dear Janelle
      Hadn't heard that but I'm quite ready to believe it. Like Aussies, the Kiwis are serious travellers and of course a lot live in Oz.
      But in regard to passports, I once met a kiwi guy here whose passport showed an ID photo of a big beefy man with a a bushy beard and moustache (which is what he really looked like). The text described him as Mrs/Mrs Brian Smith (or whatever the exact name was). It came through just before he left NZ so he said there wasn't time to get it changed. He'd been travelling around the world with this and hadn't been challenged on it. But it was years ago before Sept 11.
      Aussie friends said, "only NZ".
      In Wellington the Kiwis used to say all their bank robbers were Australian. There was even a true story of a man who planned to rob a fush and chups shop wearing a stocking mask. But he suffered from last minute nerves and decided to light up a ciggie. Then he accidentally set fire to his stocking mask and had to run into the shop asking them to throw water over his face. Naturally he was an Aussie! My Kiwi work colleagues would never let me live any of these down.
      Yet so kind. Whenever we were having a dinner or party, my Kiwi friends and neighbours would strip their gardens of flowers for me (without any request from me), offer to mind children while I cooked, make savouries for pre-dinner drinks, etc. All kinds of thoughtful things! Best wishes, Pamela

  5. I love the notion of hot air balloons, but wouldn't have the courage to actually get in one. Far nicer to admire from below!! I attempted to make a stack of little hot air balloons to decorate our Christmas tree last year - but it just looked like a very bad attempt by Mary Poppins to come up with a new way to fly, apart from an umbrella. xx

    1. What a fantastic idea! A hot air balloon tree! I'm sure it looked as lovely as it sounds. I've always wanted to do a balloon flight over the Loire, looking down at all those beautiful chateaux. xx

  6. I enjoyed this post.I have not thought or paid too much attention to balloons I will in the future. I adore the the travel gear those intense blue shoes wow and the scarves are beautiful.I actually bought a georgous blue bag last week an oroton tote, I just love thin tense blue.D0 you sleep I notice that your blogs are very late !!!I I always thought that Americans and Aussies got on and that we are of a similar nature. Hex Trish

  7. How perceptive you are Trish. Yes, I do most of my work / writing between 8pm and 4am. It's the only time the house is quiet and I can think properly. Although sometimes the fatigue gets to me when I get up at 9am the next morning. And yes, I think Americans and Aussies are very similar. But one of the comments I heard was that Australians are fiercely independent and shy away from a formal itinerary, while Americans are happy to be "led in luxury". Apparently the difference in travel styles sometimes makes it difficult to have different nationalities on a tour. I don't know about that. I think gardeners are gardeners, no matter where you live in the world. xx

  8. Great title gave me a laugh.

    I love balloons have been up in a hot air balloon over Bagan in Myanmar one of the best experiences ever!

    Wish I was going on the trip it sounds great already!

  9. Have a great trip Janelle and hope all goes well... I have a lamp from the 1990's with a hot air balloon on it - knew it would all come round again one day but I have always been fond of it. Looking foward to hearing all about the garden trip ! x

  10. My best friend is going up in one tomorrow, I wouldn't do it for all the tea in China!


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