Cowgirls in Camargue

In Iceland, I have mostly German, British, and Scandinavian riders who come on horse tour, but the few Frenchies that drop in are usually the most memorable. Either they don’t speak a word of English, have no idea to ride or ride better than everyone else, and often drink wine like water. I met a Mr. Berquin this summer, one of the founding creators of the Henson horse breed – a cross between a French riding horse and Norwegian fjord horse. He invited me to ride at his farm, their origin in the Baie de Somme, but as fate would have it, I couldn’t make the trip dates.

the Pont du Gard near Nimes

Instead, I had the weekend before free, and thought I should go riding in France anyway, and after finding a Wow Air return flight for barely more than 100 euros to Paris and a bus ticket from there to Lyon for 9 euros each way, I just went. The south of France sounded much warmer anyway, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend such little money in Reykjavik.

Alicia and I on the beach in the south of France

I have this other fun French friend I met last year on the Golden Circle, Alicia who also rode with me earlier this year in Kyrgyzstan. She lives in Lyon and decided we should go to Camargue and ride their big white beach horses. After a night in Paris (you always have to stay the night in Paris when you get the chance!) and a few hours in the bus, we were in Lyon drinking wine.

wine tasting at Chateau La Borie

The journey from Lyon to Camargue takes you through the heart of Côtes du Rhône, home to some of the best red wines in France. We stopped at a few vineyards (, and one in Chateuneuf-du-Pape, and ended our day trip at the Pont du Gard, that bridge and ancient Roman aqueduct that you’ve seen a hundred times in videos but never realized how to get there. That night we had dinner at the beach town Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer (why is the town name so long and how many St. Mary’s are there?), which, very appropriately, was a huge portion of moules et frites with white wine from the region.

horses on the ferry -transporting our transport across the little Rhone

We rode Camargue horses for the weekend, and thought we were special, but there were 5 others riding with us the first day (all but 1 were beginners).We galloped on the beach and rode past herds of flamingos, and had picnic lunches that always included rosé wine. I had a cool Camargue cowboy hat and traditional Camargue saddle, which turned out to be terribly uncomfortable, but at least I looked and felt like a real French cowgirl.

approaching another group of Camargue horses

We were one group of many, and only by the end of the weekend did we realize just how many other Camargue horse farms there were in the area. One one random trail crossing in the wetlands, there were 4 groups that actually intersected, causing enough of a traffic jam that maybe yield signs or traffic lights might need to be put up there one day. We had to cross one river, an offshoot of the Rhone, on a barge, and we took our horses on board just as easily as the cars were allowed to be ferried across. Its the first, and probably the last time, I´ve ever ridden a horse on a boat.

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Spontaneous weekend in Washington, D.C.

 

our wow moment

 Since April 9, I’ve worked almost every day in April and the first part of May trying to pay off the last of my pacific trip… and alot of Svalbard. Even though I had just broke even, I decided to surprise my best friend Ursula in Washington D.C. for her 30th birthday. Her sister Liv had planned a surprise birthday party at her parents, and there were about 15 or 20 close friends and family coming from around the states. I hadn’t seen her in over a year, and I’m totally in love with everything about her, so I bought a cheap ticket with Wow air to Baltimore. The riots had mostly ended and Wow air had just started flying there, so the fare was totally worth it for 3 days.

 

one of our many brunches

 The night before I flew out, I stayed up late packing with my roommate Anja. We checked the weather forecast and it said 30`c… within another hour, and a few glasses of bubbly, Anja had also booked herself a last minute weekend trip to D.C. Her flight was even cheaper than mine, and we met 12 hours later at the airport with one big purse as a carry on.

  

the birthday girl

 The first night we hung out with a mutual friend of mine and Ursula’s who had also been on Semester at Sea with us back in fall 2006. Jessica had friends in DC that took us out and I met up with a Navy seal I first hung out with in Palau a few months ago. The big party day was Saturday, and every day basically had the same formula: all day brunching, with bottomless mamosas or bloody maries, and all night wining and dining, with some added margaritas or dancing. We ate mostly mexican food and shopped for cheap summer clothes, and one night we slept in a firehall (long story). Every day was warmer than 30`c, and it turns out we didn’t pack light enough. We could have walked around in short shorts and a tshirt everywhere, but we had brought pants and sweaters we only needed on the flight home.