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A few years ago, our writing group decided that to mark ten years of writing together, we would travel to a chateau in the Loire valley of France to write for a week. At the time, we had no idea that this event would coincide with the publication of the book Farther Along: The Writing Journey of Thirteen Bereaved Mothers.

We recently returned from the time at Chateau du Pin. We not only wrote but we walked, explored the chateau and the grounds, ate sumptuous dinners prepared by Anne and some of us even floated dream-like over the countryside in a hot air balloon, a montgolfier.

Here are highlights from that balloon ride:

The balloon and crew of four arrived at the chateau and began to fill the balloon to ready it for flight. Two crew members, including the pilot or aeronaute, flew with the balloon and two followed in a car to take us back after the flight.

The balloon is upright and almost ready for us to climb over and into the basket where the two compartments held four on one side and three of us on the other.

Michael, the aeronaute, and Beverly as we begin our ascent.

Julie took this photo from the ground as we gently lifted off and floated up into the sky. Seven of us and two crew were in the basket.

The montgolfier casts a shadow that seems to barely connect the balloon to the earth as we ascend.

Kathy and Barbara peer over the side of the balloon to watch the beautiful countryside of the Loire valley.

As we floated, it almost seemed that we could see to the edge of the earth. The balloon’s shadow grew smaller as we saw a wider swath of French countryside. It was so quiet–except for dogs barking at the strange sight above them.

We saw rainbow swaths on either side of the sun, and we were comforted by those reflected and refracted rays of light.

Even though we  flew so high in the balloon, we were not cold–the gas used to keep the balloon aloft warmed us.

Isabelle, Anthony and Roberto, crew members, pack up the balloon after we landed in a farmer’s field–with just a few small bounces as we sat on the bottom of the basket and held on to the rope handholds on the side.

Kathy, Barbara, Monica, Kay, Peggy, Beverly and Beth and Michael, the aeronaute, after we landed from the ride in the balloon. We were “passagers du vent,” passengers of the wind on a beautiful afternoon in the countryside of France, and we received certificates declaring our “courage et sang froid,” our courage and lack of fear. Back at the chateau, the crew and the seven of us toasted the flight with a glass of champagne. We were smiling. We had touched the sky and we rode on the wind.