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Up where we belong: Find romance in a hot-air balloon

We thought a hot-air balloon ride would make a great anniversary gift for our friends. But wait, we thought, this could be fun for us too! So — click — we bought another one for ourselves.

As our anniversary neared, we picked a date, made sure the kids were taken care of after school, and off we went for our flying adventure.

The drive to Pennsylvania took about two hours, with a quick stop at a favorite restaurant for lunch, before heading to the launch site. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Sky-diving had been on my "bucket list," but I nixed that after having children. Somehow, hot-air ballooning seemed a safer, and just as thrilling, close second.

Ten of us huddled around the “meet here for balloon ride” sign in the airport parking lot. We then piled into a van and drove around a hanger to the launch site. Within minutes, this massive hot-air balloon was rising up into the sky. The pilot loaded a few people in the basket sideways, so they could help the basket stay grounded when they tipped it upright. Then, I popped in, followed by my 6’2” husband. Somehow, we all managed to squeeze in rather comfortably into this Wizard-of-Oz-looking wicker float.

  • Slideshow Photos

    Most memorable kisses of all time

    Rhett and Scarlett, Will and Kate, Bogart and Bergman, even Britney and Madonna – they all shared iconic lip-locks. Get in the mood for Valentine’s Day with our colorful guide to classic kisses.

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    Most famous kisses

    Happy Valentine’s Day! A day filled with love, flowers, hugs and kisses. Kisses are the declarations of love that make us laugh, cry and swoon. Check out some of the most famous ones from the movies, TV, fine art and the news.

    'From Here to Eternity'

    Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr share one of cinema's most legendary embraces in the 1953 movie. The iconic beach scene was shot at Halona Cove, Oahu, Hawaii.

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    'Gone with the Wind'

    "You need kissing badly," Clark Gable, as Rhett Butler, told Vivien Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara in this 1939 epic. "You should be kissed, and often. And by someone who knows how." While proposing to the twice-widowed Scarlett, he proves he's the man for the job.

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
  • Berlin Wall

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    'The Fraternal Kiss'

    This painting by Dmitri Vrubel is one of the best-known of the Berlin Wall graffiti paintings. Created in 1990, it depicts Soviet and East German heads of state Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker in a fraternal embrace, reproducing a photograph that captured the moment in 1979 during the 30th anniversary celebration of the foundation of the German Democratic Republic. The painting was destroyed in March 2009.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
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    'Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville'

    In 1950, French photographer Robert Doisneau created his most iconic work: "Le baiser de l'Hôtel de Ville (Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville)," a photo of a couple kissing in the busy streets of Paris. It became an internationally recognized symbol of young love in Paris.

    ©Robert Doisneau/ Courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery / ©Robert Doisneau/ Courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery
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    'Brokeback Mountain'

    This 2005 romantic drama film starring Heath Ledger (right) and Jake Gyllenhaal, depicts the complex romantic and sexual relationship between two men in the American West.

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
  • Democratic Convention Kicks Off

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    Al and Tipper Gore

    Al Gore and wife Tipper kiss after his speech on opening night of the Democratic National Convention, July 26, 2004 in Boston. The energetic smooch drew widespread media attention. In 2010, the Gores announced they were separating after 40 years of marriage.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
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    'Ghost'

    In the 1990 supernatural romance "Ghost," the love between Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze transcends death itself.

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
  • DONNA REED, JAMES STEWART

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    'It's a Wonderful Life'

    In the 1946 classic, James Stewart plays a small-town man whose life seems so desperate he contemplates suicide. He marries his childhood sweetheart Donna Reed and is stopped from jumping off a from a bridge by his guardian angel, who shows him what life would have become had he had never lived.

  • Kiss Performs on Aerosmith / KISS 2003 Tour

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    KISS

    Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley of KISS. You can't do a slideshow of most famous kisses without including this American rock band well known for its members' crazy costumes and face paint.

    WireImage / WireImage
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    'Lady and the Tramp'

    Pampered cocker spaniel Lady falls in love with the Tramp, a mutt who lives on the streets. Their kiss happens as they share the same spaghetti noodle: a beautiful and touching moment.

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
  • Britney Spears, Madonna, and Christina Aguilera

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    Britney Spears and Madonna

    The two singers shared an infamous smooch during the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. Spears (left) said the kiss was Madonna's idea and that she had butterflies about it.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
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    'Breakfast at Tiffany's'

    Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) jumps from her taxi to smooch her love (George Peppard) in the rain at the climax of this classic 1961 film.

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    'The Princess Bride'

    Cary Elwes and Robin Wright's unrequited love finally fulfilled in the winsome 1987 film. The narration put it nicely: "Since the invention of the kiss there have been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind."

    20th Century Fox / 20th Century Fox
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    'Planet of the Apes'

    Filmdom's first interspecies smooch may have been in this 1968 sci-fi classic. Chimpanzee psychologist Dr. Zira (Kim Stanley) meets injured astronaut George Taylor (Charlton Heston) and helps nurse him back to health. Before Taylor departs, they share a goodbye kiss.

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    'An Officer and a Gentleman'

    Richard Gere appears suddenly in a Navy dress uniform at Debra Winger's lunchbag factory at the finale of the 1982 hit. He kisses her, sweeps her up in his arms, and walks out to the applause and cheers of her coworkers.

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    'The Empire Strikes Back'

    Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) find the Force of mutual attraction in the second Star Wars film.

    20th Century Fox / 20th Century Fox
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    'The Notebook'

    Allie (Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling) kiss passionately in the rain after seven years apart. A disapproving family and a devoted fiance can't keep them away from one another in this romantic fave film from 2004.

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
  • Cold Kiss

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    Rodin's 'The Kiss'

    "The Kiss" is an iconic 1889 marble sculpture by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. It was inspired by the tale of Paolo and Francesca, lovers entwined for eternity in Dante's Inferno. http://www.vibrationdata.com/Rodin.html

    Getty Images / Getty Images
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    Roseanne Barr and Mariel Hemingway on 'Roseanne'

    One of the first TV series to openly advocate for gay rights, "Roseanne" aired a 1994 episode entitled "Dont Ask, Don't Tell" in which Roseanne and Mariel Hemingway shared a kiss in a gay bar, one of the first lesbian kisses on TV.

    ABC / ABC
  • Britain's Prince William kisses his wife

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    Will and Kate

    Britain's Prince William kisses his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, after their wedding service on April 29, 2011. An unimpressed flower girl became an Internet meme.

    AFP - Getty Images / AFP - Getty Images
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    Kirk and Uhura on 'Star Trek'

    In her role as Lieutenant Uhura, Nichols famously kissed white actor William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk in the November 22, 1968, Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren". The episode is popularly cited as the first example of an interracial kiss on U.S. television.

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    'Sixteen Candles'

    In this 1984 classic, everyone forgets Samantha's (Molly Ringwald) 16th birthday. Fortunately, at the end of the film, she shares a romantic kiss with the guy of her dreams (Michael Schoeffling) over a cake lit with 16 candles.

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    'When Harry Met Sally'

    The New Years' Eve kiss shared by Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) is the highlight of this 1993 romantic comedy classic.

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    'Spider-Man'

    Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire), is heels over head in love with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) in this 2002 super-hero saga, which has one of the most recognizable movie kisses ever.

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
  • Image: A jubilant American sailor clutching a w

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    V-J Day in Times Square

    Probably one of the most recognized kisses of all time is this one between a sailor and a young nurse in Times Square, shortly after the surrender of Japan in 1945. Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt caught the joyful moment.

    Time & Life Pictures / Time & Life Pictures
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    Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen

    One of the most talked-about moments of the 2007 MTV movie awards was when actors Will Ferrell (left) and Sacha Baron Cohen liplocked after accepting their award for "Best Kiss."

    Getty Images / Getty Images
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    'Titanic'

    Rose (Kate Winslet) and Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) share a kiss aboard the doomed ship in the1997 hit "Titanic." Winner of eleven Oscars, it was the first film to earn more than $1 billion worldwide.

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
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    'Sleeping Beauty'

    Princess Aurora is doomed to die on her 16th birthday in this animated Disney classic from 1959. Thankfully, a good fairy uses her spell to have the princess fall asleep until she is awakened with a kiss. In the end, Prince Phillip removes the curse with the Kiss of Awakening, and yes, they live happily ever after.

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
  • Chilean miner Osman Araya (in beige and

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    Chilean miner rescue

    Miner Osman Araya kisses his wife Angelica after being brought to the surface on Oct. 13, 2010 at the San Jose mine in Santiago, Chile. Araya was the the sixth miner of 33 to be rescued after a record 69 days deep underground.

    AFP - Getty Images / AFP - Getty Images
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    'Twilight'

    Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson exchange a steamy smooch in the 2006 hit "Twilight." There is crazy chemistry between their characters: Vampire Edward longs to kiss Bella tenderly, but must overcome his unfortunate impulse to, well, drink her blood.

    Summit Entertainment / Summit Entertainment
  • 1964. A scene from the third film in the James Bond franchise, -Goldfinger. Pictured are James Bond, played by British actor Sean Connery, and Pussy Galore played by Honor Blackman in a passionate embrace.

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    James Bond and Pussy Galore

    In this 1964 scene from the third film in the James Bond franchise, "Goldfinger," James Bond, played by Sean Connery, has a passionate embrace with the villainous Goldfinger's personal pilot Pussy Galore, played by Honor Blackman. Is there any James Bond movie where 007 doesn't kiss the Bond girl?

    Getty Images / Getty Images
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    'The Godfather Part II'

    "I know it was you, Fredo -- you broke my heart." So says Michael Corleone (Al Pacino, right) to his traitorous brother (played by John Cazale) before kissing him fiercely in a key moment from the Godfather saga.

    Paramount Pictures / Paramount Pictures
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    'Casablanca'

    "You must remember this: A kiss is just a kiss" goes "As Time Goes By," played throughout the 1942 drama that many consider one of Hollywood's greatest romances. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman portray lovers torn apart by the tides of World War II

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
  • Gustav Klimt 1862 - 1918. 'The Kis' was painted by Gustav Klimt, and is probably his most famous work. He began work on it in 1907 and it is the highpoint of his so-called 'Golden Period'. It depicts a couple, in various shades of gold and symbols, sharin

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    Klimt's "The Kiss"

    "The Kiss" is probably the most famous work painted by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918). It depicts a couple, in various shades of gold and studded with symbols, sharing a kiss against a bronze background.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Riot Breaks Out After Game In Vancouver

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    ‘Vancouver kissing couple’

    Riot police patrol the street as a couple kiss amid the chaos on June 15, 2011 in Vancouver, Canada. The city broke out in riots after their hockey team the Vancouver Canucks lost in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
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    "Nerd Kissing Supermodel"

    Israeli supermodel Bar Rafaeli and actor Jesse Heiman locked lips in this GoDaddy.com commercial during the Super Bowl for a long, drawn out kiss that had viewers alternately cringing and laughing. The blonde beauty kissing the nerd was supposed to represent GoDaddy's combination of sexy and smart.

    TODAY / TODAY
  • Image: Barack Obama, Michelle Obama

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    The president and the first lady

    Barack Obama shares a tender kiss with wife Michelle on the night of his historic election as the nation's first African-American president in 2008.

    AP file / AP file
  • Today - 2013

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    Willie Geist and Al Roker

    TODAY's Willie and Al Roker got a little closer than unusual while testing out a new lip gloss.

    NBC / NBC

Seconds later, we were in the air, watching as the ground below us quickly sped farther away. We sailed over houses, barns, and tree tops. Dogs came outside to bark while horses continued to graze beneath. The air was crisp and dry, and the foliage was simply spectacular. A lovely autumn day turned into an incredible experience in a matter of seconds. As the balloon drifted over the Pennsylvania landscape, you could feel the temperature dropping. The fiery “whoooosh” that spit from a furnace and sent the heated air into the balloon was a constant, as was the slightly singed feeling on the top of your head when the flame ignited. Luckily, I had done some homework and brought baseball caps for the ride.

I was fine until we hit 1,000 feet, lost in the clouds, when a mild case of vertigo hit as I looked down over the edge of the basket. I admit, I was afraid to talk or move for a few seconds, but luckily that feeling passed.

The wind whistled by, but that was pretty much all you could hear. My husband and I nestled close together, flying high over the earth, and loving it.

We flew over an orchard, looking for a nearby street to land in, when a man came out of his back door and motioned to us. “Looking for a place to land?” he shouted. “Come on down!” Our pilot yelled back, “Are you sure it’s okay?” And with a second nod, our group was told to bend our knees as the basket and sunlight seemed to drop in tandem on a lovely patch of green.

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Apparently, hot-air balloons are a frequent sight in the Pennsylvania countryside, but our landing still brought out every neighbor and child in the area. I felt as if we had dropped in on a slice of Americana —friendly, and happy to help. Everyone was smiling and laughing as we all rolled and hopped from the basket and then helped pack up the balloon.

Ten minutes later, we were all back in the van and headed to the airport. We managed to travel about 20 miles from the launch site, and on our return, toasted with bubbly to a successful flight.

Our pilot said we spent the afternoon living the balloonist’s prayer — a flight of soft winds and gentle landings. My husband and I know we shared something so much more.

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