As I believe I've mentioned before, going to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta has always been something I've wanted to do, ever since we tried (and failed, due to windy conditions) to see it when I was three years old. I love hot air balloons! When at long last we planned this trip at the correct time of year, I was fully prepared for it to be cancelled due to wind or rain again. But I was hoping, hoping the weather would cooperate! The Friday was rainy and cold, but the Saturday and Sunday were bright and clear and lovely. We were so happy! It was everything we'd hoped, and even better. When the first balloons go up, it's still pretty dark outside, and as they turn on their burners, they light up like floating lanterns in the sky. These first balloons also have little lights floating from their baskets---tiny diamonds below them---see?
Then suddenly the sky starts turning pink, and you walk onto the field and you're surrounded by all these huge, breathing, billowing creatures. They sway uncertainly as they lurch upright, like a genie who's spent too long in his bottle and is feeling rather stiff. I love being in among the balloons. I think they seem friendly, even when they puff fire and make hraaaa! noises at you.
They rise up into the sky a few at a time at first, and then suddenly whole swarms of them are lifting off: stretching and straining upwards and finally breaking free of the earth.
There are lots of funny ones: floppy-trunked elephants and storks and clocks and penguins.
Those were a big hit with the children.
When the sun comes up, everything becomes, if possible, even more beautiful. Rainbow bubbles catching the sunlight!
They are mesmerizing.
I have experienced nothing like it. The sheer numbers . . . over 700 balloons, I think . . . and the way they loft so simultaneously into the sky around you. It's like you're underwater, watching the whole world float up past you to the surface. I can only imagine how cool it would be to lift off within that colored cloud.
We watched from a different viewpoint the next day. From that distance, there was less of the submerged-by-balloons feeling, but there was the sudden breathless surprise of seeing them suddenly foaming up out of the trees, surging out in waves like bubbles from a bubble machine.
And then spilling over the buildings and right over our heads.
Abe took this picture out the back window of the car. A flock of bright birds following us back to our hotel!
All the way back.
That night we went back to watch them glow again. No flying this time, but they stood in rows and blinked on and off like fireflies. It reminded me so much of the gas lamps that light Embassy Row in London---the sound of the gas hissing gently in the dark; the fuzzy edges of the light, so different from the starkness of fluorescence; the feeling of being in another time. It was beautiful.
There were fireworks to cap it all off; you can see that we are a family that enjoys fireworks. (Sort of embarrassing: need I be quite so stereotypically "ooh-and-ah"-ing?) (Though I do especially like Sebby's dumbfounded expression.)