Balloon tethered to the ground in front of a modern glass building
Happy Place Happy Space,  Paris

Up, up and away in Paris

Of course if you want to see Paris from a high viewpoint you can do as many tourists do and go up the Eiffel Tower. Or you can stand on the steps in front of the Sacré Coeur on the hill of Montmartre.

Balloon flying above a path in a formal park
Generali Balloon of Paris from the Parc André Citroën

Once those obvious tourist boxes are ticked, there are still plenty of other options. In the past we’ve admired the city from the top of the Tour Montparnasse and from the Belvédère in the Belleville district. On our latest (2023) visit we found a fresh viewpoint and one with a difference: a tethered balloon!

At first I wasn’t convinced that I would enjoy this experience, having been thrilled by previous ‘proper’ hot air balloon rides. The thought of remaining attached to the ground and over the same spot made this less appealing than those had been. But on reflection I realised that it would still be a novel experience. And while I was right that it was rather tame compared with a real balloon ride, it was still a lot of fun. I was really glad we decided to do it.

Named the Generali Balloon of Paris, this doesn’t use hot air as does a traditional balloon. Instead it is powered by helium.

The website explains:

According to the Archimedes principle, one cubic metre of helium can lift one kilogram. This means that 6,000 cubic metres can lift six metric tons. The balloon with its basket, envelope and net weighs around two metric tons. The largest tethered balloon in the world, it can lift up to 30 passengers (about 2.5 metric tons) while keeping 1.5 metric tons of lift in the tether cable to counter the force of the wind. The stronger the wind, the more lift must be maintained and therefore the fewer passengers can be taken up. The cable has a tensile strength of 44 metric tons.

The balloon claims to be the largest in the world (a fact I haven’t been able to verify). As well as carrying passengers it also measures air quality.

Our ‘flight’

To get to the balloon we took the Metro to Ballard at the end of one of the lines. From there it was a short walk through the modern Parc André Citroën. We’d planned our visit for soon after the balloon’s opening at 9.00 but it was already in the air as we approached. We bought our tickets as it was descending and joined about six other passengers for the next flight. While the balloon can hold 30 people, the actual numbers allowed depend on wind conditions; more wind means fewer passengers.

The operator gave us a brief introduction in French and English, then we were off. Our ride took us up to 150 metres. We were able to walk around the platform to get the best views although of course had to ‘negotiate’ with the others on board.

Views from the flight

Looking towards the city centre we were able to pick out landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Sacré Coeur and the dome of Les Invalides. Immediately below us was the Seine, with a couple of river cruise boats moored. Beyond those I picked out the quarter-scale replica of the Statue of Liberty that sits on the Île aux Cygnes. This was a gift to the city of Paris from the city’s American community to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution in 1889.

Hover over the photos in my gallery to see a caption identifying the main sights, or click any image to open a slideshow.

On the far side of the river I spotted a football stadium which the balloon operator confirmed was Parc des Princes, the stadium of PSG. This was of particular interest to us as Newcastle United will play them in November! He then turned guide and pointed out other sporting venues in that vicinity including Roland Garros where the French tennis open is played and a rugby stadium.

City view from above with football stadium
Parc des Princes with rugby stadium to the right
City view from above with football stadium
The Parc des Princes

All too soon we were descending. In fact we had already started to do so when I had the thought to try to capture some panoramas! But I’ve been able to create one from higher up by stitching together two of my regular shots. Together these three should give you a sense of that descent.

Panorama of a city with a river and tower
Panoramic view from the highest point, created from two of the shots above
Panorama of a city with a river and tower
Panorama as we descended
Panorama of a city with a river and tower
Panorama just before landing
Back on the ground

Before leaving I took some final photos of the balloon against the rather striking modern buildings surrounding the park. In this shot you can clearly see the round platform which holds the passengers.

Balloon tethered to the ground in front of a modern glass building
On the ground in the Parc André Citroën

This was such a fun experience that it seems a good choice to share with Ju-Lyn for her Happy Place Happy Space challenge, a new one for me.


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