As soon as school lets out this afternoon, my husband and I are making the drive to San Fransisco. On a regular day, the drive is a bit hectic. We're really going for crazy though as we'll be entering the Bay Area at about 5:30, the worst time for traffic. And to really sweeten the pot, we're rolling into the city on the Friday evening before Christmas.
We're going to visit with my dad who has had to take care of some personal issues this past month. While the circumstances aren't great, we're excited about the visit. My dad has already created a list of things that he'd like to see. As have we ...
Since I drive Newt, a monster to park even in Bakersfield, and my husband drives a Raptor, not that much smaller, we're planning to park at our hotel, which has limited parking, so fingers crossed. From there, we plan to Uber across the city and walk most of the day. We'll then Uber back as I am not hiking the 8 miles back across the peninsula.
I've been to San Fransisco many times, but it's been a while. It's a beautiful city with more things to do that can be done in two days. I'm looking forward to spending the time with my dad, visiting places we last saw together when I was just a kid. Enjoy your own weekend!
No matter where we travel, I am always on the lookout for a chance to interact with horses. Even my husband has gotten good at spotting foreign ponies for me. This trip was no exception.
We started our visit to Canada with a four-night stay in Quebec City. On the first morning of our visit, I heard that familiar clip clop of hooves on asphalt and the search was on. I am not sure who spotted the carriages first, my husband or me, but a tour of the old city was the first thing we did.
Before we even made it into the carriage though, I met one of the many vets who supervise the horses that pull the carriages. She explained that she examines each horse for wounds or injuries and monitors the number of hours that they work. Veterinarians patrol the carriage routes checking the horses multiple times throughout the day.
The workday for the horses is strictly regulated. They don't work if it's too hot, too cold, or if they have any wounds or are thought to be ill. The driver explained that horses can be sent back to the stable for the slightest nick or wobbly shoe. He went on to say that the carriage horses in Quebec are the most scrutinized in all of Canada.
I am not sure if we just landed a good guide or if ours was particularly friendly because I had horses - we had chatted a bit before our tour began, but we had a very interesting tour of the old city. Throughout our stay, we noticed that most of the drivers were pretty quiet during the ride while the passengers wore an expression of boredom.
It could have also been that we're curious travelers and were very interested in the history of Quebec City. Our driver seemed more than happy to show off his corner of the world, and we were an appreciative audience.
We left Quebec City by train and headed to Montréal for five more nights. The carriages in old Montréal were even more abundant, and my husband asked if I needed another tour. I am sure I would have enjoyed it, but I declined. The city just didn't have the same relaxed vibe that was found in Quebec City.
By about the third day in Montréal, we were tired of the noise and traffic and decided to spend the morning hiking around Parc du Mont-Royal, a 500 acre park within the city. From Chalet du Mont-Royal, we admired the view of downtown Montréal and then followed the trail to the 98-foot-high cross that sits at the top of Mont-Royal.
As we strolled through the forest, we came upon several large manure piles which my husband found strange since all of the carriage horses had worn bags to catch the manure. We wondered if the carriages could be found in the park or if trail riding was allowed. Within a short time, I heard the clip clop of a horse approaching.
To my delight, it turned out to be a female officer who was happy to stop for a chat. Her English was limited - French is the primary language of the province of Quebec, but with a shared love of horses, we were able to communicate just fine.
She explained that her job was to patrol the park, helping tourists who were lost or in some kind of distress. She also watches out for criminal activity. When I asked about a partner, she explained that he was on vacation so she was riding her own assigned horse as well as her partner's to keep him exercised. Unlike the carriage horses, the mounted officers ride in the heat and cold, adding studs to the shoes when it's icy and rump rugs to keep the horses warm.
We had a great time in Quebec and found our Canadian neighbors to be friendly and very welcoming. We're already talking about next summer's vacation. Not sure where we'll go, but I bet they have horses!
First of all, happy Independence Day! As a fifth grade teacher who teaches US history, I love this day. I like to think that most of my students will be talking about some of the stuff they learned this year - like who signed the Declaration of Independence and why. Who can forget Paul Revere's ride - gotta love it when horses are involved! Most of my students agreed King George III was a jerk and that taxation without representation was unfair. Some even thought taxes were unfair altogether - I let them make up their own minds. But what does that have to do with Canada?
There are 195 sovereign states recognized by the United Nations. I'll never hit all 195 of course, and there are a few that I'm not interested in visiting at all (sorry, Somalia, but you need to clean up your act first), but I'd like to see at least 10% (and more would be amazing!) of them before I am too old to hobble around.
So far my list of Been There! includes the Canary Islands (geographically part of the continent of Africa but belonging politically to Spain), mainland Spain, Costa Rica, Ireland, Peru, Canada, England, Scotland, Belize, Guatemala, Portugal, Italy, and Vatican City. That makes 13 (I am counting the USA as one of the countries I've been to) of the 195. In dressage speak, I've earned a 6%, still short of my goal of 10%. That's okay as I'm getting close.
Early tomorrow morning, my husband and I are off to visit Montréal and Quebec City in eastern Canada. We've already been to Canada once before - we visited the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island a few years ago, so this particular trip doesn't get me another mark on my list. Even so, I am excited about the trip. After Paris, Montréal is the second largest French speaking city in the world.
I've ridden horses, or done something with horses, in many of the places we've visited. I've ridden in the Canary Islands, Ireland, Scotland, Belize, and Portugal, and we've done a carriage ride in Italy. I'll be keeping my eye out for an opportunity in Montréal or Quebec City as well. My husband's always game for an equine experience, even if it's just dropping me off while he goes for a beer.
We don't really have a specific itinerary like we usually do, but we plan to visit Notre Dame Basilica and Old Montréal. There's really no end of things to do. We'll be gone for close to two weeks, so you won't hear from me again until the middle of July.
Enjoy your 4th of July festivities!
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!