To the Top of the World and Back in 10 Days – Part 1

I have always wanted to drive to Alaska and experience the North, and have been trying to get people to go with me since I was 17. Guapito and I decided that this is the year that we would finally do it. He booked two weeks off of work, but auditions, rehearsals, and the biggest windstorm I have ever seen (our power was out from Saturday noon to around 2:30 AM Monday morning… we live on a farm and are on a well and septic, so no power is a big deal) kept interfering, so we left a lot later than we had hoped. No power meant that we couldn’t do laundry or dishes or clean the house the weekend before we left, so all that was left until Monday. We spent Monday doing our best to finish the laundry, clean the house and ready the barn and coops for the farm sitter. Due to this, we didn’t end up leaving until Monday evening. We grabbed dinner on the way since the power outage had left us with no edible food. It poured rain for most of the way on the first night. We made it to 100 Mile where we decided to find a hotel after midnight. To our surprise, they were all full. “Is there a work thing happening?” Guapito asked. “No, they’re all tourists,” was the answer. We finally found a nice motel that had a room, and as a bonus, let us take our dogs inside with us.

100 Mile Visitor Centre

100 Mile House Visitor Centre

We hit up the tourist centre the next morning to get some information about our trip, and to see the world’s largest cross-country skis. The ladies working there were very helpful and gave us a map and guides for the places we were wanting to go. The map and the Alaska road trip guide proved to be extremely useful. I was anxious to get to the Yukon, so instead of exploring, we started driving again. I kept looking at the brochures and guides, seeing if there were any good, quick hikes or activities to do, but I was absolutely worried that we would not make it to the Yukon, and so we ignored all of them.

Williams Lake Tourist Centre

Williams Lake Tourist Centre

Aside from getting gas, where we bought some of the most delicious nectarines I have ever eaten from a little stand, our next stop was the William’s Lake tourist centre. There were lots of goodies to purchase there, and I more or less went wild. I bought some gifts for our farm sitter, and a few other little things. We were allowed to bring the dogs inside, and the employees doted on them and bestowed them with treats.

Not too much time passed until we were off again. Next stop: Quesnel, though we didn’t actually stop there. One of my friends is from Quesnel, and while we were driving through the first part, I couldn’t help but remark how great a thing it was for her to have left Quesnel, since it seemed to be a displeasing town. Later, however, I realized we weren’t actually in town yet. The town itself is actually quite nice, and I was pleasantly surprised. I could see why someone would want to live there, but that wasn’t enough to entice me to stop, so on we went.

We had a little debate about whether or not we should take the detour to Barkerville, and decided against it. According to Google, it was 2 hours out of Quesnel, so I calculated that going there would take an extra day in order to enjoy it. Though disappointed, I figured we could always go to Barkerville on another trip since it isn’t too far away. I was desperate to get to the Yukon, and quite worried that I would never get to see the tundra because we’d get caught up doing something closer to home. We ended up making an impromptu stop at Xatsull Heritage Village, which was excusable because it wasn’t far off the main road. Unfortunately, they only accept cash, which we had absolutely none of. Thankfully for us, they took pity on us, and we got to do our own walk-through free of charge. It’s in a very beautiful location, and we had an interesting chat with the fellow there. I absolutely love aboriginal cultures, so this place was totally up my alley, even though the tipis aren’t from that area. When I was young, I was set on living in a tipi, and I always made tipis out of cedar for myself and my cats. Now, I don’t think that is the ideal abode for me, but I still think they are awesome.

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Xatsull Heritage Village from the lookout

Hill Home

After leaving Xatsull, we had to decide how far north we would go. We set an ambitious goal of staying in Fort Nelson that night (approximately 12 hours away from 100 Mile), but we almost didn’t make it…

Road Trip USA part 3 – Santa Monica, Venice, & Downtown LA

Not sleeping much became a routine thing for the duration of the trip. I averaged about 4-5 hours of sleep a night, and never got up past 9AM. The lack of sleep really affected me; I stopped being able to think properly, and often mixed up my words or slurred them together. I understood a bit more of the “baby brain” that affects mothers when their children are young, and they don’t get enough sleep.

We were supposed to go to the Getty museum this day, but it ended up getting postponed until the next day, so we had more time to spend in Santa Monica. First we went to Stout to get lunch. The burgers were expensive, but delicious. They don’t come with sides, so we ordered yam fries, garlic fries, and a pretzel to share.

DSC_0418We then headed over the famous pier. I’d been there before, but it was almost 13 years ago the last time, so it was interesting seeing it again.

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There was the “Happy Singing Mexican” who has a lovely voice and appears to be continually ridiculously happy. His buddy just danced in the background. Not like professional dancing type, but more like “Hey, I need someone to be with me all day, can you stand in the back and ‘dance’?”.

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DSC_0428My friends and Guapito all went to The Coffee Bean or something like that, and I looked out at the water. Man, it sure is a nice area.

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While waiting, I spied these people who had decided to get extremely wet with their clothes on. I wish I knew the purpose of this. It’s not like it was a hot day, but alas they were there soaking wet. Can you spot them?

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Rae wanted to go shopping, so we headed to that shopping street, which is actually pretty cool. She really wanted to go to Victoria’s Secret, so I went in with her. There was a lady there with her dog. She was standing at the counter making her purchase when the dog slipped the collar off its head and she didn’t notice. I didn’t see it happen, so I wasn’t sure if she was just one of those hoity toity people letting their dogs run rampant in the store. It wouldn’t be my business. I kept an eye on the pup, but didn’t intervene. When she finished paying, she looked down, and her face paled and became completely panicked. At the same moment, one of the staff came up to her carrying the dog, and relief washed over her. I found it amusing at the time. I guess I could see how it could happen, but I wonder why the collar was so loose in the first place.

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After finishing in Santa Monica, we headed to Venice. I didn’t know anything about Venice until this trip, so it was all very new to me.

DSC_0446First we went to the beach. There were some cool people, that looked familiar. I think I saw them on YouTube. There was a big crowd, and I wanted to watch. We had apparently just missed the penultimate part of the show, and they kept saying they were going to do the grand finale. We waited for almost 20 minutes, and they never did it. They seemed obsessed with money and with race, which made me uncomfortable. They wouldn’t move on until they made sure they harassed everyone for a donation, and every time someone donated, they made a huge deal of it, specifying race and apparent status of wealth, then making implied “threats” that if we didn’t donate, they would just take the money by robbing us in our homes. I don’t find that humorous at all. Not interested in the spectacle at all, Rae went to go watch the sunset, and we wasted our time waiting for them to do something. Bored, we eventually left to join Rae, and by the time we finished on the beach and started to head over to the canals, the entertainers still hadn’t done their grand finale.

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DSC_0456On our way to the canals, we passed by Muscle Beach. This made me very excited. It reminded me of my favourite ride at Playland “Crazy Beach Party”, that had its final run last summer. I’m not sure where else I’ve seen/heard the term “muscle beach” but I thought it was cool. Someone in my class told me that it’s very exclusive. Not everyone can just go in and work out there.

DSC_0462The canals themselves were super romantic. I think it would be really cool to live on one of them, as long as it’s in an area that doesn’t flood. Despite Venice being a kind of sketch place to be, the canals juxtapose it in a classy way.

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I love light decorations. I think that they should be around all year, not just during Christmas time. Recently at home, I got sad when I saw my city take down the lights.

Anyway, after Venice, we headed back to Manhattan Beach to get ready to go out to downtown LA. One of our new friends said we had to dress up nice because he was going to take us somewhere really special. It was not what I expected at all, but it was super cool. It was a rooftop bar with interesting decorations, a pool, heaters, and a dance floor. Despite some drama that happened (instigated by my desire to have a cigarette), I had an absolutely magical time. I danced alone on the dance floor, I got in trouble for standing with one foot on a chair, and one on one of those things you put money in to see far away, I listened to some really awesome music while having brief, deep conversations about life that felt totally epic at the time. Unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera, but it is without a doubt my favourite memory of the entire trip. We left super late, despite our poor host having to work the next morning, but he still took us to a light display outside of some museum to take pictures.

DSC_0034Awwww….

Road Trip USA Part 2 – What the Hell am I Doing Drinking in LA at 26?

I was super stoked to sleep in. Since I didn’t have the responsibilities of the farm, I thought this trip would be a wonderful opportunity to sleep in. Unfortunately, I woke up at 7:12. I tried to go back to sleep, but someone was snoring, and it wasn’t Guapito, so I couldn’t hit them to get them to stop. I put on some headphones and tried to go on the computer, but Guapito gave me an angry face and told me it was too loud. I then tried to read a book, but I was too tired to hold my phone as a light, and I ended up pocketdialing my dad and leaving a 4.25 minute-long message. A $7.50 mistake *facepalms*. I decided to give up and just lay there with my headphones on. I tried to get comfortable but without any luck because I have big-ass V-MODA headphones. At least they sound good.

The mediocre breakfast was at 9:55, because it stopped at 10, and everyone else got to sleep in till around 9:45. We then walked down to beach. It wasn’t as quick a walk as Rae had been expecting. The walk was beautiful though. The neighbourhoods were really cool, all strung up with Christmas lights. They reminded me of a co-op housing place where an old friend of mine used to live. The beach was spectacular with perfect waves. It wasn’t crowded at all. I so wanted to jump in the water and play, but it was way too cold for that.

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Manhattan Beach

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Houses at Manhattan Beach. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful place to live?

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Main Street in Manhattan Beach

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Friends ❤

We didn’t get to stay too long until we had to head back to meet some friends for lunch. We went to Panera Bread, which has really delicious soup. I had the fall squash soup that I probably could have eaten 15 bowls of. The two friends we met up with were lovely chaps. After being very friendly and telling exciting stories, they took us to an absolutely gorgeous lookout point.

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Lookout in Palos Verdes

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Lookout

Guapito found a tumbleweed and got really excited. He wanted to see it in action, but we all stopped him before he could throw it. Apparently California is pretty strict about stuff like that.

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Guapito and the tumbleweed

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Old friends and new friends ❤

One of the fellas had to get his car from the shop, so we all agreed to meet later to see the sunset from a pier. The four of us roadtrippers headed to a Starbucks by the beach to wait. The view was incredible. We then went to see the Korean Friendship Bell, which was really cool. It was obvious that we were going to miss the sunset on the pier, so we watched it from the location of the bell.

Korean Friendship Bell

Korean Friendship Bell

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Sunset!

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Boys are silly

We then met at one of our friend’s houses and made a game plan for the evening. I only had one goal for the entire trip: to be able to sing the Bran Van 3000 song (Drinking in LA), and have it be somewhat accurate. A.K.A. go drink somewhere in LA. I don’t know why I love the song so much, but I always have. It’s one of the few songs that if it comes on my ipod, I have to listen to it, and I’ll enjoy every second of it. I was listening to it sometime last year, and I actually paid attention to the lyric that says “… at 26” I realized I was going to be 26 soon, and that it was the only year in my entire life that the song would be accurate. I made it my mission to visit LA sometime (despite despising LA) before I turned 27. Opportunities came and then disappeared before I could jump on them. So when Rae asked me to go on a road trip to San Francisco, I was hesitant. I asked if she wouldn’t mind heading to LA for a day or two, and she said that they were going for 4 days, so I immediately agreed. It was my one non-career-related goal that I had for 2014.

Anyway… after stopping at the hotel room to grab my ID, we headed to Malibu and had dinner at Moonshadows, which is an expensive seafood restaurant. It was some miscommunication how we ended up eating there, but the food was pretty good, and the view was stunning, even at night. We saw a seal swimming, which just made everything perfect. There were 3 new people who joined us there, and we all feasted together. We were going to get drinks there, but at $12+ per drink, we were all quite hesitant. The non-attentive waitress solidified our decision to leave and go to Zebra Room, a cash-only dive bar instead. It ended up being beyond perfect. It’s a cash only bar, but the drinks were cheap, and they had a jukebox that fortunately had my Bran Van 3000 song. I jumped around the room, traded dimes and a nickle for a quarter and eagerly pressed play.

I had to wait about an hour for it to come on, and I was fairly drunk by then (I never drink, so it really didn’t take long). But when it did finally come on, my eyes lit up (or so I’m told), and I sang my heart out. I made sure not to forget the line: “What the hell am I doing drinking in LA at 26?” because, you know, I’m 26, drinking in LA, and honestly don’t know why.

I accomplished my goal. I was completely content and satisfied. It is absolutely remarkable how things work out in life.

We then went to one of the friend’s houses, and had some delicious Stella Rosa wine that tasted like juice. Neither Rae nor I enjoy the taste of wine, but this was incredibly good. We then played the card game Bullshit, which I was terrible at in an inebriated state. Our host was wonderful for entertaining us at such an hour when he had to work the next morning.

When we finally got back, it was really late. Surely I would get a good night’s sleep this time, right? Nope.

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.