Road Trip USA Part 1 – Washington, Oregon, California

We interrupt your regular broadcasting of reminiscing about my trip to France to announce my most recent expedition: a road trip in the US of A.

Guapito left on the afternoon of December 26 without much of a plan. We knew that we had to meet our friends in San Jose, California, sometime on December 27, but we hadn’t established a time. We both like to make sure the house is clean before we leave, and because we have a hobby farm, we have to make sure that it’s all set up for the people taking care of things while we’re away. It was especially difficult this time because the majority of stores were closed for Boxing Day, but we made do (or so we thought). I had a panic attack about leaving. I knew everything was going to be fine, but I have a hard time leaving everything in someone else’s hands.

Because Guapito is Mexican, he has to get a new $6 visa if 6 months or more passes between visits. While inside, the border guard made fun of my incessant blushing (I didn’t even know I was blushing, which made it worse). Then we stopped at Wendy’s to get some food. Wendy’s in the USA has delicious lemonade, which we don’t get in Canada, so it was an obvious “must have” for us. We soon passed by a recreational marijuana store. I had totally forgotten that pot is legal in Washington. I passed out in the car despite it being early still, and after Guapito got some gas, he wanted to go to the store at the gas station, but I suggested that we get some snacks at Safeway (fruits & veggies… eff junk snacks!), so we did. I looked for bread cheese sticks, but they didn’t have any. We then crossed the street to Red Robin to get some ooey gooey cheese sticks. Unfortunately those do not exist in the USA. We got some regular cheese sticks with thai chili sauce instead to get somewhat close to what I was craving. It was not the same at all, but decently delicious.

We were soon out of Washington and Guapito got super excited when we drove through Portland, he had no idea it was so large. It actually did look somewhat enticing. They have been advertising tourism to Portland a lot in Vancouver, and I guess it has been having a positive affect on me.

We really did nothing in Oregon except fill up the car with gas ($33 in the States compared to $75 in Canada). It was full serve, so that was weird for me.  We stopped at a rest stop just before 2AM. Guapito was tired and wanted to sleep. I was wired and itching to be on our way, so I took over driving. I’m sure the scenery on Mount Shasta was spectacular, but the only thing I could see were the stars, which are beautiful in their own right. As I was driving, I realized that our GPS had us arriving at our location in San Jose at 7AM. I figured there was no point in arriving so early and not getting any sleep, so I pulled over at a rest stop just before 5AM to catch a few zzz’s before the sun came up.

We left our stop at around 8, and got gas not too long after. Guapito got cinnamon buns from Cinnabon that he said were disgusting. The funny thing is, despite the USA and Canada being similar in many ways, you can order the exact same food from the exact same company in both countries and the products can taste completely different.

We stopped in Pleasant Hill to get some breakfast and use the WiFi. Unfortunately the place where we stopped for breakfast didn’t have any WiFi. The breakfast was ginormous. The leftovers lasted me the rest of the day.

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Breakfast @ Jack’s

We wandered around the complex until we picked up some free WiFi. I let my friend, Rae, know that we about an hour away from our destination. She wasn’t answering her phone (I called her via BBM), so we left and continued on our way. We spied a Starbucks and stopped to get some coffee and to use their WiFi. I mean, Starbucks should have WiFi, right? Wrong. Luckily the Safeway had WiFi, and I was able to contact Rae. We agreed to meet at Wyndham Garden as soon as possible.

The place is actually pretty nice. If I wasn’t so cheap, it probably would have been a good idea to have headed straight there and gotten a room to have a decent sleep instead of in the car. Guapito was so pleased with the place that he inquired as to the room rates, despite having no use for them at all. We were only there to park the car.

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Wyndham Garden

We registered for parking, and then unloaded the car. Unfortunately, I do not pack light.

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Guapito and our bags

It wasn’t too much longer until our friends arrived, and we packed up the trunk and went on our way. They had been to Pebble Beach in Monterey the day before and wanted to go back. First we stopped at Stanford University to admire the architecture and have a look around. There were a lot of people there despite it being the holidays

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Stanford University

 

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Stanford University

Then we stopped at Paris Baguette, a Korean chain, and they got lunch and some drinks. I still had my leftovers from the morning, so I ate that.

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Paris Baguette

 

We then went to Pebble Beach, but missed the sunset. It was still pretty and we had a good time.

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Pebble Beach

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Night time at Pebble Beach

 

It was still about 6 hours to get to our hotel in Manhattan Beach, so we headed out again, only stopping for gas and some dinner. Rae had pizza and the rest of us had burritos and tacos. When we finally arrived at our destination, we had some minor difficulties with our room. You could see marks on our door that had been washed off saying “Nice Try”. We couldn’t figure out the lights, and one of the bulbs was dead. Guapito couldn’t figure out the shower, so he spent his shower holding the pin to make the water come out of the shower head. We realized later, that he just didn’t pull the knob out enough to get enough water pressure. The room also lacked a fridge, and we had items that needed to be refrigerated. It wasn’t until about 2AM that we finally were settled in and ready to sleep. I sure was ready for a good, long sleep after the last two days. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

France Day 14 – WEG Dressage Freestyle (Caen) & Arromanches Evening

This was the day that all of the dressage fanatics were waiting for. The stadium was absolutely packed when I arrived. I had decided that I wanted to take the shuttle. It gave me an opportunity to talk to one of the employees of the travel company to see if I could secure a ride to England. I also thought it would be a good idea to keep saving money on gas. My traveling companion decided she did not want to take the shuttle because it makes her carsick. I still had to pay for half of the gas, and use of the vehicle, even though I did not use it at all that day (or the last day, in fact. Some people’s definitions of fair do not line up with mine.)

Happy to be on my own, I went to explore the WEG village a little more. I also didn’t feel like waiting in the line to get into the stadium with all those people.

The whole day was filled with different events going on in a few different areas. I almost didn’t want to go see the dressage. It was a nicer atmosphere, the washrooms were relatively nicer (they were portapotties, but at least they weren’t urine and poo-covered squat toilets), and there were many more options of food.

In one arena, when I arrived, they were doing an American, cowboy-themed show. It was pretty fun, and I was feeling really emotional at this point, so a few tears dripped from my eyes. Not because I’m American (I’m not), but because it made me miss my cowboy friends from years ago.

They also tried roping a barrel. One was successful, the other was not.

At a different arena, they had a more educational demonstration going on while I was there. This one was about the horses of France. Or at least, that’s what I gathered from it. All of you French speakers can correct me. 🙂 I was enthralled by this mare and her foal. I almost miss when Kaden was a foal. But then again, he had a lot of attitude, so maybe I don’t.

I got some pad thai and an apple pie at a restaurant. I think after my experience with the chinese food the previous night, I should have known better than to try more asian food. It was terrible. I’m just used to abundant, delicious, asian foods in Vancouver. After lunch, I figured it was time for me to go see the event I actually paid to see. Maybe dressage would suddenly become exciting. I walked back, and noticed another “full” parking lot. I chuckled to myself.

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“Full” parking lot in France.

There were no lines when I got to the stadium, on account of my being very late, but I couldn’t find a spot to sit. Despite having a seat in that section, I was told to go to a different section since there was no room. I then went to the section the lady told me to go to, and the man was very upset at me. In my very, very, limited French I told him that the lady told me there was no room in my section, and that she told me to go to this section. He told me it was impossible because different sections are different prices, and they weren’t allowed to mix people. He then instructed me to sit in a section in the corner, since it was in the same price range as mine. I didn’t mind this spot. I had two seats to myself, and a decent view. If it ever started to rain, I would be covered.

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A lot busier than the other two days!

I tried searching from my traveling companion, but with no luck. Later she told me that there were plenty of empty seats in that section. It sure didn’t look like it to me. Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro were the favourites of the day, and they ended up winning by a lot. Valegro is a horse that certainly stood out. He could be an equine Greek god.

It was a fairly interesting afternoon. I was enjoying being by myself. There were also quite a few medal ceremonies.

Some of the horses, besides Valegro, were simply lovely to watch. Another one of my favourite pairs was Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill. Damon Hill is absolutely gorgeous. He floats.

Next time, if there ever is a next time, I’d like to bring some more awesome lenses in order to get some really spectacular photos.

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Jealous of the lenses.

It was quite a pleasant day. I couldn’t find my traveling companion after the show, so I took the coach back with the rest of the group. While I was waiting, I became enamoured with some police horses.

When I got back, my traveling companion had not yet arrived. I did not have a key to the room, and there was no point hanging around the building. I treated myself to a delicious dinner at a nice restaurant that had a spectacular view of the ocean. Then I went and explored the area in the twilight. I was thrilled by it all.

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France Day 13 part 2 – Mont Saint-Michel

After we left the endurance competition, we headed over to Mont Saint-Michel since it wasn’t too far away. My traveling companion had already been there before, and she warned me about how crowded and busy it was going to be. It was her idea to go visit it, and I’m sure glad we went. It is beautiful! I had actually never heard of it before going to France, despite it being the top tourist destination in France after the Eiffel Tower.

I was quite offended that they charged for parking.

When we got to the visitor centre, from where we were to take a shuttle, I noticed a sign for a horse-drawn carriage. I knew immediately that it was something I had to do. It only cost 6 euros, and my traveling companion decided to come along. It was essentially my second favourite thing that I did in France. I had such a wonderful time.

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To my great relief, there was no line to get onto the island, and it wasn’t nearly as crowded as my traveling companion had said it would be. She was actually quite surprised that there were so few people. I was delighted. It is such a cool place, and I despise crowds.

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The main street

My traveling companion told me that you can only access the island at certain times of the day because otherwise the tides come in and block the way. They are building a new bridge that will allow access for 99% of the time, but it isn’t complete yet. She also told me of some sad stories of people riding their horses across the sands, but because of the water under the sand, the horses would fall right through, like quicksand. Scary!

It’s such a cute little place. Although it is still somewhat of a novelty, I think it would have been much more interesting back in the day, when you had to risk your life going across the sands and beat the tides.

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Awesome roofs.

The modifications that humans have made to the area have had a seriously negative environmental impact. That is a big reason as to why they are putting in a new bridge; one that should be more environmentally sound. There is also a dam, as you can see in the picture below. I can’t remember what effect this has on the region, and I’m too lazy to look it up.

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Dam!

I loved seeing the birds. I love birds. I would like to have a bird one day. Either a parrot or a falcon. At the moment I have way too much going on to get a bird. One of the birds sounds like it’s laughing in the following clip. The other one sounds like it’s one of those noisy straws that used to come with Slurpees.

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Cute little thing!

My traveling companion hadn’t entered the abbey on Mont Saint-Michel the last time she was there. After all, the place was so incredibly crowded that it wouldn’t have been worth the time. I figured since we were already there, we might as well do as much as we could do. She decided she would join me, despite not wanting to make the trek up the stairs. Unfortunately we were 5 minutes too late. They had just stopped letting people in so they could prepare for the evening light show. I was a bit disappointed, and I think my traveling companion was relieved. Then the wind started to blow, and I looked to the horizon. It looked like a storm was coming.

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Mont Saint-Michel in a nutshell.

We continued to go to the other side of the island to see what could be seen. I saw the barred window thing and thought it would make a cool picture.

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I could smell the storm coming, and I really thought it would be a good time to leave. My traveling companion agreed, so we started to make our way back down. While going down, I saw lovely garden spaces. People can be so creative when they need to be.

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Lovely garden on our way down the hill.

I looked back to the horizon. The storm was coming quickly.

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Storm’s acoming.

We got down to the level for shops, and despite the wind blowing really hard, my traveling companion decided that she wanted to shop. I told her it wasn’t a good idea, but she said she would be really quick. Of course she wasn’t really quick. She had to know all about the products that she was interested in, where they came from, etc. By the time all was said and done, it had started to sprinkle. We rushed outside, and pretty much as we set foot outside of the gates, the rain started hard. We ran all the way to where the shuttles were and got soaked. Our swiftness made us lucky, and we were able to catch one of the first shuttles leaving. Others were not quite so lucky.

When we got back to the parking lot, it was barely even raining. We jumped in the car and turned the heat on full blast in order to try and dry our clothes. It was a long way back to Arromanches. We decided to try some asian food on the way back, and it ended up being terrible and expensive. My traveling companion’s bowels started to act up, so we had to leave in a hurry. By the time we got back to Arromanches, we were mostly dry and fairly tired. Overall, it was a very satisfying day.

France Day 13 part 1 – WEG Endurance (Sartilly)

Neither of us wanted to get up early enough to see the start of the race. It would have required us to get up at around 4 or so, and that just wasn’t going to happen. After all, how would we eat breakfast? 😉

We were worried we wouldn’t find parking, but surprisingly there ended up being plenty. When we arrived, we weren’t sure where we could or couldn’t go. The place was abuzz with action. Because the horses clearly don’t all go at the same speed, and we were a couple of hours into the race already, all stations had action happening at them. There were horses waiting to get the signal to start off again. There were horses coming in for their cool down. There were horses getting cooled off, horses at the vet check, horses getting their soundness tested, and horses enjoying a hearty snack. They also had vendors, but only 3 food vendors. The line for the fry truck was over an hour long.

When I filmed the clip below, I had no idea who I was filming. I just thought it would be cool to film a rider walking his horse to the resting area. It ended up being of the winner of the endurance competition! What luck!

The following are some clips of how the event went. After finishing a lap, they would come back to the main area. Here are some horses coming back.

The next step was to cool off the horses. This was achieved with ice water. It was imperative to get the temperature and heart rate down in order to pass the vet check.

If the vet check was passed, then they would head across the grassy area where the big screen that showed the rest of the competition was situated.

Then they would cross over to the rest area. That is where I saw the Sheikh and his horse. Then they would go to the resting area for a set amount of time. Here, the horses would receive food, massages, farrier work, or whatever else was needed to make them comfortable.

After the set time is finished, the horses would get tacked up again, and they would head over to the holding pen.

Once in the holding pen, they would walk around until given the signal. Then they would take off and complete the next lap.

It was a sad day, this day. A Costa Rican gelding died during the first lap. It sure made things a bit sombre. Rest in peace Dorado…

France Day 12 – WEG (Caen)

I’m usually interested in saving money. My traveling companion had booked the trip to France through Equestrian Escapes. Apparently it was about half the cost to book through this UK company than to book a trip from a Canadian company. The great thing about booking through a travel company is that they provide all the transportation for you. Up to this point we hadn’t used their transportation services. I decided it was time we did! Why spend all that extra money on gas needlessly? I was itching to be around other people. You can’t meet new people if you’re never with them. The week prior, my traveling companion had said how much she was looking forward to being with the group and having “wild times with the Brits”. So she agreed that we could take the shuttle this time. Ironically, neither of us talked to anyone. She said they were all too old (even though there were definitely people there that were younger than us). I told her that was no excuse, that older people are great. Since she held me in such little esteem (she’s a lawyer, and I make minimum wage, after all), she did what she had become accustomed to doing, and just didn’t respond.

Anyway, I was stoked to be on a bus filled with lots of people. I love buses. I forget what the Brits were calling it (coach maybe?), but it’s a bus to me.

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I’m on a bussssssssss

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After taking this picture, I then proceeded to take up those two seats.

It’s a totally different experience arriving at the venue when everyone else is arriving. It’s a lot more crowded, and there actually are lineups to get anywhere. Not having our own transportation meant that we were there for the whole day. My traveling companion didn’t mind this because this was no longer the preliminary rounds, and only the people who made the cut were doing the test. This still wasn’t freestyle, however, and the music was still terrible. I wasn’t the only one complaining about it. Often I just put on my headphones and watched while listening to different music.

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The French went wild for this guy. The sign is for the previous person. I think this one is Marc Boblet. Can you see the sign was broken this day? Something wrong with the connection.

During the lunch intermission, we went to the “village” where they had food, vendors, exhibits, and the like. Unfortunately it was something like a 15-minute walk away. I don’t mind the walking at all, of course, but my traveling companion made sure to complain. When there, we saw these horse vans! I decided I need one. My husband always has the truck so I can never trailer my horse anywhere. If I had a van, however, my husband would have no use for it, and I could take them wherever! Plus, it would be a million times easier to back up down our winding driveway.

Anyone out there want to buy me a horse van? I won’t complain 😀 ;).

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My first time seeing a horse van!

Soon we went back to see the GB favourites like Carl Hester and Charlotte Du Jardin. Since we were traveling with a bunch of Brits, and the UK is so close to to France, probably half of the stadium was filled with Brits. When the GB teammates came out, the whole stadium erupted with cheers. Here is a shot of Carl Hester before he did his test.

France Day 11 – Arromanches & WEG (Caen)

Since it wasn’t raining (apparently rain is a thing in Normandy?) I decided to venture out to explore the small town of Arromanches Les Bains. I also really needed toothpaste, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to look for some. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? To make it short, I didn’t find any toothpaste, but I did have a grand adventure looking at things.

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View from our room at the B&B

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Our B&B. Our room has the open window on the “roof” floor”

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So many random Canadian things in France.

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View of Arromanches from the other side. Took me a whole 5 minutes to walk across.

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Perdy

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This place looked like it had been abandoned for quite a long time.

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Cute.

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I like finding the “wild” everywhere I go.

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Every town has a fancy church.

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Rad railing.

After my unsuccessful search for toothpaste, but an entirely satisfying exploration of Arromanches, I went back to meet my traveling companion so that we could head to the second day of the dressage competition at the World Equestrian Games in Caen.

When we got there, all the parking lots were “full” (this is once again, the French definition of full). The parking lady said there was a mall just up the street with free parking. There wasn’t, but we easily found street parking and walked to the competition. Because we came during the break, and it wasn’t a popular event, we entered the facilities easily and found seats easily as well. There weren’t a whole ton of people at the event. In fact, because it started raining, and half of the seats aren’t under cover, we were able to go upstairs and find some seats.

It was odd that despite this being a world event, there wasn’t a whole lot of preparation done. There was little to no food or drinks available for purchase, and half of the stands didn’t have everything on their menus. Also, the washrooms were not only filthy, but they contained squatty potties that were often plugged or had no toilet paper, or the toilet paper was dirty because they were never on rolls. The stench of urine could be smelled as soon as you opened the door. I felt really bad for older people, and people in high heels or sandals.

The horses were beautiful though.

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View from our original spot not under cover.

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Despite watching a few dozen horses do the exact same thing, I still had a hard time figuring out what made one better than another.

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Cantering specimen. The score on the board is NOT for this rider and horse.

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Absolutely want this for my arena.

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Pfff… even the professionals don’t get square stops.

We stayed till the end of the day and then went back to Arromanches, with a small detour to a grocery store on the way back to the car so that I could get toothpaste. We went for dinner and afterwards I decided to go for a walk. She agreed to come with me, but we didn’t get very far before she wanted to turn back. It also started raining, so that didn’t help her desire. I had wanted to walk all the way to what appeared to be a lookout point, and her response was literally “There is no way I’m going that far.” When I did actually go, it didn’t take more than 10 minutes.

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Tide’s out! You can almost see England on the horizon.

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Dead fish! I don’t like death, and I don’t like fish, but I liked the composition of this picture.

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I like the light on the water.

France Day 10 – Bayeux

It’s amazing how much I don’t remember when there isn’t something to jog my memory. Although this was the first day that we had tickets for the World Equestrian Games, my traveling companion had no interest in going because it was the first of two days for the qualifying rounds. I don’t care enough about sports to care either way. As long as there is something to do, I am satisfied.
It’s a good thing we didn’t go anyway, because it was raining, and I’m sure we would have been miserable. The arena isn’t entirely covered, so we would have been soaked. We decided to go shopping in Caen instead. I was totally ok with it because I still didn’t have an adapter, and I hoped beyond all hope that this would be my chance.

When we got to the mall, I saw a giant electronics store, akin to Best Buy or Futureshop, so I immediately said “Can I go in there first? I want to look for an adapter.” She agreed, but sat in the car and waited for me. I was so unbelievably excited when I found adapters that would work for me! I bought one that was supposed to be interchangeable for the whole world (although it ended up being that you could plug anything from anywhere in the world, but couldn’t plug it in everywhere. No matter…), and one that had two USB ports. Almost halfway through my trip, and I was finally extremely relieved.

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Hard to see because of the rain, but these are street lamps.

Back in the car, she drove us about 100 meters to the mall entrance. We visited pretty much every shop. I bought a few clothing items. Then we went to a grocery store and she bought more snacks, and I got an extra bag so I could throw stuff in to take home.

My traveling companion had made dinner reservations at an excellent restaurant in Bayeux, so we headed there. We arrived quite a bit early, so we explored the town cathedral. I found it more intriguing than the Notre Dame of Paris, and not having quite so many people helped a lot.

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It was pouring rain, and at the time we didn’t know that it was open. So I found a nook from which to take a picture of the courtyard.

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I love this ceiling!

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Inside the church.

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View of the church after dinner, when the rain finally stopped :).

We checked the time, and figured we should be able to get in with our reservations a little early, which we did. When we sat down, we started dripping. We were so soaked from the rain that it was making little puddles underneath us. Happily, the restaurant people didn’t mind. We then ate the most delicious meal I have ever had in my entire life. I was in absolute heaven. I never take pictures of food, but I had to have a visual memory of this delectable delight.

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Impossibly delicious.

Le Pommier was one of my two favourite restaurants in all of France. I enjoyed it so much that I convinced my traveling companion to eat there for our last meal. I cannot even begin to express my joy at this meal.

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Impossibly perfect dessert.

Despite me usually being a chocolate fanatic, I decided to go with the “pomme surprise en chaud et froid” because why not. Pretty much I got it because I understood all the words, but had no idea what they meant. I needed to satisfy my curiosity. It ended up being the best decision ever. I am angry that this restaurant is in France and I am no longer in France. There is no way to adequately explain my pleasure in this entire meal.

Afterwards we walked a bit around town and I thought it was a beautiful sight.

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Magical!

I LOVE FRANCE! J’aime la France! Me encanta Francia!