Having visited this enchanting city four times before – I felt that we could easily spend a few days – almost living like locals in Paris.


It’s a long way to Europe from the east coast of Australia!  When we fly half way around the world to get to our destination – we like to make the 27 hour trip worth the discomfort.

BHV department store Paris

It’s no secret that France is my favourite destination – so far.  Early in the planning stages of our “Village to Villa” epic house sit in 4 countries – we locked it in as our first European destination.

Paris book sellers on Seine

In my quest for authentic travel experiences, I try to be as Parisienne as possible.  To get into that feeling, I visit places that have become familiar. This trip, I will be showing Neil, why I adore this city.

behind Notre Dame Paris

One of my favourite parts of Paris is known as the Marais, sometimes called “the 4th” – which refers to the arrondissement number. The city of Paris is divided into 20 arrondissement.

music shop in Marais

The Marais is one of the oldest and most authentic parts of Paris.  The small back streets of this area are full of life. It’s a mixture of residential and retail with a generous amount of museums and many of the most important historic buildings. There is something of interest in every direction.

Hotel de Ville Paris 2

One of the prettiest and most visited, is the Hotel de Ville – the city hall. At least once a week, a market springs up in one of the public spaces.

metro stop Place Colette

From here, I like to catch the metro and get off at the “Palais Royal Musee du Louvre”.  This stop puts you in the perfect position to see the stunning, glass pyramid entrance to the Louvre.

Metro Palais Royale Musee du Louvre

If you walk west on the rue de Rivoli, you will pass the golden statue of Joan of Arc and  many other landmarks.

Joan of Arc on rue de Rivoli

Eventually you will reach the most famous street in Paris.  The Champs Elysees. and the busiest round about, the Arc de Triomphe.

Neil’s first day in Paris!This is just a sliver of our treasured few days in Paris.  From here, we collected a car and headed south.

More stories from my previous trips to Paris at


Have  you ever  considered moving to France?

We love meeting friends, family and neighbours of our house sitting 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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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.    also on Facebook

Eurasian Eagle Owl

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

At the Game Fair 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 so 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.

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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 living like locals 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? 


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

Since she 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….




3 SHEEP including 2 newborn lambs




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

MORE CUTENESS – if you can take it!  Meet our other extremely cute animals from a year of living like locals.

VIDEO: Lyme Regis – a gem in Dorset

“You must go to Lyme Regis!” everybody said.

We’d heard of the place, and knew that the English sea-side resorts were a far cry from our  Australian beaches of soft, golden sand.

Lyme Regis was a short drive (for us) from where we were staying near Ottery St Mary in East Devon. So off we set! Mid October  gave us sunshine, a pleasant temperature and barely any wind.  The pebbled beaches sat snugly between the headlands. Families ate picnics on the foreshore and others enjoyed lunch from outdoor restaurant tables. The light was perfect.  Here’s a snippet of what you can expect from Village to Villa, Episode 11.



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.







VIDEO: Want to live in a French Chateau?

How about spending an entire month during the springtime, living in a French Chateau at no cost to you?

Profusion of purple at the chateau
We were lucky enough to do exactly that during our year of house sitting.  We lived in a French Chateau in South West France.
This is a video about Chateau du Mauran in the south west of France.

The garden was at its best when we stayed at this stunning French Chateau.

From early to late May we watched as nature did her most amazing work.  The roses were resplendent but the real stars were the Wisteria and the “Van Gogh” Irises.  Perfection together.
Roses are red…


The kitchen fireplace was rescued from a Paris hotel demolition


The chandelier is from Venice
Staying in this amazing house for a month, gave us many stories for our TV series “Village to Villa”  We lived like locals and enjoyed authentic travel experiences with neighbours, friends of the house owners and people we met along the way.  We will share them all here on this blog.  If you’d like to follow our incredible year long journey, please leave us your details in SUBSCRIPTIONS – and we’ll send you a note when we post another story.  Thank you.

VIDEO: Excellent Year of House Sitting

 300 days of FREE travel accommodation!

One year of house sitting in France, UK, Italy and Australia.

 “Village to Villa” is in the can! During our excellent year of being trusted house sitters, we have lived like locals, rent free in 16 locations over 4 countries.

Gai is writing the final  episodes,  our two fabulous editors are turning shots into visual stories, and Neil is creating the “Village to Villa House and Pet Sitting Handbook”.

We want to inspire people who are searching for a truly unique and authentic travel option – to give pet and house sitting a go.

We hope you enjoy these early highlights from some of our privileged travel experiences during our year of house sitting!

If you love to travel but don’t want to be a tourist – if you love animals – and if you want to experience different ways of life in other cultures,  please leave us your details in FOLLOW US so we can keep you in the loop.