Lovey Dovey Donkeys

Donkeys are smart!

The word on the street is that donkeys are stubborn!  But after a recent day in the company of donkeys –  we can tell you that it’s just NOT true!  Like other animals, they can fill your heart with joy.

Donkeys are surprisingly affectionate – as Neil found out when Bonnie was very attracted to this handsome Aussie!

If you find yourself anywhere near Sidmouth in the English county of Devon, put a few hours aside to meet some donkeys.  You to might  be lucky enough to get a very personal encounter.

The Donkey Sanctuary, UK

 

The Donkey Sanctuary 2

The Donkey Sanctuary was one of the most fascinating places we visited on “Village to Villa” – 1 year of  pet and house sitting.

The Donkey Sanctuary 4

 

The Donkey Sanctuary 5

It all began in 1969 when Elisabeth Svendsen did something amazing. She founded a charity after seeing  7 small donkeys housed in appalling conditions.

The Donkey Sanctuary 6
Ashley at the Donkey Sanctuary

 

Donkey derriere

 

The Donkey Sanctuary 8

Today it’s Britain’s richest charity with an annual turnover of 22 million pounds!

 

Ashley and Gai
Donkey Sanctuary photo shoot

Their mission is to free donkeys from suffering and improve the quality of life for donkeys worldwide – mostly through promoting an understanding and support.  They have made a profound difference to the lives of donkeys, here in England and in other countries.

 

Gai and donkey chat with Ashley

 

Poitou donkey close up
Poitou donkeys at the sanctuary

The Sanctuary provides Donkeys for assisted therapy for children.

Anyone can “Adopt a Donkey” to guarantee its future well-being.

Read up about these guys here:  www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk

If these equines put a smile on your face –  you should take a look at BALDRIC – the awesome eagle.

 

Video: Curious Cats

Cats are curious and can be incredibly funny.

During our year of travel in 4 countries, we had the privilege of taking care of 16 cats!

Neil, a comfortable couch!

We’d like to introduce you to some of the fantastic felines we met during the Village to Villa tour – so stay with us for the video at the end of this story.

It’s about one of the curious cats that shared their lifestyle with us while their human family took a holiday.

Marmaduke from the Cotswolds

 

A Guildford Girl

 

A cat who reads? Novel!

 

How is that dinner going?

 

It’s OK. I can reach it!

Only Becky from Scotland – was the solo occupant of her castle…

Becky from Scotland

Some had flatmates…

Cotswolds Cats

Some even shared with dogs!!!!!

Livvy loves her cats!

 

Pippa & one of the Spice Girls

 

Glamorous Gaston without Hector?!

 

Treacle loves to walk with Bingo and Hobey

AND HERE IS THEIR STORY….

If these fantastic felines gave you something to smile about… you will be filled with joy when you meet RUBY, the Moodle Queen of Queensland!

 

 

Video: BALD EAGLE

The awesome BALD EAGLE.

This awesome Bird of Prey is the BALD EAGLE…  national animal of the USA.  There are though to be around 150 thousand of them in North America, their native country.  They’re seen near large bodies of water from the north of Mexico north to Alaska.

See our video of HOLDING this magnificent bird at the Hawkridge Bird of Prey Centre in England.

They swoop at speeds of more than 140 kph to catch a fish.

Then they eat with both hands.

Bald Eagles don’t start producing until there about 4 years old, but they will live for 20 years in the wild…  twice that in captivity.

The eagles have a wingspan of 2 metres.  Baldric, the male bird that we both held, weighs around 4 kg and I struggled to hold him on one arm! The females are even heavier.  That doesn’t stop them flying at 48 kilometres per hour, even carrying a fish. Baldric started his training at around 6 months. It typically takes 2 months for the bird to trust you as a handler.

Birds of Prey Owl

We were incredibly privileged to see Baldric  up close and VERY personal, when we visited the Hawkridge Bird of Prey Centre near Exmouth in England. We were house sitting nearby near Ottery St Mary.

These highly trained aerial hunters have been closely associated with humans for thousands of years.  Falconry was a way of life and provided food for families.

It went out of fashion for many years, but is now back as a sport practiced all over the world.

Birds of Prey England

You can find the Hawkridge Birds of Prey Centre at Westdown Lane, Sandy Bay, Exmouth EX85BY.

www.hawkridgebirdsofprey.com    also on Facebook

Eurasian Eagle Owl

Video: Living in the Cotswolds

2 idyllic weeks in the Cotswolds.

The Cotswolds is an area that stretches across 5 counties in the South West of England. It’s known around the world as one of the prettiest areas, with its honeycomb stone architecture, green rolling hills and a fascinating back story.

Bibery, the Cotswolds

We were based in the village of Minchenhampton – to take care of the Brown Family home and animals.  But while we were there, we also became acquainted with the neighbours – including a 4 year old white bunny called Snowy!

We absolutely loved living in the Cotswolds.

Bibery, the Cotswolds

Please keep visiting this site for many more stories about the Cotswolds and all of our house and pet sitting adventures, in 4 countries.

THANK YOU to the Brown family for entrusting us with their entertaining, precious pets.  We will introduce Hobey and Bingo in another story.

Meanwhile, take a stroll on the pebbles at Lyme Regis.

VIDEO: In Memory of Guinness – the dog with 3 legs

During our time in Scotland, we met the 28th Laird of Craufurdland Castle near Kilmarnock.  He kindly invited us to stay for a few days with his lovely family.

Such an extraordinary invitation comes along rarely… so of course our answer was “We would love to… thank you for asking”!

 

Guinness – the dog with 3 legs had a set of wheels.

He was able to go walking with his brother Scrumpy.

The 2 Setters are treasured members of the family. Guinness lost his back leg after being hit by a car… but this hero dog hasn’t let that stop him from enjoying his walks. Scrumpy keeps close watch over his brother and patiently waits

Everyone loves and admires Guinness for his fighting Scottish spirit!

He won our hearts during the few days we spent living like locals in a Scottish castle!

Craufurdland Castle, Kilmarnock

This family home near Kilmarnock, dates back to 1245!

Like most of the large estates in the UK- the family has had to diversify to keep the place viable.  They’ve dedicated one half of the castle to B&B style accommodation.  Guests enjoy luxury accommodation – surrounded by history.

Lake at Craufurndland Castle

There’s a large lake on the estate – filled with trout and tranquility.  It’s the perfect male meditation and occasionally the day will produce supper!

Craufurdland Castle woodland

The family backyard is 600 acres of Scottish countryside.  And we were absolutely delighted to discover that humans are not the only guests having sleep overs at Craufurdland!  Boarding dogs are allowed to run freely off lead – to have a good sniff in the woodlands and some take a dip in the lake.

Craufurdland Castle lake

Some months after our return to Australia, we were sad when we heard from the family, that Guinness was not able to keep up this exhausting effort to sustain his life on three legs.

Guinness – we will always remember how lucky we were to share a few days with you and your kind family.

www,craufurdland.co.uk     Also on FACEBOOK

READ MORE ABOUT CRAUFURDLAND CASTLE 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VIDEO: Village to Villa French Animals

From Spritely Spaniels to Newborn Lambs

Do French animals respond to spoken French?

Traveling around and living like locals in other countries, we discovered this –  the universal language between humans and animals – no matter where you are – is kindness.

Our treasured time in France was filled with the company of dogs of all sizes… a Movie Star Cat called Monsieur Gaston!!  Some we were pet sitting, others  belonged to neighbours.

These are just a few of  Village to Villa’s amazing animals – met during our house sitting in FRANCE.

You might like to meet more AMAZING ANIMALS

VIDEO: Extremely Cute Moodle!

If you cross breed a Maltese and a Poodle – you get an Extremely Cute Moodle!

A day with RUBY – the real star of “Village to Villa” episode one.

When goes out, her cuteness overload touches the heart of everyone she meets.

Since Ruby is part poodle, we think she deserves a little Haute Cuisine occasionally.

See what she does when Neil serves her dinner.

  “A Day in the Life of RUBY”

Ruby is the real star of Episode 1 “Village to Villa” – our TV series – now in edit.  This little dog belongs to the Sully family and she’s our very first pet sit dog.  We hope you enjoyed meeting her.

While shooting our 13 part series w in 4 countries, we clocked up the following animal sits….

16 DOGS

15 CATS

18 CHICKENS

3 SHEEP including 2 newborn lambs

3 GEESE

1 SWAN

1 HEDGEHOG

A Scottish Red Squirrel and Pheasant plus a plethora of wild birds.

MORE CUTENESS – if you can take it!

TOP TIPS FOR HOUSE SITTING

Everything you need to know to have a fabulously authentic travel experience HOUSE SITTING & PET SITTING

Winchendon in Buckinghamshire UK

We would like to share some valuable information and TOP TIPS about having an unforgettable time when you go house and pet sitting. We gathered this knowledge from our experiences and some of it we learned the hard way!
In late 2015 we set off on a year-long, four-country journey. We started at home in Australia, then packed up everything and took a flight to Paris! We spent most of 2016 in France, UK and Italy. We traveled 30,000km by air and 36,000km by car. Along the way we picked up a lot of helpful tips for a smooth journey. If you’re new to house sitting or if you’ve tried it already, we hope you can take away some tips that will enhance your time at each of your many destinations.

Scotland, UK

TIP 1 – SELECTING THE REGION

As basic as it sounds, paying close attention to the locations you choose is critical. Also, the time of the year when you visit can make a big difference to your experience. A great question to ask yourself is – What will the weather be like when we go there?

We knew England would be cold for us, especially Scotland, so we applied only for sits during their summer. If you are used to cold climates, you may want to go to a warmer region and vice versa. Many sits may be booked months before the actual scheduled time, so do your homework on this one.
Another things to pay attention to is the time of the tourist season and as we discovered in Bordeaux – will there be any major events taking place nearby? We had to move our car by several blocks for the weekend.

Flint loves to fetch!

Know the address of the property.

While this might sound like a no-brainer, we came extremely close to becoming seriously lost, not once, but twice!
Get very clear about where you are. Establish landmarks and have a back-up plan. Take a photo on your phone.

To read ALL 14 TIPS… . PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW

Village to Villa House Sitting Tips

walking the dogs at Chateau Chaufeille

Neil & Gai have put together “Village to Villa House Sitting Tips” to help guide you find unforgettable house sits and pet sits.

CLICK THE LINK –    Village to Villa House Sitting Tips

This is detailed and valuable guidance from a couple who travelled in 4 countries for 1 year – primarily house sitting and pet sitting.

As if that wasn’t enough – they also shot and are now writing “Village to Villa”  LIVING LIKE LOCALS – a 13 episode TV series – NOW IN EDIT.

Just scroll down to the black strip and you will see how to become a FOLLOWER.

We’ll help you to create a killer profile and nail the perfect sit for you.  THANK YOU we are grateful for your interest and support.  Please feel free to share with others who might enjoy our adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VIDEO: Heaven for donkeys

Near Sidmouth in the UK there is a what could be described as Heaven for Donkeys – a sanctuary for these amazing four legged creatures.

During our journey of living like locals…we’ve seen lots of animals close-up –  but nothing prepared us for the experience of a donkey close encounter.  Donkeys are widely misunderstood creatures with most people believing they are stubborn.

Donkeys are really smart, curious, affectionate and love being patted.

Getting set up for an interview, a couple of the more friendly donkeys definitely wanted to be in the action!
Donkey director of photography

Neil had a very memorable DONKEY CLOSE ENCOUNTER with Bonnie, one of the favourites at the sanctuary.  Here’s a video clip of that encounter!

AS one of Britain’s most generously-funded charities, The Donkey Sanctuary has arms spread world-wide to rescue and care for donkeys.  There are more than 40 million donkeys in the world, many of them in servitude…these lucky guys are definitely in Donkey Heaven.
Poitou donkey from France
There is a purpose for their life. They’re lucky here in here England – they enjoy the lovely green fields and go to lovely foster homes where someone lovingly cares for them.  But donkeys abroad need to be a working animal for the family.
Donkey Sanctuary Sidmouth
With around 500 formerly displaced animals housed at this facility, it allows you to get to know donkey breeds and understand their quirky personalities.
The Donkey Sanctuary supports donkey rescue in locations around the world.

PLEASE HELP HOWEVER YOU CAN.   www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk

 

 

 

 

 

Shoot a TV series without a crew!

Can 2 producers really shoot video for a 13 part TV series without a crew?

Neil McLean and Gai Reid are the only members of the camera crew for their 13 episode TV series “Village to Villa”. We developed our “TV production in a back pack” so we could travel for one year and shoot a TV series without a camera crew!

Having covered 4 countries – living like locals – we have now begun the huge editing phase.  Luckily we have 2 awesome editors.  Meet our crew.

First edit session

Gai & Neil have worked in television production for most of our working lives. That’s a scary number of years!

Gai experienced a little bit of everything during her time spent working in regional television in NSW and Tasmania. Mostly she has worked in Brisbane networks as a writer and producer in factual programming.

Harriet, Australia Zoo

 

Dreamworld tiger cubs

Neil has worked mostly in news in regional  and the networks of NSW and Victoria– as a reporter, reader and news director.  We both know what it’s like to spend a week or longer on the road.

Neil in his TV news reporting days

click here to meet THE CREW 

What is a TV Production in a Back Pack?

Normally when a TV crew travels to shoot a program – 4 people would check in 12 to 18 pieces of luggage, including cameras, tripod, lights, sound gear as well as crew suitcases.  NOT for TV Production in a back pack.

Because of the nature of our project – we couldn’t take a traditional camera crew.  So WE became the crew!

That meant we had to figure out another way to bring you what we knew would be engaging and inspirational stories.

Maggie the Umbrian truffle hunter!

 

Donkey cuddles for Gai

We came up with PRODUCTION BACK PACK!

We streamlined down to the absolute minimum gear – we had to carry it where ever we went. It really was a production in a backpack.  AND it enabled us to shoot a TV series without a crew.

Most importantly – we wanted to record authentic  travel experiences that filled us with joy!

We wanted to be able to talk to strangers without intimidating them with a large camera on a tripod.  They needed to feel comfortable in order to open up and tell us their stories.  We wanted to make story gathering a pleasurable experience for everyone involved.

German bunker at Fort du Cap Levi, Normandy

So when we set out on one of our many trips –  we had a suit case each and ONE backpack of camera gear!

"Production in a Backpack"

We used a Nikon digital SLR with external Rode mic; a Samsung Galaxy-K phone with external Rodes mic; occasionally a basic Samsung phone; a Sony Action Can and a seriess of mounts.  Sometime we shot an interview with 2 different angles. We found a fantastic tripod that folds down to about the size of 2 fold up umbrellas.  THAT’S IT!  This is how we were able to shoot a TV series without a crew.

 

interviewing Ann Jeanne, “A Friend in Paris”

 

The Seine River, Paris

We wanted to be one of the early adopters of using a mobile phone camera to shoot a series – to show that it COULD be done.

on Mt Mutali with Florentine – our Italian guide

“Village to Villa” is now well and truly in edit!

There are 13 episodes of 22 minutes duration.

Here’s a preview   

 

recording voice overs with Ruby

 We have an abundance of extra stories and video clips to share with YOU over the coming months.

…but before you go, we are grateful for your support and in return – we’d like to keep you in the loop so you don’t miss a thing.

THANK YOU FOR SUBSCRIBING – it’s at the bottom of this page.

 

House sitting in 4 countries

What’s it really like to live like locals – in another country?

To find out, we took on HOUSE SITTING and PET SITTING in 4 countries.
Neil’s first day in Paris!

 

Pont Vecchio, Florence
One of the best ways to embed yourself into a community…  is to live in someone else’s house.  We discovered an ideal way to do that.

House sitting and pet sitting!

walking the dogs at Chateau Chaufaille
House Sitting is sweeping the world as a unique and convenient way to travel for long periods of time, rent free!

The possibilities are enormous!

Our Scottish Villa
La Fontanella at dusk

For one year – we visited a smorgasbord of locations in 4 countries

– beginning in our own back yard, Australia…then moving on to France…The United Kingdom …and to Italy.
During our year-long “Village to Villa” journey, we savoured …going coastal …going country….going quirky!

To kick off the tour, we show you Australia’s Gold Coast –  where WE live!

The Gold Coast canals
After spending serious time in the wine growing areas of South Australia, we were ready to take on France!

We spent a few days sampling the delights of Paris

Metro stop Paris
–  then we settled into rural life in south west France – to live like locals.
Connecting with neighbours gave us a real sense of the French village lifestyle.

Springtime in France
This 200 year old classic Chateau deep in the south of France –  was our home for one glorious month during spring time.

We gained a real perspective on the luxury of villa living.

Monsieur Gaston
After driving the length of France – we settled into our stylish farm house in Normandy.
From here we explored the famous WW2 landing beaches and historic coastal towns.
We also witnessed the birth of a lamb – which was awesome!
The Girls of Normandy
Hampshire in England – showed us how to achieve the perfect balance of city and country living. New friends introduced us to the joys of English pub culture.

For two weeks, we were the Laird and Lairdy of a modern castle!

Craufurdland Castle, Kilmarnock
We immersed ourselves in the rich and often quirky history and traditions of Scotland.
I hear the bagpipes calling!  Ian Smith, Balatar Bagpipes

 

Neil in a skirt…..kilt by Gordon Nicolson in Edinburgh
There are few places in the world as pretty as the Cotswolds – a cluster of quintessentially English villages straddling 5 counties.

Our Minchinhampton base put us close to these iconic villages.

Neil at the Secret Cottage, in The Cottwolds, UK
Ottery St Mary delivered the peace and tranquility of the East Devon countryside.

The large stately home came with an intriguing combination of pets.

Our love of animals lead us to a Sanctuary of very friendly donkeys…..and an American bald eagle called Baldrick!
Baldrick the Bald Eagle at Hawkridge Birds of Prey, Exmouth UK
We finished our year in a magnificent home high in the mountains of Umbria in central Italy.
La Fontainella in the mist
Being invited into the homes and lives of our warm and generous new friends and neighbours – was a highlight of our year of house sitting – and living like locals.
Italian Mummas in the kitchen

Village to Villa is based in reality – not everything goes to plan!  The animals have their own idea about the rules!

Bekky thinking about dinner

But they will always reward you with a special thank you for being there.

Living like locals in 4 very different countries – has given us an exceptional insight into other ways of life.
Harvesting the last of the olives

 

Maggie the truffle queen!

It’s shown us how to find the SPECIAL in the everyday.

Bellac France, in autumn

 

Chateau du Mauran irises
Village to Villa is a new way to experience travel and lifestyle from a fresh and personal perspective.

WHILE WE WERE TRAVELING – WE WERE SHOOTING AND WRITING A TV SERIES!

Village to Villa – living like locals through house sitting and pet sitting. Series 1 – 13 episodes are now in edit.

walking in Hampshire UK
Fortress St Giuliana, Umbria

Meet the crew.