You might remember that we were gone last week on vacation. Who knew San Diego could get so hot? Our plan was to leave the valley's heat and chill out on California's coast. Nope. The whole week was in the upper 70s with 79% humidity. Even so, we had a great time.
If you ever visit California, I'd recommend a stay in San Diego. While I was there one time while in college, I stayed with a friend and didn't really see much besides La Jolla. This time I was there as a "tourist," and I was delighted with the city. It was clean, pedestrian friendly, and quite charming. The restaurants were amazing, and there was no end of things to do. I am not surprised though; California's just a great state!
We are on our way to San Diego for a week. It's not the two weeks we normally take, but since we bought a new house in October, we're a little poorer this year.
No matter. We've got a pretty nice week planned. We have tickets to see the Padres play the Mets on Tuesday. I am not a baseball fan, but I always enjoy going to a game.
We also have box seats at Del Mar on Thursday for some live Thoroughbred racing. We go to Santa Anita at least once a year and have been to the Breeders' Cup twice. We thought it would be fun to check out a different track.
We're staying in the Gaslamp Quarter the first two nights, mostly because getting to the baseball stadium can be a bit tricky. Just like in any big city, parking can be a problem in San Diego, so it seemed easier to find a room within walking distance of the stadium.
It seems weird to move hotels while in one city, but we are. After two nights in the Gaslamp Quarters, we're moving to a hotel near the beaches of Del Mar. This will also be more convenient for getting to the track, too.
We would also like to take a tour of the SS Midway. I've heard great things about the ship and the things that you can see while there.
There are a million things to do in San Diego. I am not sure what else we'll find to do, but for this trip, we're happy to just play it by ear, mostly. See you next week!
Want to know how to save at least $1,000 bucks? GO TO ITALY!*
*this advice is free (you get what you pay for and all that), so Bakersfield Dressage is not responsible for the state of your finances upon your return.
Seriously. I just ran my monthly budget report and had to double check my settings. The window that popped open was so small, and the line item entries were so few that I was certain a bunch of categories must have been de-selected. Nope. The report is correct. I just wasn't in the USA long enough to spend any money on my horses last month.
On average, I spend $1750 a month to keep and show two horses. Some months, my bills are higher (around $2,200), and in other months, they are slightly lower. Since I started keeping track, the least I have ever spent was around $1,200 - until now.
In June, I paid my board bill, bought beet pulp and rice bran, bought Izzy's supplemental hay, and paid my farrier. I didn't even buy fly spray. I made up for it in July though; I've already bought two bottles!
So. If your equine budget feels like it's getting out of hand, my suggestion is that you spend a few weeks traveling to somewhere on your bucket list. I guarantee that your equine expenses will be much smaller. I can't say that your wallet will be any fuller though. I know mine's not!
Happy 4th of July!
I love to travel - new foods, new languages, new cultures, but I also love coming home. After a good night's sleep, the first thing I did was to go grocery shopping. As I drove down our wide street with ample parking and then browsed the grocery aisles overflowing with products that I recognized, all I could feel was gratitude for the life of ease and abundance that we live.
Italy was great, how could one think otherwise? But at the same time, it was crowded, parking was a nightmare (so glad we took the train or hired drivers), and everything was so expensive. Even so, we loved every minute of it. As I look back at my last post (scroll down a bit or hit this link), I am amazed that my pictures show a place even more beautiful than the internet photos I shared.
First Stop - Venice
In Venice, we got lost in narrow alleys, rode the Vaporetto (water buses), watched a glass maker in action, toured the Doge's Palace, hung out in St. Mark's Square, and began our gastronomical journey. Oh. And wine. And Prosecco. Every day.
Next Stop - Florence
In Florence, we saw art. All of it. More art than I ever hope to see again. I loved Michelangelo's David though, it was truly magnificent and worth going to see. We also visited the Uffizi (too much art), the Vecchio Palace (home of the Medici), the Duomo, and all of the other stuff that you're supposed to see. We enjoyed amazing food, gelato, and Chianti - my new favorite wine!
And Then - Pompeii
Of everything we did over the two weeks that we were in Italy, hiking around the rim of Vesuvius was the most spectacular. My photos can't even begin to do that view justice. We were the only people that hiked it the entire day. We even dropped down inside the crater to feel the steam vents - hot enough to cook food. It was simply awe-inspiring.
The ruins of Pompeii were also quite interesting. We ended up going twice. The first afternoon, we went by ourselves to get a feel for the ruins without hearing a guide's explanations. The next afternoon, we returned with a guide, which helped pull the whole story together. If you visit Italy, I would recommend adding Pompeii to your itinerary.
And on to the Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast was truly stunning. The blue of the Mediterranean Sea was mesmerizing - you could stare at it for hours, and we did. We swam, hiked, ate, and even cooked some of our own meals. We took a boat/cruise to Capri, a neighboring island where we swam, enjoyed wine and prosecco, and reveled in the wind and spray from the boat. That trip to Capri was my second favorite thing that we did in Italy.
Last Stop - Rome
If I could have rearranged a few things, I would have added at least one more day to our stay in Rome. There was simply so much more to see. We spent one morning in Vatican City touring the Sistine Chapel, The Vatican Museums, and the Basilica (we've now been to the two biggest churches in the world). We spent another morning touring the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Ancient Rome including the Roman Forum.
In the afternoons, we saw the Spanish Steps (not sure what the big deal is), Trevi Fountain (very pretty), and Piazza Navona (also unsure of the draw). We spent a lot of time just ambling around, stopping for a pizza, some wine, and occasionally some more gelato.
I worried about gaining weight, but I shouldn't have. My husband's Apple watch kept track of our daily mileage. In the first week, we walked 60 miles. In total, we walked more than 100 miles over the two weeks, most of it included steps. Most days we walked between 7 and 10 miles. One day in Positano, I climbed/descended more than 4,000 stairs and walked several miles.
I am really glad to be home, but we're already planning our next vacation - an African Safari!
We're are heading to Italy this morning. We'll be gone until late June, so you'll have to find someone else with whom to drink your morning coffee. I'll miss you!
In case you're wondering where we're going, here's our itinerary.
First Stop - Venice
We'll be in Venice for two nights. We're touring the Doge's Palace and among other things, a glassworks factory.
Next Stop - Florence
We're taking the train from Venice to Florence where we'll stay three nights in an apartment. We have tickets to see Michelangelo's David as well as the Uffizi Museum.
And Then - Pompeii
Again, we're taking the train. We'll only be in Pompeii for two nights. For me, the ruins of Pompeii are quite fascinating, but I am far more interested in Mount Vesuvius.
We've booked a hike up to and into the crater of the volcano. As a science teacher, this is super cool! I've been to several other volcanic craters (Costa Rica and The Canary Islands), but this one looks pretty neat.
And on to the Amalfi Coast
We'll be picked up in Pompeii by a guide for a private car tour of the coast. We're staying four nights in the small town of Positano. We got an apartment here that is on one of the cliffs over-looking the Mediterranean. I can't even imagine how relaxing this part of our trip is going to be.
Last Stop - Rome
Our driver from the Amalfi Coast tour we'll take us into Naples where we'll catch the train to Rome. We'll stay in the Italian capital for three nights. We have several tours arranged: Vatican City (which includes the Sistine Chapel) and the Colosseum along with the Forum and Palatine Hill.
We have a direct flight from Rome to LA, and then a two and a half hour drive home. Coming home from Europe is always a very long day.
See you in a couple of weeks!
Preparing for vacation is exhausting. I definitely need a vacation after all the work it has taken to prepare for this one. I am sure some travelers can simply toss a few things in a bag and catch a flight, but I am not one of them. I wish I could do it, but I am too much of a worrier.
I've spent the last few weeks confirming reservations, arranging tours and guides, buying tickets online, and exchanging currency. I've also had to do some shopping, get a pedicure and haircut, and wash my car. Even I am rolling my eyes at those last few. Who is going to notice a fresh trim? Probably the same person who is going to watch my car get dusty in airport parking.
For most people, that's the extent of their preparation. If you own animals, the work continues. I had to arrange a house sitter to care for our two dogs which took three pages of directions. In my defense, I had to explain the alarm system, my cleaning lady's schedule, and what to do when the gardener comes.
But the preparations didn't end there. I also had to prep for the horses which took a whole truckful of supplies because all of my feed was approaching empty. Even though Izzy gets alfalfa/oat cubes as his main diet, I also feed him a small amount of hay each day to supplement the cubes. There was less than a 1/2 bale left, and all three of my feed barrels were nearly empty.
Thankfully, school let out this past Friday which meant I had most of the week to get everything done. On Tuesday, I unhooked my truck from the trailer to get hay and feed. It was good timing because I also had to get it smogged in order to pay my 2016 DMV fees which are due this month. The smog technician didn't even bat an eye when I pulled into the station with a truck load of hay.
Buying hay and feed is easy; unloading everything is not. I spent several hours stacking hay and filling feed barrels. Everything also got a good spring cleaning: the feed barrels got dusted out, old hay was raked up, my first aid box got reorganized, and all of my boots and pads got hung out of the reach of the mice. Unused stuff seems to attract them.
My friend, KG, also came over to make sure she knew where everything was. She's going to be doing turnout and fly spray work for the first 9 or 10 days that we're gone. Then she's going on vacation so any turnout or fly spray will be up to my barn owner for the last week.
On top of all that, I've also been riding. I won't miss scooping poop or dragging the sprinklers around, but I am going to miss my boys. I know they'll be fine while I am gone, but it's really hard to trust that others can do just as good a job as I do. Scooping feed and using fly spray are tricky job, don't you know?
Are you a throw-it-in-the-bag-and-go traveler, or are you more like me? Please share your own "Going on Vacation, Here's My List" stories.
Not related to horses in any way, but I still wanted to share. Today is our twenty-first anniversary. My husband and I exchanged our wedding vows more than two decades ago today.
I've written about this before, last year we celebrated our twentieth anniversary with a quick trip to Las Vegas, but it's worth mentioning again. Marriage is a lot of work, but when you get it at least half-way right, it's the greatest thing around.
We don't put a lot of emphasis on our anniversary date. It's mostly just another day. Instead, we work on our marriage pretty regularly. That doesn't mean it always goes well; we've had our issues like everyone else. But when we have a problem, we figure out what's wrong, and we fix it together.
We met when I was nineteen and he was twenty-one. After just a few weeks of dating, I knew I wanted to marry him. I shake my head at that now. We were married three and a half years later. At twenty-three years old, I somehow found my life partner.
Like most couples, we've been through multiple jobs, a couple of houses, several dogs, a few horses, at least four trucks, and the occasional busted something or other. Through all of the big and smalls of life, we try to be a team. I know what his strengths are, and he knows mine. We work hard to value what each of us brings to this partnership. So far it's working out pretty well.
We all know that life has no guarantees, and it can be fleeting. It's also true that no one is going to bring you happiness; we have to make our own. My husband and I have embraced that concept. So for us, that means living a life where we respect and cherish each other. And when things start to go sideways, we simply choose to work it out, whatever it takes.
Here's to (at least) twenty-one more years of happily ever after!
Not only did we see castles, palaces, churches, and monasteries galore in Portugal, but there were also Lusitanos. Not many, but enough.
Last fall, months before our departure to Portugal, I did a little research and found a riding facility that looked like it would suit my needs. It was a small barn of only four horses, one of which was a pony. The owner and her boyfriend run a surf school with the horses as a bit of a side job. From our conversation, it seems that doing small trail rides just helps pay some of the horse-keeping bills.
I arranged for a private ride since my husband didn't want to go. It might be a little selfish, but group rides can go only as fast as the most inexperienced rider can handle, and I didn't want a newbie tagging along. I wanted to trot and canter as much as my guide felt appropriate.
It's not that I am the world's most accomplished rider, but I can certainly manage a trot and canter, especially on horses who pack newbies for a living. When we rode in Belize two years ago, even my non-riding (but very athletic) husband had better control of his horse than the other couple who joined us. Since they couldn't keep their horses on the trail, we ended up doing nothing but a pokey walk. Which of course was fine as we were riding in the Belizean jungle (super cool), but still.
My guide and her helper saddled both horses and answered my questions. I offered my help, but I knew they didn't want or need it. It's easier to just do it yourself as "helpers" are usually anything but. I didn't take offense. Instead, I enjoyed someone else doing all of the work for a change.
When I first got on, my guide told me to take a lap around her small arena. I picked up the reins and gave a very gentle squeeze with my legs. Nothing happened. I asked again, a little firmer, and still nothing. The third time I asked, Zafra turned the opposite direction and started to back up. I looked at her owner who encouraged me to give her a little firmer kick. After thumping her sides a number of times and getting no response, her owner told me to just leave it.
She sighed and explained that Zafra, who is young and relatively new to her job, has figured out that non-riders are usually aboard and has decided that she can do what she likes. The owner said she would address the problem later when she could get on with a dressage whip. It did leave me feeling a bit dejected though as I assumed the owner now thought I was fibbing about being a rider.
Once Zafra got going, she was actually quite pleasant to ride. And while she didn't try to pass Mano, she was easy to navigate and went where I suggested. At times, the trail was rocky, and she was quite happy to let me help her pick a path.
In fact, Zafra turned out to be a really nice horse to ride. She was extremely sure footed and carried herself with an obvious sense of where she was putting her feet. It was clear that self-preservation is a big part of how she operates. Once she realized that I wasn't an idiot who was going to get us into trouble, she happily took my guidance.
Once my guide was sure that I wasn't going to fall off, she asked if I felt like trotting. I couldn't say yes quickly enough! After proving that I could do a rising trot, my guide asked if I was ready for a canter. Before doing so, she warned that Zafra might get a bit heavy. I appreciated the warning.
When Mano picked up a hand gallop, I gave Zafra a canter cue (not that she needed it), but then I gave her a soft half halt and let her know that it was just a relaxed canter that I wanted. To my delight, she settled into a quiet canter while maintaining a soft connection. She stayed so quiet that I had to actually urge her forward to keep up!
After that first canter, we picked up a hand gallop whenever the trail was sandy and fairly straight. We rode through mostly open country-side, but we did pass through a small forest of trees, and then we ended up at a small lake. We gave the horses a short grass break and then headed back to the barn.
Zafra's owner is actually a German but has lived all around the world. Her English was quite good which made the conversation a bit easier. She asked about dressage in the USA, and we compared prices of horse-keeping and lessons. While we rode, we talked about her tack (she uses bits with a lozenge mouthpiece like I do), working full time, having kids, and what it's like living in Portugal.
The reason I like to ride in other countries is not so much about the horses themselves, but about meeting the owners of those horses. No matter where you live, the symptoms of the horse bug are the same. We all scoop poop, use a farrier, and fret about the quality of our feed. We all pine for new tack, fancy pads (Mano's was bright orange!), and new saddles (my guide's dressage saddle was a new purchase).
During our two hour ride, I got to have a peek at what it's like to have horses in Portugal. That's not a bad way to spend a morning.
As a little post script ... I packed my breeches, boots, helmet, and gloves for that two hour ride. It all took up a lot of suitcase space, but it was worth it to feel safe and comfortable!
We actually made it home on Sunday, but I had a bit of a computer problem that kept me from blogging. The fix turned out to be a simple one - unplug and wait ten minutes.
While this is not a travel blog, traveling is my second favorite thing to do (after riding), so I'd like to share a few photos from our trip.
We spent fifteen days in Portugal. This was my fourth trip across the Atlantic, but I have to say that Portugal turned out to be my favorite European country to visit (so far!). I can only say wonderful things about the people, the food, the wine (ah ... the wine), the culture, everything.
We landed in Lisbon, Portugal's capital, but immediately drove north to Obidos, a tiny town encircled by castle walls. We stayed in the castle itself, walked the entire wall (about a mile), enjoyed a sumptuous dinner, and sipped wine on the castle walls. It was a divine start to the trip.
From Obidos, we continued north to Porto where we spent three nights in the most amazing apartment over-looking the Douro River. My pictures cannot begin to convey how absolutely heavenly the view from that apartment was. The apartment was a corner unit on the third floor of the building, so we had HUGE windows on two sides that allowed the sunlight, sea breeze, and sounds of the city to pour over us.
From Porto, we drove east into the interior of the country. We spent the morning in Guimaraes where we toured a castle and a lovely palace. We then continued on to Aramante for a two-night stay in one of Portugal's finest hotels. And boy, was it swanky! Aramante was having it's annual festival, and our hotel was smack dab in the middle of the action. While it was loud (drums and fireworks that started in the morning and went until about 5:00 a.m.), we still enjoyed participating in a very local event.
From Aramante we drove south to the university town of Coimbra for a short stay. There, we toured the university and several other churches and buildings of cultural significance.
From Coimbra, we drove 500 km (four and a half hours) south to Sagres, the most southwestern point of Europe (and Portugal). Again, we had a lovely apartment for a three-night stay. Sagres is famous for its cliffs and beaches, and we explored as many as we could.
From Sagres, we turned north back to Lisbon. We spent one day on our own touring, but then we booked a private tour of the city and were treated to a day filled with off the beaten track back roads, local restaurants, and stories about the daily lives of the average Portuguese family.
Entering Lisbon, we crossed the Vasco da Gama Bridge - 11 miles long, making it the longest bridge in Europe when it opened in 1998. Today, it is one of the longest in the world. Its vastness forced engineers to factor in the curvature of the Earth during its construction. It was built in only 18 months at a cost of one billion US dollars.
We've traveled a fair amount during our twenty-five years together, but this trip was something else. If you're considering a European vacation, I would definitely recommend Portugal.
Thanks for letting me share my photos with you!
Today's the day. Well, technically we don't fly out until early tomorrow morning, but we need to leave for the airport in the middle of the night, so we're calling today our day of departure.
I had to run out to work for a couple of hours in the morning, but I was able to take care of the horses during the early afternoon. I rode both all week long, so they're ready for some rest. I also had one last chat with the friend who will be looking after Izzy's leg. I gave each horse a special goodbye, but they have no idea that I won't be back tomorrow. Or the next day. Or even the day after that. Fortunately, Speedy knows my pal quite well and will look forward to her visits.
The rest of the afternoon was spent packing and sorting out all of our devices and cords. How many electronic gizmos does one couple actually need? Apparently at least nine: two iPhones, two iPads, two cameras, a Kindle, an iPod, and an international clock. I really wish we could un-complicate some things.
One of my students gave me a Subway gift card as a parting gift, very sweet, so hubby agreed to go grab us some sandwiches for dinner. Neither of us really wants to cook or do dishes.
My alarm is set for 1:25 a.m. (holy smokes), and we're already checked in with United. Even though we fly internationally every other year or so, there is always something different. This year, United has an app where you can scan your passport and upload it directly to the airline to expedite the check in process. You can't even print boarding passes unless you scan your passport. Pretty slick.
Even though we do all of the pre-flight stuff that can be done, parking and getting through security always take a bit at LAX. It's just a busy airport with a fairly high security risk. I'd rather feel safe and be stuck in a line than zip through and wonder who is in the seat behind me! So yah for the TSA.
We'll be in Lisbon, Portugal in a few hours. Our first night's stay will be in the castle at Obidos - a very small town just north of Lisbon. After that, we'll continue north and then make a leisurely clockwise circle as we spend two weeks exploring the country, before returning to Lisbon for a tour of the city.
From Lonely Planet ...
Surrounded by a classic crenellated wall, Óbidos’ gorgeous historic centre is a labyrinth of cobblestoned streets and flower-bedecked, whitewashed houses livened up with dashes of vivid yellow and blue paint. It’s a delightful place to pass an afternoon, but there are plenty of reasons to stay overnight, as there's excellent accommodation including a hilltop castle now converted into one of Portugal’s most luxurious pousadas (upmarket hotels).
See you all in a few weeks!