My grandmother once showed me a cartoon she had saved from her childhood (she was born in 1877) showing a school class going on a class outing in a balloon in 1950. In fact the whole sky was full of balloons in this cartoon, because they thought balloon flight would be the most common form of transportation in 1950, which just goes to show that you can’t always predict the future by extrapolating from the present.
When I was in the Parc André-Citroën in Paris and saw that I could go up in a basket under the world’s largest tethered balloon for a trifling twelve Euros, of course I had to do it. The flight only lasted ten minutes, but it was invigorating and we had some great views of the western half of Paris.
In this view of the Seine and its bridges, you can perhaps just barely make out the Statue of Liberty in the foreground, at the end of the island.
My photos show the balloon as it looked in 2006. Two years later they changed the design, after a different company took over the sponsorship, and now they say it also measures the air quality and changes colors depending on the level of air pollution: green means the air is OK, orange means it is somewhat polluted and red means it is highly polluted. I must admit I have never noticed this, but I don’t tend to spend much time in the western end of Paris, which is where the balloon is visible.
Update 2022: The price for the balloon ride remained unchanged for more than a decade, but as of 2022 it costs fifteen Euros for adults and eight Euros for children aged 3 to 11. Children under three years get to go up for free. The first balloon ride is a 9:00 in the morning and the last one is thirty minutes before closing time of the park, which can vary according to the season. The balloon can be grounded without prior notice, particularly in case of bad weather, so in case of doubt they suggest you check their website or ring them at 01 44 26 20 00.
On the right is the winch that lets the balloon rise and then pulls it down again.
The Parc André Citroën is an extensive urban park with modern buildings on three sides and the Seine River on the fourth. And of course the world’s largest tethered balloon going up and down in the middle. It is located in the southwest corner of Paris, across the river from Auteuil, on a site which used to be an automobile factory (hence the name) and before that was a melon patch.
It wasn’t planned that way, but the day after my epic ten-minute balloon flight I rode my bicycle out to the Air and Space Museum at Le Bourget and had a look at their detailed exhibit on the history of manned balloon flight in the 18th and 19th centuries. See my post Waiting for Lindburgh, 1927 about Le Bourget.
My photos in this post are from 2006.
I revised the text in 2017 and added an update in 2022.