Pet sitting Tommy the Dalmatian

Part of pet sitting is to take the dog or dogs on their normal walk.  We try to keep the stress of the animals we are taking care of  to a minimum.  They miss their owners but we keep them in their home and try to keep their routines  as normal as possible.  This seems to help our animal friends.

Tommy is a special Dalmatian who we are pet sitting this week.  When it is time for his walk, he rides to the Country Park in the back of our hosts’ car. He quietly sits there looking out the back window.tommy car smallHe is very well behaved.  When we get to the park he walks on the lead over the bridge.  Here is a photo of David walking him.David and tommy small  Then we can let him off the lead to run in the grassy meadow.  The joy he expresses as he takes a giant circle around the meadow about 5 times is wonderful.  He is a big dog and needs to exercise.Tommy running small  He follows us through the walk and then promptly comes back to us when called.  He sits for his lead to be put on when we finally get to the car park.  He is a wonderful dog.Tommy park small

See the real Downton Abbey at Dunster Castle

We used our National Trust membership to pay for parking and entrance into Dunster Castle (saved about £25 by using our membership).  This is a real castle that has survived since 1066 when William the Conqueror gave William de Mohun the area of Somerset to defend.  De Mohun built a timber keep that was soon replaced by a stone keep.  But by the end of the 14th century the de Mohun family had to sell the house to the Luttrell family.  This clever and resourceful family managed to keep the castle until  1976, when they gave it to the National Trust and the people of England.Dunster castle small The castle was kept in the same family for over 600 years.  They continued to add on and improve the inside of the castle over time.

They only damage from war was incurred in 1650 during the English Civil War. The defensive walls of the castle were torn down by 300 men so that the castle could not be a problem again to Cromwell. This is what happens when you chose to support  the wrong side of  a civil war. Luckily, the Luttrells convinced the new government to leave the great gatehouse ( medieval construction ) and a couple of  wall towers. From the size of the gatehouse you can guess how big the walls were.Dunster guard house  small Here is all that is left on one of the tower walls.Dunster guard tower smallThe inside of the castle was turned into a Victorian manor house in the 1860s.  You can tour the inside of the house and see how upstairs compared to downstairs life.  Upstairs, the rooms are large and well furnished.  Here is the drawing room where the family would read and talk.Dunster drawingroom small There are bell ringers around the room to call the servants upstairs to wait upon them.  Here is what that system looked like downstairs in the mud room.Dunster castle  call board smallYou will recognize this bell board from Downton Abbey on TV.  Each bell had a slightly different tone and the poor hall boy (who worked cleaning everything in the mud room) would have to run to get the person who needed to respond to the bell.  If you look, you will see that there is a pendulum that is attached to the bell.  It would swing for about a minute in case the boy did not recognize the tone, or was out of the room for a moment!

Upstairs when there was a dinner party the butler and footmen would set the table.  Here is the crystal , china and the silverware at each place setting.  Dunster castle place setting smallThere must have been a lot of cleaning up for the scullery maid that night.  Here is her sink.Dunster castle downstairs sink small If she broke any of that expensive dinnerware it came out of her tiny wages.  But she only had 1/2 day off every month, so she did not have much time to spend it anyway.  They did eventually install a dumb waiter so the footmen did not have to climb so many stairs.  It had to have a steel door because of a fire that happened in another great home.Dunster castle dumb waiter small  But even if they were rich upstairs, they only had one toilet and one bathtub for the entire castle.  It was the first flushing toilet in Somerset.Dunster castle toilet small  It was an eyeopener to compare how each half lived in the castle/manor home.  It was great fun to see it all in person.    It was a time of graceful living if you were in the upper class.Dunster castle fountain 5x7 small We were off the next day to Tonbridge for our next pet sitting assignment.

Arlington Court & saving money by joining the National Trust

We decided to go to Arlington Court today. Arlington Court map small It is a home that was built around 1820 to be the family home of the Chichester Family, and is located on their large estate in Devon. Arlington House small The last owner, Rosalie Chichester, gave the house and grounds to the National Trust when she died in 1949. The National Trust is a organization that protects and conserves important historical places in Britain.

Travel advice:  When you join the National Trust (currently it costs £105 a year for a couple, but if you join in the US, through the Royal Oak Foundation, it is only $95), you get free admission to 300 historic buildings, castles and stately homes.  Plus free access to over 600,000 acres of historical lands, and some other benefits.  If you are staying in Britain for any length of time you will make back this amount in admission fees.  Elizabeth and Matt helped us join, they were very kind and helpful.National trust Matt Elizabeth small

The house is a grand building that shows how the upper class lived in the 1860s when great houses were the homes of the wealthy families.  Here is the grand staircase:arlington house staircase small  There are extensive gardens to admire; Arlington court gardens small There is a beautiful peacock that runs the garden.peacock small  And you can go out into the fields and see the sheep and the lambs.Arlington Court black white lamb small  We had an afternoon cream tea before we left, yum   cream tea small It was sunny and a lovely day in the country.



Must see the historic house we get to live in

We have 5 days between house sitting assignments and decided that we wanted to see Devon since it is next to Somerset in England.  Also, I spent 3 weeks there 40 years ago and had always been haunted by its green beauty and historic past. On the way down to Devon,  we stopped to meet the family that we will be pet sitting for next month.  Lesley, Ian and Caroline were very welcoming and we loved Lucy and Ruby ( the dogs ) right away.

We arrived at this luxurious Georgian home, called Willesleigh House, near Barnstaple. We had rented the entire third floor which had been converted into a two bedroom apartment.  We found it on AirBnB, for less than you might expect.  ( you can find it on AirBnB by looking under Barenstaple, Devon, England).Willesleigh House small     Our wonderful hosts Steve and Yvonne welcomed us with scones and a Devon cream tea.Steve Yvonne 2016 smallWillesleigh House dining small  We feel like we have stepped back in time to a more refined and beautiful life style. They have incorporated a small but complete kitchen in one corner of the living room.Willesleigh House kitchen small Here is the 4 poster bed that we sleep in.  I have never slept in a 4 poster bed before.Willesleigh House bed small This is the view from the bedroom window.  This is the real England; green grass, old trees and sheep in the distance.Willesleigh House bed window small There’s actually a second bedroom, too. The house was built in the 18th century and is set on 3 acres of stunning countryside.Willesleigh House garden small  Here is a sunset that I took this evening.Willesleigh House trees small Our hosts; Stephen and Yvonne, are very warm and full of interesting stories about the house and about English culture. We are very happy here and feel lucky to have found such a peaceful and beautiful place to explore Devon.  We can highly recommend it for a place to stay.

Getting a haircut on the road in Frome & meeting Sherlock

There are things that you take care of at home with out thinking about them.  A haircut is one of these things for me.  We have been away from home for at least 3 months now and my hair had grown so much that David started asking me who was that wild , hairy person answering to the name of his wife?  I was afraid to get my hair cut.  In my defense, we had been in Italy and Spain and I did not speak the language.  I was fearful of trying to explain to someone I did not know how I normally  look. .

Now we are in England and we do speak the language.  We drove to Frome today.  It is a small town not far from the village where we are house sitting. On the way into the village from the parking area, David found the perfect place for me to solve my dilemma:  The Cutting Bar.  This is a “no appointment, walk in” place with reasonable prices for a haircut.    I had no excuse and sat down to wait.  I watched the four hair cutters work and I was impressed with their skill and the way the other ladies’ hair turned out.haircut sign small. Sweet and lovely Kelsey cut my hair to perfection.linda haircut Kelsey small And David was so happy , he had to take a photo of it.

After this happy event we walked up Catherine Street which is a street of off beat and artsy types of small shops.  There were a couple of stores that sold antique women’s clothes. Frome antique clothes shop smallThere was another shop that sold hand dyed yarn; called Marmalade Yarns.Frome Marmalade Yarns small And my favorite because of the sweet store dog sitting out in front; a florist called Bramble & Wild.  Of course , I had to spend sometime petting him.Frome Bramble & Wild small  Oh, did I mention that Catherine Street goes straight up with cobblestones?Frome Catherine stree small  I assured David. it was worth the walk up the street to see all these cute shops.  He was happy that I finally got my hair cut.

PS from Dave: I got my hair cut a month ago in Barcelona at Manolo‘s. Having studied up on how to tell a barber what I wanted, I was a little disappointed that Manolo’s English was way better than my Spanish. Manolo’s dad cut hair before him, and the place has been a barbershop since 1854. €13.


Oh I forgot to add a note and a photo of Sherlock  ( the goofy sheepdog ) and his friend Matt.  One of the nice things about pet sitting is walking the dogs and getting to meet some of the other dogs in the village.  This is Sherlock, one of the friendliest and softest dogs I have ever met.  We got to talk with his friend Matt who is also one of the friendliest humans I have ever met.Sherlock Matt 5x7sherlock sit 5x7sherlock pet me small

Swans, Saxons and Soup in Bradford

It is so nice to be able to walk the dogs in the fields of the English countryside.  We walk in green pastures with cows (watching out for cow pies) and wild flowers everywhere.  Here is David and the dogs on one of our 2 daily  walks. david walking dogs small 1  And here are some cow friends wondering what we are doing in their pasture.cows in pasture small After the morning dog walk and after we try to coax Max to eat (he is 17 and does not find eating too necessary), we try to go off to a local town for a look / see.  Two days ago when it was still sunny we drove to Bradford on Avon, about five miles north, for a couple of hours of sightseeing.

Bradford (from “broad ford”) is a town in west Wiltshire, England, with a population of about  9,402 .  The town has roots in the Roman era and has historical buildings that make it popular with tourists.  Bradford was a town built upon the woolen weaving industry, and oddly enough also used to process rubber into tires — well, tyres– and other items. We walked over the 13th-century stone bridge with a small building on it.  Turns out that this was the local jail — right over the river. bradford bridge lock up small We walked up to the Saxon church and took some photos to share.  According to Wikipedia, “The Saxon church dedicated to St. Laurence may have been founded by St. Aldhelm around 705, and could have been a temporary burial site for King Edward the Martyr. It was re-discovered by Canon William Frampton in 1856, having been used for secular purposes (apparently becoming a house, a school and part of a factory). In his research, Canon Frampton, who had an interest in archaeology, found reference to the church in the writings of the 11th century historian William of Malmesbury.”  It is amazing to sit in a plain small stone church (the size of a small chapel) and realize how many people have prayed, married and been buried from here since the 8th century.  They have cleaned it up and returned it to its simple form.  Here is a photo of the outside.bradford saxon church small  You can see from the angle over the door that an adjacent building has been removed. The two buttresses are of more modern stone; they were probably necessary to support the wall when the building was removed. The inside has an arch leading to what was the altarbradford saxon church inside small

After exploring this unique example of an ancient British church  we crossed over the Avonbradford avon river smallbradford swan small to go back to town to get lunch. We shared a lunch of fish and chips and pea soup at a lovely restaurant on the river that used to be a weaving mill.  With two sodas, lunch came to  £22 – about $31.  It is very  expensive to eat out in England.  ###Budget travel tip;  try to eat at home or bring your lunch.

House & pet sitting in Somerset England

We rented a Smart Car to get from Bristol to our first British house and pet sitting assignment in lovely Somerset , England.   Motto: “Keep left!” We used Google Maps on the smartphone to navigate, and for some reason it took us in a much more roundabout route than its PC-based counterpart had suggested. This turned a 22-mile distance into more like 50.   ###travel tip: If you want to learn more about how to find a house- and pet-sitting assignment, see our blog post here.bristol car rental small.jpg  Our wonderful hostess welcomed us a day early and showed us around the house and took us for a walk with our foster dogs; Brogan and Bridie.  Janet brogan bridey small.jpgThey are two of the most lively border terriers that we have met.  Bridie is younger and still pretty peppy.  Brogan is the older man who keeps things under control except when there is a particularly good smell, then he decides to take a thorough sniff.  lol

Then there is Max, the senior cat who allows us to pet and feed him whenever he is ready.  Max is 17 and spends a lot of time sleeping.  But here is a photo of him surveying his garden on a sunny day.  He is still a handsome guy.Janet Max small.jpg

It is wonderful to be able to be in a small English village in the beginning of spring.  Everything is so green and the flowers are just starting to brighten the landscape.janet english country side smallJanet white pink blossoms smallJanet pink bells small

It is quite refreshing after two months of almost constant touring to be able to take care of someone’s home and pets.  Dave and I are puttering around the house; filling bird seed containers, watering the plants and vacuuming.  It is so much better for the animals to be able to stay at home even if the humans are not their mom.  And it makes us so much happier to cuddle and play with the fur babies.  Everyone wins.

Must step back in time to experience a 1845 cruise ship

We toured the historic ship the,  SS Great Britain today.  It is one attraction that should not be missed if you are in Bristol,   England. They have made it into a museum ship that is floating in dry dock on the Avon where it was built in 1845. She was the longest passenger ship in the world from 1845 to 1854.  While other people had made iron ships before, this was the first one to combine these features in a large ocean-going ship.Bristol ss Great Britian smallBristol ss Great Britian entire ship small The SS Great Britain  was the first iron passenger steamer ( a cruise ship) to cross the Atlantic, which she did in 1845, in the time of 14 days. She was grounded after 3 trips from Liverpool to New York and was sold.  The new owners used her to transport 700 settlers to Australia .  It worked out so well that she spent 30 years making the England to Melbourne route.

The museum is one of the best and well thought out that I have been too.  It is wonderful for children and adults as everything is very hands on. It helps you step back in time.  You can tour the ship; see the tiny bunks and difficult living conditions    ( bad in 1st classbristol ss Great Britain 1st class small and really bad in steerage). Even in 1st class the bunks were about 20 inches wide. This was not the Titanic in comfort.  You can tour the galley that has a cook ( made in wax) making the meals .  It is so realistic that the galley even has video rats running through the top of the kitchen and the cook yells at the cat to “get to work”.   bristol ss Great Britain kitchen small It had costumes and a photo mock up the ship’s deck for you to use to take your own photographs.  You can choose to be the captain, crew member or a passenger.  This was too much for us to pass up so here are David and I  in our sailing best.  Luckily, we are not braving the rough seas to Australia.Bristol Dave costumed 5x7 small It gives you a tiny experience about how your ancestors got to the new world.  Bristol Linda costumed small  I would highly recommend a visit.  We leave Bristol tomorrow.  Off to our first pet sitting assignment.  I can hardly wait to meet the doggies and kitty cat that we will be privileged to take care of.



McDonald’s & food in Europe; it is different

Sunday was Mothers’ Day (here in Italy too) and we wanted to go out somewhere nice. But that kind of restaurant doesn’t open until 7pm in Italy … and often later in Spain … and we were starving by 6, so we decided to settle for “Scottish food” and walked to McDonald’s at 6.

In the US, one of their classic sandwiches costs about $4-5, and “making it a meal” by adding fries and a drink cost about $2.30 more.  Here, it’s the other way around: The basic sandwich is about €6.80 and the meal option, called McMenu, is only 0.50 — and since the drink by itself is €1.60 everyone pretty much upgrades. Whereas in the US, we NEVER eat the wonderful fries (having become even more attached to our arteries as we age), and often settle for water.

Other differences: soda refills aren’t free. Neither is ketchup: it comes in 25 mL tubs, slightly less than an ounce, for 0.25. This size is similar to what Mickey’s dipping sauces for McNuggets come in. I am sure this cuts way down on waste. They have “milkshakes” that are smaller and not the same as ones in the US, but still pretty good and only €1. The overall quality is about the same.

Restrooms in fast food restaurants frequently require a code or a token to access, because there aren’t many easily available public facilities. It really teaches you to go when there’s an opportunity.

We’re off tomorrow to England on EasyJet, which will be a new experience for us, as will be taking the bus to the airport.mcD ketchup  Another aspect of being American in Italy is ice, or the lack there in.  We are staying in an AC Marriott hotel. Padua AC hotel small Unlike at home there are no ice machines.  In order to get ice for your water or drinks you have to go to the bar and ask for it.  It comes in a bowl. padua ice small The desk clerks all think we are strange that we request a bowl of ice everyday.

One of the advantages of writing a travel blog is getting to meet people and putting them on the blog.  I especially love dogs and this leads to meeting other dog people.  Here is a photo of a lady that I met in the gift shop at one of the churches who had her sweet dog, Elola with her. She graciously let me pet her dog and take a photo. Padua St Antonio dog lady  And we ate a kebab shop for dinner the other night.  Here is a photo of Ferdi  a handsome young man who waited on us. Padua Ferdi small

### Budget Travel Tip:   These kabab snack shops are everywhere and offer good value for your money.  Here is a photo of his shop.Padua turkish small It offers a nice alternative to the ham and cheese sandwiches that abound here in Italy.  And they offer free wifi, what a deal.

Padua, Italy a hidden gem of a medieval city

We are in Padua for five days.   ###Travel tip:  It is a gem of a medieval city that is not crowded with tourists.  We just left the madness of Venice and the wall to wall crush of tourists and so this city is a refreshing break.  Padua is much less expensive to stay in than the big Italian tourist cities.

It is wonderful to be in one place for a while since being on a 19 day cruise with a new port almost everyday.  I have lots of photos and travel hints from those ports but I will have to slowly introduce them on the blog.  I try to make these posts short and quick to read.

Padua is in Northern Italy not far from Venice.   Its medieval town is well taken care of and in good condition.  Yesterday was Saturday and the open air market was in full swing in the Piazza dei Signori in the center of old town.  You can see all the stalls selling everything from pet food to clothes.  It is very similarPadua open air market small to other open air markets we have seen in other Italian cities.

Do you see that magnificent blue and white clock tower in the background?  It is a 14th century creation called,Torre dell’Orologio.  It is an astronomical clock that is similar to the more famous one in Venice.  This clock shows the moon phases and the five main planets’ and the Zodiac’s positions in the sky, using extremely complicated mechanisms and science and technology of the 14th century .  It is beautiful.Padua clock tower small

Padua had the University of Padua which was founded in 1222.  It was where Galileo Galilei  was a lecturer. Padua University small  It was the setting for most of the action in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.  You could almost see the characters strutting in front of the medieval palaces that line the church square.Padua palaces small

Of course, it is a part of the city that is still alive with people and dogs enjoying the Saturday evening walk and catching a bite to eat at the outdoor restaurants.   Here is a photo of Pedro, the little dog that reminded me of my sweet Mac at home.Padua Pedro the dog small There are lots of churches in the historical city.  This is the oldest one, St. Sophia.  It might have had a wall built in the 10th century.  The inside has been restored to its Romanticist 12th century style.  As you can see from the outside plain and strong.Padua St Sophia small
Well, there will be more information about Padua in my next post.  The next post will have more travel tips.