California Part 1

After almost a month in Costa Rica visiting doctors and dentist, we flew to SFO via HOU and PHX on Southwest. Upon arrival we took an Uber to our AirBnB in Daly City, not far away. I hadn’t been able to find reasonable accommodations right in San Francisco and this one worked out well. Muffins, cereal, and fruit were provided along with coffee, tea, milk, and filtered water. It was a cozy spot, but for three nights it was fine. A 12 minute walk to a 7-11 was convenient, and with a small fridge and microwave we were able to sup at home and have lunch while out and about.

In the morning we took Uber to the nearest Bart train where we zipped along to the Embarcadero. There we were able to purchase a Clipper Card with Senior Discount. This saved us the $1 surcharge of paper tickets, gave us a 60% discount on rides, and the normal $3 fee for the card was waived. It’s good for life! At the ferry station cum market we purchased tickets for a boat ride which took us to the Golden Gate Bridge and back around Alcatraz. With the senior discount we each paid $31.

From there we ambled the mile to Pier 39. Being low season we were able to board at the last minute on the morning ride as there was plenty of room. An audio recording gave the details on the history and buildings in our view of the city, the bridge, and the former prison. Tours of Alcatraz were fully booked but the circular water route was fine. With few passengers we were able to easily change our vantage points for pictures.

By the time we were back at the pier with the lounging sea lions nearby, it was time for lunch. Not far away at Fisherman’s Wharf we opted to sit outside at one of the many eateries with seats for maybe four people and enjoyed seafood. I had a large salad with two huge mounds of crab claw meat and tiny shrimp while Bill noshed on a fat crab salad sandwich. Lombard Street was just another 12 minute walk away so made our way there. We had to ascend some steep hills to get there and Bill mentioned it is the area where movie and TV scenes have been filmed with cars zooming, bounding, and scraping the tops of the hills. In fact, when we arrived at the bottom of the famous section of Lombard Street there were multiple deep gouges. As we climbed the shallow steps to the top, we saw a car with numerous cameras filming for Google Maps going down the serpentine street.

By then we were getting weary so as we made our way to the Bart station, we detoured to Trader Joe’s to buy a few items for supper. A long half hour later we returned to the Bart station and when we arrived back at the stop near our home, we found the cost of the ride with the Clipper Card was only a $1.50. What a difference from the $4.50 we paid earlier before we could buy the card. Wow!

The next day we had more beautiful sunny mild weather and meandered around the Mission District. Street art is abundant on some blocks. The first one I noticed as soon as we emerged from the depths of the underground was a quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala! Cool! We had seen some in Costa Rica and I am always mesmerized by their beauty and the males with their almost meter length finely feathered tail which undulates as they fly. We tired a bit more quickly this time so when we arrived at Dolores Mission Park, we opted to rest on one of the few empty benches and watched the people go by and playing with their dogs. A middle-aged man was there with two collies. One of them was loving playing fetch and came pretty close to us at times during the recovery. The other, from a distance, seemed older and was content with less energetic sniffing around. By then it was time for lunch. We each had a sandwich at a nearby cafe, custom made and too much to eat. We slowly made our way back to the underground and headed to SFO to get the car rental for the next week.

In the morning we packed up and made our way across the Golden Gate Bridge, free going north, and along Hwy 1 on the coast. We stopped a few times to walk the beaches and enjoy the views. The weather was still fine but a bit breezy there. After another sandwich for lunch, for a third of the price than in San Francisco, we slowly made our way to Santa Rosa where we had a sit over Thanksgiving week for two cats.

Lisl and Cate live in a very quiet residential neighborhood with a house about a hundred years old. They are the third owners. The man from whom they bought it was quite tall and an architect. When he remodeled the kitchen, he had the countertops elevated three inches. That worked well for him, but these two women are a bit shorter than I am and find it ergonomically uncomfortable. To work around that they have placed three large cooler lids in strategic places around the kitchen to give them the lift they need. They do help, but when not needing to stand on them they are in the way.

Thunder and Lightning are sisters. Thunder is quite timid and fearful and spends most of her time under her mothers’ bed or hiding in the hole in the wall behind the headboard. Lightning sleeps on our bed during the day and at night. She gets in the way of Bill’s legs, but it’s only for six nights. She demands petting from time to time and also enjoys looking out the living room windows. Lightning isn’t a lap cat nor does she like to be picked up.

One day we walked into town and along the creek. As we passed a movie theater we decided to buy tickets for the next afternoon’s showing of “The Irishman”. With our senior discount we each paid $8.50 rather than $11.50. We also stopped in at the visitor’s center where an older gentleman offered help. During the conversation he mentioned he knew Charles Schultz well enough to say hello when he saw him at his favorite hangout for coffee. Charles was always friendly. He had lived in Santa Rosa about four decades. This guy had been a docent at the museum in Schultz’s honor and shared that Schultz never liked the name Peanuts for his comic strip. The name he had given it was already being used by another artist for the newspaper who wanted to run Schultz’s work. He couldn’t come up with a new name so someone at the newspaper came up with Peanuts.

We continued to walk around the town via the historic walkway. The Franco-American Bakery was on the route so we made a stop there to buy some real sourdough bread. The aroma out on the street was heavenly, reminding me of Mom’s kitchen whenever she baked bread. We always had a warm thick slice with butter melting into all the crevices which was so yummy!

En route there was a large round barn built in 1891 to house champion trotter horses. There was also a block of houses built through a sweat equity program. The future owners had to help build these houses 30 hours a week for 11 months. To meet the stipulations of the historic society that had to have certain architectural elements such as front porches and horizontal siding.

The next afternoon, cold and a bit wet, we drove to the movie theater to find we had luxurious reclining seats! With a three-and-a-half hour movie, they were quite appreciated! The plot was interesting and informative though it was told through the point of view of Frank Sheeran who claimed he was the one who killed Jimmy Hoffa. It was never proved, though.

A drive to Petaluma gave us insight into another quiet upscale town. Petaluma Pie was quite busy with people picking up their orders for Thanksgiving. Bill opted for an apple crumble pie for one while I enjoyed the delicious aroma of sweet and savories delicacies. He also decided to get his long curly locks lopped off at a barber shop for walk-ins only. She did a good job and he was happy with the results.

Thanksgiving was quiet, sunny, and cold but we did manage to get a walk in for some exercise and make vitamin D. We made some plans for our travels, I called both Don and Jane, and then for dinner we had boneless turkey breast, rice, and vegetables. Bill enjoyed his apple pie while I had a more healthful strawberry shortcake with no sugar and applesauce instead of oil.

Friday we drove to Sonoma, less than an hour away, and reunited with my half-cousin Peggy and her husband. I don’t think we had seen each other since 1961! Her face certainly carries some Beardslee family traits. Over lunch we became reacquainted, caught up with family news, and discussed pet sitting. Peggy is interested in traveling in Europe and sitting would help defray expenses, though Larry isn’t as keen.

The next morning we finished laundry and cleaned the house so Lisl and Cate would return to a ready home. When we left Lightning was on our bed and Thunder had actually hidden under it! It was certainly an easy sit though real cat cuddles would have been nice.

Two Weeks on the Isle of Bute with Max and Otto

Our last UK sit was in Rothesay, just a ferry ride away from Wemyss Bay in Scotland. From our last sit in Youlgrave, we rented a car, drove to Paisley outside of Glasgow where we spent the night, and in the morning took a half hour train to the bay. Alisdair, Alison, and the two mini-Schnauzers met us on the other side of the Firth of Clyde. After dropping off our luggage at their flat, they drove us around the island showing us the lay of the land and where we might like to explore on our own. Afterwards we accompanied Alisdair on a walk with the dogs and were given the details of their care and the flat. Alison cooked us a great dinner and the next day they took off for the US.

Max and Otto are really quite friendly. Max was said to be the friendlier of the two and wanting more lap time. We found Otto to be equally friendly and several times just leaped onto my lap wanting affection and staring deep into my eyes. I guess he liked me! He seemed to like attention from strangers as much as Max but needed a bit of encouragement. A few times we took them on long walks and they always behaved well, aside from having to pee on every lamp post, planter, and trash receptacle!

The Isle of Bute has about six to seven thousand people living on it. During Victorian times it was quite the holiday locale for the rich. Huge houses line the eastern coast and there is the ferry we took which lands in Rothesay and another short one on the north end of the island. Victorian bathrooms are still accessible down by the pier. The women’s side was redone when showers were added for the local fisherman and such. The men’s room still as the original tiles. Tanks above the toilets used to house fish making them mini aquariums! Whether or that is true, it makes a great story. The flat where we stayed is on a hill and overlooks the bay where we can watch the ferries come and go as well as small yachts on the more pleasant sailing days. The visitors’ center has a small movie theater in the back where we went one evening to watch “The Mustang”. It is a fictional tale based on true western prison program in which inmates help break wild mustangs that are later sold at auction to the border patrol.

The first long walk we took with the boys was from the Bay of Kilchattan on a five mile loop. We all took the bus there and then began our long and sometimes rocky trek. Max didn’t seem very fond of the rocks but once we finally got a comfortable dirt path, he seemed fine. About three miles in we arrived at Blane’s Church, 12th century ruins with a cemetery. It was there we finally found a place to rest and eat our lunch. We had taken water for them but had not thought to also take treats. They seemed happy with a bit of dry bread from my sandwich. For the first half of the hike a woman and her large dog were ahead of us which seemed to make Otto want to take off and deal with that other canine. Once we got ahead of them, he settled down. At the church, though, they caught up and when I got too close with one of the dogs, it starting acting a bit aggressively so we were sure to stay ahead of them once we left. The last two miles back to the bus stop were up and down hills in fields with expansive views of the bays.

Right in the center of Rothesay are the ruins of a castle once lived in by Robert the Bruce. Max and Otto were welcome and were well behaved. A lone swan seems to live in the moat as it is often there when we passed by. Centuries ago the sea water came to the edge of the castle but since then land has been reclaimed and now includes residences and commercial enterprises.

Another day, while the boys stayed home, we took the bus to visit the Stuart House. A tour is included in the price so we were able to enjoy the history and family tales. From the visitors’ center one can take a jitney but we chose to walk the mile through the grounds to the house, arriving just in time for the tour. The first two editions of the house didn’t survive, one due to fire, and the Victorian design with lots of Carrera marble still has unfinished details which would be noticed only with careful scrutiny. The family hasn’t lived there since 1993 when it was turned into a trust. Now it is a locale for weddings and the bride and groom, as well as her parents, can spend the night. One funny story took place in the conservatory off a bedroom. Workmen would take sandwiches for lunch but the cat, Troubles, often helped himself to their food. To get back at him the mason who built the fireplace added a cat at one end of the overhang and mice on the other end with a space in between. That way the predator cat could see and smell the mice but never be able to make them his prey.

Walking the boys four times a day, as they had so much energy, meant looking for different routes. My favorite was the one which took us through the woods only because I have always enjoyed spending time amongst trees. I found it by chance once when I took the boys solo while Bill prepared dinner. It was early on in the sit and I was confused as to where to turn to get to the small park just down from the flat. I ended up passing it by quite a distance and found myself with the woods on the left. I didn’t remember seeing the area before but thought the turn I sought couldn’t have been way back. The next time we both took the dogs we went that way to show Bill. It was kind of muddy and Bill didn’t have his walking shoes on so we saved it for another time. There’s a series of steep stairs which come out in the middle of the woods. We proceded further in and then followed what seemed to be a path slanting to the upper left. That led to a path parallel to the coastal road and after a ways exited onto the street near the park. Oh, that was where Alisdair had mentioned a walk in the woods but I hadn’t remembered quite where the entrance was. Since then we did the walk in reverse a few times, found another entrance/exit at the end of a dead end side street, and explored other areas in the woods.

The first week the weather was forecast to be better than the second week so on a sunny morning we took the city open tour bus with hop on/off stops around the island. The boys were welcome and we climbed the steps to get the better view. Paul, our driver, is a kindly jolly soul who seems to enjoy his job. He speaks slowly and cleanly so we could follow his speech. A couple of times he stopped the bus and came atop to talk with the few passengers and give the dogs treats. One stop he always makes is in Ballantyne where he has a friend with a Westie who also gets a treat. The owner gets the list of places the passengers are from and he then shares that information with his elderly aunt who he calls daily.

We hopped off at Scalpsie Bay where seals often sun themselves. To get there from the road requires walking down a wide trail with fenced fields on either side. On the right there were numerous huge cattle who seemed quite interested in the dogs. The bovines were so excited that when they started jogging up to the fence, we decided to put the dogs back on their leads. One of the cattle was quite interested in Otto and I thought would jump the barrier! Nervously I kept moving along and away from the cattle crowd with the prying eyes and yellow ear tags.

The beach was just up ahead so we were able to relax and take the leashes off again. We crossed a sandy area to be closer to where seals were sunbathing in the distance. Soon the way became rockier, which Max doesn’t like. We found a grassy path up from the beach and followed that as much as we could. To get close enough, though, we had to cross small rocks. There were enough bigger ones to find one suitable for sitting. The seals were still a ways out propped up on rocks still about water level. They often arched their backs to keep their faces and tails closer to the sun and out of the water which must become quite tiring.

The only time we ate out was the next day when we walked the boys north to Ballantyne two miles where we had flaky fried fish and chips for lunch at the Caledonian. Dogs are welcome inside but we chose to sit outside with them and enjoy the water view. They were given a couple bits of fried batter and French fries but would have loved to have had their own plate. On the way back the tour bus with our driver was heading in the other direction. We gave him a big wave and he returned it with a beep of his horn.

What a great time we had! The friendly woman in the flat below came out and talked with me a few times, and we also met a neighbor with a “wee” cat named Buster. She had just published a book about him which we read in the local bookstore. He sometimes liked to relax in the front window to warm himself. Denise was also helpful and loved the dogs, especially Max. She had married an Italian and gave up her US citizenship years ago. She is now divorced but has no desire to return to the States to live.

I liked this sign by the ferry terminal where the vehicles line up:

Then it was off to London for a few days before flying back to the used-to-be good ole USA.

A Week with Ben in Youlgrave

Bill deposited me as well as the luggage at the train station in Sheffield where we were to meet our next homeowner, Phil. He then returned the car rental and we waited a bit more for Phil to find us and also pick up an American friend who was arriving by train. Once Phil had gathered all his guests and the assorted luggage, we had a pleasant drive to his small village of Youlgrave in the Peak District. His friend, Maureen from California, had flown in to participate, along with Phil and his wife Diane, in a lilac Morris Minor Million car rally. The cars were made in 1960 as a special item to celebrate the millionth Morris Minor to be produced. Three hundred fifty were made in this limited edition and about nine percent are still being driven.

When we arrived at his house, which is actually where he grew up, we were warmly greeted by Ben, a whitish Golden Retriever, and Diane. We waited for the rain to stop before unloading all the suitcases and enjoyed getting to know everyone. That evening we enjoyed a delicious dinner prepared mostly by Diane, with Phil grilling the steaks. Homemade butter cookies accompanied by strained raspberries over strawberries finished off the wonderful meal.

The next day while Diane was caring for her young grandson in Sheffield, the rest of us took a long walk with Ben to learn the options we would have over the next few days. Ben is really quite obedient and can be off lead once away from the road. We ambled down an old road past field and pastures with cows in the distance. At the bottom of the hill is a small stone arched bridge across a stream. A few ducks were swimming about but no fish were seen. We turned around and took a right which brought us out to another small road. We followed it for a bit and then entered another footpath which followed the same stream upriver. More ducks and a mature swan with three gray cignets came over to us and hoped for morsels of food. After a bit we retraced our steps and then continued traipsing along more harvested fields and eventually to the outskirts of the village of Alport. We crossed another road and followed a different stream with a curly horned sheep lying in a field. At an intersection where we were to take a right there was a flat stone bridge across the stream. Phil showed us the first flat stone which had a rounded out area where knives were sharpened and sheep were slaughtered long long ago. We then headed up a narrow road which led us back into the village of Youlgrave. The smallest house in the UK is located here, a couple of pubs and shops, and stone houses with colorful flowers. While Phil went off on an errand, Maureen, Bill, and I visited the ancient church where there is a glass sculpture Phil helped create.

Back home we were given the rest of the particulars of the house and then Phil and Maureen got their respective cars ready for the drive to Devon and the rally. They were washed and beautified and the route was reviewed. Maureen keeps her lilac Morris Minor stored nearby and drives it when she crosses the pond to participate in organized drives, just as we did with our Mini Coopers.

It turns out Phil is a retired hair stylist, and he still cuts hair for certain people at his house. Earlier he blew dry Maureen’s hair and it looked fabulous. I had been analyzing Diane’s haircut the day before and was really impressed with it. Of course, it was done by Phil! Well, he seemed to think Bill and I needed his special magic and we were quite excited as to what he could do with our mops. I have had a different person cut my hair for the past several months with varying degrees of success so I was quite ready for someone who seemed to truly know his craft. Once Phil was done with his preparations for the trip, he gave our hair his full attention. Gosh, were we lucky to have gotten this sit and been given new trims which left our hair lying so much more calmly. He prefers dry cuts with spritzes of water so he can see how it dries as he goes along without the weight of freshly washed hair. I didn’t wash mine until the next morning and he offered to dry it for me before he left on his trip. He gave me some tips as to how to help the hair on the nape of my neck and on the sides to look better rather than just letting it do its own thing naturally.

The next morning Phil, Diane, and Maureen left in a slight drizzle but didn’t encounter much rain for the rest of the day long drive. Bill waited a while for the drops to stop before taking Ben out for his walk. Apparently, Ben was rather fixated on going in one direction and one direction only, to the pub! He was bound and determined to get inside! It is a dog friendly establishment, but he would have to wait until the next night when we went there for dinner.

The next couple of days, Saturday and Sunday, the weather was dry and sunny but a bit cool. I was able to do two loads of laundry and dry them both outdoors. We took more walks, one day going to the even smaller village of Alport where there isn’t even a store of any size. We walked down to the stream and saw two fisherman with all the proper clothing and gear coming down the road and then heading downstream. The stone houses, some covered in reddened ivy, were picturesque. Ben was being well-behaved and patient with all our stops to photograph.

That night we took Ben to the pub and he seemed right at home. After a drink of water from the dog bowl on the floor by the piano, he quietly lay next to our table and rested. We found out later he likes to go there as he gets treats, but not that time. Monday we took him with us to the Village Store to get desserts for the dinner we were preparing for all five of us, and I gave him a treat from the doggy jar outside the door. That made him happy before we toddled off back to the house.

Monday the weather was a bit wet again and when it let up I tried to take Ben for a walk. He had no interest in going on the trails to the left; he insisted on going right and then to the pub even though it was closed. The poor guy is quite fixated on the place even if it’s closed! Fortunately Phil, Diane, and Maureen didn’t see much of the rain on their way home. When Ben heard the cars approaching, he bounded along the sidewalk to the gate to greet them enthusiastically. They all looked so happy and relaxed. After our dinner we all watched Alfred Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” which was not new to any of us, but no one really remembered much other than a scene or two.

Tuesday Diane took the van back to Sheffield to tend to her grandson again while the rest of us did other things. Phil and Diane took Ben for a walk and did car errands while Bill and I found our way by foot to Haddon Hall, about an hour away. There have been several movies filmed there, notably three versions of “Jane Eyre”, “Pride and Prejudice”, “The Other Boleyn Girl” and “The Princess Bride”. Part of the house is from the 12th century and was used until 1700. It then lay dormant for two hundred years with caretakers dealing with any maintenance issues. In the 1920’s it was taken over by the 9th Duke and Duchess of Rutland and made habitable. The owners still live there, though their presence is not evidenced in what we could view. It was really quite interesting to tour and get a feel for life centuries ago. We heard a gentleman speak about the history and life of the kitchen and a woman given the general history of the manor house. There is a small chapel with remains of wallpaper-like frescoes remaining on parts of the walls and a baptismal fountain from Norman times. Before the two mile walk back home we had a quick lunch in the small cafe to give us sustenance. When we arrived back at the house, Ben was on his own and gave us almost as excited a greeting as he gave his people the day before! He likes us!

When Phil and Maureen returned, Phil suggested we go to a pub in the Morris Minor for a drink. We didn’t go to Ben’s pub, but ended up in Monyash. The pub had just closed but next door was a small cafe which also served a bit of wine and beer. The weather was so fine we sat outdoors at a picnic table. On the way home we stopped by Arbor Low, a Bronze Age stone circle, but all the stones are lying on the ground. There had been up to 43 of them surrounding a central stone cove for ceremonial purposes. A traveling Texan hovering nearby asked us for directions and accompanied us through the gate and into the field where the ancient stones lie.

The next morning we were up early. While Diane stayed home to take Ben for a walk, the rest of us piled into the van with all the luggage for a ride to Manchester Airport. Phil dropped us off at Hertz so we could rent a car and drive to Glasgow and then took Maureen to terminal 2 for her flight back to the States.

It was another great sit! Phil, Diane, and Ben are very friendly and easy going. Ben rarely barked and loved to be with us. He immediately responded to commands such as “stop” when off lead. He is such a sweet dog for which there was mutual respect and adoration.

In Cambridge with Barney and on to Lincoln

Our sit in Devon was cancelled due to a medical situation with one of the cats which required a leg to be amputated. We were fortunate to acquire a last minute sit on the outskirts of Cambridge center for a Jack Russell terrier mix named Barney.

Irenee and Donal run an AirBnB on the side which is connected to their house. We were given that space and also had the use of the main house while they were away for a few days. Their two young boys are quite well behaved and seem to really care about each other. It was quite amazing to watch their interactions and how normal it seemed for them to clean up their spilled milk, etc. The family left after a late dinner and Barney sat by the front door for a few hours. Eventually he gave up and slept in his bed which had been placed in the laundry room adjacent to our room.

We had arrived early in the morning, after spending the night at a nearby BnB, dropped off our baggage at the house and returned the rental car. While the family was doing their chores for the day, we meandered around downtown. There are numerous old buildings and is apparently a rival to Oxford. Cambridge University is made up of over thirty colleges, all with dated buildings which would be fun to live and learn in. We walked down Green Street and passed Bill’s Restaurant. A hat shop displayed caps so Bill went in to look for a cooler version of the wool one he bought in Ireland three years ago. The clerk helped him find one the right size and color, but the price of 70 pounds was well over his expectation. She was quick to defend it saying it was not overpriced, but the cap was made of fine Irish linen. Fine, it can be enjoyed by someone with deeper pockets! The weather was quite sunny and reasonably warm which made our day quite pleasant.

Being quite certain I had a uti, I stopped in at a pharmacy advertising consultations. They turned out to be online so we were sent to a medical center a few blocks away which had a reputation of being able to work in travelers. Indeed they were. I entered and spoke with the receptionist telling her I was a tourist and my issue. She said she would make me a temporary resident which simply involved giving my name, birthday, and address in the States and where I was staying in Cambridge. A photo of my passport photo page fulfilled the rest of the requirements. I was given a vial in which to pee, waited a few minutes, and then was called back by the doctor. She was being supervised by an elderly senior doctor, and he did the quick test of the urine while she gathered my history and complaint. The test was positive so she gave me a prescription and was going to send off the sample to be cultured. When I returned to the receptionist to ask how much I owed, she said “nothing” and explained that in the UK people are not charged to see a GP. Flabbergasted, we headed off to the pharmacy and twenty minutes later retrieved my pills. Those were free as well. Wow!

Barney would get quite excited when he sensed he was going for a walk. Putting on our shoes, none allowed to be worn in the house, was a big hint. Whenever we would try to attach the lead before we left, he would jump up and down, quite high as though he had springs on his paws. He was soooo excited! One time we took him for a walk down and along the river, which seemed to really tire him out. Whenever we stopped to rest, though, he never sat or lay down. We saw several people practicing their crewing and enjoying the sunny morning in the park.

Another day we walked back downtown and ended up taking a punting tour. Being a Saturday, it was quite a popular activity. There was a wedding party in one punt and others were being managed by private individuals. Our guide was a trim young woman who seemed knowledgeable and to enjoy her job. She took us under the Bridge of Sighs, alongside the Wren Library and Kings College as well as other buildings along the river. The views from the water are called the Backs, as one passes by the backs of several colleges.

The Round Church was interesting just by its’ shape. The exhibitions gave lots of information about the history of England and was slanted towards the importance of religion. Christ College was free and we roamed around the large garden in the back of the dorms. We peeked into a small dining room as we passed where several tables of Asians were being served in style.

The day we were to leave Barney seemed to sense there was a shift in his people. I had left my large suitcase open on the floor to pack any last minute items. When I walked into the room I was suddenly surprised to find him laying down on top of my clothes! I guess he liked us and didn’t want us to leave. He also spent time next to our bed. We had moved his into our room the second day so he could be closer to us at night as he becomes anxious quite easily, but that wasn’t where he wanted to be.

Bill took an Uber to get another car hire and after loading it up, we took off to spend a night in Lincoln. That is a quiet town despite having a massive cathedral and castle. Our lodging was in a former stable of the old vicarage and consisted of a bedroom with loft, sitting/dining/kitchen area, bathroom, and outdoor seating area. The night we arrived Bill was sitting out there with a glass of wine when he was visited by a huge handsome Bengal cat. I took it out a bit of canned salmon juice from my dinner and he thought that was quite tasty. After eating we walked around the town and the outside of the cathedral, amazed at its enormity. The next morning it was open and we were able to enjoy the interiors. It has several wings and rooms and can’t imagine why all that space was needed. It is so large that services are held elsewhere.

We had a phone interview at 11 so sat in the car for quiet and spoke with the couple in Australia. After some discussion about transportation and such, we said we would look into getting there quickly from our sit in Canberra and renting a car for five weeks as there is no public transportation in Clare. We had to meet our next homeowner in Sheffield at 3:15 so after walking around the castle grounds and the town some more and eating lunch in the car, we drove off to our next animal adventure.

A Week in Ramsbury

This is by far the easiest sit we have done. Arya is a sweet cat who only needed to be fed and given some love as she has her own door. We could go off for however we wanted on any day and not have to rush back to let her out or take her for a walk. Some nights she slept with us but usually she preferred her own tent bed on top of the refrigerator.

Amanda picked us up in Swindon, a boring place but was where the train took us, and drove us to Marlborough where she treated us to lunch and gave us time to walk around a bit. Then we drove to Tesco’s for groceries as she needed to go there as well.

Amanda and Tom have recently, maybe two weeks before, moved into Toby Cottage which is about four hundred years old. It is a thatch roof two-story house with low ceilings. We had to duck a lot to go through doorways, especially when using the back door. The thatch roof extended quite a bit and we both scraped a heads more than once. There is a small back yard and with unusually pleasant weather, we often ate outdoors. The stairs to the second floor are narrow and curved making it impossible to get furniture up there. How did they do it? Back in the day the houses had a coffin hole. In the floor of the master bedroom is a rectangular area which lifts up and out, just the right size for a coffin. As most people then seemed to die in bed, this was the way to get downstairs. In this case, the hole opened into the living room.

Amanada took the dogs for a walk so we accompanied her to get to know the area. The dogs were going on the trip with her, but we found them to be quite friendly and would not have been a problem to care for. She took us down the road, along a footpath or two to the river where the dogs swam a bit, and then we returned via a different road.

While there we took walks on the footpaths around the village. The most interesting was to Littlecote House Hotel. It is now a leisure activity style with bowls and croquet among the offerings. An older gentleman was out for a bit of practice by himself and he kindly took the time to explain the game to us. Littlecote is really three houses in one and was started in the late 1500’s. There is still the ha-ha, or ditch, a distance from the house to keep out the cows. Lovely peaceful gardens and seating areas on the edge of the lawn provide respites of the physical and mental type. Part of the complex is kept as a museum, really, and anyone can walk through to admire. There is even a small chapel the owners used. A bedroom is said to be haunted by a baby who died shortly after birth. A few minutes across the property is an ancient Roman mosaic and ruins. The tile work was found in the early 1700’s, sketched, reburied, and rediscovered about two hundred and fifty years later. Sadly, it was in great distress at that point due to frost upheavals and such before being covered over and was given much restoration.

The next day we had an outing to Avebury with friends of my brother. We didn’t know them but when I made contact as his suggestion, they offered to take us out for the day. None of us had seen the ancient stones and with their National Trust membership we had free parking; normally it is $7 for the day! We enjoyed getting to know them and I was able to answer their questions about Susie’s sudden death.

Another day we returned to Marlborough where we wanted to buy some items at a store Amanda showed us that has some natural foods and cleaning products. We ended up buying several things including natural soaps, shampoo bars, deodorant, and peanut butter. After seeing more of the town, such as the church now used as a small cafeteria and gift shop, we bought groceries at Waitrose and took the bus back home.

Hungerford is also interesting and we spent most of the time there walking along the canal. We watched people taking their boats through a lock and swinging a pedestrian bridge out of their way. The day was quite warm and sunny, which I was loving as we have had such cool temperatures for months. We sat on a bench by the canal and had a small picnic lunch.

Sunday we went to The Bell, a pub, for the Sunday roast. We both had the pulled pork which was rather salty in what was probably soy sauce. The roasted potatoes were rather tough to cut and the insides somewhat dry. It was a bit disappointing for the rave reviews and award of best pub last year.

Soon it was time to leave and we managed to get our luggage to the bus stop and make our way to Swindon. While I waited at the bus station, Bill trudged thirty minutes to Hertz and came back with a classy red Kia. We loaded up the car and headed to Cambridge where we to spend the night before our next sit. Right on the way was Bletchley Park so we returned to see what we had missed before. There were old vehicles, including an ambulance, more personal stories, an exhibition of code breaking in WWI, and we were able to see more of the huts we had zoomed through earlier. Just as we finished the rain began and we made it back to the car just in time!

Two Weeks in Brightwell Baldwin

Located a bit southwest of Oxford, we were in charge of two dogs and three cats. One of the dogs, Polo, was another blue roan cocker spaniel and the other, Tilda, a mix of black lab and springer spaniel. The Bengal mix cats, Peanut and Pingu, are sisters and almost identical, while the black one, Nanos, was a rescue from Greece and snuck into England. They were all easy to love, although Polo, AKA Shorty, had to be watched as he was also looking for food all day. One time he got into a container of salt but decided he didn’t like it. Having had pancreatitis after eating a package of chocolate biscuits a while back, even the kitchen garbage bin has been strapped into place.

Mo, who picked us up near the Mini plant, and her husband Richard are wonderful easy going people. She is a psychotherapist who works from home and he has built and sold a golf course, among other things. His sister Jackie is living in their detached converted garage as she is separated from her husband and needed a place to land. That was quite nice for us as we had someone to talk with, give us advice, and even watch the dogs one afternoon so we could go further afield. Mo lent us one their cars and paid for the insurance to cover Bill.

Watlington is the nearest town with amenities and the car was quite necessary in order to get groceries. I had a hair cut in town as well, anc so far it seems the best one I have had in a while. There is a thrice weekly farmer’s market and a butcher which provided fresh goods. A fancy cheese shop and accompanying kitchen store were also highlights. As we peeked into the later, I was in heaven with the aroma of a cheesy quiche right out of the oven. It was too delicious to pass up even though it has too much lactose and leeks in it. We needed to give it time to rest so we purchased our groceries and then returned to take our slices home. Of interest, it is a cash only establishment.

One day we drove into Wallingford, which is rather small but has a great supermarket, Waitrose. The old castle remains are few and the park in which they rest is quite peaceful. Henley-on-Thames, where the famous regatta is held annually, was more interesting as we could walk along the Thames and watch sculling practice. A few barges were moored along the banks which led to a discussion about a possible river cruise in the future. The barge would be a novelty but the limited space might not be too appealing.

One of the three day trips we enjoyed even more was the day in Oxford. The architecture is old and amazing. Several Harry Potter scenes were filmed in the city and we able to access a couple of them. One was the 15th century Divinity School which was setting for the hospital scene and the university’s earliest teaching room. Included in the tour was access to the ancient Bodleian Library, also the Hogwarts’ library, where we could not take photos. One copy of anything ever printed in the UK, including cheesy magazines, is stored. As space ran out, other buildings were erected and even storage underground was created. The nearby Bridge of Sighs, which connects the two sections of Hertford College, and the Radcliffe Camera, a circular library, were exciting to see as well.

From there we meandered over to Christ Church. We bought our tickets online which saved us from waiting forever and we were even allowed to enter a half hour before our slotted time. Here the tour was self-guided so we were able to take our time. The Great Hall, which served as a model for Hogwarts’ dining hall, was incredible. It was as though we were walking right onto the movie set. A mock up was used in the films. The staircase though, is where Professor McGonagall actually welcomed Harry in the Philosopher’s Stone and leads into the Great Hall. How cool it would be to eat there as it is a functioning dining room. We also saw the huge quadrangle and the cathedral build during the 12th century. It was all very impressive. We were appreciative that Jackie was able to take the afternoon dog duties as it was a Sunday.

When reading about places to go in Oxford, I saw that the Mini Cooper plant offers tours and no photos are allowed to be taken. It was right across from the car rental where we met Mo and dropped off the car. She had never been but was excited to have us go while they were gone. I reserved tickets for us online and we were in a group of fifteen. When we arrived we had time to see the small museum with the history of the Mini and a few cars from over the decades. Our guide was a retired manager of the body shop so he certainly knew what he was looking at. There are two sections. The first one is a lot of robots flipping pieces of metal around and robots welding them together. The second one was where the cars were assembled, which was more interesting to me. The entire process is computerized and each car is made to order. That means each car that goes through the assembly is different from the ones before and after it. The computer keeps all the details organized so the cars are put together according to the buyer’s specifications. One car could be a Clubman and the next one a convertible. Quality is the top priority. Our cars were built at this site back in 2008. At that time we were kept informed of where our cars were in the process, but that isn’t being done currently.

The last place we visited was Bletchley Park. That was a bit of a drive but so worth it. Again, I bought tickets online and they are good for multiple entries for a year from purchase. One drawback of the sit was having to be home by 2 to feed the dogs. The Park is quite expansive with lots to read and digest. One really needs a full day to appreciate it all. One the other hand, having a break in between visits refreshes the brain. The code breakers were certainly a definite force in ending WWII at least two years earlier and with a win. They had to be careful in deciding which information to give the military and how to fool the Germans as to the source of it. If too much destruction was done to the enemy, they would have figured out their codes were vulnerable. For example, if the Allies knew from a decoded German message where the U-boats were going to be, they would fly a reconnaissance plane over the area the day before to make the Germans think that was how we knew the location. With D-Day, the Germans were tricked into thinking we were going to invade via Calais. Sometimes the Allies would make it seem as though we knew information from spies, when that wasn’t the case. A lot of the exhibition explained the mathematics behind the enigmas which was overload for us. We were more interested in the few human stories. The huts where the decoding occurred and the mansion are all included in the self-tour. We must go back to take in the rest of the park!

Overall, it was an easy sit. The animals were well-behaved, though Polo truly is a bit naughty, as Mo warned us. It was mainly his obsession with food. Whenever we left the house and at night he had to be shut on the porch. Tilda slept in her bed in our room. One night two of the cats joined us but that was a rarity. The house is a converted barn from an old farm. Mo and Richard renovated it while they lived in London and have been in the house now for over thirty years. There is a good sized yard with gardens, a secluded hot tub, and a long clothesline. Tilda loved to help Bill practice his golf by retrieving balls endlessly which he pitched with an old golf club. She can even carry two balls at a time! The cats were fed whenever they asked and the dogs were fed first thing in the morning and at 2 PM. We never understood the skewed timing. After breakfast and before dinner we would take them for their daily constitutionals. Right across from the house are several acres of fields with public footpaths. We often saw the same people and got to know Jane pretty well. There is a dovecote, interesting trees, and a stream when Tilda liked to take a plunge and retrieve a stick. On the far side we crossed a stile and walked along a dirt road and wheat field to another shady road which took us back to the main road and home. We did variations on the theme but it gave us enough daily walking as well as the dogs.

Edinburgh to Cornwall

Upon our return from the fantastic Faroe Islands, we spent two nights outside of Edinburgh near the airport. The Hampton Inn was comfortable, had a generous breakfast buffet, and is just a few minutes walk from a direct bus to the city.

We arrived later in the afternoon after another great flight with Atlantic Airways, and trundled our luggage and selves along sometimes bumpy sidewalks, across traffic without any pedestrian footpaths, and checked in. After settling we took an Uber to The Bridge Inn for dinner. It was pretty good and the kitchen was easy to work around my dietary requests.

The next day we spent wandering around the big city. The bus took us right to the center. We walked up to the castle and found a loooooong line for tickets and just too many people in general. A couple of days later the big annual festivals were to begin so it might have been the early crowd. Having been in many castles over the decades, and I had been in this one back in ’77, we meandered on. A couple of workers saw us looking confused as I was looking for a nearby church and cemetery. They kindly helped me figure out which one it was and then gave us directions. We walked the Royal Mile amidst the tourists until we had to turn right and walk several blocks. Greyfriars Kirkyard dates from the mid-1500’s and is well-known for several reasons. One is the statue outside the churchyard of the Skye terrier just who was a celebrity in the 1800’s. He is said to have spent fourteen years guarding his owner’s grave until he died, too. Disney made the movie, “Greyfriar’s Bobby” back in 1961. Harry Potter’s Voldemort is said to be “buried” here as well. In fact, several of the characters from the series are said to have names inspired by several of the headstones. JK Rowling wrote many of books at a nearby cafe and often walked through the cemetery. Many of the tombs have skeletons and such making them a bit creepy. Many ghosts are said to have been seen and felt here making the night tours a bit of interest for some.

Back on the busy Royal Mile we admired ancient buildings and buskers in national dress. At one point we heard bagpipe music coming from a workshop/store so we popped in. A young man was playing while the owner listened and then adjusted a pipe. Then we found our way to the queen’s residence, Holyrood, via the contemporary Scottish Parliament building. Tours are available but for us it was enough just to see the outside. By then it was beginning to sprinkle and my leg needed a rest so we sat down in the outside eating area to rehydrate. Then we made our way to an Apple store for Bill to buy wireless earbuds. This was close to the bus stop but not ready to leave yet we rested again in the park below the castle. Our bench was just next to the WW1 memorial from US citizens with Scottish blood and sympathies to Scotland. We researched a place to eat an early dinner and wound up at a Turkish place which served us tasty dinners, curry for Bill and simple salmon for me.

The next morning Bill walked over to the car rental agency and brought back our wheels for the next week. After gathering our luggage we set out for Roslyn Chapel, made famous in the movie “The DaVinci Code”. Included in the entry fee is a short talk to explain the history of the chapel, which was originally intended to be a cathedral, facts about the movie scenes with Tom Hanks, and suggestions of what to look for in the designs. It was all quite fascinating. As it is still a working church, images could not be taken inside, but the outside we were free to photograph.

From there we had a long drive to Snowdonia National Park where we had a reservation for a two-night stay at a former working farm from the 1500’s. The owners, Tamsyn and Peter, are a lovely couple who have a very visually appealing property. They live in the restored main house and have made various parts of the farm buildings into lodgings. The self-catering section has been around for about fourteen years, but ours just for a few weeks. We had the former cow shed made into a cosy modern dwelling for humans. The three pig sties have been made into very tight quarters with just enough room for a bed and are great for someone or a couple with basic needs. Their bathroom is shared and is located a few steps away.

Meals are not included but are available with advance notice. Since we arrived late in the afternoon and had not made dinner arrangements, they offered us burgers, either lamb or beef, along with chips and beer or wine. We took them up on it and this time enjoyed a proper juicy lamb burger! Breakfast was also a choice so we since we were a drive away from anywhere else, we opted to dine in. Eggs, bacon, toast, tea and coffee were generously served. We also decided on their special lamb dinner which came with roasted vegetable, pate for a starter, and cheesecake for dessert. Since I was off lactose at the time and they didn’t have an alternate, I said I would be fine with just a few berries and suggested blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries. I was served a mountain of all three! They were fresh, flavorful, and juicy! There was so much food that we saved some of the pate and half my berries for breakfast. Tam kindly put them in the refrigerator for us overnight. They also sold Bill a bottle of wine which he drank over the two evenings there. All of these meals, with individual attention to my requests, were all delicious and plentiful. Peter ran a tab for us and everything was so reasonably priced, especially given the individual attention to dietary requests. Although we didn’t use it, a washer and dryer were available at no extra charge.

Another highlight of this wonderful lodge is the resident friendly cat, Patsy. When we first arrived and I saw her, I squatted down and called her over. She came! She was so friendly! A bit later I picked her up and she did NOT want to be let down. She drooled and purred madly. I finally handed her to Bill and she still wanted the cuddles. Her story is that she was the runt of a litter of unwanted kittens. Tragically, they were about to be taken in a sack and drowned in the river. Tam had mentioned to a friend about wanting a farm cat. He knew of the litter and retrieved this darling fur ball for her. She was saved from a horrible death and given a chance to enchant the world and earn her keep by catching lots of mice.

The one full day we had we spent walking. In the morning we ambled through the adjacent fields, came upon some horses and colts, and enjoyed the sun and the occasional fighter jets passing overhead. Later in the afternoon we took a long circular walk up the road, into the woods, alongside a mountain, down through an area being logged, and back through some sheep farms. That set us up nicely for the lovely lamb dinner waiting for us after working off the huge breakfast.

The next morning after finishing off dinner as well as eating the breakfast, we began the very long drive to Cornwall. What should have taken about five hours turned into seven as there were several slow downs on either side of Bristol. Not fun. We finally arrived outside Truro at our next lodging for three nights. This was an annex of a house. It was quite roomy and the kitchenette gave us a chance to cook one night even though there was a one burner induction hot plate. The famous actor John Rhys Davies is a friend of Juliet’s first husband and when in the area, stays in the annex. We have slept in the same bed! That night, as it was getting late, we walked up the hill, through the woods, and ate at a local pub. The food was pretty good.

The purpose for going to Cornwall was for me to revisit Mullion Cove Hotel where I worked as a chambermaid the summer of 1973. This was just before my senior year at Russell Sage College. My cousins had all been quite brave to study overseas and I wanted to also be strong. Reaching deep inside, I decided I would start with just several weeks away rather than a whole semester. Research led me to a book where several hotels with summer jobs were listed, I wrote to a few and ended up choosing this one. I took a charter flight from Bradley and flew to London where I stayed with the family of one of Dad’s business associates. A few days later I traveled by train to Redruth and bus to Helston and then the hotel. The first night I was given a room in the spartan workers’ wings that was so depressing. Homesickness set in pretty badly and I cried all night long. In the morning I spoke with the owner, Mrs. Kenny, who despite being an angry person, decided I was worthy of a room in the attic. I was to share it with another, slightly older female from France who would arrive a week later. This room was so much more appealing, though it, too, was pretty basic. Right by my bed was a window with a view of the English Channel and there was a sink. My roommate eventually arrived and we got along well. For bathing, we had to use a guest bathroom on the next floor down, which only had a tub. We were to use it only certain hours at night, unless we were using the toilet. My job was mainly to clean the guests rooms, but my day started with serving tea and coffee to the guests who requested in before breakfast. That was before rooms had their own kettles. I was always nervous about knocking on the doors that early, especially if they didn’t answer right away. I never knew what I might see when the door opened. I also had to help with the laundry and ironing. Once in a while I filled in for a waitress, something outside of my comfort zone. Cleaning the lounges came after my breakfast before the guests rooms were available. I remember lots of unpleasant ash trays and empty beer glasses.

Bill and I first drove to Falmouth which was nearby. All I really remember from there was the pier where one could take a boat ride to other villages and to see dolphins and whales. My goal in ’73 was to go to Helford Village and explore Frenchman’s Creek, the setting of the novel I loved by Daphne de Maurier. Those options still exist though now there are two piers. Perhaps there were two before but my memory may be fuzzy. We also walked the main street where there are many shops. I stop in the health food store to buy a few items before we had to head back to the parking meter.

From there we made our way to Helford Village. The sat nav seemed a bit confused, again, and we ended up on a single track road for several miles. Brambles threatened to scrape the car and passing another car coming from the other direction was a challenge as passing places were few and far between. Once another car bumped our side mirror but no visible damage was done. We finally arrived at the grass parking area where the PayandDisplay machine wasn’t working. Not being sure where the village was from there, we walked down the slope and around the corner but it was just a boat launch area for a club. Back in the parking lot we went in the other direction down a steep single track only for residents’ cars. The road is paved and steep and it wasn’t until we were close to the bottom that there was an open view of the village. Oh, gosh. It looked just the same. Memories. Several small white buildings stood across the inlet. The only noticeable difference was the very low tide. We rounded the corner and admired the view from the bridge, a bit uglier with the muck but boats out in the distance where the water was still deep enough to keep them afloat. We continued down the main road with houses and a store on the left. A break in the shrubs on the right allowed us entry to the shore but the way was a bit wet. Off the road a bit further on was a trail we followed a short distance to the end and the next cove where the ferry from Falmouth drops off people when the tide is high enough. Back in the village I stopped at the store to buy some much needed water and a pack of local blueberries. They proved to be fresh, juicy, and bursting with flavor.

From Helford we decided it was time to visit Mullion on the other side of the peninsula. It didn’t take long and as we drove through my former community, I found I did not really recognize any of it. Weekly I would go into Mullion to deposit most of my meager pay into my account at the post office. Despite doing that several times that summer, I did not recognize the building as we passed it. In fact, I didn’t recognize much of anything until we were at the bottom of the driveway to the hotel. As Bill drove up it, it seemed longer than before but once we arrived at the top and I could see the hotel, it brought back so many memories and feelings. The hotel exterior looked the same other than a new outdoor dining area and a new pool. The color was still off-white, the views from the top of the cliff the same, and my attic window was still there. I spent much time looking out that window at the water, lighthouses blinking, and stars twinkling. The nearby island was one to which my colleagues and I tried to swim to one day, but nearly froze to death in the process. Glancing down the cliff at the harbor, it was so familiar. I could see the two sand beaches on the other side accessible by a tunnel through the rocks when the tide was low. People were taking advantage of the sunny “warm” day but a few did have on wet suits. The rock and concrete pier was the unchanged.

We made our way to the front entrance of the hotel. I do not remember the sunroom, per say, but the spacious reception area with high rounded desk tucked in the corner of the staircase looked so similar to what I remember. I wandered into the two lounges which I used to clean in the mornings. They seemed much lighter and brighter and missing the acrid smell of dirty ashtrays and empty beer glasses. The dining room was in the same place but I remember the kitchen being off of that. Now, or perhaps my memory is wrong, is a large bar with a back exit to the outside eating area. I never did find the kitchen. Back off of that is where we lowly staff ate our meals. The food was pretty good. My favorite dessert was gooseberry fool with warm custard. So fattening and delicious. There was a phone booth to the left of the stairs, but that is gone and the alcove opens to another staff area.

From there we took ourselves upstairs which was quite different. Now there are firewalls at the stop of the stairs making the hallways much more narrow and darker. All the rooms have new doors. Wallpaper throughout is fresh and appealing. One room was open and the housekeeping staff were cleaning it. I stopped and spoke with the friendly young woman and told her that back in 1973 I had her job. We chatted for a bit and she let me see the room. I told her I used to live in the attic, and she laughed and replied that now it is empty except for dust and spiders. Bill and I continued on and explored the next floor as well. We think we found the door leading to the attic, but it was locked.

Back outside we descended the cliff path to get to the harbor. Some of the buildings at the bottom seemed new but there was still a place to get ice cream. We explored the harbor outbuildings from the exterior, one a former life saving station. The tunnel was accessible but too dark and still a bit wet, according to a young man who had just come through it, for us to try to navigate. We walked out on the harbor wall and watched the few beach goers, admiring their fortitude for the chilly channel waters.

Finally, I was ready to leave my special cove where I conquered some personal challenges and found inner strength that would carry me through the next adventures in my young adulthood. As we drove back to Mullion I recognized the church hall and the vicarage, now a BnB. We parked on the other side of the village and walked around. The old church is still there and the doors open. I don’t know if I had ever been inside before, but certainly never to a service. After sharing a mediocre Cornish pasty which was scalding hot, we eventually found the old post office. On the outside is a plaque giving the years it was open but in the 90’s it closed. I still didn’t recognize it.

As we still had time we drove to the point of the Lizard Peninsula and Kynance Cove. A half century ago they were largely void of people. Now they are both massive pay parking lots. There were way too many people and haze was interfering with the views so we decided not to stay and went back to our annex. That night we cooked our dinner in stages and rested up for the next day.

Lands End, the most westerly point of Great Britain, has apparently become another parking lot with an amusement park of some sort. So sad. Juliet recommended we skip it and explore Cape Cornwall, a bit north, instead. First we walked around Marazion for a view of St. Michael’s Mount. It wasn’t going to open for almost an hour and with the tide up we would have to take a ferry rather than walk the causeway. Parking was minimal and paid parking was for several hours. With the steep hill up to the castle, which would have likely bothered my healing knee as that had happened in Edinburgh, we opted out. I had been there back in ’73 and found it interesting, but have seen many castles since then. Then we drove on to Penzance where we walked around but nothing really captured us.

The next stop was at the Minack Theater which I don’t remember knowing about. Juliet highly suggested we stop there at it is a stunning outdoor theater set onto a rocky cliff. She has been to several productions there and loved them and the ambiance with dolphins adding to the entertainment at times. It was created by a woman, Rowena Cade, in the early thirties. She designed it and was heavily involved in the building of it, along with Billy Rawlings. She was known to carry weighty timbers and numerous sacks of sand up from the beaches for years. Later she used her rusty cars. Over time it was expanded and details added, all which required maintenance, especially after WWII. Never letting age get in her way, she continued with demanding intense labor into her eighties. This is all explained in a small exhibition and as part of the entry fee. We were fortunate to be able to watch a rehearsal of “I, Don Quixote” while we sat on the formed seating overlooking the coast. It really would be cool to see an actual performance in the evening, as long as the weather was Beth friendly! The show does go on in the rain.

Cape Cornwall is past Lands End as we went around. It was ok, with a view of Lands End in the distance. We parked and walked up the hill to the former tin mine chimney and Bill walked down the steep boat ramp to take pictures of the harbor. Off to the side was a pool with ocean water and something intriguing to three young lads. One climbed a high rock and twice we saw him jump off of it. My brother used to do that at our swimming pond when he was the same age.

By then it was time to head back to our annex as we had an early start in the morning. We were due just southeast of Oxford where the next pet sitter experience awaited.

Faroe Islands!!

Wow, we finally made it to the Faroe Islands where the spectacularly rugged vistas abound. We spent eleven days here, which was a few too many, but given the amount of fog and low lying clouds gave us a some warmer days and sunshine at the end.

Our AirBnB was on the island of Vagar, quite near the airport. Our hostess, Elspa, met us there as she and her family were about to leave on a vacation to Denmark. She set us up with a taxi and gave him the address. It turned out everyone, no matter where they were going, had to pay 100 kr., about $15. We were going two minutes away. Ouch. To get to the next island and the capital of Torshavn, one passes through a sub-tunnel and pays 50 kr. per car. That is later paid online. Other passengers got a much better deal!

Our host has a sweet dog, Mikki. He was supposed to be picked up at the house by Elspa’s sister after her arrival from Denmark the same night and taken to their mother’s. I had been assured via message a few days before the dog would not here at all. The basement apartment was where we lived and never heard any noise that night. The following night was quite different. At 11:15 we were woken from a deep sleep by overhead footsteps and talking. I peeked out the front door and saw a teenage boy with a dog, who turned out to be Mikki. Then the sister appeared. I said we were told she was coming the night before to get the dog. She said, “Yes” and confirmed we would be here for fourteen days. I replied that it was something like that. The constant footsteps, talking, laughter, and chair scrapping continued to midnight. At that point Bill got dressed and went upstairs and spoke with the sister. She said she didn’t know we could hear their noise and we were lucky the family wasn’t home during our stay. They left a few minutes later with the dog. The next day Mikki was back on the front porch, chained on a long leash. I messaged Elspa about the noise the night before and that the dog was back. She told me someone was coming to walk and feed him and her sister would return after the wedding that night to get him. At 9:30 PM he was walked and left upstairs crying. He continued to cry all night, but at least we could only hear him when we woke up to pee. Well, no one told me Faroese weddings can last unti four or five in the morning! Mikki was still here when we got up, crying and howling. That was when Elspa informed me of the wedding culture here. Her father-in-law was supposed to be coming to walk and feed him until the sister was to retrieve him. By then I let her know we were not happy with the situation. Later that day when we returned home, he was gone along with his lead. I don’t know where he went and Elspa stopped replying to my messages.

On a positive note, the scenery here is quite stunning. Even from our windows, which all face west, we could see the harbor, steep mountains, and the island Mykines in the distance. After deliberating about transportation costs and ease and learning the buses do not run very often, we ended up renting a car from the family business. We went through three cars, all about ten years old, all manual. You get what you pay for. The first car was needed a few days later so we then swapped for one which had been in an accident but ran ok. It did, but had several annoyances so traded it for another. It was interesting when we made the deal that there was no need to show a drivers’ license or identification. Insurance came with the car and only for the car. We could buy extra for personal coverage but opted not to as we have travel medical insurance. The cars got us around and we had the freedom we desire to see the islands. Tours are available but quite expensive. It also made getting groceries easier. There is a small store just a minute away by foot, but larger stores and the liquor store are ten minutes away by car.

The first place we headed with the car was to the next island and the capital of Torshavn. We wanted to activate our Vodaphone chip, which we had both read would work here. At some point Vodaphone joined with the company Hey whose office was in Torshavn. We arrived only to be told they used to be connected, but they did try hard to figure out why we couldn’t access them. No luck. From there we drove into town and walked around. There is an old fort there which still has some cannons but not much else. We looked for a place to eat but menues were limited and not of our liking. The harbor gave us some good photo ops and was near the oldest village and the government buildings in ancient buildings with sod roofs as well. As we returned to the harbor we noticed large open doors. Inside was full of huge blue wooden boats. A group of young women and their leader were getting ready to take one out. As a unit they somehow managed to lift it, quickly carry it outside, and set it down on the slip. After several minutes of getting organized they suddenly started rowing simultaneously with perfectly meshed timing and away they glided rhythmically.

To avoid the sub tunnel toll, the next day we explored our island, Vagar. First we went to view the free falling waterfall, Mulafossur, near Gasadalur. Along the way we stopped numerous times to photograph the stacks and jagged island Tindholmur. We also walked around the tiny village of Bour. The church was open and being heated. It looked as though a wedding might be occurring there later, which might have been the one the sister went to. It was quite small with a simple low-key interior.

The village of Gasadalur has been accessible by road only since 2006 when a tunnel was constructed in the mountain. Before then, all residents, visitors, delivery men, and postal carriers had to traverse the very steep mountain which could take 2.5 to 3.5 hours each way. Helicopters and boats were also an option. It has a new cafe, toilets, a couple of places to stay. The waterfall is within walking distance and just before the town. Trails lead from the town up the slope to let tourists enjoy the view from the clifftops. This town is where we met two friendly dogs, one each of the two times we went. Dot was tied up and very friendly. Both time she was quite excited for the attention. The second time a border collie came up to us on the cliff and wanted to play fetch with a small pebble. Flinka was quite obsessed with this and had a great time. She began laying the pebble at our feet but before we could bend over and get it, she would snatch it away. As we descended, she kept doing this and only through trickery could we get it so we could toss it for her. She then scampered off to a group of young adults at a picnic table and became their new buddy.

The waterfalls are quite spectacular as they plunge from the edge of a rugged cliff with a backdrop of towering mountains in the background. There is a dedicated viewing spot but the better place is a bit further down the path to be able to capture the falls entering the sea.

On the other side of the airport are the better grocery stores and the town of Sandavagur where there is a huge but modest church. We drove along a dirt road looking for a trail we were considering for another day to a different waterfall. We found that, confirmed the 200 kr fee per person, and continued on the track. In the distance was an interesting rock pinnacle. To try to get closer we went as far as the dirt road allowed where there was what turned out to be sheep shearing shed. Outside in a small pen were what could have been a hundred sheep pack tightly together waiting their turn at the barbershop. Around the far end a huge window was open allowing us to see in. There were numerous stalls and workers. We were able to get a pretty good view of the shears, huge scissors, used to cut away the massive coats which were then collected and dumped outside the window. The sheep didn’t seem too happy! A border collie was roaming around having done his work and perhaps waiting to herd them back to the field. That was quite a cool experience.

We made our way to town and found another road that seemed to go around the edge of the island. A parking area at the end of the paved track had a trail along the side which led us to the pinnacle we had seen earlier. In English it is called a troll’s finger. After getting as close as we felt safe doing, we sat down in the slope of the field and admired the expansive calm ocean before us. It would have made a great stage for spouting whales and leaping dolphins, but it was not to be.

We tried to get into the church but it is open only 2-4 in the afternoons Monday-Friday. We were too early. A few days later we returned and found another simple tastefully done interior.

Two days later we returned to Streymoy. First we headed back towards Torshavn and visited the medieval village of Kirkjuboreyn. There were several tourists there early in the morning but not so many to spoil our time. Sod roofs were more prevalent and there is a church, locked, and the stone shell of cathedral, vacated since 1557. Restoration is in progress. We also were able to enter an old house to model what the interiors used to look like.

From there we drove north on a scenic Buttercup route to Saksun. Rain threatened again, but we were able to enjoy the peaceful scenery and walked down to the lagoon at the bottom of the waterfall. From there one can continue on to the coast, which we did not do. A chapel was closed tight with a small cemetery just in front. There is also a tiny cafe and museum but the entry fee to see the artifacts was much too expensive.

There are several sod houses around our town and all over the islands, though they are not the norm. We saw one house being given a new sod roof and a young man trimming the grass with a scythe on another one. Some churches also have them. Of all the churches we could enter, none were ostentatious or gaudy. It was quite refreshing they were all simple and tasteful. We even saw a synagogue in one small village.

Another day we drove to the next island Streymor and drove up the eastern edge all the way to Tjornuvik, one of the oldest villages. Viking graves have been found in the eastern part of the valley. Rain had been predicted but we seemed to have lucked out and stayed north of it. The scenery was spectacular and the small village quite interesting. Farmers had cut the grass, not to be walked on by anyone else, and were raking it into piles. Others were then draping it over supports to let it dry, just as we saw being done with noodles outdoors in Vietnam. The village is tucked into an inlet with steep mountainside directly behind it, creating difficult weather. A lovely beach provided the typical opportunities. Although the day we were there the water was quite calm and hard to imagine rough enough to create large waves, from what I read on the welcome sign, it is a surfers’ delight. A local man with a cool hat offered waffles with whipped cream and rhubarb jam. Bill placed an order for himself and was served a half waffle and a cup of coffee and had to pay about seven dollars. Yikes. We continued to explore the area and walked on out as far as we could safely go to get a better view of more sea stacks, the Giant and the Witch.

Onwards, we then returned south and then crossed a bridge to the next island of Eysturoy and north to Eioi. That turned out to not be too interesting so we had a snack and then retraced our steps a bit and then turned east and south through a high mountainous road. The low lying clouds obscured our views some, but we were able to still enjoy the the breathtaking vistas. At one point we overlooked the village of Funnigar, very photogenic from so high up. We continued northeast onto Gjogv, yet another scenic area. The earliest record of the town is from 1584 but it is thought to be much older than that.

We stopped to stretch our legs and get some fresh air. In the distance we could see people ascending very steep stairs and then walking along the ridge. We decided to try it out and upon reaching the bottom of the stairs, after an already steep climb, we found we were supposed to pay several dollars each which could be deposited in a bank account. Well, we decided to walk just to the top of the steps and check out the view from there only. There were over a hundred of them, as I recall, and the view nothing special. It couldn’t have been much different from higher up. People charge what they can because they can, but the value wasn’t equal to it. Down we went.

The weather finally took a turn for the better the last few days we were there. The first day of sun and warmth we took a free walk across some flat land, past a sheep shearing shed and bleating sheep to our right, and followed the path to a lake. The vistas weren’t particularly special, but the pleasant weather made it worthwhile. As we finally neared the lake the path included a lot of ditches to be traversed. We opted not to push our luck with wet and knees, turned around and had a snack on rock with a view of the lake. As we neared the barber shop, more sheep were out and about. On the other side we saw a barber with his exhausted reddish border collie. She had worked quite hard running up and down the hillside herding the sheep and was getting a well-deserved rest in the open trunk of his car.

After much deliberation about the expense and how and when to get to Mykines, we opted for one of the extra ferry runs, all that was available affordably, at 2.5 times the price of the regular one. At least the weather was finally fair. We also had to buy a hiking ticket, yet no one ever asked to see it. The main attractions on this island are the lighthouse, to which the path was closed, and thousands of puffins. The ferry ride was quite special in its own right as we passed several of the interesting islands and saw puffins madly flapping their wings to fly around as we passed by. Less than an hour later we arrived, climbed numerous steep steps, and then kept ascending up a very steep hillside to reach the ridge where the puffins reside in the summer. We could see the tiny village behind us, which seems to be expanding but only a few people are said to live there in the winter. People are supposed to keep to the path and not dawdle so that the puffins can go about their business of raising a puffling. Of course, no one did. The very striking puffins are quite photogenic and we were lucky to see a couple of them with beaks full of fish for the babies.

There were hikes to be taken but we opted just to enjoy the birds with the chunky orange beaks. We had left our village on the 1 PM ferry and were supposed to return on the one at 7 PM, giving us more than enough time to enjoy the sunny warm day. We were ready to return on the ferry at 5, and though it seemed full, the captain let many extras on. We ate dinner at a restaurant nearby and found it quite expensive for the quality of the food. I ordered a lamb burger, imagining a plump juicy patty. Wrong. It was tasty but flat and firm like cardboard. I just drank water and Bill had two beers and a hamburger. For that we paid about sixty dollars.

The last hurrah for our Faroe Islands trip was a hike the next day on our island. This is the one for which we had to pay the pricey 200 Kr each to enter the private land and view a waterfall. The sunny day was pleasant and walk about five miles round trip. It was quite flat, wet in some places, but scenic enough. The trail parallels the largest lake on the islands and almost meets the ocean. At that point there is a waterfall, Bosdalafossur, which glides down the rocky wall to the ocean. We walked through peat meadows towards Traelanipa, Slave Cliff, which is a striking perpendicular cliff 142 meters high. It may have earned its name from Vikings pushing unwanted slaves off the cliff to their death. It is famous for its view, about halfway up, of the lake now behind, which when photographed from a low angle, seems to be at the top of the cliffs. In reality, it is well below. After taking photos of the illusion, we continued to the top, glad we were not unwanted slaves. After a bit we carefully retraced the steep path and then detoured to see the waterfall. It certainly is not as impressive as the one we saw on our island, but it was a beautiful day. After a while we wearily returned to the trailhead, Bill had the coffee that came in the price of the ticket, and called it a day.

The Faroe Islands are certainly expensive and well worth it to explore. The rugged scenery is among the best we have seen in Patagonia, South Island of New Zealand, Ireland, and the Scottish Highlands. Of course, thousands of puffins are quite marvelous to experience, as well.

Scotland Road Trip

The day we left the pet sit in Aberdeenshire, we rented a car and drove west through Cairngorms National Park which contains a mountain high enough to have a ski area. In fact, that is where Saffie’s owners met and began their decades long relationship. The scenery was pretty but pretty tame compared to the rest of the road trip once we got to the highlands in the west.

That first night we spent at a quirky BnB. The house was built for a woman and her servants many years ago and has been lived in only by women ever since. One owner was a male, but he never resided there. The gardens were lovely, the decor dark and full of items appropriate for Halloween, but has a huge living area with a winding staircase past a huge window which helps lighten the space. Bailey the cat reminded us of old Ben and let us pet him, though he wasn’t exactly thrilled about it. He even came into our room when the manager/owner was showing us our space. We had dinner near the Inverness castle, which is closed to the public, and then wandered around the city a bit. I stopped at a store to get some breakfast items for me as what was provided in our room was not within my digestive sensitive diet.

Rain greeted us the next morning and after breakfast we drove southwest along Loch Ness, which we had done in 1990. The rain and mist came and went but Nessie never put in an appearance. About halfway along we stopped at Uruqhart Castle where we had roamed freely way back when. As we pulled into the large parking area I partially saw a sign about tickets. Tickets? What tickets? Ah, now it is a big tourist attraction and the entry is $15. Yikes! We managed to a cop a view from the parking lot between the shrubs to take a photo but were not going to pay that much money for a place we had been to for free with only a few others milling about. Back in the car, we drove on to Fort Augustus where we stretched our legs.

In that town is part of the sixty mile long Caledonian Canal which crosses the country. It was built in the early 1800’s, refurbished over time, and has a walkway up the various levels of locks. We did see one good sized boat waiting for it’s area to fill, but no real activity. Back in the car, we continued a bit further to Invergarry where we turned northwest for scenic views. Despite drips and low hanging clouds, we managed to enjoy the dramatic landscape. Glen Shiel was the site of a famous battle in 1719 between the Jacobites and the government, but I hope they were able to take a few minutes and find some inner peace in the mountain surroundings. Rob Roy MacGregor led the clansmen, with Spanish support, but victory was not to be for them.

We arrived in Dornie where the well known castle, Eilean Donan, is situated. We had passed through there before but this time were spending two nights. Our BnB was in a private house down a quiet road. We were supposed to be room 3, but the owner took us to room 2. It was very nice with a new modern bathroom. When I showed her the booking for room 3, she was surprised as the guests the night before told her they were in room 3. She took their word for it so assumed we were in room 2. She explained we had the better bathroom and so we settled into our comfy digs. There was a large sitting room and breakfast area only for guests which looked out over a loch. She suggested we eat dinner at the local pub, owned by her and her husband, but seemingly the only restaurant.

As it was still early, serving started at 6, we walked to the castle but were too late for entry. The outside was good enough. After a while we made our way to the pub. The place was full with people perusing menus while waiting for 6:00 to strike. The food was tasty, but the service needed a lot of polishing. One waiter had to manage about ten tables and he was completely overwhelmed. He would forget parts of our orders and we were not the only victims. Dessert was not added to the bill as he felt badly he had forgotten to let the kitchen know.

The next day we drove the Isle of Skye up through the Cuillen Hills to Dunvegan and around and up to Ulg and back down to Portree where we had dinner to avoid a repeat of the pub scenario. There was more gorgeous scenery all day. The first stop was actually a bit south as I wanted to get to the otter hide. After several miles down a single track road we came to a parking lot. We then walked quite a ways with a few glimpses of the water and even what was probably a seal. The hide was still a bit far up from the coast but between zoom lenses and a viewing scope, we could make out seals. The otters were not out and about. Back up at the parking lot we found we could get a good view of the water, but again, just more seals. We have seen plenty of seals over the years and really wanted to see the fun loving otters.

Back on the main road we drove through the Cuillen Hills, place of more battlegrounds, and photographic stops. One of the highlights was further on around. The Quiraing is a stunning area well worth the drive off the main road to get there. Bill had to deal with the one track road and parking near the end was a nightmare. Lots of construction was going on which we guessed to be a future parking lot and visitors’ center in the far future. This will likely become another paid destination. For us it was free and once we were able to park, we enjoyed every moment of the beauty. Had my knee been steadier on muddy tracks we might have taken the half hour hike north, but chose to stay closer to the fantastic high scenery we already had.

Not too much further on we saw a lot of parked cars just off the road and decided to investigate. Once Bill was able to find a spot for our car, we opened the doors to the surprise and delight of a bagpipe busker. Cool! This was the first one we had seen since Belfast. Just a bit further on people were peering over the cliff. Wow. A very long waterfall was cascading to the far reaches of the ocean way below us. A bit past that we could view a cliff known as the Kilt as to some, it resembles one. I guess that was why the tall lad with the auburn beard and full dress was tooting his pipes there.

It was a long day of driving but we each had hours worth of photos and videos to process once we returned to our BnB. Back there, we rested in the guest sitting room with the view to relax with tea and cookies.

The next day we took a winding mountain road, Bealach na Ba, also known as Pass of the Cattle, which afforded fantastic panoramas along another single track road though the clouds were hanging low. I was so glad to be the passenger! The top was much easier to drive with fog and pools and we made our down to the small village of Applecross. There we enjoyed the sunshine as we lunched at cafe by the water. Bill’s salmon chowder and my fresh squat lobster sandwich were tasty and filling. A squat lobster looks like a lobster but is not at related. It is more closely related to a small crab. They do not travel well so need to served fresh. The owner’s husband is a fisherman and he gets them out of Loch Torridon as a by product of langoustine catches in creels.

Then we continued on around the stubby peninsula to Shieldag, then Torridon, and made our way east and north through less dramatic scenery towards Ullapool. Not too far from our destination we made a stop, gave the clouds a few minutes to lift, and then ambled down a trail to scope out the Falls of Measach. Such a cool spot! The falls themselves are ok but it was the two side falls from higher up the walls of the gorge that made it so spectacular. A suspension bridge crosses the gorge allowing one to stop midway to get the full effect of the distance way down to the flowing water. On the other side the trail continues down river to a metal lookout which extends out over the gorge. It could easily activate vertigo!

Our two night stay in Ullapool gave us a kitchen and access to a washer and dryer which meant we could cook our own meals and get laundry done easily and quickly. For our drive on the day between we went north to Clachtoll and Lochinver via Elphin, to Drumbeg, arced around to Inchnadamph and on back to Ullapool. There lots of ponds with water pads and lilies, fog, spider webs, and such which were all enjoyable despite the limited visibility. In Clachtoll we stopped at a beachside campground where we found two deep white sand beaches perpendicular to each other and lots of massive rocks. We visited with a young border collie who is still recovering from a broken leg but has maintained her spirit and energy. Back just outside Ullapool we explored another beach covered with rounded flat stones perfect for cairn building. Bill found them good for skipping across the water, too.

With clean clothes we headed repeated a bit of the road from the day before and then turned east through Oykel Bridge. A simple stone arch bridge crosses a stream there and made for good photos. When we arrived at Loch Shin we paused again as Lonely Planet mentioned being able to view salmon jumping the falls there in the summer. We made our way down the short steep path to the viewing platform. Nothing was happening so I took a video and of the river and falls. As I was finishing Bill exclaimed, “There’s one!” Sure enough a few minutes later we saw another one. I tried taking a video but running the camera was using the battery and I wasn’t having any luck. Bill suggested I use the live function on the iPhone camera and be ready to snap the photo as soon as I saw a salmon leaping. That was much more successful! I was able to get a couple of good shots. Some fish were quite small and all left us wondering how they could overcome the power of the water. It was cool, though, to see this aspect of nature I had only seen in the media.

We finally arrived in Kinlochbervie where we had a private room AirBnB. As we were early we located the house and then drove up the coast a bit to see what was there. We came across some more wide and deep beaches, walked down to Oldshoremore Beach through the sheep pastures, and enjoyed the view. Back on the road I suddenly noticed a border collie herding sheep. Bill let me jump out of the car but the farmer was done for the day. He had been training the eager dog but felt he needed to rest, as did the sheep who had been chased by four dogs. Disappointed, I got back in the car.

When it was time to check in we returned to the house. The wife of the couple running the BnB seemed uncertain and her hair hadn’t seen a brush in a while. The husband seemed nice enough. We were taken to our small room and shown the private bathroom just down the hall. It was spacious and just for us but we hadn’t realized it wasn’t ensuite. I found bathrobes in the closet which we both used as the owners’ bedroom was just across the narrow hallway from us and the other guest room was just on the other side of the thin wall. Margaret certainly supplied numerous extras and thoughtful touches and turned out to cook eggs perfectly. She provided a vast amount of food choices for breakfast. I guess that was how she felt she could charge what she did, but with the room being so tight, we didn’t agree. To add to that, the afternoon of the next day when we returned from our drive, she was clearly not a happy woman. Up from her nap on the sofa, we heard her on the phone telling someone, likely her husband, to get f-ing home as he had been there for three and a half hours. Then she walked to her bedroom continually to say, “F- him” numerous times and when she returned to the kitchen as well. Lovely.

Our day trip was north to Durness and then east as far as Bettyhill. Shortly after we began the drive I spied another border collie herding sheep. This time I was able to video the event. It seemed the dog was showing off to maybe potential buyers as the owner was standing to the side, giving commands, as another couple watched. Gosh, border collies sure love to herd! That was fun.

Next up was Smoo Cave just on the other side of Durness. It was pretty cool. Artifacts from Vikings and other have been found there. You can roam freely, though not very far, or take a raft tour further in. We opted just to appreciate what we could walk to which included a water fall. There was a trail which went over the cave and down several steep steps to the entrance and back up the other side. The deep inlet is between two very vertical cliffs.

Further along was another wide and deep sandy beach with an attached inlet over which was a zip line. People were having a grand time soaring along. We also drove past some distant limekilns which had been used for heating limestone. The resulting lime was used both as fertilizer for the acidic soil and for making mortar and render for building. Closer to Bettyhill, where we had a simple lunch and put gas in the car, is the remains of the Moin house, built in the 1800’s for weary travelers through a difficult boggy landscape. The views were fantastic. Otters were a possible find on this route but they were not to be seen again today.

On the return trip we detoured to Bainakeil. Crossing the wide beach would take one out to bird colonies but we were already too weary. There is the remains of a church and a current graveyard. John Lennon’s aunt was recently buried there but we couldn’t find the tombstone.

Dinner the first night was at the local hotel. The food was good, but my wine had not been chilled. The second night we ate at the Schoolhouse where the meals were a bit better. It was weird to see a stocked bar inside a school room. The doorway to the kitchen was labeled as the Headmaster. Cute.

Having gone as far along the NC500 as we decided to go, it was time to zoom south towards Fort William. From there we went a bit west to a classy BnB with a huge kind bedroom, so different from where we had just been and spent just a few more dollars. As we had time to spare before we could check in we located the area where we could watch the Hogwarts Express train pass over the 24 arch viaduct. The paid parking didn’t seem to allow close enough access and was pricey so we drove just a wee bit further and found a free place from which we could then walk right up to the train pass. It took us some time to figure out where we wanted to be and then get there, but finally we walked under the pass and then up to the hillside on the left where scores of Harry Potter fans awaited. One young woman was wearing a 9 3/4 cap backwards. After about forty minutes from the time the train left Fort William, which seemed too long for the just a few miles, it finally came around and began the make its way to the bridge and passed by us. It looked just like the one in the movie, but we were disappointed there was no steam plume. Without it, the train just seemed ordinary. When I mentioned that to our host for the night, she was quite surprised as even when it passes on the other side of the road from them the cloud is quite large. I looked into tickets as the scenery is supposed to be one of the best in the world, but there was nothing until October. Our male host said only take it if you love steam train experiences. The regular train goes the same route for much less cost. Good to know if we ever return.

He also gave us a recommended route to Oban, our next stop, which took us through more great scenery, though the river route he added was nothing special, yet pleasant enough. We had plenty of time and managed to get in a forest walk. Low clouds impeded our enjoyment of the mountains but the exercise and fresh air were beneficial. The drive and walk gave us more photos to process. The weather was sunny and pleasant when we arrived in Oban so we were able to enjoy our view from the deck of our BnB. Once we acclimated ourselves to our home for two nights and I put in a load of laundry, we drove to grocery store. Bill forgot to check the coffee status but fortunately our hostess was there as well. She seemed a little uncomfortable and had to check her phone for the make of the machine which took pods. I was a little annoyed as the listing said coffee was provided yet we had to buy our own and then wouldn’t be able to use all the pods. The sun was still a bit warm when we returned so I set the clothes on a rack on the deck. They came in for the night to finish drying. The next day was rainy so I did another load of dirty clothes, worked on my blog, and processed photos. We tried a drive the hostess recommended but it was too foggy to see much of anything and not really scenic. When we got back the apartment was cool and clothes were not driving. I messaged Gillian to ask for heat and she took care of it. Then the clothes started drying and it really helped to lay them over the various flat heating units. In the morning we packed our bags for the flight to…..the Faroe Islands!

Two and a Half Weeks with Saffie

An aging lurcher at fourteen years old, with fairly new focal seizures, Saffie is a sweet dog who apparently has declined in the past year. When Jill, the owner, wrote to me three weeks before this sit to inform me of the seizures, I had imagined gran mal. The night we arrived she showed us a video of a typical episode and I was grateful to see there was no thrashing about. It was also helpful in that a few hours after she and Paul left in their camper van for France, Saffie had her one and only seizure during our stay. She has learned to lie down on the brown living room rug when she feels it coming on. Her front legs constrict for about ten minutes and then she sleeps for about forty-five minutes. Then she is up and replenishes her body with food with water. Thankfully she is not in pain and has no memory of them.

Saffie has quite an appetite and drinks as though there is no tomorrow due to the mediations making her parched. One is for incontinence, which is thankfully working, and the other to control the seizures. Fortunately, she readily takes them wrapped in a bit of ham. With all the input, the output is quite something! I have never seen a dog poop so much in a day, every day. The poor girl’s back legs are a bit weak and she often has such a full bladder she can’t squat long enough to empty it; she stands and walks away still dribbling.

Saffie’s home is located about twenty minutes south of Aberdeen in the small town of Newtonhill, right on the coast of the North Sea. Although we don’t have the water view from the house, it is just two blocks away. There is a small rocky beach, where some people still fish and set traps in the cove, accessed by a steep set of rustic steps. The views from the top are expansive and the water seems perpetually calm. Saffie no longer has interest in long walks, with ten minutes being about her maximum. Therefore, whenever Bill and I would set out on foot, Saffie had to stay behind. With no car accessibility, we couldn’t even take her anywhere for new explorations.

The grocery store Tesco was about a ten minute walk away. We could either go through the residential areas and park but the more interesting route was along the coastal path and then taking a right through foliage to a dirt road. Using our day packs for grocery bags we would then trundle back with our goods. Of note, one can use ApplePay as long as it’s for less than thirty pounds and alcohol cannot be purchased before 10 AM.

There are two local pubs but we only went to one so Bill could finally get his birthday Guinness. We never tried the food at either of them. The local pharmacy also takes ApplePay.

There really are quite a few sights nearby within walking distance and short bus rides away are a castle and puffins. Sometimes as we meandered the coastal cliff paths, a pod of dolphins would swim by which was always fun. As the weather was frequently cool and there was almost always a chance of rain, we had to be watchful of the skies and radar. Wind was another factor though not as frequent as the wet. We became observant of passing trains and took a few walks just to photograph them. especially as they crossed the high metal bridges and went through tunnel passes.

Stonehaven is just a few minutes south by bus and a larger town. I was able to get a decent haircut for about $35 plus tip. Being able to explain my hair issues in my own language was a real treat as my Spanish just isn’t developed enough to explain myself. I made the appointment online and Zoe was wonderful with her attention to my woes. The town itself is right on the shore with a harbor and a few historical buildings. `

Castle Dunnotar is just the next bus stop south, but the first time we went we hiked from town, up a steep hill and along a coastal path which took us about forty-five minutes. Of course, being taken with all the scenery we were not in any hurry to arrive. So many photo opportunities! We bypassed the huge Greek-like WWI memorial to visit on the return. Not far from the castle a local gentleman laid down his bike and decided to chat with us. He loves the route so much he tries to bike it most days. We talked about the neighboring bird reserve where puffins can be seen. His daughter, or granddaughter, adores puffins and saw only two there. He took her to the island of Mull where there more than enough to fill her heart with the joy of their splendor. He warned us the castle was quite busy with a bus load of tourists but when we arrived it wasn’t bad at all.

The castle ruins are quite stunning atop the steep cliff. Besides being home to Mary Queen of Scots and others, it is best known for a small garrison holding out against Cromwell for eight months and protecting the Scottish Crown Jewels. In 1865 it was also used as a prison. The prisoners were guilty of attending open-air religious services. The 167 Convenanters, mostly male but with many women, were held in the vault for about two months. Some died and those who tried to escape were tortured. It was quite a nightmare for them.

Another day we took a another bus from Stonehaven and disembarked at Uras Cottages where we then walked almost a mile on a narrow paved road to the Fowlsheugh Nature Reserve. There we began a trek along the 60 meter cliff tops to view the millions of birds nesting there in the crevices and ledges. Gulls, razorbills, and others create quite a cacophony and stench while at the end of the long path there are at least seven puffins sharing space with them. As we proceeded along the trail we weren’t sure where the puffins were to be found. We stopped often, especially where photographers with extremely long lenses were shooting, but didn’t see any orange beaks and feet. I finally asked a couple coming the other direction where we might view the puffins and were told to continue on just past the hide, around the bend, and look about a third of the way down. When we first arrived there I didn’t see them but some other people were viewing with great interest. Once I located them I realized I had already been looking at them, I just didn’t see them. It was so cool! At first we saw three or four but over time realized there were at least seven. They had their own small cave and outcropping exactly where we had been told to look. There were singles in a couple of nearby places as well. We spent quite a bit of time there taking photos and then having a quick picnic. We never did see them fly away and return with food but were pleased to watch them rest, look out over the sea, and occasionally fly down to the water. During that excursion we also saw a pod of dolphins who leaped out of the water a bit. What a great day!

A week or so later we returned to the cliffs to visit the puffins again. Bill had noticed on that there was a shortcut through a cow field which would take us right to the puffin area. We clambered over the gate and made our way along the edge of the field protected from the sheep and cattle by a stonewall and wire fencing. In just a matter of minutes we had arrived! This was the best shortcut ever! It saved us about forty-minutes walking each way. So cool. This time hardly anyone else was there and the puffins were in the same place. One single puffin decided to rest around the side of the inlet and just below us to the left. Being careful not to fall off, we were able to take much closer shots of it. That was fun! A lot of the time it seemed to want to rest but did have it’s head up often enough to admire the face and beak. Around the next jutting cliff were hundreds of razorbills with a couple of babies they were protecting. No dolphins came along this time, but it was still a great visit.

While we were there I took advantage of the time, joined UK Amazon Prime free for a month, and ordered a few items. They came by different carriers and even though there is no house number, the packages arrived. The house had a name but there is no sign so we’re not sure how they know; I guess they ask a neighbor. My PacSafe backpack came by DPD which is an ineffective business. I received a message the day it was to arrive saying it would be delayed by up to 48 hours. The tracking showed it was in a neighboring town at their facility. That was followed by a message I was to get in touch with them to arrange delivery. I called them but it was after hours and the recorded message said to call them back during business hours starting at 8 AM. Ha. That led to another voice message without the option of speaking to someone. All we could then do was to take a bus, walk a half hour, and try to get it from them personally. Off we trundled. The young woman who finally responded to the bell we rang at the counter, had to look it up. She said it did not have my address on it so I showed her the email I had with my address clearly shown. She took a picture of it, verified my ID, and went in the back to check all packages in the cage. After what seemed a long time she returned with a package, went to her computer, and then handed it to me. She said the address was missing from it so she printed it off and stuck it in. As the address label had clearly endured transit activity we decided the much small sticker with a bar which looked new must have had the required information to get it to me. All a bit bizarre. If we hadn’t gone to DPD, my pack would likely still be sitting there.

It was another great sit without a lot of animal demands and needs to restrict our days’ activities. Saffie slept a lot and was not always up for a walk. Other times just as we were heading out the door, she was suddenly there wanting to go along. I would take her for a quick jaunt and upon the return she would be better about us leaving. At times she would bark incessantly for an unknown reason and need to be spoken to sternly to get her to stop. Wherever we were in the house, she wanted to be in the same room. That meant moving her bed to the kitchen if we were sitting at the table eating or on our iPads. At night she slept on a different bed in the hallway outside our room. Numerous times she would awaken, navigate both sides of the bed to check on us, go out her dog flap in the laundry room downstairs, and return to flop down on her bed. Suddenly dropping seemed to be the only way she could manage lying down. It would be with a great thud she would land on her bed.

We spent an extra night with Jill and Paul after their return in case they were delayed. They had to go to Aberdeen the next day anyway so took us to the car rental agency at the airport. We have rented with Europcar before with no issues. This time the car wasn’t ready as it had not been returned yet and there is a two hour window for them to give us one. News to us. I checked online for the T/C and found them but nothing about a window waiting period. The manager finally found it online. That should have been readily available. The car was ready a half hour later so we proceeded with the transaction. Then they wanted an address which had to be in Costa Rica as that is the only place Bill now has a drivers’ license. We gave them an old one. Next they wanted to see the benefits from CapitalOne credit card to prove the car we were getting was covered – um, it is a basic car. The killer was that they would not accept the credit card insurance as Bill’s driver’s license was from a different country. A bit crazy and costly to us. We let them clearly know that the inconsistencies from one office to another are very frustrating. Never having had problems before with Europcar, we were surprisingly hit by a few in one transaction.

Well, after all that we were off to tour the western highlands of Scotland!