I exited the train, strode down the wooden platform and saw him standing just past the turnstiles. Tall and handsome in a grey sweater, tan jodhpurs and brown riding boots, he was unmistakably my guide for the day.
“Hello,” I said to him in his native tongue. The five days prior in this European country had perfected my accent.
“Hello,” he replied, a look of slight surprise on his face.
We walked out towards his car in tandem and in silence.
“How are you?” I asked, nearing the limits of my recently acquired skill in his language.
“I’m very good,” he replied, a crooked smile alighting his face, “And you?”
“You speak my language?” he asked.
“No, not well,” I said, reverting to English, “I do try though.”
“What you know is very good.”
“I have a good ear, but limited vocabulary.”
He glanced over at me as he opened the door to his car, a ghost of his first surprise still haunting his features.
“I hope I haven’t kept the rest of the group waiting,” I said, referring to my slightly late arrival.
“There is no one else,” he said.
“What?” I replied, confused. I thought I had scheduled this village and countryside ride along with a group of other horse enthusiasts.
“There is just you, so no one is waiting,” he confirmed.
Three weeks earlier…
I was sitting at my desk planning this European work trip with a few personal days tacked on the end when it occurred to me that, in all my travels, some of the most memorable experiences have been on top of a beautiful, willing mount, and, that I might be able to find a guided horseback ride in or near the city.
Within an hour I had selected two providers who offered rides during my stay and had emailed them for more details. The one I preferred was a ride through the country, giving me the opportunity to escape the centuries old city which was to be my working location for a week prior. A day among the walls and surrounding forest of a medieval European village? Yes please.
I paid my half deposit and quietly looked forward to this personal treat for the next few weeks. And through all this it simply never occurred to me that it wasn’t a group ride.
Just me, I thought. With this stunning man as my guide. This certainly was going to be a treat.
“That is ok, yes?” He asked, his brown eyes twinkling.
“Yes,” I said smiling, “It’s perfect.”
He closed my door and climbed in the driver side. The car started with a creaking squeak as he jammed it into first gear. He didn’t get the car out of third before we arrived at the stables.
But they weren’t stables. Not as I know them. These were charming horse cottages built of stone and lined up next to one another with rich, wooded doors and moss covered shingles that all surrounded a cobblestone courtyard. I was enchanted.
“It’s breathtaking!” I exclaimed, slowly spinning to take it all in.
“Welcome to my home,” he said, obviously pleased at my reaction.
“Wait… you live here?”
“Yes, just here,” he motioned to a tall stone house behind a rose covered wall, “Come along so I can get you outfitted with a helmet and half chaps.”
I followed obediently past the wall and through the iron gate and then inside to his kitchen.
to be continued…