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!

There’s a 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….

 

 

 

 

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 our next story.

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?

We discovered 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 and a Movie Star Cat called Monsieur Gaston!!  Some we were pet sitting, others  were near neighbours’.

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

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

VIDEO: Extremely Cute Moodle!

RUBY is a 3 year old, Extremely Cute Moodle!

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

Ruby is the 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 enjoy this VIDEO

 “A Day in the Life of RUBY”

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.

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 part 1 of 2 –  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.
If you become a follower – we will let you know when PART 2 “Village to Villa House Sitting Tips” is ready.  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: 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.

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