Okay, so it’s just another Friday evening in Pompadour. The dressage CDI is over for the day, and there are canapes and champagne being served on the terrace of the castle.
Riders, though unmounted, are dressed for awards. As usual, dogs are running free throughout the festivities. The light is liquid and golden, rimming presenters and winners against the backdrop of the ancient stone walls.
Below the castle walls, on the edge of the track and cross country course, another scene is unfolding – literally. Two hot air balloons are being inflated. This is a Pompadour tradition: the winners get to go on a “montgolfier” ride above the Limousin countryside. And coolest thing of all, I get to go with them!
Off we go, our official photographer Bruno Villair in one balloon, me in the other with riders Anna Campanella from Italy and Vicky Smits-Vanderhasselt from Belgium. The view was amazing… I’ll just let you enjoy the photos.
We landed softly in a field beside a small group of houses. Because it was a warm summer Friday evening, everyone in the neighborhood was out in their yards, watching our approach. Apparently the balloons land here often, because familiar greetings were called up to us as we descended. When two women in shadbelly coats, white breeches and tall boots emerged from the gondola, to me it was so out of place that it looked as if aliens had landed. But the locals just came out with their children and their dogs and greeted us as if everything was normal. Just another Friday evening in Pompadour.