Posts Tagged ‘horse back riding’

Family & Friends

August 1, 2019

I have some new ones in both categories.

I should be more specific.

I have new family of choice, not of origin.

Though heaven knows I have enough family out there that it would not surprise me in the least if a cousin had a baby and I had no clue.

What I am referring to is Cuban family.

I received the sweetest, most heartfelt gratitudes and thank you from the Cuban people I connected with when I was in Havana today.

Yesterday I finally hopped on Air BnB and reviewed the experiences that I had booked in Cuba.

Normally I don’t actually do reviews on Air BnB.

I have never booked experiences before though and I was asked by each person that hosted me to review them on the site.

Apparently it really helps them and considering the state of economics in Cuba I was more than happy to help in anyway I could.

I gave 5 stars (out of five) to all but one of the experiences.

The one I only gave 4 to wasn’t necessarily the hosts fault.  I gave a lesser rating to my trip to Vinales because the tour tried to pack too much into it.

First, Vinales is almost, not quite, but almost  two hour drive from Havana, so that’s four hours in a car, a classic car–which is at once super cool and also, not comfortable.  At least not nearly as comfortable as a modern car. It was a great car, but my legs were cramped for sure.

Second, the tour really could have, in my opinion, ended after the horse back riding and lunch.

The first thing we did was stop at the Vinales Valley visitor center and take in the panorama of the valley.

It was gorgeous.

After a little education about the valley we headed to a tobacco and coffee farm to learn about how they grow tobacco and to smoke cigars and drink rum.

I did neither of those things.

I did, however have coffee and I bought two bottles of coffee beans.


I said bottles.

The country has almost no manufacturing capabilities, everything gets reused and recycled, so my beans came in reused water bottles.

Lovely beans too.

I have been having Cuban coffee every morning since I got back.

Then after the cigars, rum, coffee we went horseback riding through the valley.

It was gorgeous and unfortunately being on a horse did not really facilitate me taking a lot of photos.  No pictures of horses for you.

It was hot though, whew, sweat galore.

After the horses we went to a local paladar and had an amazing Cuban lunch–yucca, lobster, squash, beans and rice, stewed pork, chicken two different ways and I had, for my drink, a huge young coconut that I happily sipped all the juice from and ate the entirety of the insides.

Baby coconut is so freaking good.

Then we went to a cave.

Then we went to a mural.

I did not like the cave, it was too dark and wet and it was hot, it did not feel cool being underground and there were bats and we rode a boat at one point.

I did not need that experience.


The best thing about the cave?

Literally the light at the end of the tunnel.

After that we got back in the car and went to visit a famous mural.

Now I am done at this point and the cave had been a pretty popular tourist destination so for the only time I was in Cuba, I had to wait in line to do something.

Never my cup of tea.

The mural was nice, but it was nice, not amazing and it was late and a free pina colada was not to my liking.  Just give me the water and get me home.

And that was my “worst” time?

Please, I got to ride in a classic car, meet cool people, go horse back riding, buy coffee from a Cuban farm, go spelunking and visit a national monument (the mural).  I have nothing to complain about.

The rest of my experiences reflected just that, nothing to complain about, nothing that I would have changed or made better.

I had a slight critique of feeling dropped at Mediteranneo Habana, but it was such a tiny glitch I didn’t give them a negative review.

It was a farm to table experience where I went out and had a tour of the farm that provides meat, milk, cheese, sausage, cured meats, chicken, pig, rabbit, vegetables, all the fruits–bananas, sugarcane, mango, guava, and herbs to this very highly regarded Mediterranean restaurant in Verdado.

The farm was beautiful and I was met by the manager of the farm, his family has been running the farm for 5 generations.  He was super kind, very friendly, had great English, and greeted me with a heaping plate of mango, watermelon, pineapple, and guava.

It was lovely.

I felt so welcomed and really got a grasp of what it is like to farm in Cuba.

Where almost all the farm’s production goes straight to the government.

They are not allowed to keep any of the beef they produce and only 10% of the milk they produce.  The milk they use to make cheese for the restaurant.  I tried four different kinds between the ricotta and the fresh mozzarella I was astounded.  They were so good.

The farm also gives the government almost all pork produced and a fair amount of the eggs and chickens.

I was amazed they are able to stay in production.

It was quite a behind the scenes look at farming and I really enjoyed my meal later at the restaurant.  The transition between the two was a little bumpy, but like I said, the food and the waiter who took care of me pretty much negated it.

And here I am at the end of my blog time, I’ve got to get up early for group supervision and I haven’t even got to the three top experiences that I went on.

They will have to wait for the next blog.

Buenes Noches!


Sunshine and Horses

March 24, 2014

Rainbows and Unicorns.

Walking hand in hand on the beach with you my love.

Or horseback riding as the case may be.

Today I went to Mar Vista Stables out by Fort Funston here in San Francisco, down by the sparkling blue Pacific Ocean, and went horseback riding with some dear and darling girlfriends.

“Like lady friends, like romantic?” My housemate’s daughter queried me, later after they had all left.

You know you’re in San Francisco when a seven-year old girl is making those kinds of assumptions.

“No, friends who are girls,” I said, “girls who I love, although not in a romantic way, woman who are very dear to me.”

“Same thing,” she said and went back to her chalk drawing on the cement patio in the back yard.

And she’s right, it’s all the same love.

Just a different facet of it.

I am blessed with some amazing lady friends, not only did I get to go dancing with a great group of gals on Friday, I got to have a second wild adventure today with another wonderful set of women.

I really am lucky.

And I got to cook for them due to unsuspecting events that unfolded on the ride.

Our time at the stables ran over, there were incidents.

My horse bucked a bit, nipping the hindquarters on the horse in front of me who promptly kicked back, causing my horse to rear and startling the hell out of the rider in front of me.

Who admitted while we were riding down the cliff’s edge to the beach, “I am terrified.  If I wasn’t over the weight limit I would have asked for the pony, I am only doing this for my girlfriend who used to ride.”

Brave boy.

He wasn’t the only person shaking.

One of my friends got tossed out of the saddle.

I did not see it happen, but suddenly the horse was galloping and then another was running and the guide behind us dashed forward slapping the side of his horse with the leather reins bunched up in his right hand to spur her forward.

She was fortunately not injured, but very rattled.

Who wouldn’t have been?

And amazing, cliché as this sounds, despite the nerves and adrenalin, she got back up in the saddle.

Bravest act I have seen in some time.

I would have probably walked back.

Fuck that.

Another incident occurred shortly thereafter with another rider who slipped out of his saddle–it hadn’t been well secured and he just slipped right out and suddenly the horse is running wild and galloping with out its rider.

It was intense.

And somber and I believe we all realized that we were on huge animals, 1,000 lb beings that could have tossed any of us over at any time.

There was more than one sigh of relief when we crested the cliff’s edge on the way back to the corral and shakily climbed out of the saddles.

We all sat and compared notes, noticing that the group was really too large for the number of guides we had with us, the horses were exhausted, and that it was not the experience we had been expecting.

No one, ultimately was hurt and we all left hungry and ready to relax.

There had been birthday reservations made at the Beach Chalet, but after all the separate stops and starts and the getting back on the horse, literally, we had overshot our time and the reservation had been lost.

My friend was quoted a forty-five minute wait and I piped up that I couldn’t make it that long, it was close to two pm and I would be an idiot and not friendly with anyone if I had to wait another hour for food.

Split pea soup to the rescue!

My friend asked the car load of ladies what we wanted to do and I suggested we could come back to my house, I had just cooked up a big batch of soup and would happily host, or their were plenty of restaurants in my neighborhood.

My dear friend opted for soup at my place and we are back to my little studio having tea and chatting and I whipped up a big kale salad with all sorts of goodies and heated up the split pea soup and we all had a meal together.

I felt like not only did I get to help my friend celebrate her birthday, but I had for the first time had a little lunch party at my house, it felt like a housewarming.

I had bought flowers yesterday and I had a room full of ladies who lunch and it was just divine.

Soup and salad and tea.

Sounds sort of suspect and silly, and normal.

Perhaps it sounds bland to you too.

But to me, it was joyous and uplifting and I felt surrounded with love and I was able to provide sustenance and nourishment with love for my friends.

I got to reflect back to them the kind of women I felt them to be and feed my friends.

I used to host great big house parties and dinner parties, and I wouldn’t change those experiences for the world, they were fun and I will always savor the memories–the big jambalaya feast I threw one summer at the house on Willy Street in Madison, or bbq in the back yard at my place on Gorham Street, all the Thanksgivings and Christmas dinners–but this was sweet for its spontaneity and cheer.

We all got cozy and the drama of the horseback outing sluiced away to be replaced by warmth and laughter and sharing about our lives.

The clock ticked down and ladies left and I had leftovers later for dinner, savoring the food that I had gotten to provide my friends with, the spice that I like the most is salt, but this was flavored with love and it blew sunshine all the way through me as I sat outside in the quiet of the back yard with only the ravens overhead and the sound of the ocean shushing in the background.

My life.

My love.

My ladies.

All down by the sea with me.

What a spectacular little weekend I got to have.

It might not have been rainbows and unicorns.

But it was damn close.


Horseback riding, Mar Vista Stables


December 19, 2013


It was a day.

It was a day that I am still processing and it was full and wonderful and it started off a little on the lopsided side, but once I did a little writing and talked to my dearest friend on the phone, things, well, they perked right back up into birthday land.

I had a very mellow day.

Super grateful for friends who stopped by, texted, called, facebooked, etc.

Grateful I actually did something that I have thought about doing for years.

I mean years.

Sometimes it takes me a minute to be kind to myself.

To do what I want to do.

And despite feeling some discomfort at times, no one is going to show up!

It all passed and my dear, sweet friends did show up.

Not everyone who said they would, and one who said he wouldn’t–yet swung by in his cab to hug me and wish me well– but that is to be expected.  As I have had this experience before, the week before Christmas is a tough time to get anyone together for some birthday celebration.

I feel honored and loved to have had the company I had today and to know that so many people took time from their day to spend time with me on mine.

I loved getting out to the stables, no one else was out there.

Just three girls on an adventure, the hawks soaring in the wind above the canyons leading down to the ocean, and the hang gliders over our heads.

I felt like I was coming home in a very surreal sense of the word.

“Let me tell you something,” I said to my girlfriends as we were driving up to the stables, the air full of gliders, “I have a weird sort of connection to all of this,” I said gesturing the swooping hang gliders swirling in the air.

“My mom used to date the guy that invented and then patented the hang glider,” I said with a smile, suddenly remembering the smell of fiberglass in the warehouse in Oakland where Chuck did so much of his work.

I remember sitting in his Volkswagen Beetle while my mom smoked cigarettes in the shadow of the warehouse door in blue jean cutoffs and a white mens v-neck tshirt, the air always seemed to have glitter in it from the pieces of fiberglass that were drifting in the air.

Now, like a good little internet person I just Wikipedia hang gliders and of course they have been around much longer than when I was four years old, so Chuck must have patented something in regards to the flight of the glider.


But the romantic notion of is stays in my head.

The photograph of my mom on the beach running around a glider while my sister and I sat in the dunes.

The day I nearly talked them into letting me go up.

I was four, but apparently quite persuasive.

“Hey Carm,” my dear friend Joan said to me, “you know this is a much better idea then the trampoline one!”

I just about fell off my horse.

Of course!

One year I had decided to go trampolining at House of Air in the Presidio and Joan gamely came with me.

It was hard work.

“I like this kind of exercise,” Jennifer piped up, her horse nuzzling along behind mine on the trail, “anytime I can work out when I am sitting down is a bonus.”

I had to agree.

It was glorious too.

The God light falling through the thicket of grey clouds out over the sea, shafts of rich light bouncing off the grey waves.










At Your Own Risk

Joan trotting ahead of me, her posture so straight and her ease of being on the horse, made me by turns jealous and awed.

I had a horse that was sweet, Lily, and hungry, stopping frequently to snack on tress, shrubs, and sea grass, then stopping to, well do that thing we all do, poop, then heading off on her own, then running, whoa, where you going, lady.

I talked to her while admiring the gentle yet steady way Joan was sitting and I tried my best to emulate her riding style.

I lost my breath, the view, the hang gliders, the ocean surf, the wet sound of the waves slapping the beach, the only sound the roar of water and wind, I felt so open to where I was and happy to be sharing it with women who mean so much to me and my life.

Huge gifts.

After an hour, I will admit, I was ready to get off, the horse was eager too, and her gait picked up dramatically as soon as it was obvious that we were headed back.

“I want to gallop,” Joan the brave heart said with a grin.

Yeah, she was a natural-born equestrian.

“How do I do it?” She asked our sweet guide who stopped and took photos for us and twice recovered Iphones for us.

My bounced out of my pocket when Lilly decided that she wanted, out of the blue to run too.

Oh holy shit.

Relax, breathe, and follow the lead, bend the knees, lean forward, rise out of the saddle, which had warmed to my sit bones and I felt much more comfortable in then when we had started, let the horse carry you.

It’s not its first time at the rodeo.

Just mine.

I don’t know where the idea came from, some romantic fantasy that did not smell like horse stables and did not include a blustery grey day or a cold wind, did not include the stiffness of getting out of the saddle after being in it for an hour.

Nor the joy, the sweet simple joy of letting go, eventually I did surrender completely to the riding, trusting the horse to carry me.

It was a great gift.

As was the time I made to see my friends and they in turn, me.

A coconut at Trouble Coffee with Joan.

Then dinner with Jennifer and Joan at Thai Cottage–pumpkin curry, Tom Yum Gai soup, Pad Thai (not for me, but tasty to smell!), brown rice, chicken satay and then over to the house for tea.

And yes, we did have a fire in the back yard, surrounded by friends I have met from all walks of life, from 2900 24th Street to the mean streets of Aidslife Cycle training.

I still smell like wood smoke.

Tomorrow I get up early, go to work, go do the deal, then go housesit.

Thanking all those that showed up for me.

Realizing that I have to include myself in that equation.

It has been many years of work to gift myself the things that I like and the courage to explore what I may like or not like.

That in and of itself is a reason to celebrate.

Not just the birthday, but just that, the joy of being around people I love.

Heck, man, my awesome house mate and her family brought me down a plate of sweet oranges with candles for me to blow out.

No birthday cake for this lady.

But I still got to blow out candles.

I am loved.

Thank you to all my friends.

I love you so much.

You make my life rich beyond measure.

Thank you for the best birthday yet.

Next year let’s hang glide!




%d bloggers like this: