Scotland the Brave!

Scotland really is the land of the brave!

Neil and I wanted to see Scotland on our “Village to Villa” tour of the UK.

 

We were knocked out by the stunning location of our house and pet sit.

 

Before meeting Becky, the senior resident cat – I was ambivalent about actually owning a moggie.  This sweet, loving cat changed my mind. I fell a little bit in love with Becky!

 

Glenfarg is a village in the county of Perth, central Scotland. Mostly it’s a cluster of farmhouses and a pub.

Glenfarg is a 20 to 30 minute drive to the city of Perth – depending on how many times you stop to take photos!

Both of us have Scottish heritage and we wanted to see if we felt any connection. Neil had done a whirlwind trip a few years previously and this time, he wanted to experience real life as a Scotsman rather than a tourist.

One of Scotland’s most famous cities is Edinburgh. It’s a down with two sides and manages to blend the past with the present – architecturally and culturally.

The old medieval part of the city is bursting with entertainment.

We couldn’t resist looking up our family tartans.  Even though other countries have produced a similar look – the plaid has become a symbol of Scottish heritage, along with the kilt.  You can’t really have a kilt that’s NOT tartan – it just wouldn’t be right!

In my book, the Scottish really ARE brave.  First of all, their men not only wear a skirt, but it’s made of a plaid fabric we know as TARTAN.

The question that is most asked about this ensemble – is “what DO Scotsmen really wear under their kilt” and the answer we found was “NOTHING!”

Thank you Gordon Nicholson!

It’s Personal

First there was friendship….

Gai & Neil in Umbria

Neil:  We’ve been friends since 1982 when we both worked in regional TV in New South Wales. I worked in news and production…Gai in graphics.  She was newly married. Years later we met up in Brisbane. By then I was married with a young family. Gai was divorced and had taken a new direction, working in production.  We crossed paths every few years at TV stations or on Outside Broadcasts.

…. then fate intervened!

on board the Warrior at Portsmouth UK

Gai: In 2013 after 18 years as a network producer, I returned to my home town in NSW, in search of a new sense of belonging. In the same year, Neil had been lured back to regional news in NSW.  Fate intervened and we were re-acquainted!  This time we were both free to pursue more than a friendship!  We ended up on the Gold Coast in search of a new project, and the next chapter of our life. Together!

Guess where!

Our love of animals

Chooks are fascinating to watch!

Neil:  Ever since I was a little kid, I have loved animals.  From my first dogs, a gorgeous golden retriever and a black and white border collie, through to the delightful German Shepherd cross who was with me all through my teens and my best friend.  Swimming with dolphins was a life highlight.

snoozing with Ruby

Later there were two moodles who I loved so much it hurt!  Raised from tiny puppies, this pair of fluffy balls of energy were constant companions.

Neil and Millie
Over the last five years, there have been many dogs, cats, birds, chickens, rabbits, horses and various other four-legged friends. The year long pet and house sitting  adventure, Village to Villa saw a swag of new friends appear.
In Cannes with Charlie
Why am I so drawn to animals?  Animals are totally honest.
Animals love unconditionally.  Pets bring so much joy.
Alfie & Rosie, France
Neil & Lexie

From guinea pigs to orphaned lambs.

 Gai:  When I was growing up in a small country down, we had a string of pets from cats, dogs and guinea pigs – to lambs, calves, chickens, ducks and bossy geese on my grandmother’s farm.

Lexie, Gai & Monty, Italy

When I finished college I got my very own dog. Basil was a sweet Australian Terrier. He’s been gone for many years now but he’s still “my dog”.

my dog Basil

My love of animals went hand in hand with my job.  For 18 years I worked as a writer and producer on long running TV program “Totally Wild”.  The focus was on all creatures great and small.  I experienced many privileges and joyful animal encounters.

On a stretch of the Queensland coastline, I watched as hatchling sea turtles emerged from their nest on the beach and ran for their lives into the surf.

At “Dreamworld” I walked with a majestic white Bengal Tiger, then bottle fed a tiger cub.

Mohan, Dreamworld

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreamworld tiger cub

My sister and I strolled with fully-grown cougar and Andy, her handler.

Dreamworld Cougar, handler Andy

I met Steve Irwin and with my 2, now grown up nieces, sat on the grass at “Australia Zoo” with Harriet, his 170 year old Galapagos Tortoise.

Harriet, Australia Zoo

Possibly the most joyous moment was sitting in the Meerkat enclosure at “Werribee Zoo”, as the inquisitive young ones climbed all over me!

Meerkats at Werribee Zoo

These are the highlights that sustained my yearning for another pet. When Neil and I came together, that longing began to grow again, in both of us. And it was a big part of our decision to travel by via house and pet sitting.

What could be more soothing after a day of sightseeing – than smooching with an affectionate dog or cat.

We all speak the same language.

Livvy, Umbria

And THAT is why we love pet and house sitting.

Video: MOVING TO FRANCE

Have  you ever  considered moving to France?

We love meeting friends, family and neighbours of our hosts. They always have colourful stories to tell about the property, the town, the region, even the country where we are staying.

While we were on our first French pet and house sit in Normandy, we met Geri, an entertaining and joyful American with a love for France.

Geri and one of her Pacemakers!

We loved her dogs, and we enjoyed her company.  Geri  agreed to share her story of moving to France.  She’s taken on a huge task – renovating an enormous old stone house near the small village of Crasville.

Geri’s interview

One winter’s morning in Normandy –  we met Geri at one of her favourite locations.  The vide greniere at a neighbouring village called Yvestot Bocage (eve-stow  bow-carzgh).  In French, vide greniere  (veed gron-yay) literally means empty the attic.

See what she comes home with, for her house!   This is Geri’s story.

Video: Australia’s biggest coal port

Newcastle is Australia’s biggest coal port.

This video shows you just how big the coal ships really are! This one is heading to Japan.  It will take 20 days.

One of the early house and pet sitting assignments we accepted – was in the Port Stephens region of NSW in Australia.  It’s a stunning piece of coastline.

Neil McLean
Gai at Zenith Beach
Zenith Beach
Zenith Beach

The city has regenerated itself over the past decade – changing from a gritty coal city to a cosmopolitan place to live –  while keeping its heritage architecture.

Art Deco hotel in Newcastle
Newcastle city
Newcastle docks area

We soon found the perfect location for a spot of ship spotting!

Frederico coal ship

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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: Village to Villa’s Amazing Animals

From an African Pygmy Hedgehog to a pure white horse!

That is the range of Village to Villa’s Amazing Animals – encountered during our year of travel in 4 countries.  For us, one of the attractions of house and pet sitting – is the animals.

During our Village to Villa year long adventure in 4 countries, we came across a collection of animals that gave joy to us as well as to their owners. It was  amazing how quickly they become attached to us, as we settled into their homes and routines.  With their owners away, they needed us to give them more than meals.  They also needed the love, affection and security that they are used to having.  And the more we gave, the more they gave back.

Here are some of  Village to Villa’s amazing animals – met during our house sitting in AUSTRALIA.

Would you like to meet an inspirational English Setter that is actually SCOTTISH? 

 

Bordeaux – the other Paris!

The world’s favourite city -Paris – has a rival within its own country!

Bordeaux – the other Paris in South West France.

Centre of Bordeaux

Bordeaux – the other Paris is the 5th largest city in France and with a population of 240 thousand, so it’s very easily navigated.  There have been settlements in this location on the Garonne River, since Roman times, so plenty of history.

The ancient heart of the city remains – under UNESCO world heritage protection.

The golden age for Bordeaux was the 18th century, with luscious honey coloured stone and lots of attention to detail.  When Baron Haussmann was remodelling Paris, he used this town as his inspiration.

 

Porte d’Aquitaine in Bordeaux

The Porte d’Aquitaine marks the symbolic entry to the town.

 

The rue Sainte-Catherine is one of the longest in Europe.

rue Sainte-Catherine
rue Sainte-Catherine

You may well shop until you drop on this 1.2km strip of retail!  Where the street meets rue St.Remi is the entrance to Galerie Bordelaise, a shopping development of 1834.

I want to show you what is quite possibly the most exquisite fountain in the world.

I think it rivals Rome’s Trevi Fountain.

Monument aux Girondins, Bordeaux

To one side of the inner city is 31 acres of space punctuated with extreme beauty. This city landmark is known by locals as the Monument aux Girondins. It was dedicated to a political faction that were massacred during the French Revolution.

Monument aux Girondins, Bordeaux

The grand column reaches 50 metres into the sky. At the tip is a bronze statue of Liberty.  There are masses of horses that are bursting with energy.

I expected to see them break free!

Monument aux Girondins, Bordeaux
Monument aux Girondins, Bordeaux

We’re lucky to still have this masterpiece. In 1942 during WW2 the Germans had plans to melt down the bronze to make cannons and they were removed. Luckily that didn’t eventuate and they were found in Angers, a city about half way between their home and Paris. They were returned, but not completely reinstated until as late as 1968.

Monument aux Girondins, Bordeaux

From the fountain, take a comfortable stroll through a grove of trees towards the river, you will be glad you did.

The old Stock Exchange, Bordeaux

Place de la Bourse was built in 1755 for Louis 15th as a symbol of the city’s prosperity.

Miroir d’Eau in Bordeaux

Stand back close to the river and admire the affect made by the Miroir d’Eau.  The mirror of water. It’s the largest reflecting pool in the world. One inch of water covers 37 thousand square feet of granite paving, giving the illusion of walking on water.

Many people know Bordeaux because of its most famous export that comes in a stemmed glass!  Bordeaux is the world capital of the wine industry.

Grape vines were introduced here when the Romans were in this area.

oak barrels at Chateau Dauzac

There are 287 thousand acres of vineyards in this areas, contributing 14.5 billion Euros to the economy from roughly 960 MILLIOIN bottles of wine!

Bordeaux produces both red and white… and it could be an everyday quaffer, or one of the most expensive on the wine list.

Wine making in Bordeaux
Oak barrels at Chateaux Dauzac, Bordeaux

Thank you to Chateaux Dauzac for showing us through the wine making process.

MEET our friend Geri & her little “Pacemakers” !   She DID move to France.

 

 

 

 

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!