The area that we are in, about 2 hours south of Paris, so quiet during the week, is abuzz on a summer weekend. Yesterday (Saturday) we passed more cars on the little back road to the showgrounds than the total number that we saw since we arrived. The restaurants are full, and so is the hotel.
We Americans are used to staying in a relative lap of luxury when we travel within the US, with hotel rooms that are bigger than most NY apartments, and so we are never surprised by a small hotel room when abroad. This one is no exception, with the addition of a somewhat venerable mattress, pillows and towels. There are only a few tv channels available, most of them geared towards children, and no news channel, not in French, English or any other language. But there is a free XX channel, which appears late at night, theoretically after the petit-fils have gone to sleep. That one gets as repetitive as CNN normally does, so we haven’t had the tv on much…. which is just fine.
The good news is, there’s free and relatively dependable internet connection. The food at the hotel restaurant is quite good, the hotel is only a 10 minute drive down country lanes to the show, and out our window there is a horse pasture. On a corporate level, they’re much more energy conscious that we are in the US, so there are energy saving designs everywhere: the lights in the common areas are turned off after a certain hour, after which either there is a motion sensor or a light switch. Its a little disconcerting to step into a dark hallway, but you get used just looking for the switch. I wish they’d get on the bandwagon about elevators, though. Nothing like dragging heavy camera bags up and down the stairs every day.
Axel judged a French Young Horse class for 4 year olds. It was a little different than our Young Horse classes, or the FEI’s, in that the horse entered the ring proper prior to the judge’s bell, and halted on the rail, rather than the center line before beginning it’s test. That sounds a lot easier for a baby horse than getting all wiggly trying to halt in the “deep water” of the center line in a strange arena. The test is comprised of 20 meter circles left and right at the trot and canter, walk, lengthening the stride at the trot, and the transitions between the gaits, but the rider can do them in any order to best suit her horse.
He also judged a 28 horse Prix St George with riders from 12 different countries entered. Most of the European “A” list riders are not here, choosing to stay with their Olympic horses who must enter quarantine this week prior to leaving for Hong Kong, but there are still some lovely horses and riders here.
Myself, I wandered the grounds shooting a bit of the classes and enjoying the astonishing rainbow of dogs on the premises. More on them later! When it got to be too much, I retired to the VIP tent with my big lens and finished shooting the class with a glass of champagne. Sometimes my job is difficult. This is not one of those times!
Last night’s fare: dinner with all the judges and spouses, who hale from a multitude of countries themselves, at a charming country restaurant tucked into the woods, with wonderful, uncomplicated food (I had coq au vin and a salad with warm goat cheese) and excellent Loire Valley wine of the Cheverny appellation.