Forest Hill, London: our first pet sit

So we are now in Forest Hill, a suburb of London.  We are taking care of two sweet French bulldogs; Dart and Frankie.dart and frankieIt has been so hot and muggy here that we have spent a lot of time at home watching Wimbledon tennis and playing with the dogs.

First we visited the Royal Observatory, where the prime meridian is celebrated. Unfortunately, they’ve instituted a £10 fee to visit it, so we settled for a visit to a secondary monument in the park a short distance away, near the Queen’s House.zero meridian

The Queen’s house is a free and interesting museum.  It was built by Inigo Jones from 1616 to 1635.  There is a wonderful view of the city of London from the porch of this house  You can see the modern part of London framed by two 18th century domed buildings, now part of the Old Royal Naval College.Greenwich view of London

The Tulip stairs are a highlight  of the Jones design.

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The tulip stairs

While we were walking in the large Greenwich park, we meet a very nice Irish man and his very cute doggie named Rohan, who deserves to appear here due only to his cuteness.2018 greenwich park doggie

We went to St.  Alfege’s church where Henry VIII was baptized and my favorite medieval composer Thomas Tallis is buried.greenwich Tallis windowThe famous ship Cutty Sark is at Greenwich and you can tour it.  “Cutty Sark is a British Clipper ship. Built  in 1869 , she was one of the last tea clippers to be built and one of the fastest, coming at the end of a long period of design development, which halted as sailing ships gave way to steam propulsion.” Wikipedia

Greenwich Cutty SarkIt was a lovely visit in an interesting city.

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Baltic cruise , part 2

We got to spend 2 days in St. Petersburg.  You cannot leave the ship unless you have booked a tour or have applied for a visa.  The last time we were here it was 1990 and it was called Leningrad.  There were hardly any tourists when we were here, now you can hardly find space to move in the big attractions.  We went to the Hermitage (the former Winter Palace of the czars).  The palace is huge and filled with priceless art.  This is the grand entrance staircase. 2018 Baltic cruise Hermitage stairway  Everywhere in the palace there is gold leaf and white walls.

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The ballroom

Here is a marble statue that I believe is called three sisters.2018 Baltic cruise Hermitage Museum 3 sisters

And of course, here is the throne where the czars sat when receiving dignitaries. 2018 Baltic cruise Hermitage throne

We saw lots of churches with gold leaf accents.2018 Baltic cruise St. Petersburg church

2018 Baltic cruise church JesusAnd more Romanov palaces; the top 1% of the Russian monarchy lived very rich lives.

Here is Peterhof, one of the summer palaces used by the royal family.  It is known for its many fountains and lovely gardens.  It was built by Peter the Great in the 18th century.

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And a small resident who was keeping a watchful eye on us .

2018 Baltic cruise Peterhof squirrel faceThe last palace that we saw was the Catherine Palace, another summer palace that the royal family enjoyed.2018 Baltic cruise Catherine Palace frontI want to end this blog on St. Petersburg with the end of the Romanov family.  In 1917 Czar Nicholas II and his entire family were shot to death in a basement in a house in Siberia.  We saw where the burnt remains of the family are interred.2018 Baltic cruise Romanov's graveA sad ending for the royal family.

Here is a photograph of our family group.  It was so much fun to do this together.2018 Baltic cruise St Petersburg familyWe went on to visit Helsinki in Finland and our final stop was Stockholm, Sweden.  There was one more day at sea to recover and then we were back in Copenhagen.  Some of us flew home, some of us flew to Paris and David and I flew to London to start our first pet and house sit.  I am afraid the photos stopped in Russia because my camera broke. I just got a new camera in England and so the blog will continue with photos as we begin our English adventures.

Baltic cruise, part 1

We went on a family Baltic cruise a week ago.  We were on the lovely Regal Princess and traveled from Copenhagen to Oslo , Germany , Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm. We had a great time.   I am going to divide this trip into two blogs and this part 1 will include Oslo to Tallinn.

We (two sisters and five other relatives) spent 4 days before the cruise in Copenhagen before we got on the ship.  Copenhagen was lovely but so expensive.   We were shocked at the prices and were kind of happy to get on the ship and start saving money.  We had  drinks and appetizers on our balcony.  My sister Sandi shared a cabin  with us.2018 Baltic cruise david sandi.jpgThe next day we landed in Oslo, Norway.  David and I decided to spend the afternoon in one place; the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History.  It is a museum of cultural history with extensive collections of artifacts from all social groups and all regions of the Norway. It also incorporates a large open air museum with more than 150  historical buildings, relocated from towns and rural districts.  It was interesting to see how these remarkable and clever people lived through the harsh winters.

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The ship arriving in Oslo

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Norwegian folk dancers

The oldest building in the park is the Gol Stave church. The church has been dated to the years from 1157 to 1216. 2018 Baltic cruise Gol Stave church roof

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Here is a farmhouse from around 1750;  2018 Baltic cruise Oslo old farmhouseWe walked around the entire museum and are feet were very happy to take the ferry back to Oslo and to walk back to the ship.

Then we had a sea day to rest and recover;  Sandi and I went to the gym but it was small and very crowded.  The rest of the day we spent filling in our travel journals from all the adventures we had had in Copenhagen. Warnemunde, Germany was our next stop.  We had signed up for a small private tour that took use in a bus to Schwerin castle in the countryside.  It was a fairy tale castle set in a lovely garden.2018 Baltic cruise Schwerin castle

We also saw the city of Rostock which has a famous astronomical clock that has been running since 1472.2018 Baltic cruise Rostock astronomical clockIt was a wonderful tour but there was not much time to take photographs.  We had another sea day to finish our travel journals before starting the big push of five port days in a row.

We landed the next day  in Tallinn, Estonia.  Tallinn has an intact medieval old town that is enchanting, except when there are 3 cruise ships in port that disgorged 8,000 tourists.  This was so disappointing because it was so crowded.  We had to wait in line for 30 minutes to use the 3 toilets available for women and men.  We have decided that we would like to go back to Tallinn in the late fall when there are far less people to ruin it.

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A dragon gargoyle on Tallinn city hall

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A mosaic from a church in Tallinn

Here is a photo of the Tallinn presidential palace.  We walked right up to it; there are no barriers just 2 guards protecting their female president.2018 Baltic cruise Tallinn presidental palace

To be continued…

Copenhagen has been fun

We enjoyed our visit to Copenhagen.  It is a lovely city with warm and friendly people.  Everyone rides bikes.2018 copenhagen bike 5x7 netWe rode the hop on hop off bus around the city and saw the distinctive brick architecture; 2018 copenhagen tower 5x7and the dome of the marble church.2018 Copenhagen marble church 5x7Of course there is water everywhere, and the canals are a lovely way to see the city by the water.2018 Copenhagen canal 5x7Now we are getting ready to board our ship, the Regal Princess,  with our family for a  Baltic cruise.  Oslo, Norway is our next port of call.  Bon Voyage.

We fly to Copenhagen today

We are off to Copenhagen today from LAX.  Our dear son and his love will be taking care of the house and doggie.  We will be on a family cruise to the Baltic states starting next Saturday.  So excited about going back to this part of Europe.  Because we will be on a cruise ship and there is very little internet I will be posting when I can.  I am sure I will have lots of photos to post of our adventures.

 

After the cruise we will be going to London to begin to pet and house sit in England for 3 months.  It will be fun to meet new people and to resit for 2 of our families from last year.  Bon Voyage and I will be posting soon.

Our RV relocation experience; what you need to know

We met a lot of very nice people, particularly in connection with our flat tire the first morning, which happened to be a Saturday.
After our first night on the road we woke to this flat tire.  RV flat tireRVs nowadays don’t have spare tires, which came as a surprise to the RV service support line you’re supposed to call if you have a problem. Practically, this matters a lot, as service trucks are equipped to change tires, not repair them. As it happened in our case, we were only two miles from town, so the driver took off the tire, took it to his shop and repaired it, and brought it back in under two hours. If we’d been a hundred miles farther west in the middle of South Dakota, this would have been a very long delay.  Between the late start and having to deal with the flat tire we lost one day of our time to drive to Las Vegas.
The screw we found in the tire was identical to a couple we found loose in the RV. Just sayin’ it could have been “supplied” in the pickup lot of the factory.
When I booked this adventure, and again when we picked up the RV, I asked if roadside assistance was included, and was told that it was. So I didn’t extend our AAA coverage to include RVs. Turns out, “it’s included” means “we arrange it, but you pay for it.”
Apollo ( the rental company that purchased the RVs and for whom we were locating them) has a great business model for preventing giving you a credit. They collect $1000 as a deposit, not just a hold but an actual charge, and refund it at the end. So you have to pay for the tire repair, and there is no way they’re gonna give you any credit for that, or the loss of the extra day you bought. In fact, their logic about the latter was “Well, you got 10 days for $1 each and 2 days for $145 each. That’s $25 a day average, I can give you that…”
We picked up the RV on a Friday. Although we arrived at 11am, there were dozens of parties also picking up their RVs and we didn’t get done until about 4pm. The briefing was … brief. The water tank had never been filled or tested. You know, the one they say to sanitize and flush before use. The sewer hose was stuck in the carrier, and without fittings. The holding tank valves hadn’t been closed, so when we tested the drains, water ran out. But the A/C and heater worked, the slides didn’t get stuck, and 90% of the cabinet and drawer hardware was correctly installed and stayed shut.  Sometimes going around corners the fridge door would suddenly open and the contents would crash to the floor.
The RV was a Winnebago Outlook 27D, which uses a Ford E450 base and got about 7.5 mpg overall. Driving it varied from very smooth, on a good road with no wind and under 60mph,  to a highly stressful experience when all those conditions were reversed and you’re being passed by a semi at 80mph, in which case it feels like you’re driving a 27-foot sail.  There are a lot of roads in the midwest with 80mph speed limits. I never felt safe much above 72, so there were lots of times when those semis were charging past.  Plus if you have 3 people as we did, the third person is seat belted behind the table.  The seat is very uncomfortable for an adult as you are tossed around a lot and cannot see out the front window.
Wal-Mart is everywhere, and a great resource to RVers, because they sell EVERYTHING in one place (except, oddly, alcohol in Wyoming, for which you have to go next door), there’s always easy parking for huge vehicles, and the price is right.
Here’s our summary opinion of the RV experience: it was nice for a national park experience when you’re planning to spend a few days, and the alternatives are tenting or $350 lodge rooms.  Wow, at $14.08 a night, the senior rate in Yellowstone is unbeatable, even without any hookups. But driving it is kind of a pain, so it’s not so great for the road-trip experience, where you have to move 300 miles a day. We could also see that this mode would be stressful during summer, when RV parks fill up. Even in mid-May, it isn’t “the season” yet in Yellowstone, and places weren’t too hard to find along the way.

A cross-country relocation RV trip

We have always wanted to take an RV ( recreational vehicle) to see if we would like to purchase one.  An opportunity came up to relocate a new RV from Iowa to Las Vegas for $1 a day plus gas in 10 days, sounded like a dream come true.  We took this trip from May 4 to May 16.   We include my sister Sandi in this trip. We flew into Minneapolis and drove to Forest City, Iowa to pick up the RV.  RV photo I will not talk about the particulars of how the trip went as David has promised to deliver one of his data packed posts to fill you in on the details and the actual costs of the trip.  What I will say is that we had a great time in the places that we stayed, but there was way too much driving for me inspite of the fact that we purchased 2 extra days at $150 per day to extend the time.

The first place we stopped at was Mount Rushmore.  It was quite inspiring.  None of us had been there before and we enjoyed the spectacular mountain carvings.mt rushmore heads 5x7We then drove to Yellowstone National Park.  This was my favorite part of the trip.  The park was still snowy in places and the animals had just had babies.  The hot springs and geysers were stunningly beautiful.  Here are some photographs.

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Moma buffalo and baby Red dog

 

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Dave on right checking into Madison Campground

 

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Yellowstone hot pool

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Sandi and David

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Old Faithful

We spent 3 days here and it was wonderful.

We then moved South through Jackson Hole.  It was so cold and rainy there we only stayed overnight and then headed south to Bryce Canyon.

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Jenny Lake, Grand Tetons

Bryce was sunny and warm.  It is hard to capture the magnificence of the rock formations in photographs, but I tried.

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Bryce Canyon

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Linda & Sandi on the Bryce Canyon Lodge porch

We drove to Las Vegas the next day , spent the night and returned the RV in the morning.  Rented a car and drove home.  I was so happy to sleep in my king size bed with my honey that night.