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.

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

jukka Virpi summer cottage net

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.

Haywards Heath and Standen House in Sussex

We have been here in Haywards Heath for about a week.  We are taking care of a sweet kitty named Coco.  coco

We rented a car and drove to a nearby National Trust house called Standen House.  It was built between  1891 and 1894 and designed by architect Philip Webb for the Beale family.standen house It was designed in the Arts and Craft style, and in the interior it was decorated with William Morris carpets, fabrics and wallpapers.  Here are some photos of the wallpaper.morris wall paper blue peach

 

morris wallpaperI love this style of interior design.  This house is particularly pleasing because they have set up chairs for the visitor to sit and read about the furniture and even have letters written by family members who lived there.  It is like being invited into their family home on a lovely summer day in 1935.  Here is the dining room table set for the fruit and cheese dessert course.Standen house dining room tableThis is a photograph of the business desk that the family used; including the typewriter.  If you are careful you can hit a few keys and experience what it was like to type on one of those machines.standen house deskBut when you go down to the kitchen you are reminded that our modern stoves were not in use in the 1900s.  Here is the stove in Standen House.Standen house stoveThe gardens have been restored to what they would have looked like in the early 1900s.  There is an extensive kitchen garden with lots of healthy pumpkins, pears and flowers.pumpkina perfect pearsunflowerthistle bee 1The staff is very kind.  One gentleman sat with us on a bench for a few minuted to answer our questions about the buildings.  The cafe in the old barn has a nice range of lunch food on offer and ice cream too.

It was a delightful afternoon of historical adventuring in a lovely part of Sussex.

Brighton Beach, a beach resort city

Due to camera malfunctions there are not any photos from our trips into London from our Forest Hill pet sit.  We did take the train and the underground into London to visit the British Library, the British Museum and Westminster Abbey.  Just a couple of observations about these visits.  It is July in London and in the middle of the hottest summer they have ever had.  This means that the museums are hot and full of tourists. It does not make for a contemplative visit.  I did get a chance to see the new Diamond Jubilee gallery above the floor of Westminster Abbey that opened for the first time in 700 years this last June.  It was not crowded and they did an excellent job displaying historical wooden effigies of kings and queens plus a beautiful copy of the crown jewels that were made for coronation rehearsals.  This was the best 5 pounds that I have ever spent in London (you do have to pay the 20 pound entrance fee first).

Because it has been so hot and there has not been any rain, almost all the grass in the parks is brown.  The heat is supposed to stay through the rest of the summer.  Due to this fact, we decided to go to Brighton Beach for our 3 day break between sits.  I am so glad we did.  It is glorious here.  It’s about 10 degrees cooler than inland and the beautiful blue sea is right outside our window. The camera problem has been solved.Brighton beachWe went for a walk out on the Brighton Beach Palace Pier in the early evening.Brighton Palace PierIt is a wonderful pier that juts out into the ocean with lots of arcade games, fish and chip stands, ice cream and donut shops and an amusement park on the end.carousel horsesWe ate fish and chips on the pier and then I tried my luck in the arcade.  I put one pound into a Wheel of Fortune machine, pulled on the lever and won 350 tickets.  It was so funny to see the tickets keep pouring out of the machine.

It was a lovely sunset. Brighton pier sunsetToday we walked around Brighton and it was still pretty hot.  The sea gulls were taking baths in the fountains to stay cool.seea gulls bathing 3sea gull bathing 2 copyI was tempted to join them for a splash.

Forest Hill, London: our first pet sit

So we are now in Forest Hill, a suburb of London.  We are taking care of two sweet French bulldogs; Dart and Frankie.dart and frankieIt has been so hot and muggy here that we have spent a lot of time at home watching Wimbledon tennis and playing with the dogs.

First we visited the Royal Observatory, where the prime meridian is celebrated. Unfortunately, they’ve instituted a £10 fee to visit it, so we settled for a visit to a secondary monument in the park a short distance away, near the Queen’s House.zero meridian

The Queen’s house is a free and interesting museum.  It was built by Inigo Jones from 1616 to 1635.  There is a wonderful view of the city of London from the porch of this house  You can see the modern part of London framed by two 18th century domed buildings, now part of the Old Royal Naval College.Greenwich view of London

The Tulip stairs are a highlight  of the Jones design.

2018 Greenwich Queens house staircase_edited-1

The tulip stairs

While we were walking in the large Greenwich park, we meet a very nice Irish man and his very cute doggie named Rohan, who deserves to appear here due only to his cuteness.2018 greenwich park doggie

We went to St.  Alfege’s church where Henry VIII was baptized and my favorite medieval composer Thomas Tallis is buried.greenwich Tallis windowThe famous ship Cutty Sark is at Greenwich and you can tour it.  “Cutty Sark is a British Clipper ship. Built  in 1869 , she was one of the last tea clippers to be built and one of the fastest, coming at the end of a long period of design development, which halted as sailing ships gave way to steam propulsion.” Wikipedia

Greenwich Cutty SarkIt was a lovely visit in an interesting city.

Baltic cruise, part 1

We went on a family Baltic cruise a week ago.  We were on the lovely Regal Princess and traveled from Copenhagen to Oslo , Germany , Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm. We had a great time.   I am going to divide this trip into two blogs and this part 1 will include Oslo to Tallinn.

We (two sisters and five other relatives) spent 4 days before the cruise in Copenhagen before we got on the ship.  Copenhagen was lovely but so expensive.   We were shocked at the prices and were kind of happy to get on the ship and start saving money.  We had  drinks and appetizers on our balcony.  My sister Sandi shared a cabin  with us.2018 Baltic cruise david sandi.jpgThe next day we landed in Oslo, Norway.  David and I decided to spend the afternoon in one place; the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History.  It is a museum of cultural history with extensive collections of artifacts from all social groups and all regions of the Norway. It also incorporates a large open air museum with more than 150  historical buildings, relocated from towns and rural districts.  It was interesting to see how these remarkable and clever people lived through the harsh winters.

2018 Norway to Oslo ocean 5x7

The ship arriving in Oslo

2018 Baltic cruise Oslo Norwegian dancers

Norwegian folk dancers

The oldest building in the park is the Gol Stave church. The church has been dated to the years from 1157 to 1216. 2018 Baltic cruise Gol Stave church roof

2018 Baltic cruise Gol Stave church full

Here is a farmhouse from around 1750;  2018 Baltic cruise Oslo old farmhouseWe walked around the entire museum and are feet were very happy to take the ferry back to Oslo and to walk back to the ship.

Then we had a sea day to rest and recover;  Sandi and I went to the gym but it was small and very crowded.  The rest of the day we spent filling in our travel journals from all the adventures we had had in Copenhagen. Warnemunde, Germany was our next stop.  We had signed up for a small private tour that took use in a bus to Schwerin castle in the countryside.  It was a fairy tale castle set in a lovely garden.2018 Baltic cruise Schwerin castle

We also saw the city of Rostock which has a famous astronomical clock that has been running since 1472.2018 Baltic cruise Rostock astronomical clockIt was a wonderful tour but there was not much time to take photographs.  We had another sea day to finish our travel journals before starting the big push of five port days in a row.

We landed the next day  in Tallinn, Estonia.  Tallinn has an intact medieval old town that is enchanting, except when there are 3 cruise ships in port that disgorged 8,000 tourists.  This was so disappointing because it was so crowded.  We had to wait in line for 30 minutes to use the 3 toilets available for women and men.  We have decided that we would like to go back to Tallinn in the late fall when there are far less people to ruin it.

2018 Baltic cruise Tallinn dragon 2

A dragon gargoyle on Tallinn city hall

2018 Baltic cruise Tallinn church

A mosaic from a church in Tallinn

Here is a photo of the Tallinn presidential palace.  We walked right up to it; there are no barriers just 2 guards protecting their female president.2018 Baltic cruise Tallinn presidental palace

To be continued…

Copenhagen has been fun

We enjoyed our visit to Copenhagen.  It is a lovely city with warm and friendly people.  Everyone rides bikes.2018 copenhagen bike 5x7 netWe rode the hop on hop off bus around the city and saw the distinctive brick architecture; 2018 copenhagen tower 5x7and the dome of the marble church.2018 Copenhagen marble church 5x7Of course there is water everywhere, and the canals are a lovely way to see the city by the water.2018 Copenhagen canal 5x7Now we are getting ready to board our ship, the Regal Princess,  with our family for a  Baltic cruise.  Oslo, Norway is our next port of call.  Bon Voyage.

We fly to Copenhagen today

We are off to Copenhagen today from LAX.  Our dear son and his love will be taking care of the house and doggie.  We will be on a family cruise to the Baltic states starting next Saturday.  So excited about going back to this part of Europe.  Because we will be on a cruise ship and there is very little internet I will be posting when I can.  I am sure I will have lots of photos to post of our adventures.

 

After the cruise we will be going to London to begin to pet and house sit in England for 3 months.  It will be fun to meet new people and to resit for 2 of our families from last year.  Bon Voyage and I will be posting soon.

Our RV relocation experience; what you need to know

We met a lot of very nice people, particularly in connection with our flat tire the first morning, which happened to be a Saturday.
After our first night on the road we woke to this flat tire.  RV flat tireRVs nowadays don’t have spare tires, which came as a surprise to the RV service support line you’re supposed to call if you have a problem. Practically, this matters a lot, as service trucks are equipped to change tires, not repair them. As it happened in our case, we were only two miles from town, so the driver took off the tire, took it to his shop and repaired it, and brought it back in under two hours. If we’d been a hundred miles farther west in the middle of South Dakota, this would have been a very long delay.  Between the late start and having to deal with the flat tire we lost one day of our time to drive to Las Vegas.
The screw we found in the tire was identical to a couple we found loose in the RV. Just sayin’ it could have been “supplied” in the pickup lot of the factory.
When I booked this adventure, and again when we picked up the RV, I asked if roadside assistance was included, and was told that it was. So I didn’t extend our AAA coverage to include RVs. Turns out, “it’s included” means “we arrange it, but you pay for it.”
Apollo ( the rental company that purchased the RVs and for whom we were locating them) has a great business model for preventing giving you a credit. They collect $1000 as a deposit, not just a hold but an actual charge, and refund it at the end. So you have to pay for the tire repair, and there is no way they’re gonna give you any credit for that, or the loss of the extra day you bought. In fact, their logic about the latter was “Well, you got 10 days for $1 each and 2 days for $145 each. That’s $25 a day average, I can give you that…”
We picked up the RV on a Friday. Although we arrived at 11am, there were dozens of parties also picking up their RVs and we didn’t get done until about 4pm. The briefing was … brief. The water tank had never been filled or tested. You know, the one they say to sanitize and flush before use. The sewer hose was stuck in the carrier, and without fittings. The holding tank valves hadn’t been closed, so when we tested the drains, water ran out. But the A/C and heater worked, the slides didn’t get stuck, and 90% of the cabinet and drawer hardware was correctly installed and stayed shut.  Sometimes going around corners the fridge door would suddenly open and the contents would crash to the floor.
The RV was a Winnebago Outlook 27D, which uses a Ford E450 base and got about 7.5 mpg overall. Driving it varied from very smooth, on a good road with no wind and under 60mph,  to a highly stressful experience when all those conditions were reversed and you’re being passed by a semi at 80mph, in which case it feels like you’re driving a 27-foot sail.  There are a lot of roads in the midwest with 80mph speed limits. I never felt safe much above 72, so there were lots of times when those semis were charging past.  Plus if you have 3 people as we did, the third person is seat belted behind the table.  The seat is very uncomfortable for an adult as you are tossed around a lot and cannot see out the front window.
Wal-Mart is everywhere, and a great resource to RVers, because they sell EVERYTHING in one place (except, oddly, alcohol in Wyoming, for which you have to go next door), there’s always easy parking for huge vehicles, and the price is right.
Here’s our summary opinion of the RV experience: it was nice for a national park experience when you’re planning to spend a few days, and the alternatives are tenting or $350 lodge rooms.  Wow, at $14.08 a night, the senior rate in Yellowstone is unbeatable, even without any hookups. But driving it is kind of a pain, so it’s not so great for the road-trip experience, where you have to move 300 miles a day. We could also see that this mode would be stressful during summer, when RV parks fill up. Even in mid-May, it isn’t “the season” yet in Yellowstone, and places weren’t too hard to find along the way.