It’s customary when you land to toast a hot air balloon flight over Bath, or any other city, with a glass of champagne. This is a long tradition, but how did it start?
The first hot air balloon flights were started in the 1780s in France. The passengers were the French aristocracy, who were not very popular with the poor – especially the farmers, who did not like the balloons landing on their fields. They would often attack a balloon with pitchforks.
The aristocracy could not conceive that the farmers found them unpopular. They thought that the farmers were afraid of the balloons, thinking that, with their burners, they believed they were some kind of strange fire-breathing dragon.
The passengers carried champagne to drink in the flight but decided that they could give the farmers a bottle as a gesture of goodwill. This would show them that, far from being a part of a fierce dragon, they were simply friendly aristocrats.
It’s unlikely relationships between aristocrats and farmers were repaired there and then, but the champagne was gratefully received and was seen as a suitable payment for landing rights.
The tradition of drinking champagne after a hot air balloon flight is still alive in France today. There are hot air balloon companies that operate fights over the Champagne region where passengers can admire the beauty of the vineyards from the air. After the flight, passengers can taste champagne made from the grapes they have just seen from the skies.
The farmers in the Bath area are friendly and do not mind balloons landing in their fields. The champagne on board can be drunk by the passengers and used to toast the flight.
If you do not drink, sparkling apple juice or orange juice can be substituted for champagne.
In America, some balloon companies like to recite the hot air balloonist prayer after the flight:
“The winds have welcomed you with softness.
The sun has blessed you with its warm hands.
We have flown so high and so well that God
has joined you in laughter and set you gently
back into the loving arms of mother Earth.”
At the end of the prayer, everyone raises their glasses and shouts ‘Hear! Hear!’
If the hot air balloon flight is for a special occasion such as a wedding anniversary or a significant birthday, hors d’oeuvres can be eaten or, for a taste of top-class luxury, why not arrange for a jar of caviar to be eaten after the flight?
Many people say that the best time to fly is at dawn. For some, this may seem too early for drinking, but champagne lovers declare that any time can be ‘Champagne o’clock’.
If you want to experience the thrill of a champagne hot air balloon flight over Bath, book your place on a Bailey Balloons flight. You will have the unique experience of seeing the sights of Bath from the air.