One blast on the burner and with a bright blue flame the balloon begins to rise.
There is the faintest chemical fragrance as liquid fuel gasifies before being turned almost instantly to fire.
The ascending heat mixes with sunlight and suddenly unobstructed views.
This is the very scent and sense of space.
Below the ground becomes an imperfect patchwork.
Its lawns of late April violets are purple squares.
Yellow flowers that from this distance seem but cannot be narcissi glimmer like cloth of gold.
Having left behind the highest flying bees at one hundred feet, you notice pollen still trails in the air on the very edge of invisibility.
You imagine an aerial fantasia of flowers, garlands of jasmine and tuberose suspended from lotus blossom clouds.
Looking down at the heart of the park a little way from the chateau, the shape of the rose gardens can only now be perceived in their true purpose.
Every bed is a petal and the dozen or so varieties each in their own divan together form a magnificent corolla.
This is the masterly centrepiece, rendered in damask silks and satins, woven onto nature’s quilt.
From here a filigree of white flowers made silver by separation from the eye radiate outward across the estate’s expanse.
Though surrounded by a near surfeit of air, the day is almost entirely without a breeze.
You remain, hanging on a nothing, in a moment apparently eternal, yourself in essence weightless.
The moment to descend arrives and for the first time you become aware of the cradle that contains you and the ground entreating your return.
On landing, the basket grazes the grass, releasing a greenness and some of its own wicker woodiness.
The Earth embraces you as you tumble out of your temporary travels.
Standing, shaking the dust free, you stare above at where you were.
Stretching arms skyward, you remember the atmosphere filled with unseen bouquets.
All now out of reach.
Until the next time.
Jardins de Bagatelle is human flight made fragrance.
With industry and engineering it raises the floral perfume above its normal terrestrial terrain.
True, some will not like the fact that to be transported thus requires propane, metal moving parts and an indelicate amount of heat.
So be it. To experience the sensation of being suspended as though on a floral cloud, peering down on manicured parkland, this seems a very small price to pay.
Aldehydes unquestionably own the opening.
A little softened by violet they provide the massive lift required to raise the burgeoning flower stuffed envelope of a scent off the ground.
Soon enough it becomes apparent that our basket’s cargo is primarily of white flowers, jasmine and tuberose principally, though there is blossom too and to my nose narcisse and not a little rose.
A complex and highly wrought affair there is an earthiness underneath,
A little vetiver and fir here perhaps, something that hints a return to the ground will always be necessary.
The overall effect is one of a rather beautiful but very much last-century-moderne bouquet wrapped in sparkling cellophane.
It is unfathomably fashionable to dislike this fragrance.
In truth it is an invention out of its time: a hot balloon in an age of jet liners and supersonic aeroplanes.
So much the better for it.
Let others be squashed into their sausage shaped and winged sardine cans.
I will always opt to fly open air.
There can be no more elegant means to ascend florally up, up and away.
On the last occasion I checked balloon flights were available to all, but few gentlemen these days seem to have the Montgolfiers’ courage.
The Perfumed Dandy.