Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Moonrise and the Mont Ventoux- Photo of the Day

I had to share this even if the photo isn't great.
Last night I was driving home after seeing a client and happened to find myself faced with the amazing sight of the moon rising behind the Mont Ventoux as the sun went down, transferring the golden hues of the sunset to the moon. 
I was in my car in busy traffic and managed to get my camera out of its bag and put on my zoom lens and click out of the window. I didn't have much time to fiddle with many settings as the car behind was getting irate and the brief moment that you see in the photo lasted about 2 minutes before the moon lost its orange glow and rose too high. 
The photo is cropped to the essentials and allows you to imagine how stunning it was to see.

Monday, 9 December 2013

A Truffle Hunt in Provence

If you had planned your trip to Provence in the depth of Winter to visit monuments and enjoy wine tastings you may well go home a little disappointed.
The trees have lost their leaves, many hotels have shut for the season, the main tourist attractions have little to offer in the way of souvenirs... It's all a bit quiet and even a bit sad...

...or at least that is how it may seem. In fact there are some unique activities that can only take place during the Winter and the highlight of them all is the Truffle Hunt!
A truffle wood in winter
Of course truffles can be found throughout the year but the finest, most pungent member of this underground fungus makes its appearance from the month of December through to March, I am of course talking about Tuber Melanosporum or the Winter Truffle or as it is referred to in France "Le Diamant Noir", The Black Diamond.

A Short History of Truffles

References to Truffles can be found as far back as ancient  Egypt, where we know that Cheops served truffles to visiting delegations. The Greek Theophrastus (327-287 BC) thought that truffles were created by Autumn rains and thunder but it took several hundred years for his countryman Plutarch (46-120AD) to realise that it was water, earth and lightening that made truffles... Since then no new theories are mentioned so I'll stick with that one.
Truffles where a common foodstuff in pre-middle age times they were plentiful and all you needed was a pig (a sow) to find them and nearby woodland, but with the increased power of the Catholic church the eating of truffles was soon stopped as the eating of a black object found underground and requiring a cloven hoofed animal to find it could only be the work of the devil.
Luckily such superstitions where less adhered to in the Renaissance period by the likes of François I during whose reign the Truffle was returned to its rightful place on the table. At the time the Truffles on the royal tables originated from  Burgundy, then from the South West of France and notably from the Perigord which gave them one of their names "La Truffe du Périgord".

At the time truffles were still hunted for by Sows who apparently found the odour of the truffle similar to that of the sexual organs of a male pig. The fact that they have to be reigned in to stop them eating the truffle is either the indication of an extraordinarily amorous sentiment or that of pure hatred for their male counterparts. Whatever the case, with this new information in mind,  next time you enjoy a Truffle Brouillade you can shine in society by announcing with authority the similarity to the senses of the truffle and a boars nether regions.

The Birth of Truffle Cultivation

Modern day truffles are "grown", sort of. In 1810, a man called Joseph Talon from the village of Saint-Saturnin les Apt in the heart of the Luberon region of Provence discovered the connection with the truffle and the trees that they grew near, and it was this discovery that led to the development of modern day truffle farming. The technique consists of rubbing mashed up truffles into the roots of small oak trees an then planting them, actually it's a bit more complicated than that but that's the general idea.
Truffle production in France in 1880 was 1320 tonnes, with 60% coming from the South East of France ie. Provence. Today those figures have dropped to a mere 30 tonnes with 80% coming from the South East and the rest from the Perigord contrary to popular belief. The reason for this decline is in part due to the massive toll of the First World War which basically wiped out a generation and in doing so not only took away the work force required, but also the link needed to hand down the information from generation to generation. The Second World War followed shortly afterwards and I personally think that a luxury item like a truffle was no longer a priority in war torn Europe.

A Truffle Hunt in Provence  

Nowadays dogs are used to hunt for the truffles as they are easier to control, and it is possible to go on a truffle hunt in Provence which is exactly what I did on Saturday with two travel agents from New York.
We had a rendez-vous in the morning with Eric Jaumard who was welcoming a small group and had invited us to join them for the hunt. The day began inside with a bit of history (see above) before heading out into the truffle plantation with his trusty dog.
After sniffing one out and indicating the spot the truffle is revealed using a special pick axe.
A helpful paw to find the truffle
A small one to start the day
Spot the truffle...
a big one this time!
As the master sniffs, the dog looks on in admiration
A couple of the best ones of the day.

My assumption was that the dog would find a truffle or two and we would head back inside, especially as this is the the start of the season. But no! The dog, whose name I forget, was charging around and finding truffles with unbelievable regularity. Big ones and small ones were filling Mr Jaumard's bag and after an hour or so we returned to the farm with a pretty good harvest.

From there we continued on our way to other discoveries whilst the group sat down to a truffle meal lasting much of the afternoon.
Of course if you would like to experience a truffle hunt followed by a meal, of cooking class we can create a made to measure experience for you. You can contact us using the link on the top right.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Provence Lavender Under Threat

Despite the seemingly endless rows of lavender on display at the height of summer in Provence all is not well in the world of lavender production.
Healthy Lavender growing near Sault, Provence
The cause of the trouble is a miniscule little insect related to the cicada who goes by the name of Hyalesthes obsoletus although there is nothing oblsolete about it. 
Hyalesthes obsoletus © Michael F. Schönitzer
The insect, a sap sucking leaf hopper, has a particular fondness for the taste of lavender upon which it lays its eggs. The insect and its larvae eat the sap of the plant which in itself would cause no problems, if eating a bit of sap was all they did, but unfortunately they are also the carriers of a phytoplasma, a bacterium devoid of cell walls and therefor dependant on a host, in this case the sap of the lavender plant. The insect is referred to as a vector, who much like a mosquito, drinks the sap from the plants and in doing so becomes infected and so propagates the phytoplasma to other plants. The phytoplasma in question here is the Stolbur Phytoplasma which also affects potatoes, tomatoes, maize and vines. Once the phytoplasma is in the plant it inhibits growth and eventually the plant becomes too weak to be productive or dies.
So there, in short, you have the problem and the scale is huge. A noted rise in temperatures has also caused the proliferation of the insect and at this moment in time no effective solution has been found to eradicate it.
Lavendin Plants affected by the Phytoplasma © CRIEPPAM
Lavender Plants affected by the Phytoplasma © CRIEPPAM

The possible methods to tackle the problem are the following:
  •          Antibiotic treatment which would attack the bacteria directly, but their use on plants is forbidden in France to avoid the development of mutation and resistance which would only increase the problem.

  •        Chemical treatment in the form of pesticides would be almost impossible due to the fact that the larvae live under ground and the adults are present during the flowering season at the same time as honey bees. Also the use of pesticides is, from an ecological point of view, not possible even if it did work.

So attacking the phytoplasma or the insect is impossible. All that remains are ways to discourage the insect from laying its eggs on the lavender and the development of resistant strains of lavender who remain unaffected by the phytoplasma.

So far several varieties have been produced which are tolerant to the attacks but none are totally immune. The replacement of affected plants by these is taking place but it is not an end  to the problem. Other experiments which use fine white clay sprayed on to the plants. This seems to discourage the insect who finds the white aspect unappealing.

Research is continuing all the time and research costs money, hence the creation of the foundation to save the lavender of Provence.

I myself am a member of the board and the only representative of the tourism industry. The president is Olivier Baussan the founder of L’Occitane en Provence. The other members are mostly lavender producers.
Through donations the foundation can continue its research into this major problem and as you can see is coming up with answers, but the solution to the problem is not in sight.

Kairos Travel has decided that as of 2014 every for small group lavender tour 100€ per guest would be donated to the Lavender Foundation, and for every lavender day tour or excursion 50€ would be donated. The donations can continue on of course and you can make a donation however big or small, by following this link: http://www.sauvegarde-lavandes-provence.org/souscription-don-fonds-dotation 

The Foundation’s website is only in French for the moment, but the English version is being worked upon and should be online soon.

If you would like to learn more about lavender whilst in Provence (as well as relaxing in th L'Occitane Spa, cooking classes and much much more!) then join us on our "Provence The Lavender Season Tour" information can be found here : http://www.unique-provence.com/provence-luxury-guided-tours/provence-the-lavender-season
or alternatively you could opt for a day tour during the Lavender Season :  http://www.unique-provence.com/guided-tours-of-provence/lavender-day-tour

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Hidden secrets of Provence. La Combe de L'Avion a WW2 Resistance Site

In 2014 we have a new tour programmed based on Fiona McIntosh’s novel The Lavender Keeper , a story that takes place in occupied France and notably in Provence where the main character, Luc Bonet, is a lavender farmer before becoming a resistance fighter.
I started searching for resistance related sites in the region and during my foray into this passionate, tragic and heroic part of France’s history I heard of an event that took place near the beautiful hilltop village of Simiane La Rotonde. 


Not far from Simiane is the hamlet of Chavon and close to there is an area hidden from view once used by the local Resistance fighters, who went under the name “Abatteur” (Slaughterman), for the reception of weapons and supplies parachuted by the allies. These weapons were then used in actions against the Nazi occupiers during which many resistance fighters lost their lives. The Abatteur group comprised 7 men and their main role was the reception of weapons for the resistance movement. They were under the control of the section for landings and parachuting known as the  S.A.P. (Section Atterrissage Parachutage).
 The drop zone area is now covered in lavender and a rather forlorn sign indicates its whereabouts.
The Drop Zone for the Abatteur Resistance Group
On the night of the 10th May 1944 a tragic event took place that would profoundly affect the Abatteur group and to this day leaves no one indifferent to the horrors of World War II and indeed any war.
The section chief had received a coded message on Radio London that a parachute drop of weapons was to take place on the night of the 10th May 1944. He summoned his group and they lit the three beacons for the plane on the drop zone.
Unknown to them a British bombing raid was taking place over Valance that night and one of the Wellington Bombers from this raid saw the beacons. The bomber in question had probably been severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire and was looking for somewhere to land as the return home seemed impossible. Seeing the beacons and mistaking them as a Resistance landing strip they decided to give the landing a go.
On the field the seven men from the resistance group saw the plane fly over at 2am, disappear and then come back at low altitude and seemingly at full throttle only to watch it crash into the valley below, now named “La Combe de L’Avion”, The Airplane Valley. After the crash there was a moment of silence and the men hurried down to see if there were any survivors, but the silence was brief and a series of explosions and detonations followed and the zone was too hot to approach.
Wellington Bombers in formation
At dawn the wreckage revealed the carbonised remains of the four crew at the front of the plane where the heat was such that even their identity plaques had melted. The identity of the fifth crew member, the gunner, Eric Howell,  in the tail section was readable and it was this name that allowed the authorities to later identify the rest of the crew. What shocked the resistance group was that Eric Howell was only 22 years old, the same age as them.
The burial of their remains was overseen by the section chief René Char and the rest of the plane was dismantled and hidden from sight under branches and forest debris.
The men then returned to their duties receiving weapons as the war raged on.
But that night was never forgotten and as soon as the war ended a monument was put up in valley in their memory. In 1994 a team from the BBC found the families of the lost airmen and took them to the site, but I cannot find any information on this event, if any one knows anything use the comments below of send me an email.
Every year on the 10th of May a commemoration ceremony takes place in the Combe de l’Avion to remember those who died there on that tragic night.

The site can be reached on foot from Chavon though it is not easy to find the start of the sign posted trail. I asked a farmer who, like everyone in the hamlet showed me immediately where it was.
Once you find these signs you are on your way!
Once you see the signs that read “Avion”, Airplane,  you are on your way. It is about a mile walk from the first sign. As you walk you pass the drop zone (photo above) and the beauty of provence is all around. Lavender fields, dry stone ruins, wild thyme and a myriad of butterflies reveal themselves as you walk.
Remains of a dry stone hut or barn now inhabited by a tree
When you reach the site you first see the monument with the inscription which translates “To the five airmen from the Royal Air Force who fell on the 10th May 1944 for the triumph of liberty. Simiane is grateful”

The monument in "La Combe de L'Avion" with the remains of the wreaths from this years commemoration
Just beyond the monument is a statue made of the remains of the plane, some melted all held together by bits of wire, but despite its somewhat rustic aspect, one can’t help but be moved by the reality of the events  that took place here all those years ago. 
The statue made of the remnants of the plane. Note the plaques of two of the airmen on the left.
The names of all the members of the crew are on a plaque below the statue and five plaques can be found spread around the site with their names repeated, maybe symbolising where they were found on that tragic night.
Below are some details of the remains of the plane, note the melted piece in the centre photo.

Their names were John Huggler 29 years old, pilot ; Harry Lane 28 years old, navigator ; Neville Green 21 years old, radio; Walter Jackson 21 years old, bomber ; Eric Howell 22 years old, rear gunner.

The names of the Resistance Group Abatteur were Raoul Aubert ; Edmée Carretier ; Héloïs Castor ; Kléber Guillermin ; Pierre Inderkumen ; Léon Michel and Norbert Vincent.
If you would like to see this and other sites dedicated to the resistance movement in Provence contact me using the link on the left.
Also I recommend reading Fiona McIntosh’s novel “The Lavender Keeper” . You can visit her web site here. http://www.fionamcintosh.com/

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Lavender Season 2013 - Plateau d'Albion

This year the season got off to a bad start. It rained. And rained. And rained. And then it rained a bit more. At my home we turned off the heating at the start of May!
Provence was not a sunny paradise.
Then the sun did come out and dried the ground and thanks to all the rain Provence turned into a lush, green paradise. The poppy fields that normally appear at the end of May and run into June were two weeks late. The cherry harvest, normally over by now, is still ongoing.
Poppies in early June 2013 
And the lavender is running at least ten days behind schedule maybe more and that is not so great for the lavender producers but for the tourists who want to admire Provence's blue gold it is fantastic, there should be lavender fields in flower to the end of July.

Today I went for a drive up onto the Plateau d'Albion where you can find fields of true lavender. To make things simple there are two main types of lavender grown in Provence:

  1. True Lavender. This is used in cosmetic production, perfume industry and aromatherapy. Its yield of essential oil is about 15kg per hectare (2.5 acres). Lavande Fine or True Lavender grows above 800m in order to obtain the AOP (designate origin label). The colours can vary within the same field from plant to plant as each one is genetically unique. 
  2. Lavandin. Used for industrial purposes mainly, soaps, washing powders, interior fragrances etc. One hectare of lavandin produces 100kg of essential oil! Lavandin is a natural hybrid from True lavender and  Aspic Lavender. It has a higher level of camphor (8% as opposed to 1% for True Lavender) which makes it unsuitable for using on skin or in aromatherapy.
So now you know what is what when it comes to lavender, here are the photos that I took today. 

The village of Aurel , near Sault. In another two years when the lavender is big this will be THE photo op... 

Close up shot of true lavender in bloom complete with the photo bomber bee

True lavender in the foreground and Lavandin behind. Note how green the trees and fields are in the background.

Field of Lavandin 

A typical dry stone hut (Borie) in a young lavender field

A luscious field of True Lavender 

Spot the difference! Lavandin and True Lavender.
If you would like to visit the lavender fields of Provence I will personally be guiding private tours this coming month. Contact me using the link on the right.

Also take a look at my other lavender posts from last year :

In the Footsteps of the Lavender pickers. A bit of history, and how to distil lavender.
New Lavender Photos. Also with some information on the threat that lavender is facing. 

...and several photo posts as well. 

Monday, 8 July 2013

Summer in Provence 2013

A Few Pictures of Summer in Provence...

I'm afraid I haven't had an awful lot of time to post new articles. The subject matter is there, but our services for made to measure travel in Provence have become rather sought after. 
But I always have my camera with me when I am on the move so here are a few pictures taken over the last couple of weeks so you can see what I have been up to and which may well explain why Provence is so very popular.

14th June, Marseille, the MuCem with Notre Dame de La Major behind, or, When Old meets New
Marseille is the big subject this year, you can see my post Marseille 2013 - Getting Ready to see why. As European Capital of the year the city has indeed undergone a transformation and I can recommend a stroll arround the Old Port past the Fort St Jean and to the J 4 the name given to the area where the MuCem (Museum of Civilizations From Europe and the Mediterranean) is to be found. There is a man with a trolley who sells cold drinks and peanuts salted (a lot) by him. Everything is a Euro or at least was when I last saw him! 

21st June, The Papal Palace of Avignon
When in Provence there are certain monuments and sights that cannot be missed, despite the crowds and the Papal Palace of Avignon is one. It's a bit like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. A very good audioguide is available in most languages so you can visit at you own rhythm. 

27th June The Abbey of Sénanque near Gordes
Another site difficult to avoid is the 12th Century Abbey of Senanque near Gordes. Here the visits are guided and in French. However many come to see the Abbey from the outside and the lavender fields that grow there. The produce from these fields can be purchased in the Abbey shop.

28th June, Market in Lourmarin
The Provençal market! need I say more. Why markets seem more colourful in Provence than elsewhere in France I don't know. I'm not convinced that they do really... The Lourmarin market is great and is on every Friday.

28th June, Opening of the new Pitch and Put at Niozelles
 Here is a new project that is already gaining in popularity. If the idea of 18 holes on some of the regions most prestigious courses appeals then give me a call! But if you would like to spend an afternoon on a 9 hole Pitch and Put course set in a very pretty valley then come to Niozelles near Forcalquier. Warning! Most of the buildings are still being finished so it looks like a bit of a building site when you arrive but don't let that put you off, the course is fantastic.

3rd July, A Lavender field in Marseille
Ok, in the photo it could be anywhere, but I couldn't resist this close up of a very happy sparrow finding his lunch in the 4000 lavender plants on the port of Marseille.

3rd July, Soggy watches in Marseille...must be Dali
As I said earlier in this post, Marseille is the place to be this year! At the moment a series of slulptures based on Salvador Dali's work can be found all over the Old Port. 

5th July, Lavender field at Saint Martin de Castillon 
 Driving home I thought I would take a peek at the state of the lavender in the Luberon valley. I particularly liked the view in this photo taken close to the village of St Martin de Castillon on the noth side of the valley. Opposite is the Luberon mountain and the village of Castellet.

Ballooning in Provence, at the landing...
Last Saturday I piloted the small L'Occitane en Provence balloon for a film. I particularly enjoyed the flight, the weather was perfect, and the wind carried us on one of the best routes in the region for balloons. The closer balloon is the one that I talk about in  my last post Hot Air Ballooning in Provence

So there you have it my ramblings for the last few weeks, I will try and sit down and get something a bit more topical on paper as soon as possible.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Hot Air Ballooning in Provence

I never thought I would ever write an article on Hot Air Ballooning in Provence! Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't like it, au contraire, I have been flying hot air balloons commercially in France since 1991 and I continue to do so on an occasional basis as it is in my blood!
However there is one thing that I do not enjoy, or at least I had convinced myself something to that effect, and that is being a passenger. This is why I have only ever been in the passenger seat two or three times in the last 22 years and that is why I could never write an article on the joys of a Hot Air Balloon ride in Provence, because my perspective is that of a pilot. 
Last week all that changed...
Hot Air Balloon Ride in Provence
The shadow of our hot air balloon over the thyme and lavender growing wild in the Garrigue near Mane en Provence

I had booked places for a balloon ride in Provence as I was receiving a journalist and there is no better way to admire the region than on a hot air balloon ride and of course this meant that I would have to  fly as well. 
I met the balloon team at 06:15AM and remembered another reason why I had stopped ballooning full time! The balloon we were flying in was the biggest of France Montgolfières balloon fleet and the latest of the L'Occitane en Provence hot air balloons. 
Hot Air Ballooning in Provence
Inside the L'Occitane en Provence Hot Air Balloon
The pilot was Max Duncomb who I have known for a long time (we both worked as ground crew for Buddy Bombard's balloon adventures in 1990) so I knew I was in good hands. 
Hot Air Ballooning in Provence
Our pilot Max concentrating on his task. 
Max has a vast experience and has flown all over the world, but watching him prepare the balloon, inspect it and inflate it as a mere onlooker just seemed a bit strange, but very soon a bizarre transformation occurred and I became a passenger, I listened to the pre flight safety briefing instead of purposely chatting to the crew just to show that I knew it all. I felt strangely excited as the huge balloon left the ground and slowly took the skies, even though I had done so as a pilot well over a thousand times. I marvelled at the Alps, silhouetted in the distance, photographed the Mont Ventoux and the Montagne de Lure for the umpteenth time. I even think I went "wow" as Max demonstrated  his skill as he played in the gardens of the Prieuré de Salagon, barely brushing the treetops. I waved to onlookers and I nearly clapped at the perfectly smooth landing (some claim that I did, but that is pushing it a bit!).

A few photos from my Provence Hot Air Balloon Flight

I really enjoyed it, and will do it again, as a passenger but only if I am sure of the experience of the person flying the balloon, which is a no brainer! Luckily France Montgolfières has the strictest rules for pilot selection in the country, every pilot has experience outside of France stretching across the five continents. The in house training is rigorous and the company has been around and has an unblemished record for over 25 years which in itself is almost enough. Of course I have worked for them for many years and so my appreciation could be considered biased by some. It is not. However I do work with other balloon companies in Provence whom I have flown with and can vouch for personally. Their links are at the bottom of this post. 

Hot Air Ballooning in Provence is magical, the weather is more often than not perfect (OK this Spring has been wet windy and generally awful, but it is very green!) and you really can see the Alps and the Mediterranean from the basket on a clear day. Flights are only programmed in the mornings so be ready for a ridiculously early wake up call, but it is worth every minute!
When I was flying I used to get asked questions on the best times of the year to fly etc. and my answers would be fairly vague as we needed passengers all year round, so I would sell the merits of all the seasons, never putting one ahead of another. But there are a few moments in the year not to be missed, and these are mine in order of preference. 

  1. The end of Spring/ beginning of Summer. (end of May and beginning of June... ie. Now)  After the spring showers (this year it's downpours) the nature in Provence comes to life like nowhere else. Wild orchids, flowering thyme, the bright green fresh leaves on the local stumpy oaks, little lambs gambolling in the fields (they go great with the wild thyme!), the last snow on the Alps and because the temperatures are not at their maximum there is less haze and the visibility is often very good. 
  2. Mid-Autumn. Haute Provence, indeed Provence in general,  is a very wooded area, and the trees are mostly deciduous. The colours of Autumn are stunning and the other added advantage is that the sun rises later so the morning wake up call is a bit more civilised! To see what I mean about the colours see this post : Autumn Colours of the Luberon
  3. The Lavender season. First of all let me issue a warning. Since Hot Air Balloons cannot be steered, there is no guarantee that you will fly over a Lavender field. But to tell you the truth it doesn't really matter. The pilot will always try to choose a take off spot which will allow you to fly over the fields but as you climb up into the sky you don't look down, you look around you, and there you will see the purple fields making up the patchwork of Provence. Once you have flown and have been able to appreciate the importance of the lavender harvest, then I recommend you get in your car (or book a tour with me!) and discover the lavender close up. Ballooning allows you to see things from a different point of view, and to approach things from a safe distance (like lions in the Masai Mara). But when it comes to a crop like lavender in Provence, or vines in Burgundy you get an overall vision of the beauty of the region before discovering it by yourself  on the ground, which is not as easy with the lions in the Masai Mara!
  4. The rest of the year! Yes, although the highlights of the season are listed above ballooning in Provence is always a magical moment and is a "must do" when you next visit.

Here are a few photos of ballooning in Provence that I have taken over the years and at the end some useful links for your next hot air balloon ride in Provence. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

The Forcalquier Balloon alarming the pigeons as it flies past the citadelle of the town.

Hot Air Ballooning Provence
View of Banon in summer with the Lavender in Flower

Hot Air Ballooning Provence
Ballooning over lavender fields at La Rochegiron near Banon

Hot Air Ballooning Provence
Fields of Lavender and also Clary sage (the light pink ones)

Hot Air Ballooning Provence
Balloon with Banon and the Mont Ventoux

Hot Air Ballooning Provence
Flight at the start of the season with the Alps in the background and the Montagne de Lure in the foreground still with their snowy winter coats on. 
Here is a video made for France 3 TV channel in 2007 with me flying during the Lavender season. Also it features a fantastic initiative to use draw horses and carts as chase vehicles. 

A few words for those that are scared.

On the 10th July 1987 I was more or less forced into getting into a balloon (I was a ground crew) as they needed some weight. I am scared of heights, terrified in fact so I closed my eyes for the first 10 minutes, then I looked at my feet and finally I looked out. No vertigo, no panicking it was amazing. Since that that day I have been able to convince many "scared" people to fly and they have all been so thankful. The reason you do not, indeed cannot suffer from vertigo in a hot air balloon is that you are not in contact with the ground. Trust me, I can't look down a stairwell without feeling dizzy and yet am perfectly comfortable in a hot air balloon basket (or aeroplane or any flying machine for that matter) Remember we are talking about vertigo here, i.e. the fear of heights. Since I have been flying I have welcomed more than 10 000 passengers into my balloons and have never had to land because someone was too scared. I have had nervous passengers, plenty, if they were none it would be bizarre. So if you love the photos in this post but you hesitate because of your fear of heights, don't. Make sure the pilot knows and he or she will help you, reassure you and you will not regret it, believe me!
Unique Provence can create a personalised balloon experience for you in your own private basket with our ballooning partners, including hotel reservations and transfers. For more information contact us using the link on the right.

If you want to go for a hot air balloon ride in Provence (and elsewhere in France) then I recommend you contact France Montgolfières who I have worked for and with over the last 25 years, on busy days you may even get me flying you!. 

Also in Provence you can contact Vol Terre and Aeronefs et Aerostats de Provence both run by personal friends and very competent pilots.