Housesit #3: Sleaford, Lincolnshire

Sept 16 – Oct 2, 2017

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Morning sun near Sleaford

Our third and final house sit for this trip was for 16 days in rural Lincolnshire, about 15 minutes out of the town of Sleaford. Leaving Liverpool, we took a leisurely route through the Peak District, stopping for coffee just south of Manchester to meet with some longtime Facebook friends, Ian and Pauline, and we arrived at our destination at about 4pm. Our hosts were leaving the next morning and so we had the evening to get to know one another and learn everything we’d need to know about the pets, the house, and the yard.

This would be our longest and likely most challenging sit of the trip with four big dogs to care for – two English Setters and two Springer Spaniels – plus 13 laying hens who needed to be let in and out of the hen house each day, fed, watered, and eggs collected, and several acres of yard to care for (although Erik was excited to have a ride-on mower). As per usual, I chatted with the wife to get the lowdown on the kitchen appliances, washer, dryer, cleaning supplies, and wood stove while Erik visited with the husband to learn about the riding mower, the garage full of tools, the dog gear, and the car which we’d be using to take the dogs to a safe place to run.

After dinner, we brought in all of our stuff and got settled into our room which had a comfortable queen size bed, and private access to a full bathroom with large shower and a huge soaker tub (which was lovely but I never did use for some reason).  The next morning, Erik went off with our host to take the dogs for a short run and after breakfast, we drove them to the Grantham train station to send them on their way.

Lincolnshire, or Lincs as it is often referred to in England, is quite different from southern England.  Mostly agricultural with rolling fields of grain and vegetable crops, the landscape is decidedly flatter, but still picturesque.  We were located on the site of an old farm estate which had been converted into six homes.  The result was a small community of six families, all seemingly close-knit, although with busy lives.  There was a certain degree of coziness and yet we had plenty of space to roam.  We were staying in a large converted granary with a spacious living/dining room, kitchen, and conservatory downstairs, and two large bedrooms, bathroom, and two smaller rooms upstairs. In addition, there was an additional wing off the living room with a number of smaller rooms that were currently being used by the couple’s adult daughter (although she was away at the time.)

The house and yard was fully fenced with several acres of lawn, a large chicken run, and a detached garage and workroom. Every time the sun came out, we made a point of sitting outside on the patio or wandering around the yard and enjoy the landscape, including the lovely field of golden Canola next door.

We had mixed weather while we were there – some days were warm and sunny and other days, it was cool, windy, and showery – and fall was definitely in the air.  In the evenings, we often made a fire in the wood stove while we watched TV.

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Erik took this beautiful picture of Finlay

It didn’t take long to get into a daily routine on this sit.  Erik got up early (about 6am) to let the dogs out every morning, then he came back to bed and I got up little later and let the chickens out, filled the feeders, and fed the fish in the pond out back.  Then we’d have breakfast and take the dogs out for their daily run.

We were fairly close to a busy highway so it was necessary to load all four dogs into the back of the car (their car, not our little rental), and drive 3-4 minutes to a place where the Springers could run free, and the Setters could walk on the lead.  We usually did a loop down a gravel road and around a farmer’s field, then back to the car which was about two km.  But for every kilometre we walked the Setters, the Springers must have run three, and by the time we got back to the car, they collapsed with exhaustion. For the most part, the dogs slept much of the rest of the day as they are not young pups any more (8-9 years old).

During the day, I would check the chickens several times a day, and it was fun to collect the eggs. The chickens were old battery hens, past their prime, and so were no longer laying an egg a day.  From a dozen hens, we got 3-4 eggs each day which is not bad at all.  I brought the eggs into the house, washed them, and put them into the egg carton in the fridge.  In Europe, they don’t keep eggs in the fridge – not at the store, nor at home – but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave them out on the counter at room temperature.

During our first few days, we didn’t venture much further than the grocery store each day to pick up whatever we needed for supper, but we often took different routes into town to explore the countryside. Then after a few days, we took the opportunity to visit two National Trust sites near the larger town of Grantham.

The first was Woolsthorpe Manor where Isaac Newton grew up and where he came up with most of his theories in the 1600’s.  It was really interesting to walk through the old house and see the old orchard outside his bedroom window.  One of the old trees that had originally grown in the yard had been destroyed in a storm but a new tree grew from its roots and continues to grow to this day. Erik took a leaf from the tree and pressed it between the pages of a book of Dog Quotes that I bought for him.

The second NTS site was Belton House, another huge old home dating back to the 1600’s. What set this place apart was a fascinating “Below Stairs Tour” that showed us what it was like to work in these old places – very Downton Abbey.  Given my ancestry, I felt a much greater connection to the lives of the housekeeper and the gardener than I did to the lord and lady of the manor.  We went back three times in total, including once to enjoy a long walk around the beautifully landscaped grounds, with its “Orangery” full of tropical plants.

During our second week, we had two consecutive day trips to Lincoln, which was about 30 minutes drive north.  We left our car at the Park & Ride, which I highly recommend doing in some of the busier towns in the UK, and caught a city bus into town.  It was only a 10 minute ride with free parking and for less than £5 we had easy access to the main sights of the city.  

We purchased a special pass that allowed us full two day access to all tours of both the Lincoln Castle and the Cathedral.  Because we didn’t want to leave the dogs too long, we split our visit over two days and enjoyed it all a little more because we didn’t have to try to cram it all in.  There was plenty to see and do and we could definitely have spent more time there. A highlight was seeing one of the original copies of the Magna Carta, dating back to 1215 – it recently celebrated its 800th anniversary – and I was amazed to realize the impact the document still has today.

We really only had one difficult day during the visit. Early on during our stay, we had the doors to the sunroom propped open, and the dogs were outside roaming around.  Suddenly I heard them barking like crazy.  They did like to “say hello” to anyone who happens to be walking by, but this time they were particularly excited.  I went over to get them to settle down and saw that they had an escaped hen cornered against the fence. I quickly swooped in, picked her up, and put her back into the hen yard, making a mental note to keep a very close eye on the dogs/chicken.  We checked the perimeter of the yard but couldn’t find a place that the chicken could have made it’s way into the yard.  However, we suspected she may have flown up onto a low hanging branch and then dropped down onto the tempting grass on the other side of the fence.

Then, about a week later, I went outside to call the dogs into the house because I was going to close up the sunroom door but they didn’t respond.  I went to investigate and found three of them were standing in a circle around something on the ground, while the fourth was running up to Erik to “tell” him something. They had a captured an escaped chicken. This time there had been no barking, and the chicken must have strayed far enough from the fence that they could easily grab her.

She was still alive but was obviously in distress and clearly injured beyond saving.  I took three of the dogs into the house, and Erik had to put a collar and leash on the other dog to get him away from his prey.  These breeds are meant for bird hunting and it’s in their blood to catch a hen so it was hard to be angry with them. But it was so sad.

I thought about whether I’d be able to put the chicken down myself, and knew that it would be really hard for me to do.  It might be even harder for Erik to do it because he’s had no experience farming and is so caring about animals, however he agreed to do it.  I googled the most humane way, discussed it with Erik, and then went into the house and left him to it. It’s a sad part of having livestock but it happens, and neither of us wanted the bird to be in pain and die slowly.

Other than that one distressing episode, we enjoyed our time in this rural location. We had lovely day trips around the country side, making short visits to nearby towns such as  Southwell (with its very cool NTS Workhouse to visit), as well as the Cranford RAF museum just a few miles down the road.  We also enjoyed watching the small planes taking off and landing and practicing cool aerial maneuvers at RAF Cranwell next door. We only went out to eat a couple of times – once for Indian food with some fifth cousins that I met on Ancestry.com, and another time for Sunday Roast Lunch at the restaurant just a 5 min walk away.

On the final day, we did a general house clean, packed up most of our stuff, and drove to Grantham at midnight to pick up our hosts from the train station.  We stayed over one more night and then said our goodbyes in the morning.  One of the nicest things about house sitting is making new friends and this was no exception. We really enjoyed getting to know the couples at each stay and it was particularly nice to be able to spend at least one night to get to know each other as well as staying in contact frequently during our stay.

The next morning we drove 90 minutes to Cambridge, and stayed at the beautiful Anstey Hall (a real treat for us) just outside of the city.  We used the Park and Ride to get into the city, took a long walk around the lovely old university buildings, and enjoyed watching  the punting boats on the River Cam.  The next day we drove to Horley, near Gatwick airport, and checked into the same B&B we had stayed in seven weeks earlier.  We left a suitcase there and flew to Crete the next morning for a week of fun in the sun before heading home. What a wonderful trip!

Next Up:  Crete (it was really just some R&R at an all-inclusive resort, not a visit to a Greek island. 😉

 

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Peak District National Park
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Heading out for a run

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Good morning ladies!

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Checking for eggs
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Woolsthorpe Manor
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Belton House gardens
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Belton House Orangery
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Belton House gardens

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Belton House Library
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Lincoln Cathedral from the castle wall
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Lincoln Cathedral
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Flying Buttress

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Anstey Hall fancy room
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Punters on the Cam
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Cambridge
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Cambridge

 

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Liverpool – Elizabeth Jane Sinclair

In memory of my Great-Great-Grandmother:
Elizabeth Jane Sinclair Simpson
Aug 26, 1847 – June 6, 1876

Our trip to Liverpool was short, only two nights, but it had a special purpose – we were going to find out more about the life of my GG-Grandmother, Elizabeth Sinclair and her family, before she left Liverpool on a bride ship in 1870.  Only 22 years old, Elizabeth made the six month journey to Fort Victoria with a matron and 22 other young women, where she had agreed to work as a servant for at least one year, and then hoped to marry one of the many single men who had settled in this new country.  Although Elizabeth did manage to do both, as well as give birth to four children – her life was short and sad, and she died only six years after arriving in Victoria. This is her story.

Elizabeth was born in 1847 to John Sinclair and Mary Davies in the village of Sefton, just west of Liverpool. My plan was to visit some of the places that John and his family lived between 1818-1871.

Elizabeth’s father was actually born John “Shingler”, in the village of Prees, about an hour east of Liverpool. The youngest son of a tailor, John had at least ten siblings that I’ve been able to track down. At least two of his older brothers were tailors like their father and so John likely had to look further to find his fortune, possibly explaining how he eventually ended up as a gardener in Liverpool.  The earliest census data available, 1841, indicated he was a labourer, age 20, living near Prees, with his widowed mother, age 65.

And so we found ourselves making our first stop to visit the villages of Wem and Prees. We left Cheltenham early and drove for about an hour along the busy M5 before we turned off to the quieter roads of rural Shropshire, and began to wind our way through the countryside where my ancestors had once lived, several hundred years earlier.

We stopped first in the small town of Wem, where John’s father, Thomas Shingler, had died and was buried in 1823.  There was only one church that seemed likely so we stopped and took a few minutes to look at the gravestones, but couldn’t find his name. Many of the 1700 and early 1800 stones are so weathered they are illegible, and of course, many have disappeared over the years so I hadn’t been too optimistic.

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St Chad’s in Prees, where John Sinclair was baptized in 1818.

Next we drove to Prees, only a few minutes further, and found the lovely church of St Chad’s.  Erik found a side door that opened and so we were able to go inside and see the old font where many of my ancestors, including John, were baptised, and then have a wander through the old graveyard.  I knew that John’s mother, Elizabeth Done Shingler, had died in 1855, and was buried at St Chad’s, but again, there was no grave marker remaining.  However, I did find one stone belonging to John’s cousin’s, Joseph Shingler, and so I knew I was in the right place. We continued our drive to Liverpool and over the next two days, visited a number of places where the Sinclair family had lived.

Mary Davies and John Shingler(Sinclair) were married on Oct 13, 1846, at St Philip’s Church, in downtown Liverpool.  The church is now gone but I found a photo of it online from the late 1800’s.  Mary was illiterate, signing her name as X on the marriage certificate.  John could write, but just barely, and he spelled his name differently on every document.  On the marriage certificate, he wrote his last name “Sinkler”, and you can see where he had written over top of some of the letters to try to correct it.  Finding his Shingler birth records wasn’t easy, but with the help of some people on a Shropshire genealogy forum, we were able to figure out his name was originally Shingler. His daughter Elizabeth’s birth was registered as Sinckler, but the next generation eventually changed the last name to Sinclair and maintained consistency from then on.

The certificate also shows that John was living downtown on Finch St at the time, and that he worked as a gardener.  HIs bride, Mary, was born in Denbigh, Wales, and was the daughter of a labourer, David Davies.  Unfortunately, there are so many “Davies” families in Wales, it’s almost impossible to find Mary’s birth certificate with any certainty, but I believe she was born about 1823. Erik and drove to Blackburne Street to see the area where Mary had been living when she married John. Interestingly enough, as we walked down the street, we found ourselves at the Liverpool School of Art where John Lennon had attended.

John Sinclair worked as a gardener for most of his life and it seems that he moved his family around a lot.  I have census data for 1851, 1861, and 1871 and each decade, they were living in a different area in and around Liverpool. It looks like John worked for some wealthy families, sometimes living in terraced housing nearby, and other times, living in a gardener’s cottage on site.

Elizabeth was the eldest of five children. She had a brother, George, born in 1850, in Cheshire, across the Mersey River (and the 1851 census puts the family near Rock Point.) Two more brothers – Joseph (1854) and John (1856) – were born in Wem, Shropshire, where their father had been brought up. John’s mother died in 1855 so it’s possible the family had moved back to the area to look after her in her declining years.

Elizabeth’s youngest sibling was her sister Mary, who was born in 1859, near Ruthin, Wales, not far from where her mother had grown up. I guess it’s possible that the family was living near Mary’s parents while she waited to give birth again.

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Victoria Rd where the family lived in 1861

Anyway, we finally find the whole family together on the 1861 census, in Gerrard’s Cottages on Victoria Road, in Aigburth, a suburb of eastern Liverpool. I’ve learned that there were a number of terraced streets in the area and a lot of gardeners and other tradesmen lived there, working for local estates. This census shows John Sinclair as a gardener and servant, living with his wife Mary, and their children Elizabeth age 13, John, 10, Joseph 6, John 4, and Mary 2.  Erik and I drove to Victoria Road and I walked down the street and took some photos of the current buildings, although very likely none of the row houses from the 1860’s are still standing. Still, I enjoyed standing quietly in the places where my family had lived so long ago – it gave me goosebumps.

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Oak Hall, where John worked as a gardener in the 1870’s.

By the 1871 census, the family had moved again, this time to the gardener’s cottage at Oak Hall, a large home owned by local attorney and landowner, William Cooper.  John and Mary Sinclair only had three children left at home – Joseph 17, John 15, and Mary 11.  Their older son George was already living on this own, and their eldest daughter Elizabeth had left for Victoria the year before. Young Joseph and John were working as gardeners with their father, and Mary was in school. Erik and I were able to see the big house, and also the location of a small property called Oak Cottage that was originally part of the estate.  Whether this was the gardener’s cottage is unclear, but it did give me an idea of where and how my family was living at the time Elizabeth left Liverpool.

So why did Elizabeth leave her family and board the bride ship, Alpha, in 1870 to travel halfway around the world?  I can only imagine.  Knowing that she was already 22, unmarried, and likely had few prospects, perhaps she and her family saw this as an opportunity and maybe even an adventure.  Or perhaps, she had no other choice and was terrified.  I guess I’ll never know. But as I stood on the Albert Docks in downtown Liverpool, and looked out along the Mersey River towards the sea, I felt a little choked up imagining her standing here and saying goodbye to her parents and siblings, knowing she would likely never see them again.

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The Albert Docks in Liverpool.

In the 1860’s, the London Female Emigration Society was working with a similar society in the new colony of British Columbia to find young women of “good character” to travel to BC to work as servants to the upper class families, and/or become wives to the many single miners, farmers, and fisherman. Wealthy families were in dire need of good “help”, and the Emigration Society believed that the uncivilized men of BC needed the more cultured influence of a British wife to recreate a society like the one back home. The Society encouraged young women to come to the new world and usually subsidized their travel costs in return for a minimum of a year of service to a family living in Fort Victoria.

And so, on January 10, 1870, my great-great-grandmother found herself on a ship sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, around Cape Horn, and up the coast of the Americas, landing in Victoria Harbour on June 14, a full six months later. What she thought when she landed, I cannot imagine, but I do know that the people of Victoria, in particular the single men, were very excited by the ship’s arrival. Luckily for Elizabeth, the crossing was a pleasant, and the Victoria Colonist newspaper reported that:

“…it was gratifying how that, although the passage was not a quick one, it was remarkably free from any disagreeable features. Not an accident; not a storm; not a case of sickness. The immigrants were all cleanly, healthy, and well behaved, and are unanimous in their praise of Captain Neilson.”

We can assume that Elizabeth had a position arranged once she arrived in order to fulfill her contract, but exactly one year later, on June 10, 1871, she married my great-great-grandfather, Elijah Simpson. Elijah, born in Essex, England, had lived in Fort Victoria from the age of seven. He and his family had come to work on one of the Hudson Bay Company farms near Victoria, in 1853. Elijah owned farmland and worked with his father, and supplemented his income with a job in town.

Elijah and Elizabeth had a daughter, Jennie Elizabeth, in 1872, and a son, William George (my great grandfather) in 1873. I like to think that Elijah wrote letters home to Elizabeth’s parents so she was able to let them know they had grandchildren.

Sadly, Elijah soon became ill, and in 1874, Elizabeth’s new life took a turn for the worse when her husband died of tuberculosis on Christmas Eve. She now found herself alone with two young children, and pregnant with a third. Baby John Elijah was born in March 1875 and Elizabeth married a local farmer, Richard Maltby a few months later, no doubt out of necessity. At least she now had a husband to support her young family, and he had a wife to take care of his home.  But there was more sadness to come, as new baby John died of atrophy from vomiting that winter, and Elizabeth once again found herself pregnant.

By this time, Elizabeth herself was beginning to show signs of tuberculosis and no doubt struggled through a difficult fourth pregnancy with advanced TB, while trying to care for her two small children. Baby Frederick Maltby was born in April, and poor Elizabeth died of TB a few months later, in June of 1876.  After only six years in the new country, at the age of 28, she was gone, leaving two small children orphaned, and a newborn son with her new husband, Richard.

Richard Maltby kept his son, but put Elizabeth’s children – little Jennie age 4, and William George, almost 3 –  up for adoption. I’ve sometimes wondered why one of Elijah’s siblings didn’t take in the children, but most were still in their teens, and the one sister who might have been able, was newly married and perhaps her husband didn’t want the responsibility of her niece and nephew. Ultimately, a childless couple from New Westminster, Joseph and Martha Turnbull, adopted the two children and raised them as their own.  I’m happy to say that my Grandmother (William’ George’s daughter) remembers them as kind and caring grandparents so the two children had a good life in the end.

Elizabeth Jane Sinclair Simpson is buried with her baby son, John, next to her husband Elijah, in an unmarked grave in Ross Bay cemetery, and I always go to visit them whenever I am in Victoria. I’ve always felt a special attachment to Elijah and Elizabeth and some day, I’d like to buy a marker for their grave.  For many years, I have wanted to visit Liverpool to learn more about Elizabeth’s roots and this trip enabled me to come full circle and find some closure to this sad part of my family history.

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Churchyard in Wem, where 3G-Grandpa, Thomas Shingler is most likely buried.
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The village of Wem, where the Shingler’s lived in the early 1800’s
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The area where John lived with his mother on the 1841 census
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St Chad’s where John was baptized in 1818
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Inside St Chad’s
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Cousin Joseph Shingler’s marker at St Chad’s
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Oak Hall, where John and Mary Sinclair worked in 1871. No longer a grand estate
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Oak Cottage – slight possibility this was the gardener’s cottage in 1871
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Blackburne St where Mary Davies lived when she married John Sinclair in 1846
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Victoria Rd where the family lived in 1861
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St Michael’s in Garston where Elizabeth’s Mother, Mary, was buried in 1876, just 4 months after her daughter died in Victoria.  Did she know her daughter had died?
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The Albert Docks in Liverpool.
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Statue of a family of emigrants leaving Liverpool. It made me think of Elizabeth’s departure.
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The Beatles. After all, we were in Liverpool 🙂

Next up: Our Third Housesit in Rural Lincolnshire

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Housesit #2 – Stour Row, North Dorset

IMG_3120Sept 4-13, 2017

We had two days off between housesits which we spent in the Cotswolds, and then we headed south for a 2 1/2 hour drive to the small village of Stour Row, near Shaftesbury, Dorset.  Along the way, we made a stopover for lunch in the famous city of Bath, leaving the car in the Lansdown Park & Ride, and catching the bus  that left every 15 minutes, and dropped us off right downtown (£5.50 return for the 2 of us). The city was quite beautiful but a bit too big, busy, touristy, and pricey for my liking, and the hour we spent there was plenty.  I didn’t have any urge to spend £20-35 each to visit the famous geothermal pools, as we have plenty of hot springs at home in British Columbia. And so we were back on the road around 2:45, and arrived at our next house sit right on schedule at 4pm.

This time we were sitting for a young couple who were on their way to Chile to run the Patagonian International Marathon.  Laura has set herself a challenge to run a marathon on all 7 continents in one calendar year.  So far she’s run the London Marathon, the Everest Marathon, and the Banff Marathon.  Apart from the physical challenge, she is running for charity and you can donate here if you are interested. Her husband, a well known mountaineer, was at one time the youngest person to climb the seven summits, reaching the top of Everest on his 20th birthday.  Clearly, these two are an extraordinary young couple and we really enjoyed getting to know them.

We had two lovely mini pointer crosses to care for on this sit – a male who was very fun and rambunctious, and a female who was very shy and cautious.  Both are rescue dogs from Cyprus and unfortunately, given her demeanour, there’s no doubt that the female has been terribly abused in the past.  We had to take very special care with her and worked hard to gain her trust. Both dogs were very sweet and it was a joy to care for them for the week.

We had a really nice room with a super comfortable queen bed and a private ensuite and our bedroom window looked out onto a courtyard.  The cottage was a converted stable and was nicely finished with a open plan for the kitchen, living, and dining room, two bedrooms and an office.

We were at the edge of a tiny village, and we could walk right out the door to the footpaths running through open fields and into the woods.  There was an excellent farm shop about 2 km away in East Stour, and a larger Tesco and other stores in the town of Shaftesbury, only a 5km drive away.

When we arrived, the couple took us out for a walk in the fields to show us where to run the dogs, and then showed us around the house.  Once again, we were left with detailed written and verbal instructions, and we connected on Whatsapp to stay in touch during the trip. They made us supper and we visited for the evening, getting to know each other. Their plan to was leave around 9am the next day, and so we were all off to bed by 10.  The dogs are pretty funny and know their routine very well. At 10pm, they get up and walk to the bedroom and wait for their beds to be moved, then they curl up and go to sleep. Seriously, you could set your watch by them.

It took the little female pup several days to start to relax around us, and she spent a good part of her day snuggled in her doggy bed in the office where she felt safe and comfortable. However, she enjoyed her walks which were kept brief due to a sore paw, and we often went in to sit with her in the office for a visit and snuggles.

The boisterous male pup was hilarious and full of beans.  We had to keep the bedroom doors closed because he loved to run off with socks and shoes if given the chance.  He really enjoyed his longer walks in the fields and Erik would often take him in the afternoon while I stayed home with the little girl.

We didn’t head off anywhere exciting on this segment, being more than content to sit home, read, watch TV, knit, and go for walks. The weather was quite cool and showery much of the time but we were always able to get out for walks between the showers.

We made a trip to the grocery store every day, and a couple of times we walked around the town of Shaftesbury to see some of the sights, including “Gold Hill”, the famous steep cobbled street that was featured in a 1973 Hovis Bread commercial.  It has been used as a film location several times now and in fact, one afternoon when we were walking around town, we saw some filming going on.

Near the end of our 9 days, Steve, our friend from Bournemouth, picked us up and we went into town for supper. We had a good catch up, not having seen him since our last visit to the UK in 2014.

On our last full day, we drove 20 minutes north to visit a National Trust site – Stourhead – a beautiful old Palladian mansion with gorgeous sprawling gardens.  Luckily, the sun came out for a little while, so we enjoyed a long walk around the lake, where we took many photos of the park-like surroundings.  Afterwards, we drove to the Compton Abbas Airfield with its grass runway, where we had a nice lunch and watched the small planes take off and land. It was a nice day trip, and the only day that we spent 4-5 hours away from home.

That evening, we tidied the house, swept and vacuumed, and generally made sure everything was in tip top shape.  We picked up bread, milk, butter etc, and replaced anything we had eaten from the cupboards. Originally the couple had expected to be home very late the next day and we had intended to stay over that night before heading to Liverpool, but it turned out their flight landed at noon and so we were able to get away a day early.  We booked a B&B in Cheltenham for the night, and headed to Liverpool early the next morning, giving us more time to visit the city, so it worked out well.

Our little female pup had gradually been venturing out into the living room during the day a few times which was a good sign, but quite amazingly, on the morning that her family was due home, she came into the living room, sat down, and didn’t want to go back into her safe space in the bedroom. I thought she might need to go out for a pee, so I took her out briefly, but when we got back, she went straight back to the carpet and sat there waiting.  Eventually I brought her bed out into the living room (which had been unsuccessful on previously occasions), and she happily climbed in and curled up for a snooze.  I really do think she knew somehow, that her “mom and dad” were on their way home that day.

I do love the excitement when the families come home at the end of a long trip.  The dogs are always so excited and happy!  It’s wonderful that they are able to stay in their own home when their people are travelling, and they do settle in and get to know the caretakers pretty quickly, but they are always happy when mom and dad are home again.

We chatted for 15-20 minutes to let them know how everything had gone (in addition to my daily updates on Whatsapp), and left them a card and a jar of chutney. They gave us a 4 pack of Chilean Beer which was fun to try, and we headed off for the 2 hours drive to Cheltenham, at about 2:30pm.

Overall, we were really happy with our second house sit.  We loved the house and the dogs, and had fun being a “homebody” in the lovely countryside.  And every time we hopped into the car for a drive, we marvelled at the beautiful green rolling hills.  I do loved the pastoral views of rural England.

And so now we are off to Liverpool for a few days to see the sights and to visit some places where my ancestors lived over 150 years ago. Can’t wait!

Next up: Liverpool!

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Bath
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Bath
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In her safe place
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You can tell he is mischievous 😉
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“Walkies”
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Beautiful countryside
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We had mixed weather, but the views were always beautiful
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Our next door “neigh”bour
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More gorgeous-ness
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Our back yard
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Famous “Gold Hill” in Shaftesbury. (Google the Hovis Bread commercial from 1970’s)
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Early morning dew
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Stourhead
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Stourhead Driveway
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The gardens of Stourhead
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The Udder Farm Shop

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Our First Housesit – Bretforton, UK

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Well it’s one down, two to go, and so far, we are giddy with excitement!  Our first house sit was a dream house with a really sweet, calm, well-behaved black lab, and two cute bunnies who lived out back.  As this was our first “job”, we really had no idea what to expect, or even what questions to ask, and although things went really well overall, we did learn a few things. In order to respect people’s privacy, I won’t be posting photos of people’s homes, giving names of family or pets, or provide any other identifying information, but I can certainly share about our experiences.  I did ask for permission to share photos of their pets out on walks around the area.

When we arrived at our home for the week, the pup came running out to greet us and the couple brought us in, showed us around the house and yard, and tried to fill us in on all of the things we’d need to know. We swapped contact info, and as I had my iPhone with a UK SIM card, I was able to text or use WhatsApp to keep them updated. After a whirlwind tour of the house, we went out for supper to chat more casually and get to know one another.

Everyone went to bed early as the family had to be up at 2:30am for an early morning flight, and the dog came into our room and slept on the floor right away. I left the bedroom door open so that puppy could go out for a goodbye visit in the middle of the night if she wanted.  When she came back into the bedroom at 3am, I knew the family was off.

When we got up in the morning, we got dressed and went straight out to take the dog for her morning walk. We knew roughly where to go – out the back gate, onto the lane, and then take one of the many footpaths that criss cross this country. The first field had about 20-30 calves which had recently been separated from their mothers and they were eager to come to visit us, looking for food. By the end of the week, they had figured out we weren’t the farmers and mostly ignored us, but it was really fun those first few days as they crowded around us a couple of times. I will post a cute video below.

As an aside, I absolutely LOVE England’s policy of public footpaths on all property.  Every field has a gate of some sort – kissing gates, regular latched gates, steps up and over a rock wall, and more – and the public is expected to act responsibly when on private property.  That means keeping pets away from livestock, picking up dog poop, staying on pathways so as not to trample crops, and not leaving trash.  And as far as I can see, people seem to respect it and of all the footpaths I’ve been on in the UK, I haven’t seen any messes left by walkers or tourists.

Anyway, there we were, walking the footpaths with our lovely pup, in the early morning, while the grass was still wet with dew – heaven!  Although she seemed very well behaved and the family told us she would be fine off-leash, we were hesitant to do so for the first 2-3 days, until we were certain she’d come when called.  However, we soon realized how well she listened and eventually let her run when in the fields.  We always carried treats with us and rewarded her each time she came when called, and we kept her on leash when on the roads or in fields with livestock.

When we got home from our walk, Erik fed the dog while I fed and watered the rabbits, and then finally, it was time for a cup of coffee! There was bread, milk, and eggs left for for us to use, and we were encouraged to use up any food that might spoil while they were away, as well as condiments/spices etc.  We did use a few things, but most of the time, we bought and cooked our own food, or ate out at the pub.  I would have used our own coffee, but they had a Nespresso machine and I couldn’t find anywhere that sold the capsules. I found out at our next sit, that you can buy them at Tesco…  Ah well, live and learn.

The first day, we walked around the village to get our bearings, checked out the pub close by and bought a book about the history of the pub, and picked up some groceries at the village shop.  It seems that a lot of these small villages will have a community shop, and unlike small groceries stores at home, the prices are very reasonable.  I suspect this is because for the most part, the shops are manned by volunteers, with only a few paid staff who take care of the books and the ordering etc. I think it’s a great idea!

It was fun to be able walk around the village with the dog because lots of people would stop to chat – some knew our pup and so by proxy, knew who we were, and others just stopped to chat because we were strangers.

The Brits really love and care for their dogs.  Everywhere you go, you see people with their pets and it’s a lovely sight.  They really take responsibility for their animals and most pets seemed to be very well mannered. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why most pubs allow dogs inside.  In fact, it’s almost surprising to walk into a pub and NOT see a dog sitting quietly under a table. It was a custom that Erik was anxious to try.

Bretforton was a gorgeous little village with the typical yellow Cotswold stone homes with either stone or thatched roofs, and a typical town square called the Cross. Our house was near the square, and very close walking distance to a 600 year old pub, called the Fleece Inn.  Originally a small three room peasant farm house, succeeding generations of the same “Byrd” family added onto the home over time until it became the larger, rambling building it is now.

In 1848, Henry Byrd decided to open the house as a pub in order to make a living but he soon died and his widow, Ann Byrd, took over. The next three generations who ran the pub were all women – successive daughters and granddaughters of the Henry and Ann Byrd, ending with Lola Taplin who died in 1977.  Local stories suggest she was quite a character, and although bit surly, was much respected. Some say she occasionally haunts the place by moving furniture around in the bar at night, and sometimes throwing food across the room (she never allowed food in the pub when she ran the place).

Having no heirs, Lola bequeathed the Inn to the National Trust who has hired managers to run it since then. The current and arguably most successful landlord, Nigel Smith, has done a great job managing and marketing the Inn, despite weathering a devastating chimney fire that destroyed the thatch roof in 2004.  However, the community came out in droves to create a human chain and removed the many antiques, so all was not lost.  Eighteen months of renovations eventually brought the Inn back to its former glory with three cosy rooms surrounding the small main bar, as well as a kitchen and other offices, two rental rooms upstairs, and a medieval barn next door. There is a full events calendar posted on the website, with many special events, weddings, and local musicians performing. Every time we went over, the Inn seemed to be a going concern, both inside, and out on the acre of parklike orchard.  It was truly the quintessential old English Pub.

During our week in Bretforton, we took several short trips to the surrounding areas, visiting Chipping Campden, where we had started the Cotswold Way in 2014, and  Broadway, a very pretty but touristy village, where we went for a full afternoon tea in the garden of Tisane’s Tea Room.  We shared cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, turkey and cranberry sandwiches, scones with strawberry preserves and thick,clotted cream, and two kinds of cake – Lemon Drizzle and Victoria Sponge.  I was so full that I didn’t need any supper that evening.

On another showery afternoon, we visited Snowshill Manor, a fascinating old house stuffed full of odd handicrafts and antiques collected by the eccentric Charles Wade over his lifetime. He himself lived in a tiny cottage next to the huge manor that he purchased solely to house his collections. Like so many others, he died without heirs and donated his home and collection to the National Trust.

Another afternoon, we drove a few kilometers down the road and walked a 4 km loop up and down Dover’s Hill.  It was part of the Cotswold Way and we enjoyed revisiting some of the views we’d seen a few years earlier. The sun even came out for a little while that day!

During the week, I cooked a few meals and we ate at the pub a few times.  We had Sunday Lunch (roast beef dinner) at the Fleece Inn on Sunday afternoon, take out Fish and Chips on Tuesday, and Pie and Pint night on Wednesday (that was a delicious hand made chicken and leek pie with a pint of beer).  On Thursday night, we went to the pub after dinner to listen to Folk Music night.  We had prime seats in the little Pewter Room which only held about 14 people normally, as the musicians began to file in around 9pm.  There were about 10 musicians and about the same number of spectators, but Erik and I had so much fun that we stayed long after most people had left.  A young man, Matthew, who played the button accordion sat at our table, and we had great fun chatting with him. One of the men sang the Springhill Mining Disaster song for us, and then later, Matthew invited us to come see the Morris Dancers practice in Stratford Upon Avon on Saturday.

Morris Dancing is a folk dance normally done only by the men (although there are now women’s “sides” as well).  The men wear colourful costumes with bells on their knees, and usually include sticks and handkerchiefs, and sometimes even swords in their complex steps.  Each town has a “Side” or group with their own costume and dances and they enjoy meeting with other Sides to learn new dances and then lift a pint or two.

Anyway, we had a super night and didn’t head home until 1:30am.  Erik had asked me several times from midnight on if I was ready to go, but I wasn’t.  LOL…

On Friday, we started to get our stuff collected and packed up, and did some housework – vacuuming, sweeping, dusting etc.  The family wasn’t expected home until about 1:30 Saturday afternoon so we had time to clean bathrooms and do laundry after we got up on our last morning. I made a batch of ginger cookies to leave for the family and by the time they arrived home, we were all packed and ready to go, and puppy had had one last walk, bunnies were fed, and the house was clean and tidy. We had a brief visit to tell them how things went, and then said our goodbyes and were on our way to Blockley for a couple of days before heading south to our next house sit.

Overall, we really enjoyed our first house sit, and it actually exceeded our exceptions, if that’s possible. It was lovely to have a dog around again and I felt I really got to know her during our week visit. We enjoyed taking her out for walks out in the fields several times a day. The rabbits were easy to care for and fun to watch, and we never felt constricted in our activities because we had animals to care for – rather they enhanced our visit.

We had time to do 2-3 short trips to nearby towns and were never away for more than four hours by design rather than necessity.  We find we are usually tired and want to be home by that time anyway.  Most days, we just enjoyed hanging out at home – reading, walking, cooking, and watching TV a few evenings.  Erik even had a guitar to play and I had a piano so I was able to practice my Claire de Lune every day.

I can’t say enough positive things about the house as well – it was a beautiful, old (as in 1600’s old), rambling, manor house with three storeys and many little cozy spots.  They had added a new sunny conservatory, and as it was hot for our first 2-3 days there, we enjoyed the folding doors that opened up to the patio and the gorgeous yard. Our room was large and comfortable with a queen size bed, and we had two bathrooms to choose from on the same floor.  I loved the crooked old wood floors that tipped and tilted and made you feel as though you’d had a few too many pints, and our corner room had windows looking out to the pub and the orchard park next door. What’s not to like?!

House sitting is definitely not for everyone though.  You have to be content to be a home body for the time you are there, and you have to love animals and enjoy caring for them. It’s easy to love your own pets, but not always so with other people’s, so that part is important. And are you comfortable living in someone else’s home?  If you’ve done lots of AirBnB, you might find this part no big deal, but some people might not enjoy that part. For us, it was great, and it was interesting to slip into other people’s lives for a short while.

It’s also important to choose your housesits carefully. Make sure you are in the kind of place you would enjoy spending time – do you prefer city life?  Small town?  Village? Or a rural spot? Do you loves dogs, or cats, or do you prefer the greater challenge of caring for farm animals?  What house and yard work is expected?  We watered the pots almost every day, and there must have been at least twenty of them around the the front and back patios, and we had specific times we needed to be home to walk and feed animals.  We didn’t have to cut the grass or weed the garden at this home, but we were willing to, but I loved having little household chores to do as it kept me busy and made me feel at home.

My biggest learning curve was worrying about accidentally damaging something while we were there.  Obviously, we were being extra careful when using other people’s possessions, but after the second day, when I inadvertently melted the handle of a pretty utensil, I fretted and worried for several days about what to do.  (I had assumed the colourful handle was silicone and had left the spoon leaning inside a pot on the hot stove, only to find it softened, dented, scratched, and partially melted.)  I googled the brand and found it was discontinued (due to that actual problem), but I was able to contact a local supplier and order a replacement online.

Once I had solved the problem, I messaged the homeowner and told them what had happened.  Not surprisingly, she told me not to worry about it and that I hadn’t needed to replace the item, but I’m still really glad I did, because I think it’s the right thing to do.  From that point on, every time I noticed a knick in a bowl or a scratch on a table, I worried that I might have done it.  LOL, it was quite silly to fret, I know, but I couldn’t help it.  I decided that on our next house sit, I will ask about any dishes or items that we should avoid because they have great value, either financially or sentimentally, and I will take a close look, and perhaps even take photos of scratches on tables and etc so I can tell if I’ve done anything.

After the house sit, I did google the situation on some housesitting blogs that mentioned that some housesitters often videotape parts of the house so they know how to put everything back exactly the way it was when the homeowners left.  We didn’t have need to move anything around so that wasn’t necessary, but I did like the idea of taking pictures of pre-existing damage, like I do when I rent a car, only in this case, it’s strictly for my own information, and not to try to prove that something was already there.

And so now, we have two days off, to visit the town of Blockley (only 20 minutes away) and the surrounding area.  We will stay at a lovely B&B built in an old mill, and check out where Father Brown was filmed, as well as take a walk around Upper and Lower Slaughter, and visit Chastletown House.

Next Up: Our Second Housesit in Stour Row, near Shaftesbury, in Dorset

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Lots of brambles but they aren’t sweet like Blackberries
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Lots of Stinging Nettles too!
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The Fleece Inn
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The Fleece
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All tired out after playing fetch
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Early morning beauty
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Two happy campers
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The biggest apple I’ve ever seen. I made an Apple Crisp with one apple.
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So many flowers in the yard
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Inside the pub. Note the white circles on the floor to deter witches
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The bar
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Cute calves looking for food
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Bretforton Silver Band played this afternoon
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It’s Pimm’s O’clock!
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More sheepses at Snowshill
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Pint and Pie Night
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So tasty…..
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Dover’s Hill
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Dover’s Hill
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Folk Night Fun
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Our last morning

 

Cornwall – Part Two

The second segment of our visit to Cornwall includes stops along the way on our drive from Penzance to Port Isaac, a bit about Port Isaac itself, and the drive to our first housesitting adventure in Bretforton.

We left Penzance around 10am and decided on a fairly direct route to Port Isaac with a couple of stops planned along the way. Originally, we had wanted to go to St Ives, but we’d heard stories about more traffic gridlock caused by a man with a bunch of wives, sacks, cats, and kittens….. no seriously, it was just another touristy town with no place to park so we didn’t even try.

And so our first stop was at Holywell Bay with its pair of small rocky islands just off-shore, and where some of the Poldark beach scenes are filmed.  As luck would have it, the NTS manages the property so we saved the £6 parking fee. As we walked down to the beach, there was a huge dune where kids were sliding down on boogie boards as if it were snow. They were having a blast!

The tide was out so we walked the width of the beach and back, and then found a shady spot to sit for awhile.  There were lots of families there, and again, many of them had the windbreak tarps set up. Some sat near the dunes, some by the shore, and others by the stream that wound down to the sea.  Happy kids were everywhere on this sunny day.

We stayed for about an hour and a half and then drove the last 90 minutes to Port Isaac.  Again, we skipped a stop we’d considered earlier – the beautiful beaches of Padstow – but we knew it would be busy, and we really wanted to have enough time to spend in Port Isaac since it was just an overnight visit.

We arrived in Port Isaac around 1pm and found our B&B, which was about 1km out of town, and much more affordable than the in-town spots. We had a nice room with a lots of space, access to a fridge, washer and dryer, and pretty outdoor patio.  Although we were an hour early, we saw our host, Roy, out working in the garden and we asked if we could leave the car as we were hungry and wanted to walk into the town to eat.

He let us check in right away, and then gave us a ride into town, dropping us off at the school where “Louisa” works, on the show “Doc Martin” –  and yes, you aren’t imagining things, there does seem to be a theme to this trip – we are often visiting film locations for many of the British TV shows Erik and I enjoy watching all winter.  First Poldark, now Doc Martin, and then later we will go to Blockley where Father Brown is filmed.

We went straight to the Chapel Cafe that we’d read about on Trip Advisor, and seconded by our hosts, and had a delicious lunch – I had fresh crab sandwich and Erik had the fish fingers sandwich. I highly recommend the restaurant which is housed in the same building as an art gallery/store.

After lunch, we wandered around the pretty village.  We picked up a Doc Martin guidebook map and checked out the Doc’s house/surgery, Louisa’s house and workplace, Bert Large’s restaurant, and a few other spots.  We climbed up the hill to get a wonderful view of the town and surrounding area and took lots of photos. It was so much fun!

Around 4pm, we walked uphill all the way back to the B&B – I think it was closer to a mile than a kilometre – and then sat out in the sunshine on our patio and read and chatted with our hosts – Roy and Christine.  We were both full from our big lunch, and too lazy to walk all the way back into town for dinner, so we pulled out all the random leftover snack food that we had kicking around, and ate it out on the patio.  Then Christine brought us our Cornish scones with strawberry preserves and clotted cream – yum! By the way, in Cornwall, you must put the preserves on first, and THEN the cream on top.

The next day, we had an excellent breakfast in the dining room of the main house that was filled with antique treasures, then we packed up, said our goodbyes, and headed out by 10am.

We had seven hours to do a four hour drive to our first house sit in the village of Bretforton in the Cotswolds, so we figured we’d make at least one stop along the way. We could have taken the A30 to Exeter and driven the big M5 freeway to save an hour of driving, but we decided to take the quieter A39 that hugged the coast and passed through Barnstaple before finally connecting to the M5.

When we saw the road got close to the sea, we turned off and spent an hour at Widemouth Bay. It was another pretty beach with the tide out and loads of families spending their last weekend at the seashore. Gradually the clouds crept in as we  enjoyed our last walk along the beach for this trip to the UK and so it was time to get back on the road.

We continued our drive toward Barnstaple where we briefly stopped for gas and decided to have a sandwich and use the washrooms since we didn’t know what lay ahead.  It turned out to be an excellent decision because an hour later we were stuck on the parking lot that they call the M5 on the Friday of the busiest bank holiday weekend of the year.  We had expected to be in Bretforton about 4pm, which would have been an hour early, but the traffic was so bad, that we finally turned off the M5 and took smaller roads a few hours later in Cirencester.  We eventually arrived at our housesit accommodation at 5:45pm.  What a long day!

The family was all ready for their trip to Spain and eager to show us around their beautiful home.  We were excited and trying to take in all of the information – how to use the stove, what to feed the dog and rabbits, where the vacuum was located, how to use the skeleton key locks, where to go for walks and groceries – the list was endless.

At 7, we went to the pub next door for supper and had an animated and enjoyable meal with the couple and their two daughters, who are aged 10 and 11.  We got back to the house by 8:30, and the family went straight to bed as they had to get up at 2:30 am (!) in order to get to the airport for their 4:30am flight (gotta love Ryanair).

Erik and I brought in our luggage and got settled into our own room to read for a little while before sleep, and Pom, our lovely, gentle, female black lab, came right into our room with us and slept on the floor.  It’s as if she already knew we’d be her caretakers for the week!

As we settled in for the night, we wondered what the next week was going to be like, but we both had a feeling it was going to great!

Next up: Our First House Sit

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Sliding down the dunes
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Holywell Bay
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Port Isaac, tide is out
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Doc Martin’s house
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The Pharmacy
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Louisa’s house
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Cheers from Port Isaac!

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Families on the beach
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This little guy didn’t want to go in the water
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Traffic gridlock on the M5
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I think I’m gonna like it here. 🙂

Cornwall – Part One

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Land’s End

Our first night along the drive to Cornwall was in Plymouth, Devonshire.  It was about halfway to our destination of Penzance, and seemed like a good place to spend the night and try to catch up on a few zzzz’s.  We started off the day feeling pretty good, but once we were on the road for our final three hour drive after Bramshott, our energy began to wane.  First we got caught in the traffic drama that bypasses Stone Henge and we saw the great stone circle from a distance. Unless I can get up close and walk among the stones without a thousand other tourists, I’ll be happy to skip the site. We may return for a proper visit when we are staying at our second housesit which is only 20 minutes away if it’s less busy in September. We’ll see.

We stopped for some lunch and then soldiered on to Plymouth. Since Erik was doing all the driving, it was my job to keep him awake – no napping for me. I only wished my tin whistle wasn’t so snugly packed in my suitcase or I would have regaled him with a few tunes.

Driving took longer than we expected and we didn’t arrive at the Cassandra Guest House, in downtown Plymouth, until 7pm.  We checked in and then went for a walk about town before it got dark.  I hadn’t realized that Plymouth is the point where the Mayflower set sail for North America in 1620!  We took lots of photos along the promenade as the sun set, and saw the Plymouth Memorial Steps where all of the Mayflower passengers are listed.  Two surnames – Priest and Fuller – interest me as I have Quaker ancestors of those names from Norfolk, UK.  I wonder if there is some distance connection to these early pilgrims?

As it was a Saturday night, the bars along the Quay were busy and noisy.  Groups of young people, adorned in various costumes, were carousing and milling about – the Brits do love their Stag and Hen parties, and we enjoyed the spectacle. We stopped at one street side pub to get a late supper, only to find that few places were still serving food.   We stayed for a beer and then continued on our way, looking for a quick meal.  Eventually we gave up, went back to our guest house, looked online, and found a late night pizza place nearby where we shared a pizza at 10pm.  Finally to bed by 11 – we were exhausted!

The next day, after another big breakfast, we set off for Penzance, but chose to take the slower roads at least part of the way, in order to visit some of the little fishing villages along the coast.  Our first stop was not far, at East Looe.  We were lucky to find a parking spot, and then took our time wandering around the little town.  It was fairly touristy, but the shops were quaint and we enjoyed looking at all of the places boasting the “Best Pasty in the World!”.

We also laughed at how many warning/information signs were posted in the village.  Clearly, they are sick and tired of tourists doing stupid things – from “Do not feed the seagulls – they are vicious” to a sign with a tally of how many people have defied the “Do not jump off the pier” sign and had either been fined or died this year. Everywhere you looked, there was a “Do not…” sign. I wish I had taken more photos of them.

Back on the road, our next stop was Charlestown where parts of Poldark are filmed.  Unfortunately, it was getting busy now and after 15 minutes of driving around looking for a parking spot, we gave up and left.  This was just a harbinger of things to come as we had chosen to visit Cornwall on what turned out to be the busiest week of the summer – the last week of vacation.

We were getting hungry and tired so we got back on the faster A390 and headed for Truro.  Our trusty iPad GPS directed us to a large car park, and we were soon parked and walking around the centre of town.  It was quite an interesting city with lots of old buildings and cool shops. We went inside the beautiful cathedral and enjoyed the quiet for a few minutes.  Back outside, it turned showery so we tucked into a pub and had some lunch where we chatted with a young local couple and visited with their dog who was sitting quietly at their feet.  They gave us some advice about getting to Penzance, and soon we were back on the road. We arrived at our AirBnB studio suite about 4pm and checked in.  It was on Chapel Street, one of the oldest streets in Penzance, just a few blocks from the promenade. A bonus for Erik were the two pubs within the same block. The area is dotted with pirate logos and it turns out that we will just be a day or two short of participating in the Guinness Book of World Records “Pirates on the Prom” as they vie to regain their title for the most pirates in one place (current record is over 14,000 so it may be just as well that we are gone by then.)

We dropped off our luggage and then parked a few blocks down the road. Our room was a former art studio, in a separate building in the back of a larger house, with vaulted ceilings, and a partial wall dividing the bedroom with the rest of the studio.  Three skylights provided lots of natural light in the suite. There was a wood stove and a small but fully equipped kitchen, and it had a private garden patio, should the sun come out.

Chris and Liv, our hosts who live in the main house, were a retired couple just a little older than Erik. They were both really friendly and interesting and we had several long chats with them during our visit to Penzance. Among other things, we learned that Liv had dated Eric Clapton while they were in high school. We thought that was pretty cool! They had both worked in the film and TV industry, in set design I think, and Chris had a shop where he was building props for his pirate costume, including a pirate hat with a pirate galleon on top!

We spent four nights at the studio suite, eating home cooked food every night but one, and we really enjoyed the area in general. There was lots to see within walking distance, and we took several day trips to see some of the nearby sights. Here are a few places we visited.

St Michael’s Mount

Although only 5 km down the road from Penzance, and quite visible from the promenade near our B&B, this was another horrifically busy site.  It only took 10 minutes to drive there, but at least 20-30 to find a parking spot. We eventually had to give up, loop around, and go back to a beach lot about 1km away.  We paid for 2 hours parking (in retrospect we should have booked longer), and walked along the beach to the causeway.  This interesting island is only accessible by foot during low tide and so the pathway is opened during 4-6 hours each day, with a schedule posted. The rest of the time, you can take a small boat over and back for £2 per person each way although I suspect the lineup might be quite long, given the crowds visiting.

Once we arrived at the island and showed our NTS “get in free” card, we learned that the “queue” for the castle was about 90 minutes long, and the gardens were closed that day. Ah well. We navigated the crowds, sat on the grass for awhile, took a few pictures and headed back to the car.  This is another place we will have to visit some day when there aren’t 1000+ other tourists around. More info about St Michael’s Mount can be found here.

Mousehole

First of all, it’s it’s pronounced “Mowzle”, not “Mouse Hole”. This adorable little village is only a 10 minutes drive northwest from Penzance. As the streets are VERY narrow and there’s next to no parking, we parked about 1km outside of town and walked along the path to the quay. The village is tiny but it looks like it would be a really nice place to have a holiday “let”, especially if you have a kitchen (we didn’t see many restaurants).  We took some photos of the quirky buildings and of the people sunbathing on the empty cove (as it was low tide and there was a string of boats resting in the mud) and then walked back the car to continue our journey.  The weather was mild and sunny and I actually got a sunburn that day!

Porthcurno Beach

This was a non-starter.  I really wanted to visit this beach where some of Poldark scenes were filmed.  It was only a short drive from Penzance, but it was so busy that we could not find a parking spot and eventually had to give up and drive away.  Pics of Porthcurno can be found here.

Lands End, near Sennen

Next we drove another 20 minutes to most south-westerly point of England – Land’s End. Similar to Sagres, in Portugal, which was visited in the Spring, this rocky outcrop of land provided spectacular views from the the cliffs high above the sea. There was plenty of parking (£6 for the day with re-entry privileges for 7 days), however, we had to walk through a horribly touristy section which boasted no fewer than four ‘attractions” including Shaun the Sheep Experience (?!), and a number of fast food joints where we made the mistake of having a quick lunch (I’m sure that hot dog was the cause of my tummy upset the next day).  Once we passed through the commercial section, the walk along the coast was lovely and we took lots of pictures.

As a side note, I’ve heard that Lizard Point is an equally beautiful, and less touristy, spot to see but we didn’t have the time to visit – next time!

Levant Mine and Beam Engine

A little further up the coast, we stopped in at this National Trust site and were lucky to be able to join the last tour of the day.  We learned about the history of Copper and Tin mining to the Cornwall coast, and we got to go underground a ways to see what it was like in the narrow passageways. When out of work, the skilled Cornish miners have travelled all over the world to find work and so wherever there are mines, you will find men of Cornish heritage.  Levant mine was particularly interesting because it is one of the filming locations for one of my favourite shows “Poldark” about an 18th century mining family.  If you haven’t seen it, check it out – the book series is good as well.

The traditional Cornish Pasty (pronounced past-y, not paste-y), is made with a tasty combination of beef, potato, turnip, and onions in a hearty pastry crust. Some believe that the crimped edge of the pasty enabled the miners to hold their meal in one hand, and then toss the edge of the crust where their arsenic-covered fingers had held it.  Regardless, Cornish pasties can be found all over Cornwall and we enjoyed them several times while we were there.  I suspect I’ll be trying my hand at making some when I get home this fall.

Penzance turned out to be the perfect spot to use a home base and the four days were definitely not enough time to see everything at a leisurely pace. Subsequently, we took our time and only chose a few places to visit.  We’d go for a week if we were doing it again.  We also found that the traffic and parking was terrible and it would have been better to have come after school starts in September. However, it’s always nice to know we have to go back again some day!

Next Up: Cornwall, Part Two

 

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Mayflower Memorial Steps
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Plymouth marina
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Pirate ship in Plymouth
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East Looe, Pasty Shop
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East Looe
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Another of the best?
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Truro Cathedral
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Truro
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Artist Studio, Penzance. Home for 4 nights
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St Michael’s Mount

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Mousehole
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Land’s End
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Land’s End
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Land’s End
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Levant Mine
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Levant Mine
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Half a pasty

 

Bramshott Camp – WW1

We had a great nine hour flight via Westjet, direct from Calgary, and were lucky to be able to book the bulkhead seats on this trip so Erik had plenty of leg room. The only downside to our flight was was arriving at 10am (body time 2am), but our hosts at the Gatwick House B&B in Horley, which is only a 5 minute bus ride from Gatwick, graciously allowed us a very early check in and we went straight to bed around noon, for a 3 hour nap.  We dragged our butts out of bed, had an early dinner and forced ourselves to stay awake until 8pm. We had a fitful 11 hour sleep but awoke feeling fairly refreshed, albeit a bit buzzed.  Ah jet lag, I do not love you.

And so, after a “Full English Breakfast” for Erik and yogurt and toast for me, our hosts drove us back to the airport where we picked up our rental car and hit the road.  We had a 4 hour drive to Plymouth, on the outskirts of Cornwall, with one planned stop in Bramshott, Hampshire, along the way.

Bramshott is a small village about an hour’s drive southwest of London and was the site of two military camps in WW1 and WW2 – Bramshott Camp and Bordon Camp. It was here that many Canadian soldiers trained during the war before being sent to the front. I decided to visit the village because my Dad’s father, Robert Fleming Park, had been stationed here near the end of WW1 and I really wanted to see where he had lived for the 15 months he was in England. And when I looked at the map and saw that the village was practically along the route for our drive, I couldn’t resist.

As we first neared the village, we drove along the Canadian Memorial Drive which is lined with Maple trees.  We stopped to see if we could find the memorial stone, but it didn’t seem to be evident, so we drove a little further on to the church.  The sites of the camps themselves are nothing more than old roads and overgrown grass and bushes now, with all signs of buildings having been long removed. However, there is a memorial stone and quite a bit of info both inside St Mary’s church and outside in the cemetery.

The No 12 Canada General Hospital served the area, and 318 Canadian soldiers are buried in the St Mary churchyard. Some of them died from wounds received in battle, but most had survived the war, only to succumb to the 1918-1920 Spanish Flu pandemic that infected over 500 million people worldwide, killing 50-100 million people (3-5% of the world’s population). 187 Canadian soldiers were buried at St Mary’s in 1918 alone and most of those young men died of the flu.

As I looked through my Grandfather’s military records (available online at the Canadian Archives) , I could see a number of things had occurred that would enable my grandfather to return home to marry my grandmother, and ensure my father was born.  If things had gone differently, I may never have been born!

The Canadian government brought in the Military Service Act in August of 1917, after much debate, which required that all able bodied men from 20-45 serve in the military if called. My grandfather, born in 1897, turned 20 that very month, and so I’m sure he expected to be called up soon. I only knew him as an older man, and he always seemed very quiet, peaceful, and devout, and I had a hard time imagining that he would have wanted to go to war.  However, after he finished school, he served six months in the 6th Regiment D.C.O.R. (Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles) in Vancouver (January-June of 1917) while working as a telegrapher, followed by 5 months in the Railway Service Guard in Vancouver.  On December of 1917, he had his military medical exam and was called up on January 3, 1918 to the 1st depot Battalion for training at the Drill Hall in Vancouver.

His personnel records are really interesting to read, as they include many details on his physical stature, weight, and medical and dental health. He was healthy and categorized as A2 “fit for despatching overseas”, although it was noted that he had enlarged tonsils, a fact which would come in play later.

In April he was transferred to the 68th Battery and in June 1918, he set sail on the troop ship, SS Waimana, for England. Luckily, this was only about four months before the end of the war, so he would never be sent to the front.

I’m not sure where the ship landed but Robert spent the next few months training as a gunner at Witley Camp, SE of London. After the war ended five months later on November 11, 1918, he was transferred to Camp Bordon and Camp Bramshott, where he work as a driver for the records office. During his short term in the military, I suspect he likely used his skills as a telegrapher.

It was during this time that so many young soldiers were becoming ill and dying of a virulent form of influenza that seemed to prefer healthy young people.  The bug got into their lungs and most died of pneumonia within a few days.

Although the war was now officially over, there was still work to be done and my Grandfather wouldn’t be demobilized until the following year. However, in March of 1919, he was admitted to the Canada General Hospital in Bramshott with bronchitis and tonsillitis.  His medical records indicate his fever was as high as 103* at time.

He remained in hospital for ten days before being transferred to a larger hospital in Orpington, southeast of London, where he had a tonsillectomy and spent another month recovering.  He was finally discharged in June 1919 and sent back to Bramshott where he served out the rest of his tour. On August 9, 1919, he embarked on the SS Cassandra back to Canada (train to Vancouver), and he was discharged from the army on Aug 25, 1919.

And so now I found myself walking through St Mary’s church cemetery in Bramshott, looking at all of the young soldier’s gravestones, each marked with a Maple Leaf. The cemetery is kept pristine, with the grave markers lined up perfectly, and the lawn around them carefully mowed. I wondered how many of these men were friends or colleagues of my grandfather and what it must have been like to attend a burial almost every day.

As we walked through the cemetery, a woman approached us on her way through.  We explained why we were there and she told us how important the Canadian soldiers were, and still are, to the people of the area.  She explained how even now, on the Wednesday closest to Canada Day (July 1), the local school has each student adopt a soldier’s grave, tidy it, and place a Canadian flag on each grave.  Then the community members have a ceremony and sing O Canada.  It was really touching to hear the reverence in her voice as she talked and I’ll admit I was choked up, with tears in my eyes.  And as I looked at the ages on the markers, so many just around 20, I tried to imagine having to send my now-19 year old son to war.  I couldn’t fathom it.

The woman encouraged us to look at the memorial items inside the church as well, and we saw that many of the pew cushions were embroidered with Canadian flags and other symbols such as moose and beaver and provincial flowers.  There were Canadian flags all over, and at least one stained glass window with pane for each province.  It was incredibly moving to think of the importance the local people still place on our soldiers, even 100 years later.

Next summer, it will be 100 years since my Grandpa arrived for his short stay in the military camps in the area.  I am so thankful that the war ended so soon after he arrived, and that he did not succumb to the Spanish Flu while he was ill.  With only a few changes to his life’s plan, he may never have returned to Canada to marry my Grandmother 10 years later, and my father may never have been born.

And so we took one last look around at the churchyard, drove slowly past the now empty fields where the camps and hospital had been located, and set off for our next stop – Plymouth, England, where the Mayflower stopped before her voyage to the new world in 1620.

Next up:  Cornwall

grandpa 1918 age 20
Robert Fleming Park, age 20
Railway Service Guards YVR 1917
Railway Service Guard Vancouver 1917
1st Depot Battery YVR 1918
1st Depot Battery Vancouver 1918
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Maple Trees near Bramshott
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St Mary’s church, Bramshott

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Pew cushions embroidered with Canadian symbols

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Memorial

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Heading Off On Another Adventure

We’ve had a wonderful, albeit smoky, summer in Kelowna and had lots of time for R&R for the last two months.  We spent time puttering in the garden, sipped our coffee on the deck every morning, ate dinner outdoors every night, read, hiked a lot up in Crawford, went to our meditative yoga class twice a week, cooked, worked on my genealogy, did a bit of belated spring cleaning, and of course, spent time with family and friends in Kelowna and Osoyoos. We also had fun taking care of three different cats – Big Kitsa, Little Kitsa, and Scout – and enjoyed visiting with one puppy, which was good practice for our pet-sitting plans this fall.

However, we also had to deal with smoky skies for at least half of the summer, and what turned out the be the longest drought in recent history (44 days with no precipitation as of today, Friday, Aug 11).  In fact, Kelowna hasn’t had any appreciable rain since June 1 (the only other rain was less than 1mm on June 28).  The fire season started early and there have been thousands of people evacuated for weeks in central BC, many homes  and cabins burned, thousands of cattle lost, and heavily smoky skies since the mid-July.  With temps in the mid 30’s for most of the summer, I was glad we have an  air conditioned house and car, and I’ll admit I’m looking forward to cool, clean skies of the UK soon. I’m beginning to wonder if a smoke-filled sky is going to be the new normal for summer in the Okanagan #ClimateChange?

And so now, in less than a week, we will be on a plane to London for our Housesitting Adventure.  First off, we will spend a week driving around Cornwall to check out some beautiful seaside villages, sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, and the gorgeous wild scenery that Erik and I have enjoyed so much when watching Poldark and Doc Martin.  With any luck, we will be able to visit a few of the film locations along the way.

After we tour around Cornwall, we begin the first of three house/pet sits that will span about 6 weeks in total.  The first sit is a week in the Cotswolds in a picture perfect village, next to a traditional pub, where we will have fun taking care of a black lab and two rabbits.

After the sit, we will stay in the Cotswolds for two more nights before our second housesit begins in North Dorset, about an hour north of Bournemouth. There, we will look after two rescue pointers for a week while their “parents” run a marathon in Patagonia, South America!

Again, we have two days off between house sits, and so after Dorset, we will drive up to Liverpool and visit some of the locations where my GG-Grandmother, Elizabeth Sinclair, lived before she left on a bride ship to Victoria BC in 1870.

Our last housesit is in a rural part of Lincolnshire, in east-central England.  There, we will be staying in an old converted barn, and will have four dogs to care for – two Spring Spaniels and two English Setters – as well as 10 egg-laying chickens. That will be our longest house sit at about 16 days and should be an adventure unto itself!

Finally, we will take a couple of days to drive back to London and then fly to Greece where we will spend our last week at a resort on the lovely island of Crete. And so, if we end up with cool showery weather for 7 weeks in the UK, we might at least end with a little warmer beach weather at the end.

I had thought we’d be home in time for Thanksgiving, but unfortunately we don’t return until October 12, about 3 days late.  I guess we will have to have a delayed Thanksgiving dinner with the family when we get home. Once again, my wonderful sister and her cat will be house sitting for us so we don’t have to worry about anything while we’re away.

I will definitely write a few posts about our house sitting adventures while we are away, but naturally I will have to be very vague about locations and personal details/photos of our accommodations, in order to respect the owners’ privacy. We are really excited about our trip and looking forward to “living like the locals” in England this fall.  If this goes well, we hope to do a few more housesits next year – possibly in New Zealand in the spring when we go to visit Erik’s daughter and our grandsons, and then maybe France or Italy next fall.

Here are a few pictures from our summer in the Okanagan.

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We checked in on Daisy during the day when her owners were at work.
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Okanagan Lake before the smoke arrived
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Baking Sourdough
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Campfire Singalong in Osoyoos
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Forest Fire Smoke Settles in
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You wouldn’t know there was a lake down there
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Scout is about 10 weeks old
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Scout loved exploring the garden
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We looked after Kitsa after she was spayed
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She much prefers life without the cone
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Hiking in Crawford
Big Kitsa loved sitting on the deck this summer
She is quite the mouser, bringing in at least one a day.  Today was a two-fer.

Using Googlemaps Offline

Although I always buy a SIM card when travelling so I have data while away from wifi, I have recently enjoyed using the googlemaps app offline when we are driving, and I have found it works really well.  Why pay for a GPS in your rental vehicle when you have an iPad or iPhone and Googlemaps?!  You simply download an area you plan to visit, and then use the GPS function on the app whenever you are driving (or walking). Here are the steps to show you how.

Just a warning – using your device as a GPS does use up your battery so be sure to take a cable to plug your device into the USB or cigarette lighter port of your rental vehicle so your device charges while you’re driving. I always take an extra cable to leave in the car for our entire trip.

(You can probably do this with an Android device as well but I don’t know how. You will have to go to youtube to find a how-to video.)

What you need:

  • An iPad or iPhone – the bigger the screen, the easier to use.
  • Enough memory space on your device to store downloaded maps.
  • A gmail account (easy and free to sign up if you don’t have one).
  • The Googlemaps app installed on your device.

To Download a Map to Use Offline

  1. It’s best to do this before you leave, or someplace where you have and a fast and  reliable wifi (or data) connection.
  2. Open Googlemaps on your device.
  3. Click on the top left-hand menu (three short horizontal lines indicate a menu).
  4. Log into your gmail account (if not already logged in) within the app.
  5. Type your destination in the search bar. It can be a city or a country.
  6. Click the “DOWNLOAD” button under the blue bar with destination name.
  7. Move map around so the area you want, fits inside the box. You can’t enlarge the download box so you may have to do more than one download to get entire area.
  8. You will see how much space you have available on your device at the bottom.
  9. Click DOWNLOAD in bottom right corner of your screen.
  10. Wait patiently.  It can take a long time to download, depending on the speed of your wifi. I often just walk away and come back later. You will see a percentage downloaded as it goes. It will continue to download in the background as long as you are connected to wifi or data, even if the screen goes to sleep, or the app seems to close and you will be notified once it has finished downloading.
  11. If you are unable to fit the entire area you want in the download window, repeat the procedure above, moving the box to download a different map segment with just a little overlap from your first download.  The overlap part won’t download again and mapping will be seamless when you are using it, despite having downloaded it in two parts.

Once you have all maps downloaded, you just use googlemaps gps as you normally do. Even when you are offline, if you type in a destination, the app will show you the map and give you directions as you drive.  If you make a wrong turn, it will reroute your map or give you suggestions for making a u turn.

As with any GPS, you have to use common sense and understand that there can sometimes be errors.  I find this is particularly true when using a GPS in small medieval villages in Europe, or areas where there is construction. Once in awhile, I tell Erik to ignore the GPS and go a different route. However, GPS directions are improving all the time.

Before we drive a particularly complex route, I sometimes look at sections of a map using Google Streetview so I can check what roadsigns to watch for, and try to figure out what lane we need to be in to get off the highway.

Below you will find a video of my iPad screen to show you how to download the maps.  I won’t have arrows on the screen to point out buttons to click but I will try to describe them and you can always pause the video or go back to figure out what I clicked.

I hope you find this helpful!!

Part One – How to Download Map 

 

Part Two – End of the download

 

Next up:  Preparation for our house/pet sitting trip to the UK on August 17!

Galway, Ireland, and Home Again!

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Old Galway City

June 14-16, 2017

Galway was our final stop along the Wild Atlantic Way, which starts in Kinsale, and actually ends long past Galway, winding 2500km all along the western coast of Ireland up to Derry.  We didn’t driven the whole thing of course – that would have required considerably more time than we had allowed, but we did manage to hit a number of segments, including the Ring of Beara and the Dingle Peninsula as well as plenty of straight highway road as well.

It was a 3 1/2 hour drive from Dingle to Galway, but we stopped just passed Limerick, for a visit to the famous Bunratty Castle.  We had looked online and decided to blow €20 to visit the castle and folk museum since we had some time to spare.  However, when we got there, we found out that you had to book online 24 hours in advance in order to get that price and we weren’t interested in spending €32 so instead, we walked around the town for awhile, ate a picnic lunch in the car, and then headed back to the highway to Galway.

We didn’t know what to expect of Galway but were pleasantly surprised.  It is a pretty big city but we had a B&B which was just a block from the downtown medieval core of the city. We had a safe parking spot and we could easily walk into the core whenever we wanted, and so we spent our last two nights wandering the interesting old streets of Galway. The River Corrib runs through the city, and there are several canals with locks built in the mid 1800’s. Streams seem to rush into the canals and river all the way along so everywhere you look, there is a lovely “water feature”.

We found a nice restaurant – the Quay Street Kitchen – and had an early meal, listened to some live Irish music in two different pubs (Taaffes Bar and Tig Coili), and then spent the rest of the evening at our B&B. Once again, it was showery, windy, and cool.

The next morning, after a full Irish breakfast (eggs, sausages, bacon, beans, tomato, and toast for Erik, egg and toast for me), we walked around the old part of town, enjoying the 400+ year old buildings, and the talented buskers on every block. The weather changed every few minutes, but the wind was fairly constant. Whenever it started to rain, we ducked inside a shop to browse around, and in one sweater shop, I bought Erik a traditional Irish “grandfather” shirt. I loved all of the beautiful knit sweaters and would love to get the pattern for one of the ponchos (see my photos below) – a new knitting challenge perhaps?!

On our second night, we ended up back in the same restaurant for dinner where we shared three starters, and then we sat on the street and listened to a great 5 piece band for at least half an hour.  There was a young woman doing Irish dancing, and a cute little 5 year old girl who was full of energy doing her own hilarious version of the dance. Eventually we made our way back to the B&B and started to get our bags ready for the long haul travel on Saturday.

On Friday we drove to Swords, a suburb of Dublin, near the airport and stopped at a mall where we had a late lunch and bought a few snack foods for dinner at our hotel. Then we checked into our hotel and Erik drove to the airport to drop off the rental car, and returned by shuttle. We needed to get to bed early because we had to be at the airport around 6:30 am for our 8:30am flight.  We figured we’d be home about 23 hours from the time we leave the hotel. Gotta love those long flights home….

This was our first time flying Westjet for a transatlantic flight and we were pleasantly surprised.  We were in row 4, and we seemed to have lots of room – much more leg room than some of the other airlines we’ve flown with. Our first leg to St John’s Newfoundland took just under 5 hours and we had to disembark, go through customs, drop off our bags again, and then get back onto the same plane.  It was nice to have a 2 hour break.  Our next flight took us to Toronto in about 3 1/2 hours and it was a bit of a bumpy ride at the end because of building thunderclouds.  Since we had a 4 hour layover there, we decided to use up two of our four free Priority Passes that come with our MasterCard and so we have access to Premium Lounges at airports around the world. We were able to find two comfy armchairs next to the window, enjoy free food and liquor, and really relax for about 3 hours. While we waited, there was a massive thunderstorm with torrential rain and the airport was shut down for about an hour to wait out the tornado warning.  Luckily for us, it all cleared before our 6pm flight and we had no delays in taking off for the final 4 1/2 hour leg of our trip.

By this time, we were getting pretty tired having been up for 18 hours already, and it was midnight to our bodies.  We hit some turbulence several times while early on in the flight and I was feeling quite nauseous from motion sickness and extreme fatigue.  While I was in the bathroom, we hit a big pocket of turbulence and I had to hang onto the bar along the wall to keep from getting thrown around.  Then the mirrored cupboard door above the sink flew open and I couldn’t shut it, and the corner was right at my eye level. I really had trouble getting dressed again without getting hit in the face by the cupboard door. Trying to keep my head low, I practically crawled out of the bathroom, and hurried back to my seat (thank god it was only 4 rows) hanging on to the seats for dear life.

Once I was buckled back in my seat, I breathed a sigh of relief but the bouncing around, coupled with the fatigue, made me feel sicker and sicker.  Eventually, once the turbulence was over, I rushed back to the bathroom and threw up everything I’d eaten in Toronto, and then I felt better and dozed off and on for the next two hours, just praying to be home soon. Unfortunately, I began to feel worse again for the last 30 minutes of the flight. The moment we landed, Erik asked the stewardess to allow me to get off first, and I made my way to the front pushing past all the “Plus” guests, leaving Erik to gather my belongings. Once out of the plane, I staggered into Kelowna airport, hoping I was going to right way since I didn’t have anyone to follow.  I made it to the arrivals area, saw my sister and left her with the few things I was carrying, and said “Here, take this stuff  – I’m gonna throw up” and then Iran off to the airport bathroom. Ugh, what a flight.  I am getting too old to do 24 hour travel days.  LOL…

Kathleen drove us home, and she had the bed all made up with clean sheets, food in the fridge, and the house spotless.  We looked around the garden and then I took a Gravol and went straight to bed. I just needed 8 hours of sleep I think.  I’m really glad our fall flights are going to be in two hops, and only 13 hours in total.

Unrelated to my motion sickness story above, I didn’t mention in my previous blog posts that throughout our trip, I had some stomach issues that I strongly suspect are gallbladder related and so we found that impacted our trip to a certain extent.  I really couldn’t enjoy the food along the way, especially in Spain and Portugal, because I was always being careful about what I ate, trying to avoid heavy, spicy, or fatty foods, and I found I could not drink alcohol at all, so for most of the trip, I drank water – still or fizzy.  I didn’t get medical treatment while I was away because I was managing the symptoms (although we were prepared to if anything got really bad), but I do have an appointment with my own doctor as soon as I get home so hopefully I can get this sorted out before we leave the country again in two months! It really does suck to have to deal with health stuff when you are travelling in a different country, especially when you change cities every 2-3 days.

Overall, this has been an amazing, relaxing, and interesting trip – we’ve seen so much of Portugal, Spain, Scotland, and Ireland, and as always, I have loved the varying landscapes, the history, the architecture, and the people. Despite my gut issues, I was able to really enjoy the food and drink a few times at least, and as always, I loved meeting so many interesting people along the way, in particular, my 2nd cousins in Scotland. However, as much as I love to travel, I love coming home just as much.

And so, we will now enjoy two months at home in the Okanagan. I am really looking forward to sleeping in my own bed, eating my own food, working in my garden, sitting out on my deck, and seeing my friends and family! And then, on August 17, we are off to the UK for two months – first spending a week in Cornwall, and then we start our 5 weeks of house/pet sitting adventures before rounding out the trip with a week in an all-inclusive in Crete, then home again mid October. Life is always an adventure!

Next up: Summer in the Okanagan!

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Love the caps
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River dancer?  She wasn’t in her pretty dress in this one but just having a bit of fun.
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I want one – only €2000
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More buskers – these guys were excellent.
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This is a kid’s version but I want to make the adult one.
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A must-read – travelling makes me feel smarter
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Buskers galore
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Good music here
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Love the old buildings
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Another rainy day
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River Corrib

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At Taaffe’s Bar
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I finally had a beer!
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Durty Nelly’s in Bunratty