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.

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.

Free tutorial: how to prepare a travel journal before you go

When I am traveling, there is never enough time to make entries in my travel journal.  I want to do at least a bullet journal of what I did that day, tape in some receipts, and stash any brochures in my journal.  I find I cannot remember specifics even with the photos of the events.  Where did we eat, how much did it cost for that museum, and how did we get there?  These are some of the questions I will want to remember and to share with my family and friends when I return home.  The way I have learned to take care of this is to prepare my travel journals before I leave home.  I thought I would share how I do that with you my dear blog readers.

I buy a large blank page notebook whenever I can find them on sale.  I found these at Walmart for only $2 each (a stunningly low price) and purchased 3 of them.travel journal 10Since the paper is kind of thin, I glue 2-3 pages together to make a strong base to paint and to eventually staple and glue the memorabilia from the trip.travel journal 11Then I make the cover using mixed media products, stencils and paints.travel journal 1Now I am ready to start painting or using watercolor pencils to prepare the blank pages to write my journaling, and to attach other items I want to save from the trip. I normally add stickers and colorful borders to the pages as I prepare them.  I sometimes draw light pencil lines since that keeps my writing easier to read later.travel journal 2

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travel journal 7I will add some envelopes and glue two pages together to make a large envelope to stash larger items.  Recent feedback from one of my travel journal customers, add more envelops to store items.travel journal 8Finally, I will put together a traveling art kit that includes; pens, water coloring pencils,  a ruler, tape, double sided tape, a paint brush, a stapler with staples, a big glue stick, liquid glue, and a small pair of scissors. [Use short, blunt scissors and omit anything liquid if you plan to put the kit into your carry-on.]journal supplies

Now I am ready to quickly journal by either writing out a narrative or using bullet points to summarize my day. Here is a bullet journal sample from a day that we spent in Paris last year.

  • went to the Louvre  (got there early and there was not much of a line)
  • saw the Mona Lisa, so many people around it, hard to get close
  • went to dinner at small outdoor cafe at the foot of the Eiffel Tower (romantic)
  • back to the apartment by the metro

I also will purchase postcards, cut up the photos  and add them to the pages.  I also leave some blank pages to add my photos when I get home and have them printed.

I hope this tutorial helps you prepare for your next travel adventure and makes it easier and quicker to write down some precious memories from these fleeting moments in your life.  If you use this idea and have any comments about your travel journals, please let me know.


We are home and getting ready to go back to Europe

I have not posted in a while because being at home is not that interesting.  We have gotten around to all of our doctor appointments and we are healthy and ready to hit the road again.

We have been doing household improvements since we have decided to keep the house for a while.

The new plan is a family Baltic cruise in June and then to stay on in Europe until October or November of 2018 and cruise home.

I am so excited.  I will keep you informed of our progress. Mac our dog is very happy that we are home. destination England 2 I have been working on some travel journals to sell in my etsy shop ( www.etsy.com/shop/LDphotography)  and I will probably post some information as I prepare my travel journal for this summer.  I make up my travel journal ahead of time so all I have to take with me is the journal,  water color pencils, glue, tape and scissors. destination Scotland 2

Bunratty Castle and folk park: a walk back in time

The most fun excursion that we got up to here in the West country of Ireland was our trip to Bunratty Castle and folk park.  We were there 17 years ago when our son was just 8 years old.  So we had some memories of seeing this big castle through his eyes.  It has changed over time and has gotten much better.  They have added more cottages and houses from the 18th  century to the folk park.  It is a great place to take children to help them understand some of the history of Ireland.

There is the 1425 castle which was restored in the 1950s and opened to the public in the 1960s. bunratty castle 2017 5x7 netThis part of the tour was the same, climbing up many small spiraling staircases that lead off  from each of the four walls of the great hall. There are bedrooms to see. bunratty royal bed 5x7 net  Beautiful stained glass windows to look out on to the river. Bunratty windows 5x7 net  Wonderful 16th century office with a long wood table and colorful ceiling carvings. Bunratty 16th c meeting room 5x7 net  There are even toilets to show you how people in the castle relieved themselves.  Bunratty castle toilet netThat stone seat must have been cold in the winter.

After we toured the castle, we wandered through the folk park which has 30 buildings of farm and fishermen’s cottages from the 18th century.blue cottage Bunratty village 5x7 net  Here is a two room thatched cottage that a County Clare farmer might have lived in.    Here is the one bedroom that the farmer and his wife would use. Bunratty farmer's bed 5x7 netEveryone’s fireplace was also their stove and oven as this photograph of a wealthy farmer’s hearth  illustrates.  Most of the cottages were heated with peat blocks.  I was surprised at how warm they keep the room.bunratty fireplace stove 5x7 net They often used the stones that were part of the landscape to build their homes and barns.

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This was a wealthy farmer’s barn made of local stones

It was a fascinating look back in the Irish history of County Clare.

Before we left we decided to eat at Durty Nelly’s, a historical pub that has been serving the local people, or maybe just the tourists, since 1620.  The food was very good.durty Nelly's pub 5x7 net


Today we are finishing up our first house sit, and so we are cleaning house, packing and saying good bye to Cassie, Bella, Pipsie and Midnight.

Free tutorial; How to prepare a travel journal

One thing that I do now since going to Europe the last 2 years is to prepare my travel journal before I go.2017 travel journal2017 travel journal 1 I keep tickets, train stubs, receipts and other ephemera as we travel and there is not time to make special pages to keep this loose stuff.  2017 travel journal 4So I put in pretty envelops in my journal at home.   I also paint and add decorative paper to my journal pages as it is difficult to find the time and carry all the supplies to do that on the road.2017 travel journal 3  I make pages with fold outs to put secret or just private thoughts into.  2017 travel journal 6 I also stamp and color pages like this. 2017 travel journal 2 or this2017 travel journal 7  I take along a zip lock plastic bag with scissors, double sided tape, tape, color pencils ( water color ones), colored pens,  a small spray bottle, glue sticks and a small stapler.  Now I am ready to add papers and pages as I go along.  Hope this helps you prepare for your next big trip or even a little one.

I have been captured by the Olympics

We are taking care of 2 lovely dogs in Truro, Cornwall.  Here is a picture of them having fun.

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We have been walking these babies 2 times a day in a lovely field nearby.

But we have not done any sight seeing because….I love the Olympics.  All my favorite sports come in the first week.  Swimming, volleyball and gymnastics are the big three for me.  The problem with being in England is that the swimming finals are live  here at 1-4 am because the the time difference with Rio.  Oh no…..my normal schedule runs until 1 am everyday but this is really making my clock crazy.  Luckily, next week we can see some of lovely Cornwall and I will put up some lovely photos for you.

Here is the view from our pet sitting home, so lovely.


Oh and go USA!

Life in Glasgow’s Tenement House

We spent six days in Glasgow after our two-week pet sit in Edinburgh (I still miss Jodi the dog).    One of the places we visited there left a big impression on us.  It was the Tenement House.  This was a upper working class tenement home of one Miss Toward and her mother Mrs. Toward.  They lived in this one bedroom flat from the early 20th century until 1965.  Here is her  story from the exhibit.glasgow tenement house ms toward smallglasgow miss toward bio small It was being able to see how a single working woman survived in the 20th century that was so affecting.  She rented her apartment, like most people in the city.  She was very thrifty and saved whatever money she could.  Here is a layout of the apartment she and her mom lived in glasgow Miss Toward's tenement floor plan smallShe and her mom slept in the double bed recess in the kitchen and rented out the bedroom to a boarder to save money.  The kitchen would have been the warmest place in the house to sleep in those cold Scottish winters.  The docent told us that the bathroom was very luxurious in 1911 because it had an indoor toilet and hot and cold running water.  There was a shared wash house in the back of the building in which everyone had a day to use to do their washing.

Here is a photo of a photo of her kitchen ( I was not allowed to use a flash and it was not bright enough for a photo from my camera) glasgow tenement  house kitchen smallThat is a coal heated stove and oven. Above the the oven she had a drying rack that pulled down to hang clothes and up to dry them. Miss Toward did not want to pay for electricity to be put in for her landlord’s benefit, so she made do with gas lights and no refrigerator.  She did break down and converted to electric lights in 1960, but the stove was still working so no replacement was needed.  She left the flat exactly the way it is now when in 1965 she went into the hospital.  Not having a refrigerator was not as hard as it seems.  The door in the  upper right hand of the photo opened into a cold larder.  A shelf room that had holes drilled into the walls that kept everything as cold as outside, which in Scotland is pretty cold.

There was even a bit of elegance in this hard working woman’s life.  It was the parlor. glasgow tenement house table smallThis room was only used for company.  Here is the table as it would have been set for tea.  In this room there is also a stand up piano that both Mrs. and Miss Toward used to play.  No electricity meant no radio and no TV .

Remember she worked long hours being a typist including Saturday  (they eventually got a half day off on Saturday).  There were no grocery stores, you had to purchase food almost every day from separate stores (groceries, produce, meat, etc.) and prepare it from scratch.  It must have been an exhausting life, but she and her mom kept their standards and  their sense of dignity.

She spent ten years in the hospital before she died in 1975.  Her apartment was rent controlled at around 30 pounds a year and she kept paying for it the entire time she was in the hospital ( I supposed hoping someday to get to return home).

After her death the house was left in her will to the church which intended to sell it to raise funds. It was only on inspection of the flat somebody noticed its potential as it had remained completely unchanged from the olden days and decided to preserve it.  That lady purchased it and lived in it for 9 years before selling it intact to the National Trust for Scotland.  They reinstalled gas lights and made it as close as possible to the way that Miss Toward lived there. (##budget travel tip:  If you have an English National Trust card you can get into any of the National Trust of Scotland properties for free).

We both found this testament to a thrifty hard working woman to be uplifting and beautiful.

Wee dog Bobby in Greyfriars graveyard

This ancient graveyard is supposed to be the most haunted place in Edinburgh.  If you come to visit it on a cold and rainy day, it gives off an atmosphere of  death and decay.  I got to visit it this summer on a sunny day and the very next day it was a cold and rainy day.  That is what weather is like in Edinburgh.    This graveyard is strange because of the dichotomy of its attractions.  The first side to this story is a sweet famous legend about a wee Skye terrier  named Bobby who is said to have sat on his master’s grave for 14 years until his own death.   (You must read the amusing debunk of this myth in Ian Smith’s blog.)  Here are the gravestones of all involved in this story; wee Bobby’s grave at the entrance of the church;  edinburgh greyfriars Bobby grave smallJohn Gray  the policeman who owned dear Bobby and the grave where he sat for 14 years until he died, edinburgh John Gray grave smalland James Brown, the graveyard sexton who kept the story alive and well to attract visitors and collect tips.greyfriars James brown sexton smallIf you look at the dates on these stones you will notice that perhaps the second wee Bobby outlived the sexton by 4 years. I image the next sexton picked up the gig.  Anyway, this  story has been so successful that Disney made a movie about it, and there is an entire pub dedicated to Bobby in front of the cemetery .edinburgh greyfriars Bobby smallWant to lift a pint to Bobby’s memory?  Amazing Bobby is still earning money for all involved.  I would say that is a loyal and excellent doggie.

The second part of the story of Greyfriars’ grave yard is definitely much more dark.  It is the story of imprisonment, beheadings, body snatching and ghosts.  That part I will take up in my next blog entry.  Come back for more if you dare….to be continued.


Money saving tips using the Trains in Britain

The railway system in Britain was nationalized in 1948 and re-privatized in 1997. Now there are four main companies and several smaller ones; the infrastructure is maintained by a public entity called Network Rail. Somehow, privatization has not delivered significant competition because the four large companies serve mostly non-overlapping areas, and British rail travel is the most expensive in Europe. However, if there are rails where you’re going, travel is frequent, reliable, and fairly comfortable.

Visitors to Europe often consider buying a Railpass, which is available only outside the area for which it is valid. The UK railpass comes in two varieties: one for a certain number of days in a month, and the other for a certain number of consecutive days. They do offer flexibility, but they’re not cheap and not refundable if you don’t use all the days you planned. We did buy a London Plus pass on our last visit. Shop for the best price; these are sold by vendors and the price does vary somewhat.

Once our schedule firmed up, I considered buying a Railpass and having someone at home send it on to us here in Britain (mail takes about a week). But our frequent movement made having a reliable UK address impossible.

budget travel tip:  A better solution is railcards. There are two of interest: the Two Together, which lets two people over age 16 travel together at 30 to 50% discount; and if you’re over 60, a Senior card, which does the same thing for an individual, but doesn’t require a photo. For couples, I recommend the Two Together as you only have to pay one £30 railcard fee per year. You will need passport sized photos; it’s a good idea to bring a few extra on a long trip.  $10 at Costco for four, I think. Or get them here; UK “passport size” are smaller than US size, and the nice clerk at Bridgwater station trimmed ours down for us. Larger train stations have automated photo kiosks that will make them. If you have a UK address you can order railcards online, although you’ll need digital files of your photos for the Two Together; otherwise just visit a train station during non-busy time and they’ll make it for you.York RR museum wheel small

(Linda inserted a couple of vintage railroad train photographs that she took at the York railroad Museum to brighten up this post)

Secondly, on long distance trains, you can book and buy online in advance. These non-refundable tickets can save you an additional 50% depending on how early you buy, and for what time of day. Using both discounts, Linda and I traveled from Somerset to York (5 hours of train ride, leaving Saturday morning) for a total of £72 each. And that was First Class from Bristol to York; I found a train where the upgrade from Standard was only £9; usually it’s about 50%. We used this to go from York to Edinburgh, and will definitely do it again from Cambridge to Truro on August 6.British railroad Gladstone engine small

You can still buy tickets on the day of travel. They’re more expensive of course, but then you have no risk of having to change your plans and buy new tickets. Don’t buy these full-fare tickets in advance; they’re only valid on day of purchase. You still get the railcard discount. And on at least Cross-Country trains, you can buy Advance Purchase tickets up to 15 minutes before departure, but I’ll bet the savings isn’t much.

First Class, by the way, mostly gets you more room. There are three seats across instead of four, and there is more space between rows of seats. There are power outlets, and Wifi is free, whereas there is a charge in Standard. There are free beverages and snacks, and on weekdays there is some free food. There is an attendant who will fetch food and alcoholic drinks from the vendor somewhere else on the train.

On weekends, but not with advance purchase tickets, you can upgrade to First Class on the train if there’s room. I don’t think anyone did this on our trip.British railroad seal small

Ticket prices vary, just like airline prices. Each of the biggies promises lowest price on their website, but you can book any train in the UK on the website of any railway, and there are 28 of them. When you do this, you’ll be presented with the available trains around your requested time. The prices will vary by as much as 3-to-1, depending on how booked it already is, or is expected to be. And the premium for First Class will vary too, from almost nothing to over 100%. Have fun choosing! Mid-day travel seems to be the cheapest.

Having now experienced both First (Bristol to York) and Standard (York to Edinburgh) classes, I have to admit that when you’re traveling with three big bags and two backpacks, First Class is more likely to have room for all of that in the car.  In Standard, the backpacks fit in the overhead rack, the small suitcase can go under you feet for a couple of hours, but there won’t be room for the big bags unless you get on at the origination point.  Our train came from London and it was packed; the bags stood in the vestibule (no one complained) until the last hour, because the tiny luggage storage area was full. A First-class car is likely to have at least a couple of empty seats, and fewer people competing for slightly more bag storage.