Ceillac 7th Annual Festival of Flight 2015 - Queyras Regional Park - French Alps

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Sunday 2 August 2015

Ceillac 7th Annual Festival of Flight 2015 - Queyras Regional Park - French Alps

Having fallen in love with Ceillac over the last 3 weeks, our planned departure on Saturday evening had been postponed once again so that we could attend the Ceillac Annual Festival of flight and wind the following day. After all, we reasoned, having stayed so long and enjoyed so much of the area it made no sense to leave just hours before this once a year event that promised to be lots of fun based on what we could translate of the days itinerary. It turned out we had made the right decision....it was an incredible day full of activities, colour and happiness that really topped off our stay in marvellous fashion. With a colourful garden of wind, stunt kite displays, birds of prey shows, a paragliding competition nearby, film showings, food, and lots for children to do as well, all topped off with the nightime release of sky lanterns, it was a well planned and executed day that we are very grateful to have attended. The theme chosen for the festival, wind and flight, was incredibly fitting in this wonderful natural setting. To be celebrating one of the forces of nature that had shaped this valley felt so right to us and with perfect weather for the events, it made for a very special time. 

Our day started early as we made our way into Ceillac for groceries, passing our previous car park base that had been transformed into a flea market for the day, and watching the final preparations for the day being put together on the festival sight. One quick breakfast later and we were back, passing the multicoloured streamers now lining the road into the village, just in time to catch one of the many stunt kite displays taking place all day. Several teams were displaying with up to 6 kites at a time moving precisely in sync with each other, racing together and darting away, strings winding and unwinding and never once crashing to the ground unplanned. It was very impressive.

We were also very impressed by the now completed wind garden comprised of hundreds of vibrantly coloured wind ornaments, with sails and blades rotating in the breeze as part of their unique designs. Frogs riding bikes, birds appearing as though in flight, fish swimming in the air....there was just so much to see and with children running and laughing among the display and making their own kites nearby you could feel the happiness in the air.

After a brief pause from the festival, passing the landing site of the ever-active paragliders who were out in their hundreds with multicoloured kits all above us, we returned again in mid-afternoon just in time to see the first of the birds of prey displays. With 8 impressive specimens on display we marvelled at their plumages, sharp beaks and talons and their piercing eyes. With Golden Eagles, Vultures, Kestrels, Sea Eagles and a sleepy looking owl we were just happy to look at them atop their perches in the sun as the charismatic presenter demonstrated their flying skills and training to to the amassed crowd. We couldn't follow too much of what he said but judging by the laughter he was dazzling and entertaining to all, but for us the birds were enough as they skimmed from trainer to trainer, their powerful wings so controlled.

A longer pause back at the campsite for us while we enjoyed a healthy dinner whilst watching the paragliding displays.  After Esther did some exercise we returned to the festival site once more as evening began to fall. A second bird display was just concluding as we arrived and the smell of barbecue was in the air so visitors could fill up after their busy day (although we much preferred our own fresh produce over the burgers and buns on offer). Settling on the grass and looking up the valley past the birds of prey, we enjoyed a very special hour just appreciating their beauty amid the wonderful setting of Ceillac, trying to imagine what they were thinking as their far reaching sight was restless on the landscape around them. In the background the sound of music from the live band, singing French songs, created a very holiday atmosphere that we could have enjoyed for much longer.

Sadly as the sun began to set the trainers had to begin taking them in for their journey back to Lac Leman and so we headed indoors for the evening movie, a documentary about the release of a sea eagle back into the wild and featuring non other than the trainer who had dazzled the crowd. He even stopped to introduce the movie and, even though we couldn't follow his rapid French, his passion was evident  even to us. Although in French the visual impact of the mountains and moving story of the bond forged between trainer and eagle, yet all building to the moment of saying goodbye was still clear to us and we felt very grateful to have learned what we had. We had never before thought how fragile these amazing animals are, to farming, livestock control, power cables and more violent weather that is encroaching on their habitat. 

The sky had darkened while we had been inside and the team had been busy packing away the wind garden and replacing it with a series of illuminated pillars and streamers creating a ghostly effect against the night sky and sillhouettes of mountains beyond. Then 2 kites took to the sky, lit up with bright LEDs and moving in planned unison for a night-time stunt kite display.

By now it was late and as the organisers began to say farewell the final moment arrived, the distribution and release of countless sky lanterns. It was really nice touch that they had though of involving the public in this way and, as we released our own lantern among the many others, we also felt a real sense of peace and tranquillity.

Walking back to our motorhome, stopping frequently to appreciate the starry sky and search for constellations, we felt very happy to have stayed for the festival. It had been well organised, thoughtful and entertaining, but also peaceful and just busy enough for us to relax as well. A brilliant day and a great way to close out our own time in Ceillac.

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