1:55 p.m.: Mon Dieu! We arrive at our balloon minutes before the start of the race. Jean and I tumble into the basket. Pow! The starting gun fires. Jean starts the flame, so that our balloon will rise. But we are not going anywhere! We have neglected to untie our balloon.
Neither Jean nor I are sober enough to get out of the basket and untie the rope. What are we to do? Jean solves things by sticking his newspaper into the flame. He then sets fire to the rope with the burning newspaper. This maneuver works marvelously well and we soon soar into the heavens. We hear angry voices yelling down below. It seems that the fire from the rope is spreading to a nearby café. We shrug our shoulders, set the balloon on automatic pilot, and open our first bottle of champagne. We look forward to a fine race.
12 November, 10 a.m.: I wake up first and peer cautiously over the basket. It appears that we are over the town of Avignon. Well, I think I recognize the famous Pont d’Avignon. I awaken Jean and tell him our location. Jean marvels that we cleared the southern French Alps without incident. Our balloon’s automatic pilot and automatic navigational devices are working splendidly. We wonder for a moment how our competitors manage without them. We are now eating a simple breakfast of fresh croissants, a small omelette, and Perrier.
Noon: It is lunchtime, so we prepare lunch. We have Gruyère cheese, apples and onion soup. We drink a couple bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape, 1922. We look over the edge of the basket and would you believe it, we are over the town of Chateauneuf du Pape. We celebrate this coincidence by throwing eggs at people in the marketplace. These good-natured jests are the things that make races fun for all.
3 p.m.: We amuse ourselves by shooting at birds that land on our balloon. In a way, it is unfortunate that we are drinking so much or our aim would be better.
7 p.m.: We celebrate reaching Valence with a splendid dinner. We start with crab legs and cheese fondue, then trout à la Jean, beef bourguignon, and eclairs for dessert. We complement this satisfying meal with four bottles of Dom Perignon, 1953. Oh yes, for an after-dinner activity we examine the countryside. Jean notices that we have progressed another 100 kilometers. Splendid!
10:30 p.m.: Jean and I spend the night drinking wine and identifying constellations. I win this game by identifying Orion twenty times to Jean’s eighteen. Poor Jean, the clouds block Orion during two of his turns.
13 November, 9 a.m.: Apparently we are scudding over the city of Lyon. We don’t care much for Lyon. Suddenly, Jean spies a McDonald’s below us. What an affront to French cuisine! We bombard the place with our empty bottles and other trash. Below us, we hear the whine of converging police sirens. We also see the manager shooting his rifle at us. Ha! Ha! It appears that the police are lovers of good cuisine, as they are taking away the stupid manager of the stupid McDonald’s. We thumb our noses at your les hamburgers and your les fries!
Noon: Strong southwesterly winds blow us to the town of Besançon. We celebrate by using Doubs cheese in our magnificent omelettes. We have Kronenbourg with our lunch. This is the only time that we shall drink beer during the race. One needs to clear the palate at times.
4 p.m.: We have been heading northwest for a while. In doing so, we pass over the glorious Champagne region. We honor the land below by drinking champagne for the entire afternoon. I suggest that it would be a fine idea to gaze upon the glorious vineyards. Tears come to our eyes.
Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef, Ph.D.
We’re French and You’re Not, my cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.