Well, just behind it – in Exchange Square to be specific.

Thanks to a tip-off from The Londonist, it seemed that a PR company had decided the best way to publicise their latest offer is to tether a hot air balloon in a grassy square behind Liverpool Street station and give people free rides in it.

Don’t quite understand the thinking, but free balloon trip – why not. Applied via website and was offered a ride this morning between 7am-9am.

Arriving very early – to avoid what I presumed would be a long queue if I arrived later, also meant a chance to watch them inflating the balloon, initially with a cold air fan, then the ubiquitous blasts of hot air.

Hot air balloon at Exchange Square

Hot air balloon at Exchange Square

Hot air balloon at Exchange Square

Hot air balloon at Exchange Square

As the clothy leviathan took shape, some arriving office workers and leaving office cleaners passing by stopped to stare, and pull out mobile phones for mandatory photo taking.

One person per trip, and the usual ungallant climb over the wicker basket to get inside. These things are not dignified.

You don’t go up very high, maybe 20 feet, due to local wind conditions, which is a pity as I had hoped to photograph the roof of the train station – but did get a decent view of the inside of the station instead. A nice chat with the “balloon captain” and then back down.

Hot air balloon at Exchange Square

Time to climb out, but please let the next person climb in at the same time – for we are human ballast weighting the balloon down. Climbing out, with one leg up in the air and one on the ground, I slipped on the grass and went completely arse over tit and rolled around the ground a bit.

Definitely not a dignified exit.

It turns out that not everyone who books a ride turns up, so if you are in the area when they have some empty slots, the balloonists will be quite happy to give you a trip. Otherwise – try to book a trip via their website.

Trips this lunchtime 12-2pm and next Tuesday morning.

You wont get as good a view as say visiting a skyscraper during Open House Weekend (which this year includes The Gherkin again), but a tethered balloon trip is a bit of diverting fun. Even if I did have to set the alarm for 5:30am to get there.

Oh, and dreadfully sorry to the lady who turned up after me, and declined my offer to go first, then had to leave to go to work. You really could have gone before me and taken a trip. I wouldn’t have minded at all.

Hot air balloon at Exchange Square

I was lucky enough to participate in a rather longer balloon ride last year as part of Luke Jerram’s hugely popular Sky Orchestra.


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One comment
  1. Andrew says:

    I agree. Getting in and out of the basket is not dignified. In fact on my balloon trip, I think I fell out of the basket as it crash landed. You taking the trip and writing about it, office people taking out their camera phones. Rather good advertising, I should think.

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