How I found our apartment in York

The route to finding a place to stay in York was a little different. I had originally wanted to go to the Lake District, preferably Windermere, but we waited too long and it’s peak season, so there was nothing on VRBO or AirBNB for our dates at a reasonable price. And as I wanted to do that visit without a car, the place had to be in walking distance of food and sites, but things are farther apart in the country.

So we decided on York, which was on our list to see, and on the way from Somerset to Edinburgh, our next pet-sitting assignment. We’re here for six nights.

I started out on AirBNB, where there were a few places but none at a good price or that really grabbed me. Sometimes you will see that the “owner” is an agency, and I did see one of these. Investigating their website, I noted that most of their places had 7-night minimums. As we only needed six, I thought that wasting one night might still get a better deal than other places on AirBNB. I emailed them directly, explained what we needed, and within hours had suggestions for two units, each available for six nights at £85 per night, and we picked this one.

york apt kitchen small

It’s quite new and looks like it’s never been lived in; in fact, there’s a guest log that is empty so far. It’s overlooking the river Foss about 100 feet off Walmgate, a fairly busy street, but totally quiet. Swans parade with their cygnets on the river. york apt deck small This is the view from the balcony.york view from apt small

There’s a Tesco Express and a Sainsbury Local within a 5-minute walk, and a Marks & Spencer foodhall a little farther away. York is very walkable, and even the historic part has variety and Poundland stores. There are restaurants in a variety of price ranges nearby. And the bed is king sized, a rarity in Europe.york bed small The really great thing about this apartment is the location.  We can walk to almost all of the historic places we want to see.  Not needing a car or a bus is a wonderful solution when you are touring.  When one of us has had enough they can just go home and the other person can keep going.


Wells Cathedral is a timeless beauty

We had heard that Wells was a wonderful little city to visit, but it was so much more beautiful than we expected.  The springs of water flowing from the earth have made this landscape a place of spiritual force from the early mists of Britain . Here is a photo of the water gushing out of one of the springs behind the Bishop’s Palace. wells Cathedral spring small The cathedral was built from about the 12th to the 14th centuries.  It has managed to hold up well without too many repairs. It is an imposing Gothic church.  wells cathedral small There are several medieval abbots (from about 1066 onward) that are buried inside the church.  This abbot had a 2 tiered memorial.  On the top is a body sculpture of him in his robes of office. Symbolizing his earthly power.abbot memorial wells cathedral small But just below this edifice he had a sculpture of his body in death.  Brought to the same level as all of us no matter our wealth or power in life.wells cathedral death small  It is surprising when you go to see the Bishop’s Palace which is located next to the cathedral.  Around 1330 the bishop felt the need to have a real castle built for his safety.  So he put up a wall, draw bridge and a moat for his protection.wells bishop castle small A bishop at this time was as powerful as a lord of the land.

We loved our visit to Wells.  If you get a chance you should go to see this gem of a city.  I will leave you with just one of the flowers that are planted in bowls wells flower pink yellow small all over the high street.

Goddesses at the Glastonbury Music Festival

Well, it has been raining on and off all week here in Somerset.  The Glastonbury Music Festival will be starting this week and I hope it stops for all those 135,000 people who will be camping.  We went back to Glastonbury Abbey to hear a moving concert by the Churchill Singers.  They sang Medieval and Sacred music in the 14th century Abbot’s kitchen.  churchill singers They are a very talented group and gave us a moving concert.  The acoustics in the circular building was excellent.  They even brought a  harpsichord with them and we were gifted with some 16th century music played by their director.harpiscord hands small I walked the gardens and looked at the lake in the abbey’s grounds.  I came across this baby duck trying to hide in the bushes. I thought it was a funny duck butt small Glastonbury was getting ready for the festival.  People were walking around in long skirts and flowers in their hair ( though I think it would be more fun without the sweaters).  glastonbury window gypsy small Goddesses are welcome here glastonbury goddess house smallMystic lady & dog small  I hope we can go back sometime next week and see what the town looks like in full festival regalia.  Stay tuned.


Glastonbury a hippie town with an ancient abbey

Yesterday,  it was overcast and rainy all day. We took the dogs for a walk  in the forest to a windmill that had been converted into a house. street windmill small We met a very beautiful dog called Marley and his kind owner on the trail. Street Marley dog smallAfter we dropped the doggies off at home,  we drove to Glastonbury..  It is about 5 miles from our pet sitting home.  Our hosts had said that it was kind of a town that was a throw back to the 1960s and we found it so.  It was fun to see crystal shops and long dresses and skirts on sale. Here is a photo of one of them; Glastonbury Mystic Garden small

In a week this this town will be overrun with thousands of music lovers.  The Glastonbury Music Festival this year is starring Adele and Cold Play.  We just wanted to get into town before the on slot.

But we were there to see the Glastonbury Abbey which is over 700 years old and right in the center of town.  This abbey was one of the richest in all of England until Henry VIII in 1539 took over the church in England and got rid of all the monks and nuns in the country. He had the last abbot , Richard Whiting hanged, drawn and quartered on the hill behind the abbey.

The abbey was stripped of all of its treasures, the lead from its roof and the tiles from its floors.  Over the years even the stones that were in the walls were looted.  Now all that is left of  this magnificent church are the remains of some walls.Glastonbury Abbey   6 16 16 smallGlastonbury abbey tower smallThis photo shows the two base walls of what was the bell tower of the church.   This is a drawing of what scholars think the church looked like before Henry’s henchmen took over.Glastonbury Abbey picture small The only building to survive intact is the Abbot’s Kitchen, which served as a Quaker  meeting house.Glastonbury Abbot's Kitchen small The abbot was a rich man and entertained important people who were visiting Glastonbury including King Henry VII.  His kitchen was made to provide better food than that that was prepared for the monks.  Here is a photo of his pastry oven.  This is smaller than the bread oven would have been.  It was a specialty oven for delicate pastries to be served to important people.Glastonbury abbot oven small Here is a photo of the way the kitchen prep table might have looked like; Glastonbury abbot's kitchen 5x7 small We ended up having a cream tea in the garden before the rain started again. crean tea david abbey small



Getting around in London

When Linda and I first visited London, before we met, it was those dark pre-Internet days when trips were hard to plan and information was difficult to come by. Now, the opposite is sometimes true: there’s so much information, one becomes bogged down in all of it.

In the old days, then, I had pretty much mastered the whole Underground thing, because there was one great map from which you could figure out how to get from point A to point B quite easily. That map still exists, along with all kinds of other Internet-enabled information sources.  But now the same kind of info is available for the buses.

Previously I had avoided buses, except when recommended by a human, because there was no easy way to look up their route. Now there is. And that is important for two reasons: more direct routing, and price. Also, relatively few are fume-spewing diesel models; most are hybrids or run on LNG.

We found from our hosts in London that there was a bus stopping just two blocks away that would deliver us directly to the museum area in Kensington. It took about 40 minutes. Buses are slower, make many more stops, and are subject to traffic delays. But when there is a bus from A to B, and A and B aren’t too far apart, they’re definitely the say to go.

As I had read before arriving, you need to get an Oyster Card to use public transport. While it is possible to ride the underground for cash, they charge you twice as much or more for not using the card! You can get the card from one of 2000 shops, or at any underground station. There’s a £5 deposit, and you can add various amounts of stored value to them. We loaded £20 onto each for our week in town. If you have funds left over, amounts under £10 (plus the £5 deposit) can be refunded from a machine in an underground station. Larger amounts can be reclaimed by mail, but they’ll send you a check (sorry, cheque) in pounds that will cost you more to cash in the US than its value.

You have to have an Oyster Card to ride the bus, as that’s really the only way to pay unless you have a UK bank card. The nice thing about the Oyster Card is that your daily transit expenses are capped. If you only use buses, which are £1.50 a ride, the cap is £4.50. If you also use the underground, it’s something like £6.50, which is less than the cost of three rides. (Buses in London have no zones. You can ride anywhere for the basic fare. But there are no free transfers, so if you need to use two routes you pay for each. That’s why the cap is nice. The underground has a zone system. Most of the places tourists go are in zone 1 or 2, and the basic fare is £2.40 after 9:30am. You tap your card at the entry and the exit, and it figures out what to charge you.)

Incidentally, while buses in London don’t take cash, ones in every other city we’ve visited in the UK — and some in Italy and Spain — still do. In fact, it’s the norm in the UK, and the driver may have a whole tray of coins behind his plexiglass window. (In Edinburgh, they accept cash but don’t make change… the money falls into a lockbox.)

Besides the underground and buses, there are several other modes of transit in the TFL (Transport for London) system  There’s an “overground” system they absorbed in 2007, and the Docklands Light Rail (DLR). And where parts of the national railway system run in London, they are part of it too. More on trains in a later post.

And don’t forget Uber. Before leaving for Paddington from our place in Kennington, I checked the Uber app and found about six cars nearby. I summoned one and it arrived in three minutes. The trip was just under 5 miles, about 30 minutes, and cost £14.



Free things to do in London Pet sitting in Somerset

###Budget travel tip:  London has some terrific museums that are free to the public.  The British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum do not charge an entry fee. Without spending any money you can see the Rosetta Stone, Medieval stained glass and gigantic dinosaur bones.  It might take you three full days to get through these incredible collections.  I could spend days in each museum. Here are some photographs to enjoy from each of them;British museum front smallThe front of the British Museum and the interior ceiling; British Museum ceiling small Two of the historical treasures from the Victoria and Albert Museum ( the V & A); a medieval golden tabernacle that held the communion bread on the altar V and A golden tabernacle smalland just one of many pieces of medieval stained glass that is at eye level ( not up in the top of a church) medieval stained glass small  Here is the main entrance to the Natural History Museum which is a great place to take a child or a curious adult.  The displays are user friendly and teach about everything from prehistoric history to how our bodies work.London Natural History Museum small

We are now in Somerset doing our 3rd dog sitting assignment (#pet sitting)  We get to take care of two wonderful labs in a lovely home.  Here is a photo of David and the labs Lucy and Ruby on a walk Street David & dogs small and here is a view of the beautiful green landscape of Somerset from the house window.Street view from house small  More will be coming this week as we spend a lot of time at home with the doggies and I can work on photographs and more blog information.


Tourists this week in London

We are between pet sitting assignments and have rented a lovely little apartment in London for 8 days.  So we are being tourists in London, a city I love.  Everyday we are trying to see one historic place.  So far we have been to Hampton Court, the Tower of London and today it was the British Museum.  We also got to see the musical Wicked tonight.  Phew!

Here are a couple of photographs to whet your appetite for what will follow when we start to pet sit for Lucy and Ruby ( two beautiful labs) next week.  When we pet sit we spend much more time at home with the doggies and I will be able to get some more photographs and blog entries up.

Here is the banqueting hall on the Thames in Hampton Court.  It was made for King William III for his private entertainment.hampton court banqueting house small  Here is a photograph of the Tower of London which was built in 1070 or so by William the Conqueror.tower of london 2016 small  Here is another photograph of the Tudor part of the tower with the newest skyscraper in London The Shard in the background.  The contrast between the 16th century and the 21st century London is amazing to me.tower of London Shard 2016 small  Well it is midnight here in London and we plan to go to the V and A museum tomorrow…..Will catch up later.

A typical day when #pet sitting

Most of the #petsitting  and #housesitting assignments are about a week or two long.   On the days between them we rent an apartment and do tourist trips.  So when we are staying in someone’s house and taking care of their pets we tend to spend more time at home.  The dog or cat seems to do better if we spend the first day at home with them.  We tend to be around most of the day because the dogs need company and I love cuddling dogs and cats when they let me. ( If you want to learn more about pet sitting just search this blog with the words pet sitting or house sitting and those information blog entries will show up)   Here is Tommy in his bed.tommy in bed small So we go to the grocery store, do some laundry, and cook. During the week there is always vacuuming , the house keeping is pretty much the same as at home.  Of course, since this is not our home we try harder to take the best care of everything.  This helps all of us get used to each other and learn the pets routine.  There are plenty of things to do at home.  I catch up on my travel journaltonbridge journal making small and David works on the computer.  The long and varied dog walk is very important.  Tommy needs to run and play  and there is an excellent country park here that we can take him too.  Today he met several different dogs to run with.  Here is a whippet that ran faster than Tommy. Whippet flying smallThen we met this noble older gent, Monty who just sat and watch the young ones run in the meadow.old guy dog small No doubt thinking of the time when he could show these dogs a few tricks. We also met this lovely dog called Angus.  I think he is quite handsome. Angus small Finally, we met a dalmatian/sheepdog mix Ava who was ready to run and play.  Tommy and she were exactly the same age and they had fun. tommy ava smallTommy flying small By the time we got home Tommy was ready for a lot of water and a big nap.   It is such a joy to take care of him and the other dogs we have been privileged to take care of.