First Time – Champagne Hot Air Balloon Ride

First Time – Champagne Hot Air Balloon Ride


Have you ever wanted to experience a hot air balloon flight? I certainly have, so was lucky to recently try a champagne hot air balloon ride for the first time. We selected the flight in Henley on Thames for two main reasons, the countryside is very picturesque and the pilot is one of the most experienced in the country.

Champagne Hot Air Balloon Flight HenleyI had won the flight in a competition organised by Stellatus,  an international agency providing creative production management and staging, lighting, audiovisual and multimedia. The prize was vouchers for a Virgin Experience Day and my first choice was naturally a hot air balloon ride. The experience lasts from three to four hours, including time to inflate and deflate the balloon, and of course to sample that champagne! On the day of our flight, the weather was looking rather dark and gloomy and we wondered if it would be postponed to another day, but the weather miraculously cleared and we got the go-ahead that the flight was on. If you choose the sunset rather than morning flight, I’d definitely advise calling on the day to check that it’s going ahead rather than just heading up there, as 2 previous flights had both been postponed due to adverse weather conditions. Gathering at the local supermarket, we drove in a convoy with our pilot to the launch site.

Virgin Balloon ride
There the pilot and his colleague hoisted the hot air balloon basket off their four-wheel drive car and laid out the balloon ready to be inflated. He gave us a safety briefing and gave specific instructions to those of us that wished to help with the inflation of the balloon. There is no pressure (pardon the pun!) to do so and a few in our group preferred to take photos, which you’re very welcome to do.

Virgin Hot Air Balloon
Our pilot got started with the tricky task of bringing the balloon upright whilst the inflation fan fills the envelope and the burners gradually add heat. During this time we took up our positions, Mr Luxe holding the mouth of the balloon open during inflation and I helping in what was a sort of giant tug of war, pulling on a tether rope at the far end.

Virgin Balloon ride Henley
Once the balloon was upright, we could let go of the tether and climb aboard, using the little holes that you see in the basket as a foothold. It’s advisable to wear clothes suitable for a walk in the country and bring a well-fitting hat as it can get cold.

First Time Champagne Hot Air Balloon FlightInside the basket, it was rather snug with 16 passengers, and a maximum of four in each section. Before setting off, our pilot gave us another safety briefing, on what to do when we would later land. You sit down on a little ledge in the basket, and grip onto hand ropes, bracing yourself for landing. Then we were ready for the off, and with the pilot’s colleague untethering the ropes, up we went. The balloon moved very swiftly and smoothly. We were surprised by the silence, the only sound being an occasional burst of noise from the burner. Henley on Thames is one of the most popular Virgin Hot Air Balloon Flights and you can see why. Henley is famous for its annual Royal Regatta sailing event and we flew over beautiful stretches of riverside.

what to wear hot air balloon ride
The town has many buildings of architectural interest – the five-arched bridge over the river was built in 1786.

Virgin Balloon Henley
We admired these crop circles from a distance, you can only see them from the air.

where to go hot air balloon
And this beautiful timber-framed property with the little village church next to it.

Virgin Balloon review
The action isn’t all on the ground though, as this vintage airplane was also an impressive sight.

Virgin Balloon ExperienceFrom above, everything looked like a model village, including these cows.

 Virgin Balloon flights bookWhilst these houses also had the appearance of a miniature toy town. One of the participants recognized this area as they lived close by – we had drifted quite a way from our initial launch site which is perfectly normal.

Virgin Balloon Henley on ThamesAs the sun set, we savoured the last moments in the balloon – we’d been up there for around an hour and time had flown by. With wind pressure dropping, it was time for us to find a landing site.

Virgin Hot Air Balloon
There weren’t many open fields in the area we were in, so our pilot headed for this playing field…much to the delight of the local schoolchildren who were playing football there. We sat down in the brace position and the pilot counted 3-2-1 to landing which was smoother than in many jumbo jets. After we landed, one of our group couldn’t resist asking the schoolchildren whether we were in France yet 😉

Virgin Champagne Balloon Ride
Our pilot made the most of the extra pairs of hands to help deflate the balloon by squashing it down to squeeze the air out and then tying it up into something resembling a giant sausage.

Virgin Balloon FlightsWhile the local children were peeking inside the basket, we drank a welcome glass of champagne or water before heading off in taxis to the original launch site about 20 minutes away. The pilot’s colleague had stayed on the ground during our flight and arranged the pick up once he knew the post code of the landing site. It was a fantastic experience and one that I highly recommend if you get the chance, I’d love to do another one.

Virgin Balloon tripsContact Virgin Balloon Flights via their website or by telephone: +44 1952 212750

Have you ever been in a hot air balloon? Would you like to do so?

  • Suze this sounds absolutely wonderful! Think I’ve just got an idea for a certain someone’s Christmas present…!

    Lauren xx | The Lifestyle Diaries

    • Hope he doesn’t read this 😉 You’ll have a brilliant time, Lauren

  • Even though I am shit sacred of heights I would love to experience this

    Candice | Beauty Candy Loves

    • They say do something you are scared of every day and this fitted the bill nicely!

  • Angie SilverSpoon

    I would be far too scared to do this but it does look amazing! I love your sunset picture with the ropes.

    Lots of love,
    Angie

    SilverSpoon London

    • I was a bit apprehensive when I saw the little basket but our pilot really knew what he was doing

  • Serene Kurd

    Such an amazing Adventure! I’d love to go up a Hot air balloon :)!

    Serene

    http://www.iamserenel.com

    • I hope that you get the opportunity, Serene – thanks for stopping by

  • oohh going on a hot air balloon is definitely one on my wish list! Love the photos, so very vividly captured!

    • Thanks Jean, I bet you would have some amazing scenery to fly over!

  • stylentonic Constantinos
  • A flynn

    Iv waiting years to book and enjoy a baloon flight,and this year my dream came true unfortunately I wish I had read Virgin baloon complaints,one year later and five cancelations I’m still waiting to experience my flight,a dream wish has turned into what can only be described as a nightmare,personally no I wouldn’t recommend Virgin balloons and there’s no chance of having a refund either,very poor customer service Virgin.

    • It’s true that it can take quite a few attempts before you get to fly and we don’t live near Henley. In the end, rather than travelling up and having lunch there, we waited until the afternoon before driving up and it was worth the wait.

  • Sounds so fun! We have an annual Hot Air Balloon Festival in the Philippines but I never had a chance to ride one. Maybe next festival 🙂

    MONDAY PROJECTS

    • Ooh that festival must be fun, I would love to see the photos!

  • This sounds like such fun! The views look incredible, I would love to go sometime 🙂

    Ash | Liakada

  • Paola

    Cool event, amazing views!!!
    Kisses, Paola.

    Expressyourself

    My Facebook

    • We had such fun, Paola – highly recommend a balloon ride

  • I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do a hot air balloon ride! This looks so magical Suze, such stunning views and that sunset! Such a lovely prize to win and I definitely think you chose well out of the different experience options that were probably available to you 🙂

    • There were so many options Shikha, like racing a car on a circuit but the hot air balloon really stood out

  • Danielle

    I would love to experience a hot air balloon flight to admire the beautiful view. However, I am afraid of heights and don’t know whether I’ll have the courage. The photos are beautiful! Have a nice weekend!

    Danielle
    http://www.spring2spring.com

    • That’s understandable, Danielle – it’s strange though as you don’t really notice the height all that much just the views once you are up there

  • Catherine Lux

    I’d love to do a balloon ride, it looks like so much fun! You’ve got some incredible photos here Suze!

    C x | Lux Life

    • Thanks Catherine, I was so lucky with the weather, it was the golden hour!

  • This has been on my bucket list for so, so long – such a beautiful part of the country to do it in!

    • Yes we’ve got to know Henley quite well now including the local eateries, it really is a lovely part of the country

  • Oh wow, this looks like so much fun!!!

    http://ourruins.com
    http://roadesque.com

    • It really was good fun and very random – from the fact that we didn’t know if we’d fly until a few hours beforehand to the landing in a playing field!

  • Wow… Breathtaking photos! It must be such an amazing experience for you! This is in my bucket list, I really want to live that experience!

    http://www.elabellaworld.com

    • It’s a really special thing to experience, you almost feel like a bird. Hope you get to do it soon

  • Absolutely gorgeous pictures – especially the one with the rope. X!
    http://www.lemontierres.com

    • The sunset came and went really quickly, just enough time to snap that shot!

  • I have never been in a hot balloon but I’d love to do it one day. And with champagne! 🙂

    http://www.LUXESSED.com

    • Yes I thought we’d have the champagne during the flight but actually that would be a bit impractical so it’s after landing and very welcome too!

      • Oh ok, well good to know!

  • Vanessa D’Orazio

    I’d love to fly on air balloon, it must be an unique experience, and you get too see breathtaking landscapes!

    http://www.notesofglam95.blogspot.it/

  • What a fantastic prize to have won, it looks like a brilliant experience! I can’t see myself every going on a hot air balloon ride purely as I’ve developed some sort of hostility towards fiery balloons drifting through the air haha, though the views at sunset certainly go a long way in convincing me otherwise 🙂

    Gabrielle | A Glass Of Ice x

    • I can see your point Gabrielle though as a one-off experience its great

  • omg that hot air balloon looks amazing! I have always wanted to do that

    xo

    http://www.laurajaneatelier.com

    • It’s a once in a lifetime experience, Laura – you’d love it

  • Those photos are simply breathtaking! I’ve always wanted to go in a hot air balloon – I was saving it up for Turkey but Henley is definitely a consideration too!

    • It must be brilliant in Turkey, I’d try it there but I knew that the Henley pilot was a real expert

  • Great shots babe

    Seriously breathtaking.

    I would love to try it too soon 🙂

    The Bandwagon Chic | Instagram | Bloglovin | Snapchat: bandwagonchic

  • Oh my gosh- this looks simply magical : ) I have always wanted to do this! The views are gorgeous too- how cute is that little villiage? I hope you are having the most wonderful time in Bali and I look forward to reading about it soon!

    Rachel xx

    http://www.thedailyluxe.net

    • The little village was so cute, funny that we ended up landing right there! Bali was brilliant too, can’t wait to write all about it

  • Amazing photos! I’ve always wanted to try hot air ballooning. It’s amazing all the things you can see from the air which you would never see otherwise.

    BTW, I’ve just returned from Morocco. I think you’ll appreciate today’s post…somewhere I think you should definitely visit sometime soon!

    V
    Life+1

    • That’s a very good point, you can see so many unusual things from the air.

  • rakhshanda

    OMG, these pics are stunning! Makes me want to hop into a hot air balloon right away! Thanks for sharing <3

    Happy Monday 😀

    http://www.rakhshanda-chamberofbeauty.com/

  • ♫ Alison M ♪

    I always wondered about doing one of these but don’t really like heights. It looks amazing though, your pictures are gorgeous

    • Thanks Ali, it’s strange but you don’t really notice the height all that much once you’re up there

  • Ellie Adams

    Oh wow Suze, this experience looks incredible! This is something that I’ve always wanted to do, albeit with a little fear too, but I definitely want to now!

    Elle
    http://www.theellenextdoor.com
    xx

    • It was amazing Elle, and you forget any fear really quickly as they give you things to do with the balloon which takes your mind off it

  • It’s not something I’ve ever done but I would love to! Don’t think it’s possible but I think a balloon flight over London would be incredible x

    • I think the closest is in Kent, I agree it would be amazing over London but the area is too built up if you need to come down in a hurry as we did!

  • Omg, this is SO on my bucket list! And paired with champagne and that sunset?! It’s perfection! Congrats to winning the voyage!

    • Well it was dark by the time we had the champagne but we certainly felt we deserved it ;-0

  • Corinne C

    Ugh! I’m dying to try this! Going to check the prices, it looks so much fun!

    Corinne x
    http://www.skinnedcartree.com

    • Have a brilliant time if you do go, Corinne. There are some rides that are closer to London, I think they have them in Kent

  • K.

    Oh my, I always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon, but I’m not going to lie it scares me a bit lol. I must get up the courage to try it. I just love this Suze.

    Kia / KTS
    http://www.houseofkts.com

    • You definitely should, Kia – I bet you could do an amazing balloon ride near NYC

  • It looks so cool and so terrifying. But I definitely want to try once in my life!

    http://mademoiselleaventure.com

    • You’ve summed it up very well Caroline! Cool and terrifying 😉

  • Coco Cami

    Wow I would love to try this one day, amazing photographs thank you for sharing!

    Camille xo

    http://www.cococami.blogspot.co.uk

    • I hope you get the chance to do so, Camille! Have a great week

  • Beauty Follower

    Wow amazing view! Lucky you 😉

    http://beautyfollower.blogspot.gr/

    • I know, doubly lucky that the weather was decent that day!

  • I think I’d be quite scared to get on an air balloon, but I must admit – the view is amazing! :))

    Lu | http://www.balgarka.co.uk

    • It’s worth getting over the fear, and as long as you choose a really experienced pilot it’s fine

  • Looks beautiful and wonderful pictures, you wouldn’t get me in one for love nor money it would freak me out Lucy x

    • That’s fair enough, it’s funny but heights don’t bother me

  • I am speechless!!!!!!! It’s soooo beautiful! I am imagining how it would also look like during the fall with all the fall colors around. I’m afraid of heights but I think I can’t pass up on this balloon ride.

    • I bet it’s beautiful in the fall, that would be a great time to go

  • okay this is incredible and my DREAM!!

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  • This looks like so much fun! I love that part of England too. I was lucky enough to go up in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia, Turkey this year and it was one of the most magical things I’ve ever done!! About 100 balloons take off there every morning and views are amazing. Maybe you should head there next!

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