Pays de la Loire


      After an almost eight hour flight and a five hour drive, through the colorful and windy roads in the North side of France, my husband and I arrived to our temporary destination - Saint Prouant.   A small town from Pays de la Loire region, where the stone houses seem to have been there forever surrounded by fields with happy cows slowly ripping green grass. That day seemed magical, not because we were jet lagged, but because we have witnesssed one  of the most beautiful sunsets that has ever been.  The sky was brushed with multiple shades of orange colors casted on the cotton balls shaped clouds.

  Somewhere between Saint Prouant and Mouchamps, France.

Somewhere between Saint Prouant and Mouchamps, France.

    The little house we have rented was on a farm away from the main road, and our host Séverine welcomed us with a warm smile followed by Bonjour!  It was so cozy and clean that I really felt like home there.  Every detail and piece of furniture welcomed us as we unpacked our luggages.  After we settled in our temporary little nest, we explored the farm.  In the back of the house, a little garden  with rectangular lots offered eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, and garlic.  

    While we were wondering throughout the garden, we noticed our host, Séverine, coming towards us with a few pieces of baguettes, asking in French, if we want to visit her animals and feed them.  We all headed towards the stall and noticed a tall, shedding mule and a goat running towards us when she noticed us with the delicious baguettes.  The mule and the goat were grabbing the bread fast with their slimy and warm lips, making my husband and I to laugh with joy. 

   After feeding the animals, we headed towards Mouchamps, a small town next to Saint-Prouant for dinner.  The red sky with bulky round clouds was still casting its light upon Mouchamps, when we sat down at the only outdoor table at Creperie du Soleil, a cozy flower decorated little restaurant.   With my broken and forgotten French, managed to order dinner, where crepes, lots of cheese, and of course, a bottle of Bordeaux wine had to be involved. Dinner was incredible!

 

Harvard Balloon Festival


  On a warm day of the beginning of September, I opened my garage door and loaded my photo equipment in the trunk.  To leave Chicago on a Friday afternoon entitled barring though a lot of traffic, but I did not mind.   It took a while to leave the city and, soon enough, the friendly corn and soy fields revealed themselves while driving throughout the country roads as I was heading to my destination.  The day was beautiful, indeed, and the sun was warming my left side of my face and arm while driving.  

    I was heading towards Harvard, not the famous bussiness school, but a small town in Illinois, which was hosting The Harvard Balloon Festival for its second year. After a two hour drive, the flatness of the land revealed the park were food and entertainment vendors were offering their goods and rides to the visitors.  As soon as I was getting myself acquainted with the area, a sugary breeze hit my nostrils, and not only.  Hot dogs, pierogi, Chinese rice, cajun seafood aromas, all of which were dancing in the air inviting visitors pick their favorites.  Also, helicopter rides and zip lining were available for pumping up some adrenaline and excitement before the balloon show. Many children were up for the zip lining and families were lining up for the helicopter rides as the sun was settling down.

 

     The rectangular field, reserved for the balloons launch was empty and only a small group of pilots were having a meeting discussing the weather conditions, rules of launching, and the schedule.  The launch required a calm and cool weather, and that day was a little too windy for the balloons to go up in the sky.  Luckily, in the evening, the wind calmed down, and like mushrooms after the rains, one by one, the balloons rose up in the air.  It was spectacular!!! 


    Browsing throughout the balloon field area, I approached a young man, who was wearing an almost neon green t-shirt with CREW sign on it, and asked him a few questions about the launch times and details.  Soon enough I had his entire crew next to us, the pilot, Tim Cloyd and his beloved wife Elsie Cloyd, his other crew member Stephen Metz, and Nathan Henke, who I met first.  It turned out that the entire crew was from Iowa and their balloon was named Glorious Drifter.  

 

   Since the balloon launch in the air was canceled Friday evening due to windy conditions, the launching was scheduled for Saturday morning at sunrise.  Had to rent a hotel overnight and stay for the morning launch and show.  

   The misty morning was slowly chasing the night away, opening its curtain for a mystical sunrise and the balloon field was awaken by pilots and crew members setting up their balloons in the field. 

 

   Walking though the filed, I noticed Elsie and the crew setting up the Glorious Drifter.  As soon as Elsie saw me she ran up to me and gave me a big hug.  She was so happy to see me and so was I to see her.  Tim, the pilot, was setting up the balloon and in our conversation he mentioned that he also, raises money for cancer cure.  He said that he takes the names of those who lost the cancer battle up in the sky to honor them, which I found to be such a good thing from them.  

   To my surprise Elsie and Tim offered me  a balloon ride, which was so unexpected and nice!  I was so happy to have this chance, since I have never been on a balloon ride.  It was such wonderful experience and I cannot be more grateful to them for that.  

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