PEI Trip – Charlottetown

Today my brother and I spent our time exploring Charlottetown. Although our hotel is located in Charlottetown, most of our days are filled with exploring other areas, so I decided to set aside a whole day dedicated to exploring the quant town that we get to temporarily call “home”.

After a hearty breakfast at Casa Mia Cafe, complete with hashbrowns made from thick cut PEI potatoes (a very tasty culinary experience!), we went to some of the local churches.

The large and grand St. Dunstan’s Basilica was first on our list; it’s magnificent architecture and stunning stained glass windows didn’t disappoint.

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As we were headed to our next destination, St. Peter’s Cathedral, a nearby church bell rang throughout the streets, seemingly welcoming the morning (and us aswell) to Charlottetown.

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We then spent the morning wandering through Victoria Park and touring Beaconsfield Historic House and Government’s House.

Both Beaconsfield and Government’s House were really neat to see, the decorations and furniture are really interesting and beautiful. The houses were even decorated with william morris wallpaper, a favorite of my mum. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to live in that era (the 1870s).

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The most memorable part of the day was having an impromptu tour, and best of all, it involved horses.

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We went on a guided tour of Charlottetown in a horse drawn carriage. Finally having contact with horses after a shocking three and a half days without being around any horses was wonderful.

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This evening my brother and I are going to the Guild to see the Anne and Gilbert musical. I’ve really been looking forward to seeing this, the reviews are really good and the music is supposed to be very “maritimey”. We’re heading out shortly, so I’ll sign off now to spend the rest of the day enjoying Charlottetown and the maritime experience.

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PEI Trip – North Rustico

Some days just seem so wonderfully perfect that you’re left wondering if it actually happened. For my brother and me, today was one of those days.

We woke up early to catch the bus that goes to North Rustico, which, after sleeping in a bed for the first time in what feels like a week (but was only two nights) we awoke feeling ready to tackle the day ahead. Even though we ended up only getting about 6 hours of sleep because of how late the bus got us to our hotel the night before, it felt like I had the best night’s sleep I’d ever had.

We arrived in North Rustico early in the morning, way before any other people were around. We had the wharf to ourselves, and watching the rising sun sparking off the water was simply breathtaking.

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After we had contented ourselves with watching the fishing and touring boats popping about the harbour, and after sampling some of the goodies that the local bakery had to offer, we headed down the boardwalk to our next stop, a place that offers sea kayaking tours.

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Kayaking in the ocean was amazing and oodles of fun. My brother and I went together in a tandem kayak, and our guide took us all around the bay.

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The waves jumped up and spashed the salty water all over us (who knew, the ocean actually tastes salty!), the tall sea grass floated along the water, and the various different bird bobbed around and watched us.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the North Rustico beach. In BC, the beaches are filled with foot slashing barnacles and pointy crabs, with almost no shore of empty sand. The North Rustico beach felt like quite an exotic treat for us because it was free of sharp living objects.

We walked down the beach to get away from the crowds of people (which was only about 15 individuals) and discovered that the sand slowly changed to smooth, rounded rocks. We clambered along them and spent some time relaxing on the flat rocks and watching the ocean crash below us.

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We finished the day with eating at a charming Lebanese restaurant. A perfect ending to a perfect day.

PEI Trip – New Brunswick

The difference between the Maritimes and Montreal (and other parts of Quebec that we passed on the train) is about as big a difference as that between riding a Quarter Horse and a Warmblood.

The areas of Quebec that the train took us through still reminded me a lot of BC. Some of the trees were different, and every sign we passed was in French, but the general landscape could have been something I see at home as I drive to the barn.

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Morning view of Quebec from the train

It’s interesting that a place so far away from my home province can so closely resemble the landscape that I am familiar with.

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This is Quebec, not British Columbia

I didn’t realize when we crossed into New Brunswick as it wasn’t announced, but the drastic change in the environment was very noticeable. Suddenly pink and yellow wildflowers poked up between the grass, the trees thinned, and the ocean was right along side us (and the signs were starting to be in English!).

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I knew we must be in NB, and a quick GPS lookup on Google Maps showed that we had just crossed into the Maritimes.

The train ended up getting us to the station at Moncton almost three hours behind schedule. This was an interesting situation for me to be in because I have never been late for anything in my life, and if it starts looking like I might be late for something, I normally start semi-freaking out. But on the train, no amount of stressing would make it go faster, so I  sat in the lounge car sipping on a scalding cup of hot chocolate while the scenery didn’t go by. We were at a standstill at one city in Quebec for about two hours, because of technical difficulties. All I could do was wait and chill.

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Our somewhat uninspiring view for two hours

Despite the horror of the train getting my brother and me to our destination late, I’m so glad that we chose to travel by train. It gave a perspective that wouldn’t have been possible in a plane or even in a car, and we were able to see so much more of the surrounding area in Quebec and New Brunswick because of it. It was a charming experience, and I would do it again without a moment of hesitation. My brother, on the other hand, was questioning my sanity and briefly wondered if it would be faster walking to New Brunswick.

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We’re on the bus heading to Charlottetown now, which, after a quick detour into Nova Scotia, will get us to PEI at around 10:00 this evening. I’m enjoying the further opportunity to see New Brunswick and Nova Scotia go soaring by.

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New Brunswick
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Wind turbines in Nova Scotia

Tonight we’ll reach our final destination of Prince Edward Island. After spending a good night’s sleep in actual beds (which we haven’t been in since our trip started), I can’t wait to wake up in PEI and finally get to explore Canada’s smallest province.

As a sidenote, the people that I have met thus far in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have been so nice and welcoming. I feel just as comfortable here as I do in my own home.

PEI Trip – Montreal

The first day of the trip I’m taking with my brother was just about as perfect as it could be. I’m sure that many people would not consider this day to be “perfect” (and I’m pretty sure my brother is one of them), but for me, I think there couldn’t have been a better introductory day to our first travels.

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We took the overnight plane to Montreal, which included a nearly three hour layover in Calgary.

The views from the plane were stunning, despite all my being able to see was clouds.

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We were both hopeful that we would be able to get some sleep on the plane, but our wishful thinking proved to be just that. I am pretty certain that I was able to get a couple of hours of sleep between propping my head up on the window and using my purse as a pillow. My fitbit, however, apparently disagreed and reported that I didn’t sleep at all. My brother was inclined to believe the fitbit.

When we landed in Montreal I was at first surprised how similar it looked to BC in a lot of ways. It looked like an older, flatter, and frenchified version of Vancouver. It wasn’t until we made our way to Old Montreal that the differences became more apparent. The narrow, unmarked streets are covered in brick and cobblestone; and it seems like someone danced through the city going “eeny meeny miny moe” for deciding which roads got to be graced with street signs. Spoiler alert, not many of them.

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Every where I looked dozens of people could be seen teaming around and over the streets with cars haphazardly charging about. Everywhere was crowded, with either people or honking cars.

I loved our time spent wandering through the streets, and sometimes rewalking certain parts several times because of the lack of signage. We walked so much, that my fitbit happily congratulated me at ten in the morning that we had taken ten thousand steps.

Through our wanderings, I loved being able to “people watch” and to learn more about their society.

We saw many of the touristy destinations in the area, like the clock tower, the Pointe-a-Calliere museum, the Notre Dame De Bon Secours chapel and the Notre Dame Basilica, among others.

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A rainy view from the Observation Wheel, looking onto the clock tower.

The places that stood out to me the most however were the two Notre Dames. We saw the De Bon Secours chapel first, and when I walked through its doors this feeling came over me. I can’t quite describe it, but it was simultaneously uplifting and humbling. Both giving me the sense of strength while at the same time making me feel dependent. The chapel was beautiful and genuinly breathtaking.

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Notre Dame De Bon Secours chapel

The Notre Dame Basilica was next on our list. As I walked into this building, after paying the entrance fee, and was greeted by the jaw dropping architecture of the building, I felt lost. The Notre Dame was filled with people, and despite that, it felt empty. The beautiful lights and stained glass windows did nothing to fill me with awe. This grand building made the Notre Dame De Bon Secours chapel seem simple and plain, but I still found myself preferring the chapel, and longing for the sensation that it had given me.

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Notre Dame Basilica

We left Montreal this evening on the VIA rail ocean train. We’ll be travelling on it for the next seventeen hours, and the first ten minutes that I have experienced of it thus far have been very pleasent. Montreal is a unique and mesmerising place, and I’m so happy that I got the opportunity to visit it.

We’re chugging and clanking along the tracks now, eastward bound, and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring.

Change of Plans

Last month I had decided to go to the August Southlands show with Hope, but, as I’m sure you gathered by the highly original title, I have had some change of plans.

My brother and I made a somewhat spontaneous decision to have a trip together, and the best days that work are over the weekend of the show. By doing this trip I’d have to forego the show, but our destination makes it a tolerable sacrifice.

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Photo retrieved from Wikipedia

We’ll be spending five days in the land of my childhood dreams, Prince Edward Island.

We’re flying into Montreal and plan to spend the day poking about Old Montreal, after which we’ll board the VIA Rail train and spend seventeen hours gliding through mountains, fields, and forests as we head to our stop in New Brunswick. We’ll take a quick transfer onto the maritime bus, and make our way over the confederation bridge to Charlottetown, PEI. In total, we’ll be gone for eight days.

 

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Photo retrieved from YouTube

Our “home base” will be in Charlottetown, and we’ll bop about to various different spots in the island by bus and also by cycling to them. The island is very accessible to bikers because of the confederation trail that winds itself through the province. The abandoned railway that lent itself to being turned into wide, groomed trails allows us to easily get to most of the places we want to visit.

What urged this decision to take a trip to the other side of the country was caused by several things. My brother has been wanting to take a trip to somewhere (he’s not particularly picky as to where) for a couple of years, but he has just not actually organized one. A few months ago I woke up one day with a resolute desire to see Prince Edward Island this year. Traveling is not something that I have ever had any real interest in, and although I have always wanted to see PEI, I was equally content with being transported there through books while nested in the silk bedding in my room.

Having this sudden desire to travel was so strange to me that I decided to act on it. My brother and I figured this would be the perfect opportunity for both of us to get what we wanted. He would be able to go on a trip, and I would be able to see PEI. Also, my – at times freakish – organizational skills would ensure that the trip got planned and would actually happen, and his sense of direction would make sure that my decided lack of that particular skill wouldn’t result in me ending up lost and somehow winding up in Newfoundland.

I have never traveled further than the neighbouring province of Alberta for a weekend, so this will certainly be an eye opening experience. We’re leaving on Thursday evening, and I’m hoping to be able to post daily updates while we’re there. Even though I think this experience will be unforgettable, I want to make sure that I have something to look back on just in case I happen to let a certain part of the trip fade from my memory.

This will be the first stretch of time in nine years that I will be without any real contact with horses, the first time that I will be away from most of my family for this length of time (and simultaneously paired with my brother), and the first time I will travel beyond a one-and-a-half-hour flight.

I’m immensely looking forward to this new adventure, and I can’t wait to see what my brother and I will discover while we’re there.

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The Light of Life

Four years ago today, I watched as my Thoroughbred gelding was put to sleep. I still remember that fateful day so vividly, where our hearts ceased to beat on this earth together. That scene still replays itself in my head, over and over. Despite being only fifteen when it happened, I remember every moment, and every breath taken in that day.

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Yogi, my goofy friend.

Most of all, I remember him. He was more than my competition horse. He was my teacher, my mentor, and my friend. I remember his mahogany, dappled coat, as soft as silk, and how it glittered like a thousand diamonds. I remember his ridiculously small forelock, and how it fluffed in the wind as he galloped in his pasture; and how, every time he saw someone, he’d bob his head in greeting. And, of course, I remember our last night together.

It was two o’clock in the morning when I went outside to investigate the banging sound in the barn, and he was there, lying down, stretched out on his side. His once sparkling coat was hidden behind a layer of dried sweat, and his nostrils flared and quivered. I can still see myself reaching for his halter, and I can still feel the flooding sense of dread as I entered his stall.

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I remember slipping the halter onto his delicate muzzle, and over his broad, velveteen ears. I remember how he stood up and followed me out of the barn and into the lightless, black night. And how as we went through the barn doors, I knew that we would be taking our last walk together. The vet was on his way, and all we could to do was wait, wait and walk to stop him from rolling, the rolling he wanted to do to relieve the pain, but would only cause him more torment.

As we walked, the stars overhead shimmered and glinted against the night sky, faintly lighting our path. I reached my hand up and rubbed behind his ears. Could this really be our last time together? I remember thinking about all the time we had spent together, from the very first moment I laid eyes on him, to the evening of the previous day. The first time I saw him he was standing with his back to the wind as it ruffled up his thick winter coat and toyed with his mane. He looked absolutely ordinary, but I couldn’t have been more in love with him.

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The faintest glow of dawn was shining over the mountains now. It would have been beautiful, but it just reminded me that this would be the last sunrise that we would see together. The vet’s truck pulled into the drive as the first rays of sun flickered through the trees.

As I already knew, the vet could do nothing. There was nothing to be done, except for one final thing. We walked through the garden one last time, feeling the warmth of the sun as it gleamed down on us.

We finished our walk in front of the vet. I gazed into Yogi’s eyes as the vet gave him the injection. For a moment, all was quiet, the birds had stopped their morning song, and even the breeze seemed to pause in its playful swirls.

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As his body fell to the ground, I felt the sorrow lift from my chest. He lay there, peaceful and still. No longer would his body ever feel any pain, or his youthful spirit be contained by his old and waning body. He was free.

It’s been four years, and I still remember. I can’t help but remember, and I can’t help but want to remember. For years, he stood by my side on this earth, guiding me through life’s hardest lessons. Even now, he hasn’t left me. I know to keep my hands soft and gentle when riding, because of him. I know that when mistakes happen I have to move on, because of him. I know to never give up, and how to lose with dignity, and win with humility, because of him. Because of him, I am who I am.

I think of him often, and with most things I do, can thank him for. He touched my life more than he may ever have known. My family, he also touched. With his bobbing head greeting, and kind and generous spirit, everyone he met couldn’t help but feel affected by him. Every time I see the sun, I can’t help but smile as I think of him, how his coat used to glisten as the white light streamed down on him, and how his spirit shone even brighter. I couldn’t have asked for a better friend, or for a better horse.

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Maremma Mondays

Ayla and I are two weeks into her final series of obedience classes. This set of classes focuses on off leash obedience, something that she can get a little lax about. On leash, Ayla could be the poster child for an obedient dog, but off leash she will sometimes choose to continue investigating a particularly fascinating shrub or shriveled up leaf rather than listening to me.

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While a crunchy bit of foliage may seem to be more interesting to her than I am, she always would eventually do what I had asked her to do, but in her own time.

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These new classes are giving me some extra tools to better work with Ayla, and they do appear to be making a significant improvement. Ayla is an incredibly smart dog, so it never takes long for her to catch onto something new. Her breed, however, has a naturally independent and self-thinking character, which means that she needs to think through whether her newfound piece of shrubbery is more interesting and worthwhile than I am.

Quite often, the shrubbery wins the debate. I am starting to now be able to redirect her attention back to me though, after which she is more obliging to listen to me.

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The extremely summer-like weather we have been having hasn’t helped make Ayla more enthusiastic and energetic to pay attention to me either. We’ve had about a month of no rain, with temperatures consistently in the 30°s (Celsius). Although this isn’t shockingly hot for many parts of the world, for where we are, a supposed rainforest, it is unpleasantly toasty.

Ayla much prefers cool breezes to gusts of hot air, so she spends most of her time snoozing in the least offensive area or puddling about in the minis water trough.

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I’m looking forward to when the days are no longer scorching hot, and with the evidence of the sunrise being a couple of minutes later everyday, I believe this will not be too far off in the future. Before the cooler days descend upon us, and pounding rain revitalizes parched shrubs, Ayla and I will continue working on off leashed obedience.