Coronavirus makes us a no go

Well, needless to say, we did not go on the cruise and are not spending a month in Florence. Sadly, we even had to cancel all of our pet and house sitting assignments in England.

We are in the most dangerous ages for this virus, over 65 and so we are hunkering down here at home. It is best for our safety and others. So we will be reorganizing the house, going through boxes and doing art work.

I am not sure when we will get to travel again , but when we do this blog with fill up again with picture and text about senior adventures.

Cat sitting in San Diego

We are cat sitting in Hillcrest in San Diego. We love this city. It is a pleasure to take care of these two kitties in this fun part of San Diego. The sunset view of the downtown from Shelter Island is a beautiful photograph.

We got to spend some time walking around Balboa Park and saw some of the baby ducklings in the pond before the botanical gardens.

corridor in Balboa Park

Old Globe theater in Balboa Park

Today, we drove up to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. My great, great grandfather, Christopher McAleer was the assistant light house keeper around 1865. The lighthouse is on the end of the Point Loma peninsula. In 1865 when he was working there, it was about a five mile ride over empty land to Old Town, San Diego. It must have been worth the ride because he went to a party in Old Town and met my great , great grandmother. After being the assistant light house keeper for only 8 months he married the pretty ,young senorita and the rest is history, as they say. Thank God for this meeting as I would not been here today.

Old Point Loma Lighthouse
Casa de Estudillo in Old Town , San Diego where they married

Needless to say, San Diego is an important part of my family heritage. So staying here is always a pleasure.

Pet and house sitting in the United States

When we are home from Europe during the winter we sometimes pet and house sit domestically. ( If you want to know more about how to pet and house sit please look at this blog post;
https://seniorgapyear.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/house-and-pet-sitting-on-the-road/ ).

This last January we pet sat in Santa Cruz for a wonderful cat named, Baxter.  He warmed up right away and spent a lot of time sitting next to us purring when he did not command a good spot on our bed, grin.  We also met his humans, Susan and Rick and enjoyed having dinner and getting to know them.

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Santa Cruz is a beautiful beach town in Northern California and we had a great time there.  Here is a photo of the sunset from the pier where we are dinner. There are many redwood forests in the mountains that are very close so we took 3 drives up to see them.Here is a deer that we saw from the road out of the Big Basin Redwood national park. The highlight for me was the trip down to Monterey to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Taking photographs there was thrilling.

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moon jellyfish dancing
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Shark being hand fed by diver
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One of the most spectacular sites was at the beach watching the kite surfers.  It is amazing how high they fly above the ocean.It was a wonderful pet sit and it was good to be able to go somewhere different in our home state of California.

We tacked on a visit to relatives in Sacramento on our way home.  I love pet sitting.

Zurich, Switzerland is beautiful, clean, and expensive

We pet- and house-sat in Zurich, Switzerland as our last sit this summer.  We took care of a very sweet dog named Lilly.  Lilly loved to chase balls in the backyard.Switzerland lilly the dog netWe were about 12 miles outside of Zurich, out in the countryside.  We would take Lilly for walks through beautiful green farm lands. There were lakes and rivers everywhere in the country.  This is Lake Zurich.Lake Zurich trees net

There were parks and small houses built on the shores of this large lake.Lake zurich house netLake Zurich bench netAnd there were still flowers in October.orange spike flower closer netsweet pea pastel netThe public transportation was good and easy but really expensive.  To go into Zurich on the train, (12 miles) and return was $22.00 each.  This was like 3 times more expensive than in the other places we have visited.   The expensiveness of everything was kind of off putting.  A coke at a cafe was $6, a hamburger was $13, a box of cereal was $7 and gas was $8 a gallon.  We purchased two small pieces of chocolate and it came to $4.50.Switzerland handmade chocolates net

Even postcards were $2.50.  Needless to say, we ate at home and did not buy much.

But the city of Zurich was beautiful.  It is cut in half by the Limmet River, and there are many bridges to cross from one side to the other.Zurich Limmet river netThere are fountains everywhere and they all run cold, clean water all the time.  You can always fill your water bottles for free.Zurich fish fountain net 

I came across done fountain that someone had filled with fresh roses.Zurich rose fountain 2 netIt was a lovely city to visit for a week.

Lake Como a wonderful place to visit

I am two weeks out from losing my dear dog, Mac.  I am still sad but I am doing better.  So I thought I would start to catch up with the adventures in our trip.

We spent two days in Lake Como.  lake como hill netIt was really lovely and because it is the end of the season there were less people to contend with.  We used the all day ferry pass to visit small towns on both sides of the lake.Lake Como ferry netThe second day we took the hydrofoil ( fast boat) to the city of Como because if you do not it takes two and a half hours by regular ferry.  Como is a lovely small town with a cathedral.como cathedral altar netThe late afternoon brings a light fog over the lake.Lake Como hills netThe last sunset over the lake was stunning.Como sun clouds net

I will be putting up more blogs as we are going home on the Celebrity Reflections across the Atlantic.Lake Como dark sunset net

Price shock in Switzerland … and a tale of two ATMs

You may remember our amazement at the prices of nearly everything in Copenhagen … the Burger King lunch for two for $21 stands out in my mind. We knew Switzerland would be expensive, and that’s why a week’s pet-sit was such a good opportunity.

The 3-km cab ride from the station to Sixt car rental was a quick introduction, as it cost $37 — $8 to start, $5/km, $1.33/minute, and $5 extra to bring our 3 suitcases, even though the driver was older than me and I had to load them into his cab myself.

Food in the grocery store is about 2 – 3 times US prices for most things.  Cereal is $7 a box, ground beef is $10 a pound, a croissant that might be €1 in Paris or Rome is 1.70 here. A lemon was $0.70. Frozen vegetables are all about $6.50 for 800g, about 28 ounces. Although a liter of milk is 1.60, if you add chocolate and sugar and air and make a liter of ice cream that weighs 500g, it’s 10.60 (on sale last week for only 7.40!). This is Carte d’Or, who make a dark chocolate that is Linda’s favorite. But still! Gas is 1.70 a liter ($6.43 a gallon), not quite the highest we’ve seen in Europe. The shocking thing was transportation — we’re 19km from Zurich and a 1-way tram ride is 10.60; an all-day ticket twice that at 21.80. Even in London, where we stayed about the same distance from the center, transit was capped at £8.00 — about $10.40 per day, so about half the Zurich rate.

The Swiss Franc is just about on par with the dollar now, costing about $1.01 from an ATM. Everyone seems OK with these prices, so I looked up Swiss salaries and discovered that the median is about $72,000. There’s less range … a lot of professional types (IT, etc) make around $110,000, but even grocery clerks clear $50,000. There isn’t a formal minimum wage, but effectively it’s about $25/hour, and everyone gets healthcare.

All this would make sense to me if a Swiss Franc cost US $0.50, but as it is, it makes Switzerland and Swiss products really expensive, and must make traveling worldwide a great deal for the Swiss! The roads are great, the trains are spotless, and the cows look happy. They actually wear those bells you see in drawings.

Anyway, yesterday we were in Zurich, and as those francs had been flying out of my wallet, I went to get some more.  At the Paradeplatz, the center of shopping Zurich, there’s an immense Credit Suisse bank.  In front, there are two ATMs, and as someone was using the one on the left, I approached the one on the right.  It informed me it only dispensed 100- and 500-franc notes, and if I wanted smaller, I should use the other ATM. Well, harumph! The money is really pretty, though:

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and the 5-franc coin is huge, as it should be.

Saturday, we’ll return the Mercedes A180 that Sixt gave us “because we’re out of everything else,”  and take trains back to Milan and then to Civitavecchia, and our rendezvous with Celebrity Reflection on Monday.  We’re feeling a little better.

We are pet sitting again in Stratford upon Avon

We are pet sitting here in Stratford with Enzo the border terrier.  We sat for Enzo last year and were happy to be asked to take care of him again this summer.

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David and Enzo

This is the home town of Shakespeare (1564 -1616)  and it is a quaint and walkable town.  It is amazing how many of the places in Shakespeare’s birthplace are still preserved and open to the public.  I did a lot of visiting of Shakespeare’s places last year, so this year I am exploring the city and the historical places that are around this city.

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Shakespeare’s childhood home

The entire town resolves around Shakespeare’s life and work.  shakespeare school sign net

 

There are lots of Tudor homes that are still intact and they are very interesting to see in town.

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The Stratford library

It is also the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company.  We will be going to a play early next week.rsc building net

We walked Enzo the dog along the River Avon today.  It is so beautiful here.

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The River Avon

There are so many lovely swans floating in the river.  swan drip vertical net As we were walking home and we passed Shakespeare’s church; he is buried inside.

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Holy Trinity Church

I really find it amazing to walk the streets where Shakespeare grew up, married, had children and was buried.

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.

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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.