We left Wales and now are in Stratford upon Avon

We said good bye to  sweet Nell and hello to Mr. Enzo.  We stopped in Laughane which was Dylan Thomas’ final home called the boathouse.  He lived there the last four years of his life and wrote some of his best work in this ideal setting.  He died at the age of 39 in New York.

 

 

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View from the boathouse 

Here is a photograph of Dylan Thomas’ writing shed where he did most of his writing.Dylan Thomas writing shed net

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Dylan Thomas’ grave in Laughane

His house is down the shore from the remains of the Laughane castle.

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Laughane castle

These are a set of houses that are around the castle.laughane houses netHere is a photograph of David watching the Taf estuary and waiting for me to finish taking photographs.David at the Taf estuary net

I will post some new photographs from Stratford upon Avon.

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Haverfordwest Wales; life in the country

We are here at the southwestern tip of Wales, in Druidston near Haverfordwest out on a small farm and taking care of sweet Nell, the border collie.  We do not have sheep for her to herd so she must make do with us.Nell full netShe loves walks in the fields but really loves to chase the ball.  Here she is catching the ball.Nell catches the ball netWe have been in the city for all of the sits this year, so coming out to the country is an entirely different feeling.  We can see the sea from our bedroom. Those tiny dots on the hill are cows.ViewFromOurWindowThis was a clear and sunny day, but most of the days have been overcast, windy and rainy, which is fun for us since California hardly ever gets rain.  Yesterday, we went to two small beaches near us,  Little Haven and Broad Haven. (“Haven” comes from the Norse havn meaning harbor.) The wind was almost 40 miles per hour, which made the waves very large and strong.  I was up on a promontory over the ocean and I nearly blew away taking this photo.little haven splash slow closer netIn the harbor it was a different story.  The waves were small because they were protected by the high cliffs.

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Little Haven harbor

Here is a photo of me being blown away.linda little haven closerWe then drove over the hill from Little Haven to Broad Haven beach, which is a very long and sandy beach .

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Broad Haven beach

We also went one evening to Druidston beach, which is by where we are staying.  After walking down a very steep dirt lane we were able to watch the sun set over the beautiful and almost empty beach.  You get a feeling of being alone with nature here.

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Druidston Beach

Here is one of my favorite  photographs of David walking on the beach.druidston beach david netOne day we drove through the tiny lanes they call streets to Pembroke castle.  This is a 13th century castle that has been restored so that you can climb the stairs in the various towers and read about what life was like in the Middle Ages.

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Pembroke Castle

They have set up a tableau of what dinner in the castle would have looked like in the 13th century.Pembroke castle ddinner tableau netAnd they have free castle tours around four times a day.  We went on the tour and learned a lot about the history of who lived in this famous castle and what they did.

We mostly have been hanging out and enjoying the country and the beach.  Reading, playing with Nell, working on photographs, doing art in my journal and doing laundry. It is so beautiful and peaceful here.Wales country side net

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Our next stop is a return to Stratford-upon-Avon to take care of Enzo the border terrier.  We took care of him last year, and I am looking forward to seeing him and Anne and Steve again.

Dylan Thomas’ birthplace in Swansea, Wales

We were spending the night in Swansea, Wales before going to our next sit in south west Wales.  Sometimes you discover something that you did not know on a trip like this.  In the restaurant where we were eating dinner, I saw a wall painting of Dylan Thomas , my favorite poet after Shakespeare.  It  said that he was born and lived his first 23 years in a house in Swansea.Dylan Thomas gate net

Thomas was an amazing wordsmith.  The way he put words together to make new and startling images was like painting with words.   Here is the beginning of the poem Fern Hill;

“Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,”

You can see the joyful child rushing through the high green grass at his aunt’s farm.

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Dylan Thomas 

It was kind of hard to find the house since there were only small signs.  I am surprised that the council in Swansea has not publicized that it is Dylan’s birthplace.

We were greeted at the door by Geoff Haden, the owner of the house and a Thomas admirer.  He took time with us to talk about Dylan’s life here in this middle class Edwardian house.  Geoff encouraged us to take our time looking at the house and even said we could open the cupboards and drawers.

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Geoff Haden

Dylan was born in the front bedroom of his parent’s house on October 27th 1914. Dylan Thomas birth bedroom net

The house has been lovingly restored to as close to the original as possible.  Geoff told us that they found a woman who had been a maid in the house when she was 15 and Dylan was 16.  She remembered how the house looked.

Here is a photograph of the desk in his tiny bedroom.  It was here in this untidy bedroom that was full of books, sweets and cigarettes that Dylan wrote such amazing poems and stories.Dylan Thomas desk net

Dylan Thomas top of desk net

 

 

There is even his twin bed that was next to the house hot water boiler.Dylan Thomas bed netIt was a thrill to see where Dylan wrote his masterpieces and to feel his spirit in the house.  Dylan’s life was short.  He died in New York on November 9, 1953 after drinking all night in a pub after one of his poetry readings.  He had been ill with pneumonia and went into a coma in the hospital and never came out of it before he died.

His most famous poem is “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night”  that he wrote for his father when his father died in 1952 just one year before his own death.  It is sad that Dylan did not get to follow his advice to his father about death.

“And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Dylan Thomas portrait netIf you are ever in southwestern Wales , try to get by the house in Swansea.  The home is also available for private hire.  The do weddings, conferences, private parties and book launches.  It is located at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea.  I am sure Geoff will welcome you warmly.

National Trust homes; Polesden Lacey and Ham House

We are staying in Epsom and we are taking care of two sweet french bulldogs and a rabbit. lilly and mabel

Ronnie the lop eared rabbitWe have gone to two National Trust homes.  The first one was Polesden Lacey.  It was the weekend home of the popular and powerful socialite in the 1900s, Margaret Greville.   No expense was spared to impress the royalty and political men of the time who flocked to her accommodating home to spend the country weekends away from London .

She catered to each guest to make sure they had the best time at her home.   She made sure that the cigars that were preferred by each guest was in his room.  There was a large billiard and smoking room for the gentlemen to use.  Each guest room had the latest novels on the bed stand.  The food was fresh from her farm land and of the highest quality prepared by a famous chef.   Everyone who was anyone wanted to be her guest.polesden lacey house net

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The cafe at the Polesden Lacey house

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Home phone

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beautiful gardens

She died in 1948 and left her house to the National Trust.  This is a lovely home that is still impressive and now it is open for the public to enjoy.

The second house we visited was Ham House.  This was another stately home that was build in 1610.  It was the home of William Murray and his feisty daughter Elizabeth, the Duchess of Lauderdale.    She hosted  important government officials at her home and dining table during the English Civil War.  They did not know that she was  a spy for King Charles II while he was in exile in France.  She even wrote letters to the royalists in France in invisible ink.  She was a member of the secret organization known as the Sealed Knot.   In 1660, when Charles was restored to the British throne, he awarded a sizable reward and pension to Elizabeth for risking her life and fortune in support of him.  She died at Ham House in 1698 at the age of 72.  Her descendants lived in the house until 1948 when it was donated to the National Trust. ham house netHam house entrance net

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the staircase is carved in battle dress

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Wooden windows looking out to the garden

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The house was built a short walk from the River Thames.  No doubt many distinguished guests arrived by way of the river for house parties.Thames river netIt was an inspiring visit to the homes of two women who were powerful political agents in a time when women were considered powerless party ornaments.

How to store luggage in England cheap

So there we were in England in the middle of a five-month visit. With the addition of the fan and a new suitcase to wheel it (and a few art supplies) around in, we now had four suitcases and two backpacks. European airlines all charge a lot for checked baggage. We were going to Helsinki on Norwegian Airlines, and they wanted £40 each. Each way!

There is a left-luggage facility at Gatwick, the airport we were flying from. They wanted £37.50 per bag for a 4.5 day period. Better than 80 each, but still too much. Our previous host in Ealing said we could leave them there, but that would require collecting them (train, underground, and Uber or (gasp) driving in London) later.

Europe is not big on self-storage places like the US is, but the UK is an exception. The biggest chain is Safestore, and they have a facility in Three Bridges, which is the next train stop south of Gatwick, and the location is just a six-minute walk from the station.

safestore

They rent for as little as a week. We went down there before going to Ealing, and the manager on duty set us up with a locker big enough for about four suitcases (about 4x4x4), but with a start date for the day before our departure, and finishing a week later. All for a little over £12, plus a lock from amazon.co.uk …

Sunday, the day before our flight, we arrived one minute before closing (they do have access during closed hours, but it’s more complicated) and deposited the two big bags and one of the little ones. We had intended to walk over from the station, but it was raining, and Uber responded in less than two minutes. The driver took us to Safestore, waited while we left the bags off, and returned us to the station, all for the Uber minimum of £5. We returned to the airport, had dinner, and snuggled in for the evening.

The following Saturday, after returning from Finland, we rented a car, drove to Three Bridges, collected our bags, closed the locker, and had lunch at The Snooty Fox across from the railway station before proceeding on to Epsom.

One thing I want to mention is that we take care not to stress ourselves when changing locations. Pushing all that luggage is a challenge sometimes, depending on weather and pavement, so we stay at an airport hotel before and after flights where it makes sense. Gatwick also has good rail connections, as do most UK airports, and there is a Courtyard by Marriott there, which is within walking distance if you only have one bag each. Otherwise there’s a shuttle. So we found a good rate for the Sunday night before our outbound flight Monday, and stayed on points on the Friday we returned. There’s even a McDonald’s within walking distance of the hotel. The whole setup is highly recommended.

Visiting old friends in Finland

One of the benefits of pet sitting in Europe is that there is time to fit in a visit to old friends who live there.  We were able to fly from Gatwick to Helsinki last week to spend a few days with our friends  Virpi and Jukka.  Virpi and I met when she was an exchange student our senior year in high school fifty years ago.  We have stayed good friends ever since.

2018 Virpi Linda closer

Virpi and Linda

We got to see their home in Lohja and the next day  Virpi drove us up to their summer cottage on a lovely, large lake where Jukka was waiting for us.  Even the weeds in Finland are graceful . white lacey weed net

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Jukka and Virpi

Jukka does a lot of fishing on the lake and cooked a wonderful dinner for us from one of the white fish he had caught.  The summer cottage has an old fashioned wood stove that they use to cook and heat the house during the winter.  summer house old stove netAfter dinner there was  lots of laughing and catching up of family news; then Virpi and I went down to the lake for a wonderful wood sauna.Finnish lake and boat net

As we walked down to the water it was just beginning to be sunset over the lake.  I did not have my camera but I will never forget the beautiful colors reflected on the still water. The sauna is by the lake so that you can go swimming afterwards.Finland wood sauna netVirpi went right into the water to swim; but I only got half way in and splashed my body with the cold water.  David and Jukka were then allowed to go down to sweat and wash.

The next day Jukka drove us down the Eastern side of Finland.  We stopped at a 14th century stone castle , Olavinlinna.    This is a three tower castle that is the northernmost medieval stone castle still standing.  It is located  in Savonlinna, Finand.  It was built on an island between two lakes.Olavinlinna castle net

We stopped for lunch and walked around an outdoor farmer’s market .  The summer fruit in Finland is marvelous.  Here is a picture of Julius and his harvest.Finland fruit Julius netThere are only five million Finns who live in the country so it is sparsely populated.  Which leaves room for all the trees and lakes which dominate the environment.  The country is beautiful.   Finland waterfall net

We went to the city of  Imatera to spend the night in a spa hotel.  On the way we saw the historic hotel called the Imateran Valtionhotelli which was built in 1903.

Imateran Valtionhotelli Finland net

Imateran Valtionhotelli

We had a lovely walk around the lake and then a good night’s sleep.   The next day we drove back to their home and had a fun light dinner of cheese, bread and wine and good conversation.    The next day they dropped us off at the airport and we flew back to London.

We are now in Epsom taking care of two wonderful french bulldogs and a rabbit.

London is a cornucopia of history, museums and art

We have been so busy here in Ealing because we are only 25 minutes outside of London by using the tube.   The museums here are mostly free so you can go back when you cannot get to see everything in one visit.  I have been to the Victoria and Albert Museum two times.IMG_20180812_121612395IMG_20180812_163258822The Museum of London, which has  excellent exhibits on Roman London and the middle Ages in London.

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Remains of the Roman wall in London

the Rose theatre model

Model of the Rose Theater

shiloutte manThen there are many interesting art and theater events to see.  Here I am at Shakespeare’s Globe, where I saw an excellent production of Othello.Old Globe theater Othello linda

Old Globe theater groundlings

The Globe Theater with the groundlings

We went to see the Old Operating Theater that was opened in 1822 to do operations on poor women who were in the St. Thomas hospital.  This was done before there was any anesthetics.  There are exhibits of the primitive tools used in this theater to train new surgeons.  I could almost hear the screams of the poor women who were treated in this place.  It was closed in 1862.Old operating theater in London

Old operating table in London

The wood chips under the table was for the blood

obstetrics tools 1820 2Now to end this blog post on a more pleasant note.  We stopped by the glass blowing studio featuring Peter Layton’s latest works called Homage.  Mr. Layton was in the studio and we got to talk to him about his remarkable work.

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Artist Peter Layton next to one of his glass art works

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Glass artist blowing and shaping an art work

peter layton glassLondon is a wonderful city to explore and discover and it does not have to cost you a fortune.