Looking back on 2015


2015 was a sort of uneven year for me. While I got to travel to some amazing places for work and pleasure, I didn’t quite get back into the competing groove with my horses like I’d been hoping.

Oh So’s year started out positive, and I’d had hopes of getting back to training level. I’ve sort of given up hope of ever going prelim on him again because his body came back from his injury a little weaker than I’d expected. The right front leg has held up well, but then his left front developed an issue on his deep digital flexor tendon sheath, which is now a constant worry for me since we had it injected in July. Every time I get on him, I’m cognizant of how he’s walking, and when we pick up trot, I worry if what I’m feeling is a front lameness or just some stiffness from behind.

We did one novice event at Waredaca and a dressage schooling show before that started bothering him, then spent the rest of the summer and fall keeping him in work but not really aiming for any events. He’s had some cross-country schools and jumps schools and did a novice CT at Waredaca, and now we’re here–at a point where I’m not sure what to do with him for fear of breaking him.

It’s hard to make goals like the ones I’d set out for in 2015 because then he’d have a little niggling soundness thing, whether it was his hind end or the left front.

I want to compete, and I know he loves to go and do, but do I keep riding knowing someday could be the last straw, or do I keep things light and not event, which is what I’m really missing?

It was a huge shock to my system when he was first injured in August 2013–my life revolved around competing him and preparing for the next event. I got Bear as a project to fill the void, but then he had some foot soreness issues this summer too, so our season didn’t go as planned.


I don’t like the fact that I’m getting used to not competing or having a “season”. My goal is to remain a competent training level rider (I’ll tackle prelim again someday), and with Oh So possibly not jumping at that level anymore, I’m afraid my skills will degrade. I guess I’m fearful of becoming a timid re-rider should I make it to that level again someday. The perfectionist is me gets very irritated when I make dumb mistakes over novice level fences on a horse that I’ve ridden to prelim. I guess I have to accept that I’m in a trough, a low point in my riding career, and hopefully someday I’ll be able to pull myself out of it.

I’m also coming to terms with the fact that Bear will likely be sold soon, then I’m left with a horse who may or may not be able to compete, let alone last much longer. Then what will I do? I can’t afford board on two horses. I’m a generally pessimistic person in real life (could you tell?), and trying to remain optimistic over the last year with Oh So has been really tiring.

But as my trainer Lisa keeps reminding me, we should be happy for every ride we have left with him, and truly I am. He doesn’t care whether he jumps beginner novice or prelim height, just that he’s jumping, so I hope we can keep that up. He’s really come into his own on the flat and is very solid now, so it’s fun to play with him. Lowering my expectations has been very hard, but it’s only fair to him.

I’ve had a couple of really good lessons recently with Heidi Berry, a trainer I’ve reconnected with since moving to Leesburg. She helped me with Oh So while we were going training level as we worked through his tension. It’s been a few years since she’s seen him, and she’s really impressed, which is awesome to hear from an S dressage judge.


I told her my goal was to get solid with the 2nd level stuff, and if it comes to the point where he shouldn’t be jumping, competing at recognized dressage shows would be a fun goal. She even thinks we could try third level if we get his changes.

Last week we touched base with turns on the haunches, medium trots and canter/walk and walk/canter transitions. He was really collecting nicely on a smaller circle, and we asked him to halt a few times from canter to really make sure we didn’t get the odd trot step. I felt like the timing with my seat was better too. She said to think of a canter/walk transition as a feather floating to the ground, soft and quiet.

We also had a good jump lesson with Lisa where we worked on me sitting in a more three-point position. I’m hoping to take him up to Loch Moy to school their cross-country course that runs in their arenas. It would be perfect for him.

As for Bear, I’ve taken a few lessons with Heidi on him and it’s been a big change, but one that will be good in the long run. The first thing she said when she saw us trot around was “body awareness,” so we’ve been working on bending him to the inside more than I’m comfortable with, and working some steep leg yields and counter leg yields to get him to move his shoulders up and over. I’ve also been thinking leg yield every time we do a downwards transition. Combine that with riding him more forward, and it’s a lot to work on!

We made it out to Gordonsdale to school cross-country two weekends ago and while it was cold and windy, he had a good time and we jumped some bigger fences. We also worked on some down banks into water, which we hadn’t really tackled yet, and he was very brave.

So as I head into 2016, I’m happy for two sound horses (at the moment), and really excited to travel. I’m going to cover several events for COTH, including the Olympics in Rio, which will be amazing and probably pretty crazy!

First up though, I’m going on a quick vacation to Wellington, Fla. I won a trip via Practical Horseman magazine to a World Cup show jumping qualifier. I’m going with my friend and officemate Kimberly and we’re planning on watching the Eventing Showcase, doing something non-horsey, and not working!

Then I head back down to Wellington three days after I get back to cover the GDF CDI***** dressage show, and on to more events during the spring. Whew!


Product Review: Ariat Saga Full-Zip Jacket


Now that I live near a Dover Store, life has suddenly become very dangerous! I walked in last week with a list of basic items I needed like shampoo and treats, and came out with all of that plus the Ariat Saga Full-Zip Jacket.

It’s been so mild this winter that the sweatshirt/jacket style piece has become a staple for me when I ride. I get too warm with a full jacket and it’s too cold for a long sleeve shirt or vest combo. I’ve always been a fan of Ariat’s “sporty” riding pieces, and the Saga Jacket fits right in that category, working for riding and stylish enough that you could wear it out to run errands or to the gym.

The grey/blue color combination is really nice. I tend to like neutral base colors with a pop of color. The Saga Jacket has a matching blue fleece lining with a honeycomb pattern and an outer grey soft shell.

There are two pockets on the inside, one for each hand on the outside, as well as a zippered pocket on one arm and one on the back/side. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a pocket placed there. I’ve been using it for my cell phone since it’s zippered, but to get it out it requires a bit of twisting.

If I could change anything on the jacket, I’d make the outside front pockets zippered too since that’s where I tend to put my phone. I just don’t trust non-zippered front pockets to hold my phone in while I’m riding or doing barn chores.

The soft shell material cleans easily. How do I know, you ask? Oh So was quite fascinated with my stylish new jacket and proceeded to slobber on me throughout our grooming session and each time he thought I had a treat. Luckily the dark grey color doesn’t show green too horribly!

It’s wind proof and water resistant, but it’s not the warmest sweatshirt/jacket I’ve owned. The material is thinner fleece than some of my Horsewear jackets, so I make sure to wear long sleeves under it on chilly days.

There are also Velcro cuffs on the sleeves to make them tighter to keep the wind out.

The Ariat Saga Jacket is comfy and stylish and has become a staple piece for me during this mild winter. It’ll be perfect for spring too.

The jacket retails for $89.95 and comes in sizes XS-XL in Lava Beach or Purple.


My Favorite Photos of the Year

I had a pretty crazy year of travel for The Chronicle and I thought I’d share some of my favorite photos I’ve taken.

I mostly covered eventing, including Red Hills, Bromont, the Carolina International, Great Meadow, Jersey Fresh, Plantation Field, The Fork, Fair Hill and the AECs, as well as CDI***** dressage in Florida, the USEA Convention, two Jimmy Wofford clinics and the Pan Am Games.

I wrote about my favorite memory for COTH as well.

“This year I headed to my first ever championship as a member of the media when I covered the Pan American Games in Toronto with my co-worker Lisa Slade.

I was a little nervous, having heard tales of chaos and stress at multi-discipline championships from other more seasoned staffers. But I’d also heard them rave about how amazing it was to see Valegro dance to music or feel the tension so thick in the air you could cut it with a knife as the final horse cleared the final show jump in eventing.

In the end, the experience was much more the latter. Sure, Lisa and I had to sneak in PB&Js every day for lunch because the few food vendors were overwhelmed and yes, there were some stressful days worrying about getting our coverage up even though we were wet/hot/cold/hungry/tired, but to me it was worth it to experience the U.S. team on the podium multiple times, and to be able to witness equestrian sport on a global scale.

I wish I’d had time to talk to every rider from another country and learn their story, but reporting on the medal contenders was first priority, leaving little time for much else. I did get to talk to a few South American riders across all three disciplines over those two weeks though, and learning the stories of what they go through to be able to compete at the Pan Ams, which for many is the pinnacle of their career, and how excited they were to bring attention to equestrian sport in their countries was really amazing. They took their jobs as ambassadors of the sport very seriously and with a great amount of pride.

There really were so many memorable moments, it’s hard to choose! McLain Ward riding the spicy Rothchild to his first individual championship medal, Brazil’s Ruy Fonseca so close to an individual gold before dropping the final rail in the eventing to give Marilyn Little the gold, the impressive Brazilians across all disciplines, Steffen Peters’ elation aboard Legolas in the dressage…Some say the Pan Ams aren’t as prestigious as other championships, but to me and the many riders who were privileged to be there, those medals and experiences mean so much.”

Without further ado, here are my favorite photos in no particular order.1DSC_0038

Brazilian dressage rider Leandro Aparecido Da Silva’s daugther gave Di Caprio a pat after his test at the Pan Ams. I’m not the strongest candid photographer (I’m working on it!), but this one was pretty sweet.


Buck Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM at Jersey Fresh. “Reggie” and Buck’s partnerships is one of my favorites. I just love how Reggie is jumping picture perfect over this massive table and how Buck is in the perfect balance. This is something to emulate!


Kim Herslow and Rosmarin at the Pan Ams. Dressage riders are the most emotional riders as I came to find out at the Pan Ams. Kim took a moment after her test to give Rosmarin a hug, even among the loud cheering in the stadium.


I turned around quickly and captured this shot of a rider during dressage day at Fair Hill. It’s my favorite event to go to, especially when the weather and fall foliage cooperates like it did this year!


A lot has been said about Marilyn Little this year, but this photo captures the side of her I see when I interview her at competitions. RF Demeter is a special partner for her, and it showed after they won the Bromont CCI***.


Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border standing off at Fair Hill. I love a photo of a good jumping horse, and “Crossy” sure looks scopey here! Kim is soft-spoken, but I love interviewing her because she’s so real. She’ll humbly admit how difficult it was to learn to ride this horse and it’s wonderful that they’re now on the same page (and getting results!).


McLain Ward and Rothchild at the Pan Ams. This photo (in its’ original form here) was a little back lit, but our design team worked their magic, and it became my second ever cover shot! It’s also one of the rare shots of “Bongo” with her ears forward. McLain’s partnership with this fiery little horse is one of my favorites in show jumping.


Product Review: Bell Boots

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a product review here, then I remembered I’d done two recently for Untacked!

Here is my bell boots Test Lab. I would like to amend one thing though with the Woof boots. I used them for a full show jump lesson on Bear this fall and the bulb on the back that helps them stay in place actually rubbed him raw! So, negative points on those.

I’m going to try to find some time this week to write up a post on what I’ve been up to with the boys, but until then…


A Trifecta

It’s been pretty non-stop since I got back from Fair Hill in October. I made a pretty major life change and became a boarder for the first time in 13 years.

While I was perfectly happy with my life, my parents thought it was time for me to move out and be closer to my job. They want to retire eventually and not take care of two crazy OTTBs, so here we are. Sam and the minis are still at home, along with my two cats. I really miss having them around, but I’ve been able to get home about once a week or every ten days  to get my fix.

Boarding after taking care of my own horses for so long has been a major adjustment. I like controlling every aspect of my horse’s care and now I can’t, and that really irritates me. From how much hay they get to which paddock they go in to how many times the arena gets dragged, I’m struggling a bit and my OCD is freaking out.

The good news is the place I’ve found is about as good as I can get for my budget and is close to my apartment in Leesburg. I can stop by on my way to work to turn them out and ride on the way home. I’ve got friends nearby who can help me out and the barn owner comes highly recommended. It’s not the fanciest place, but there’s tons of rideout, an indoor and a little cross-country course, which Oh So has been loving.

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The boys are both in a small paddock together right now but will be going out in a group next week, another thing I’m freaking out about.

They were pretty awful about being separated at first, but they’re slowly getting better–just screaming now, no running.

The good news about being in the area I’m in is that it’s closer to a lot more things. On my first weekend, I took Bear cross-country schooling at Loch Moy, which is now only 45 minutes away. We worked through some of his “teenage” moments at the water and down banks that weekend and he finished really well.


The next weekend I took him to school at Hunt Club Farm. He did his first ever combined test there, but now they’ve got a nice cross-country course. I think doing the two back-to-back weekends of schooling really helped both of our confidence and we went to the starter trial at Loch Moy and won our beginner novice division on his dressage score of 26!

Loch Moy Starter Trial

Loch Moy Starter Trial

I wasn’t really happy with our dressage warmup because it was so crazy and I just didn’t have a plan. He felt behind the leg, but he was mentally handling everything. We had a few minutes to work near our ring and after watching our video, I think we actually looked a little quick in trot. Sometimes I think I look for more out of him compared to Oh So, but I need to just take it down a notch and trust we’re actually moving forward. As a result, I drew my heel up a bit as I was kicking/using my spur, so I looked awful!

I got a little rapid in my show jumping, taking a few “bids” three strides away and he thought that was great fun! He was a bit wild and I just didn’t keep an even pace, so not the prettiest round, but he was certainly going and enjoying himself.

Loch Moy Starter Trial

Loch Moy Starter Trial

Cross-country was much more steady and he was very brave and attacked each fence. A few in the woods backed him off just enough to make for some nice jumps, and he went right in the water.

The week before Loch Moy I took Oh So for an outing at Waredaca’s Starter Trial. He wasn’t quite ready to do the full thing since he hasn’t cross-country schooled since this summer before his tendon sheath issue, so we did a novice CT.

Oh So at Waredaca

Oh So at Waredaca

His warm up was quite good, but once we got onto the bluestone near our ring he tightened up a bit and got very strong in my hand. We must have faked it well because we got a 27! Lisa made some good points in our warmup about downgrading our work for the novice test. It’s so easy and while we both prefer a test with more to do, for now, we can warmup with more transitions and a more open frame, rather than counter canter and lateral work.

Our show jumping round was a bit rough in between the fences since he was so eager to go, but we got it done. In fact, he was almost a bit backed off, which was a weird feeling. I think just not being out for awhile had him quite up.

We ended up winning the combined CT division and a Waredaca gift card!

Oh So at Waredaca

Oh So at Waredaca

Last weekend I took Bear to a new event for me, Full Moon Farm. It’s been ages since I’ve been to a new event, so I had a little tinge of nervousness.

We warmed up mostly on the grass to get him thinking forward and finished up on the sand near our ring. I still didn’t really have a plan, other than thinking forward and working on our transitions, but we ended up with a 26.8. I was a little surprised since I thought the score might be a bit higher due to the recognized element and the fact that the test felt similar to the one at Loch Moy, but I’ll take it!


Show jumping was on a grassy hill, so Lisa and I talked a lot about how we would ride the turns and slopes. It was quite open, but as a result of focusing on my turns, we had 2 time faults! Oops. It was a smoother round than Loch Moy, but we didn’t get all of our leads like I was hoping. He did a few cleaner flying changes though, so that was cool. He doesn’t quite know how to do them on command, so the fact that he was balancing himself was good.

We’ve been lucky this fall to be able to event this far into November, and the footing on cross-country was about as good as it could have been. It was a little tacky, something Bear’s never seen before.

This prize was a bit of a head-scratcher.

This prize was a bit of a head-scratcher.

He was a little wide-eyed as we started since the course is kind of like a roller coaster and goes by the parking and the show jumping. There’s a lot to look at, but once we got to fence 5, a jump with a roof over it, he seemed to be pretty on. He did the little down bank to a roll top well, a bending line, an up bank and the water and ditch perfectly. We actually picked a line to the water to get the best footing, so he barely had to put a foot in it, but we were still between the flags!

We ended up winning the open beginner novice division, which was a great way to end the season. I feel like with some consistency over the last few weeks, we hammered it home to him and he gets it now. With me traveling so much this year and dealing with getting his feet right, we were just inconsistent. He probably could have been going novice by now, but it’s OK. He is still only five (and still for sale!).


Happy face.

Happy face.

Yesterday I took Oh So cross-country schooling and he had so much fun. He just wants to run and jump and was actually frustrated that we were walking around with a group of babies before our lesson! He was jigging and prancing and generally being silly, but it makes me smile. Every day I can still ride him is a blessing, so we’ll take it one day and one jump at a time. I’m hoping to take him to a derby at Loch Moy in December which is entirely run in their arenas.

A Whirlwind Trip To France

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It’s taken me forever to gather my thoughts (and the time!) to write this blog, but here goes…

Next on my bucket list of countries was France. To be honest, I never thought much about France, but once I started researching, I realized it was a big country. I picked an 8-day vacation, but wish I’d added a couple of extra days in Paris. The tour only went from Paris, counter clockwise down to the Loire Valley and back to Paris, so there’s a whole lot of country left for me to explore!

Champs elysees

Champs elysees

I got to Paris pretty early in the morning and dropped my things at the hotel, which was on one of the outer arrondissemonts, or neighborhoods of Paris. The trips I usually take are budget trips, so the hotels might not be in the city center or very fancy, but they’re typically  still good.

I shared a cab ride with another women from another group tour staying at the same hotel and we stuck together and walked around the base of the Eiffel Tower, took the metro to the catacombs, which had a line around the block, then hopped on a hop-on-hop-off bus for the rest of the afternoon to get oriented to the city before we were both ready to fall asleep!

Dome des Invalides

Dome des Invalides

My first impressions were that Paris is huge! Sites are sort of grouped together, but somewhat far apart, so the metro is very valuable and pretty cheap. If you had a bike, that might be a good choice, as well as the city buses or hop-on-hop-offs, but those are somewhat slow.

The second day we took a group tour of the highlights of Paris. We had a local guide show us around Notre Dame and the highlights of the Louvre Museum, which would take days to truly appreciate!

Sacre Couer

Sacre Couer

We saw the Mona Lisa, which as expected, was much smaller in person, but it was absolutely mobbed by tourists. You had to fight your way to the front of the crowd of people taking selfies with the thing!

The Louvre

The Louvre

I hadn’t expected to have the afternoon off, but since I didn’t sign up for an optional welcome dinner, I took off from the Louvre on my own. I strolled through the gardens and had made a plan to not spend a ton of money on cabs to go back to a few places I wanted to see, but realized the walk would be quite long, so I bought another ticket on the hop-on-hop-off and headed to the Champs Elysees first.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

I immediately found my mecca, the flagship Sephora store, and took a stroll around. Knowing the Euro was good, not great, I made sure to focus my purchases on things you can’t find at U.S. Sephora stores, so I brought home some fun things to try, including a cute keepsake palette.

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I ended my evening climbing the steps of the Sacre Couer for a decent view of the city. It’s located in the “red light district” of Pigalle near the Moulin Rouge. It was quite touristy and a bit far from the Eiffel Tower and the main sightseeing areas, but it was worth the bus ride up.

We headed northwest on day 3 to Monet’s home at Giverny to see the gardens that inspired his impressionist style. There were beautiful lilly ponds, a Japanese bridge and so many flowers I’d never seen before. His home was modest and had a great view of his gardens.

Monet's home at Giverny

Monet’s home at Giverny



There wasn’t much else to see in the little village surrounding Giverny, so we headed off to Rouen, a town made famous for its beautiful cathedral and for the place where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. It featured wooden framed houses, giving it a cool medieval feel.

Rouen's cathedral.

Rouen’s cathedral.



Next up was a quick stop in Honfleur, a fishing village with a famous wooden church. It was near the Normandy Bridge, a beautiful cable bridge connecting the town to the rest of the Normandy region. They sold Calvados, a regional apple flavored liquor that’s found throughout the Normandy region, so I picked up a sample set!

The church was quite small, and the town was definitely small, but I popped in one of the many caramel shops, another regional specialty, to pick up some samples.

Honfleur's wooden church.

Honfleur’s wooden church.

Honfleur's port.

Honfleur’s port.

We arrived in the seaside resort town of Deauville in the early evening, but we were all pretty exhausted, so only had time and daylight enough to take an hour stroll. The Deauville American Film Festival was being held while we were there, so we got to see the red carpet, but I was too tired to go out after dinner to see any celebrities. Apparently Keanu Reeves, Orlando Bloom and Robert Pattinson were there.




A Deauville mansion near the beach.

A Deauville mansion near the beach.

The next morning the tour group was up bright and early to go to the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach. Unfortunately, as we drove up to the gates, we were informed that it was closed due to a “technical problem”! Needless to say, a lot of people were very disappointed, but our tour guide made some arrangements and we were able to visit the actual beach that morning and a smaller American Cemetery a little further inland the next day.

Omaha Beach memorial.

Omaha Beach memorial.

Omaha Beach was a really moving experience. There were still pieces of machinery in visible in the water and the memorial looked out to the sea. We drove a little further up the coast to a town called Arromanches, which has a WWII museum and several other artifacts overlooking the beach.

We drove to the town of Bayeux next to see the Bayeux Tapestry. The town had a beautiful cathedral and lots of shops selling poppy-themed things. The tapestry itself was amazing. The museum gave headsets that you listened to as you walked along the tapestry and learned the story.

Bayeux Cathedral

Bayeux Cathedral

By the end of the day, we’d made our way to another overnight stop at Mont St. Michel. We took a bus on the causeway and were dropped off in front of what was one of the most impressive feats of human engineering I’ve ever seen. The abbey towers above the water, and because we came while the tide was out, looked even more monstrous.

I hiked up to the top, through narrow winding streets of what was once an old town. Now it’s just touristy stores, a few hotels and restaurants. The view from the top was impressive looking out over the water. To one side, Brittany, to the other, Normandy.

Mont St.Michel.

Mont St.Michel.

The next morning, we headed to the American Cemetery in Brittany. It was smaller, and according to the American vets who ran the place, gets much fewer visitors than the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, so they were thrilled to show us around. It was a very somber experience to walk amongst the graves and read the names.

American Cemetery at Brittany.

American Cemetery at Brittany.

I particularly loved the Normandy region because of the caramels! I brought home lots of different kinds, as well as some apple liquor, or Calvados. Yum!

After the cemetery, we went to another seaside town, St. Malo, which was enclosed by medieval walls. There were several ruins of old fortresses that were only accessible when the tide was out.

I grabbed a baguette for lunch and walked with it (something I ended up doing a lot!) since we only had a couple of hours. The tow itself had lots of modern shops, so I ended up in a few beauty stores to check out some French brands. I walked around a bit of the city wall too.

St. Malo

St. Malo

We made a seemingly random stop in the college town of Rennes, which was beautiful with some timber-framed houses, but we only had an hour, which was hardly enough time, and I felt like I saw better timber houses elsewhere in Normandy. But it was cool to see a little slice of life in a more modern French town. We were about the only tourists though, so we got some strange looks!

A square in Rennes.

A square in Rennes.

Day 6 brought us to chateau country, where we stopped at Chenonceau, which was pretty amazing. The gardens were beautiful, but the house itself, straddling a river, was pretty spectacular. The interior seemed quite modest (by Versailles standards).



You could spend weeks hitting all the chateaux in the Loire Valley, but we hit some of the bigger ones. After a quick trip for a wine tasting in a traditional limestone cave, we went to Chateau de Amboise, which was perched atop a hill looking down on the city of Amboise. There was a pretty cool winding staircase that knights used to ride their horses around to get to the top of the castle, and lots of examples of gothic architecture and scary gargoyles. The town had lots of cute shops and restaurants, and a bakery to die for.

Chateau de Amboise.

Chateau de Amboise.

On our final day, we stopped at Blois to see its chateau, but I got a little lost and missed the good view of it! I did find another Sephora though…

We made a stop to see the famous Chartres Cathedral, which is a strong example of gothic architecture, but to be honest, it wasn’t as impressive to me as others we’d seen along the way.

Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral

We ended up back in Paris in the afternoon for a guided visit to Versailles. Luckily it was a quieter day, but it was still packed inside every room! Everything was covered in gold and the hall of mirrors was pretty amazing. I strolled around the gardens for a half hour before it started down pouring. I know we only scratched the surface of what’s inside, but our guide showed us some good highlights.



I ended the night with a trip to the Cabaret with a few other ladies in the group. It was for real, with topless dancers and all!

I feel like I’ve only just gotten started discovering France. I wish I’d added on another day in Paris on my own to do things like the catacombs or a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower, so now I have a list for when I go back!

As for the country, there’s so much more to see and I’m unsatisfied that I couldn’t tick the whole thing off my list! Now I’ll have to go do more of the Loire Valley and southern France next.

There’s always an excuse with the World Cups Finals being awarded to Paris in 2018…