Sunday, March 8, 2009


Normandy, France--I came upon a sleepy beach town by the name of Un Fleur, while traveling with our friends from Paris.  Normandy is situated along the coast of the English Channel, providing a crisp, cool air that complements its verdant fields. Like most small towns in France, Un Fleur was quaint and filled with many dainty mom-and-pop shops, the fragrance of moules et creme, and pastry shops.  I was soon informed by our friend Guy Foucher that Normandy is a haven and vacation spot for affluent Parisians yearning for a breath of fresh air and tranquility. Jean Broserron is one of those felicitious city-goers who has been a proprietor in Normandy for over 50 years, with the same house passed down from generation to generation.  We arrived at Jean's home where a family gatheirng was being held.  Jean was wearing a fisherman's cap and was leaning against a pinp-pong table when I first met him.  As our conversation developed, Guy chimed in and told me that Jean had a flying machine. I looked up at Jean with a puzzling expression on my face: was this true?  He had an arch smile as he turned away and began to walk over to his shed.  He pulled out a contraption that was every 12-year old boy's dream.  The machine has a seat with two harness straps that cross the torso, and attached to the back of the seat is a large motor with propellers that is encased in a ciruclar cage.  I couldn't believe my eyes:
this French dude, who owns a home in Normandy five minutes walking distance from the beach, sells silk and other fabrics to fashion instutions such as Gucci and Prada, also can fly? "When you fly, you have God's sight seeing," remarked Jean.  I wasn't able to sit down with him that day, but I did e-mail him and was able to dig up some more information.  The machine is called a parapente a moteur in French, otherwise known as a paramotor. Jean wrote that the first time he spotted such a machine was on the telvevision through a special report by Nicolas Hulot.  Apparenlty Mosieur Hulot was flying above an old castle and Jean "thought: it must be genious (sic)!" About a year later, he purchased an Ultra Light Motorized vehicle and soon was able to obtain a license to fly.  Jean's paramotor is called "Minplane" which is manufactured by an Italian distributor.  Unbeknownst to me, there are more than 1000 paramotorists in France, according to Jean.  So the next question is, how do you get in the air?  Take-off consists of a running head start and, "very shortly after, you have to install your wing on the ground, on the top side, and you run by pulling the front suspentes in your hands, until the wing comes like a wall, and then you begin to go up.  And after, when it is upon you, you accelerate the engine, and hop--you are a plane!"  Making a small contraption, he was also able to set the machine to cruise control, allowing him to take pictures of the landscape. Enjoy the pictures.