Feeling fatigued on our final days in France…. .

The last ten days have passed us by in a bit of a travel fatigued blur.  After leaving the Ardèche region we’ve just been making our way north towards Calais in a more or less straight line with little regard to any sightseeing on the way.  I couldn’t even really tell you what regions we have passed through or towns we have stayed the night at without consulting the map.  Mentally, in our heads, we have been two weeks ahead of ourselves.  My little brain has found it hard to focus on ‘seeing’ France when I’m thinking about our return to the UK to meet up with friends and family, scoff a full English breakfast and enjoy a cheap pint at a Wetherspoons pub!  Everything else has taken a back seat, including the blog.  My plans for France have, therefore, not gone according to plan.

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Le-Puy-en-Velay.

For the last week I haven’t even taken the camera with me on our excursions out.  It’s actually been rather nice not to have it welded to my side like an extra appendage.  The photos you are seeing were taken a week or more ago.  Fear not, though, the mood in ‘chez Ollie’ hasn’t been a glum one but a kind of ‘chomping at the bit I just want to get back to the UK and get on with things’ one.  We just need a bit of a ‘reset’ and some downtime with familiar people and familiar things to rejuvenate the travel mojo.

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Semur-en-Auxois.

Still, being in France for the last three weeks has given me the opportunity to come on in leaps and bounds with practising my French everyday with my constant chatter.  NOT!  Ah, I wish.  I had hoped to have a bit more confidence in shooting the breeze with any passing French person I encountered but my introvertedness has definitely got the better of me.  It has been an epic FAIL.  I shouldn’t have been surprised really as I’m socially inept at making small talk in my native language let alone in one I’m learning.  Sitting comfortably behind a laptop watching Youtube clips, listening to podcasts, reading the news and flicking through children’s stories isn’t quite the same as engaging in a halting conversation about the weather with a surly Frenchman in the van next door.  Oh, I’ve been able to converse in the shops to get what I want and quiz a lady at the Tourist Information Office on the whereabouts of the nearest ‘Laverie’ but I haven’t exactly been taxing myself. Instead Tim has had to endure me stopping at any random information board and reading it out loud just to get some practice at speaking French outside the four walls of the van.  I had mentioned to Tim that maybe if we were to have a dog again then it would serve as a lead in to getting a conversation started but it fell on deaf ears, he’s not buying it.

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Semur-en-Auxois.

So onto other news then.  Today is a big day in our calendar as it marks the second anniversary of our vagabond life.  Two years ago today we locked up our house, passed the keys over to our letting agent and drove off into the sunset never to look back………..or something like that.  Seven hundred and thirty days on the road.  It’s hard to believe really.  Where has the time gone?   Over the past two years we have:

  • Visited fourteen countries (UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy and Greece)
  • Driven fifteen thousand one hundred and forty two miles
  • Stayed two hundred and eighty eight nights on aires (some paid, some free)
  • Stayed one hundred and one nights on campsites
  • Wildcamped for one hundred and fifty two nights
  • Stayed three nights at Britstops
  • Endured three nights on ferries
  • Done one hundred and sixty seven nights with seven different Helpx hosts
  • Completed a sixteen night Housesit
  • Taken seven ferries and
  • Had one insurance claim for the bump we had in France in the first year.

All in all it’s been a roller coaster and quite the journey which, looking back, seems to have passed by in a flash.

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Man about town with his new trolley!

Looking forward now, what have we got coming up for season 3?  As ever, we don’t plan too far in advance but we do have a loose plan for at least the next four to five months or so.  We’ll be spending more time in the UK this year with perhaps up to six months on UK soil.  After three weeks or so of visiting friends and family and our annual dental and opticians appointments and the like we’ll be heading north for a tour of Scotland for around six weeks.   It was something we’d planned to do last year but we just never got around to it as other countries beckoned.  This year we WILL do Scotland as I’ve only ever been as far north as Berwick on Tweed.

Then we’ll travel the length of the country back down to Cornwall at the end of June to start a job.  Yes, you read that correctly, a J.O.B.  We’ve proved to ourselves that we aren’t quite unemployable just yet and we’ll be working on a campsite in July and August which will give us time to stop, stay still and focus on something other than travel for a short while.  We are really looking forward to it as it will be a complete change for us and nice to return to familiar territory as we know Cornwall well having spent many weekends and holidays touring there in the past.   At the end of our assignment, assuming we make it through to the end, we’ll temporarily part company with Ollie for a brief period and either visit the Isles of Scilly or spend a week or two walking a stretch of the South West coastal path that we haven’t yet done.

After that?

Who knows?

The road leads ever on……………

À toute à l’heure!

 

It’s all about the donkeys…. .

Mmm, where to start?  We’ve had a whirlwind of a week which has, once again, shot past.  For the past eight days we have, along with Madan, our fellow Helpxer, been holding the fort here at Donkey HQ, up a lane, near Aljezur, Portugal.

When we originally talked about housesitting being a part of our travels I never expected our charges to be thirteen donkeys.  Dogs, cats, maybe a few chickens or the odd rabbit yes, but donkeys, well, no.  But that is what we have been doing for the last eight days as Sofia, Raban and Nelly flew off to sunny Paris last Thursday to spend Christmas with other members of their family.

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Donkey poo picking is a never ending task!

We were a little bit daunted when the idea was mooted, a couple of weeks ago, that we could look after the house, donkeys, dog and cats whilst the family were away with lots of questions going through our minds.  What if they get out?  What if one has an accident? What if we get the feeding wrong?  What if they throw an all night party?  Or invite friends over through Facebook and everything is trashed?  What if, what if, what if……?!

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Sunrise – nearly every day has been like this 🙂

It has, however, been almost completely stress free and a pleasure to look after them all.  We’ve only had a couple of incidents.  Olivia was missing in action on Tuesday at the morning roll call.  Tim and I split up to go and look for her and I heard her before I saw her as she was calling to the others.   She’d managed to get her leg caught between the barbed wire on the fence in the bottom field.  I don’t think she can have been trapped for too long as there wasn’t a mark on her.  She just let me lift her leg up and out onto the right side of the fence and then went skipping off to regroup with the others.

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The view back to the house from the hill opposite.

Then yesterday morning we had an escapee.  Well, it wasn’t exactly the great escape as she’d only gone a few steps from the field to the big pile of straw in the barn and was busy gorging herself!  She was, nonetheless, free range and could have gone on a joyride in the car should she have so desired!  It was one of the new ones, either Martha or Elfrieda, I still don’t know which is which.  We’re still not sure how she got out but think she got through the bungey fence by the barn which is electrified.  We’ve already had to put another bungey up at the far end of the field as she managed to limbo under the higher one!  I think the three new donkeys are working as a team and plotting something.  Them donkeys is organised!  They seem to be one step ahead of us (not difficult).

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They’re up to something, these three!

So, all in all, the donkey care has gone extremely well and they all seem to be content.  They’ve all been groomed up and look lovely until they then go and have a roll in the sandpit!  Only Chico, or I should spell it Xico (he put me right on the spelling!),  hasn’t been groomed as he has a mouth full of big teeth and he’s not afraid to use them!  He caught me the other day on my thigh (through the trousers) leaving a cut and big bruise so we are a bit wary of him.  Tim always keeps the wheel barrow between Xico and himself as a mode of self defence!

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Another of Tim’s ‘art’ photos!

It’s like living on a safari park with all their chat though.  Tim managed to record some of their conversations which will hopefully upload here.

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Retrieving Romano from the garden to take him up to the top field.

Aside from the donkeys, Madan has been the dog and cat daddy for the week and sorted them out with feeding and the like whilst Tim and I have enjoyed having them as company in the evenings.

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Florin and Lotta make themselves at home!

Christmas has obviously come and gone but we did make an effort on Christmas day to create as near to a traditional christmas lunch as we could for Madan, but sans the sprouts, as we couldn’t get any, and a chicken instead of turkey.  I was pretty chuffed with my giant Yorkshire Pudding which came out a treat.

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Giant Yorkshire Pudding.

The gas oven here is a bit temperamental so it was touch and go on the YP front!

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Xmas lunch.

We’ve had time to cycle to the nearest beach which is about eight kilometres away and nearly all downhill on the way back.

P1000941.JPGMadan has cooked some epic food which I’m trying, and failing, to emulate.  He manages to create such intense flavours from just a few ingredients.

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Madan is a fab cook:)

I’m picking up quite a few tips from him and will be joining him for a ‘Madan Masterclass’ sometime soon to learn the secret of how he does it.

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Evening entertainment!

We are now looking forward this next week to a few days off to explore the area a bit more once Sofia returns.

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Another sunrise!

Feliz Ano Novo to everyone!

 

A day out in Great Yarmouth………………… .

As our current house sit is so near to Great Yarmouth it seemed rude not to have a tootle on the bikes there to have a look at what it had to offer.  Now, this Great Yarmouth website would have us believe that we were in for a real treat on our trip to the seaside. We had actually been to Great Yarmouth many years ago whilst on a cycle tour of Norfolk.  As I recall we didn’t stop for very long as it really wasn’t our kind of place.  So we were interested to see if our perceptions had changed at all after 25 years.

Mmmm, well, erm, I think the answer to that question has to be a resounding ‘NO’!  Try as we might we just couldn’t see through the ‘tat’ to find any redeeming features. The beach huts were, erm, less than colourful.

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Great Yarmouth beach huts??!!

I don’t think they were still in use though, but you never know!

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I’m sure these can’t still be in use?

To be fair there were some attractive old buildings if you gazed upwards ignoring what was housed underneath (night clubs/ strip clubs/amusement arcades/beach shops) and The Winter Gardens would be a fantastic building once restored and has an interesting history having been built in Torquay and sold to Great Yarmouth in the early 20th century for £1300.

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The Winter Gardens looking a bit sorry for itself now.

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Pony and trap rides along the seafront.

The beach itself is very loooong and seems very clean and well kept so we had our picnic lunch having a sit in the sun whilst people watching.  It really is a great place for people watching.  At one point I did catch Tim, with his jaw on the floor, ogling a woman in a thong bikini so I decided it was probably better for his blood pressure and facial features if we moved on before her partner caught him!

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So we had a quick tour of the rest of what Great Yarmouth had to offer and made a speedy getaway back to our temporary home.

Another House sitting assignment………….. .

Last Sunday (1 May 2016) we left Yorkshire, saying goodbye to my Mum and Dad, to move on to Great Yarmouth in Norfolk for another House and Pet sitting assignment.  We are staying near Gt Yarmouth for the next 2.5 weeks looking after four Wire Fox Terrier’s.   We met the dogs and owners last Sunday to make sure we knew the dogs’ routines at home and where the most interesting walks are and to reassure the owners that they will have a house and dogs to come back to in 2 weeks!   More on the wires in a minute though.

We spent the rest of Sunday at the seaside town of Pakefield which is probably more known for the Pontins holiday site than anything else.  Do people still go to Pontins???  I suppose they must do but it all looked a bit concentration campish to me.  We had a long walk along the beach past some colourful little beach huts.

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Beach Huts at Pakefield, Norfolk.

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We took in Pakefield Church which has a couple of sheep grazing in the grounds.

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Sheep grazing in the grounds of Pakefield Church.

I ‘googled’ it and they are apparently called Rodney (black face) and Lucy!  Saves on the mowing costs I expect.  Thanks to google I also discovered that the church has a Pet Service in the summer where everybody brings along their pets to enjoy a service of thanks for their pets including pet themed hymns and songs!  They also do baptism’s in the sea so obviously a progressive church me thinks!

On Monday we had a look round Lowestoft  – definitely not to be done again.  I didn’t bother to get the camera out.  Nuff said!  So we had a relaxing couple of days before our house sit started on Tuesday.

So, back to the wires.  They are Molly (11), Chester (8), Hattie (4) and Daphne (1).

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Hattie, Chester, Daphne, Tim, Molly!

Despite their cute looks they are terriers through and through and they are a handful to say the least!  If you give them an inch they’ll take a mile.  It’s alright, we were warned by their owners before they were unleashed on us!  That said, Molly, Chester and Hattie can be pretty lazy, especially in the morning when we have to tip them out of their beds as they refuse to get up!  Daphne’s the youngest so she’s always up and wanting to go out………………well that’s until  I get the lead out and then she disappears under the table!

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Daphne enjoying a walk.

We’ve now got the measure of them (!) and got into a good routine.  We’re enjoying all the walks out and about with them.

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Hattie and Daphne at the Southern end of the beach.

We generally take two at a time as four is quite handful and Molly and Chester, being older, tend not to want to go so far or so fast!

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Sea defences.

We took Daphne down to the ‘Doggy Diner’ at the North end of the beach at Gorleston on Wednesday.  They even sell homemade doggy treats like Salmon Cakes and Tuna Mash in Yorkshire Puds……………yes, that is for the dogs!!  Totally redic but good fun:)

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Daphne goes to the ‘Doggy Diner’!

We have also had some lovely walks through the woods which are a few minutes from the house.

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Chester and Hattie in the woods.

The weather has been tropical for this area at 21 degrees so we’ve finally broken out our shorts.  We could quite get used to living by the seaside.

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Gorleston seafront.

Our second house and pet sit.

This last weekend Tim and I had another adventure in Bradford On Avon looking after two very sweet Collies.  We thought they were going to be pretty high maintenance but they turned out to be two very lovely boys who just wanted to chase balls in the garden for hours on end.  The only flaw in the ‘game’ was that neither of them returned the balls!  I spent many hours blazing a trail to the bottom of the garden retrieving wet muddy balls to throw again!  I did have the aid of a tennis racquet to launch said balls which did save my arm somewhat.  Both pups did finally settle down and sleep after we had lit  the fire and  hidden all the tennis balls.

The owners did warn us that both dogs usually get up at about 6.30am and sure enough the ‘alarm bark’ went off at 6.23am!  More ball chasing was called for before breakfast.  The dogs breakfast included dog biscuits and fresh chicken.  Tim was a bit gutted as he thought the chicken would have been much better utilised in a sandwich for him rather than given to the dogs!  He did make the comment that the dogs were better fed than him.

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Tim with the very sweet Zeb having a bit of a ‘man to man’ chat!

All in all we had a very pleasant time with the boys and can’t wait for our next assignment which is in Norfolk in May for four wire fox terriers (aka terrors).  That ‘should’ be our dream pet sit as they are one of our all time favourite breed of dog but……………four of them……………..i think we need our heads seeing to!

 

Our first assignment!

Well our globetrotting house and pet sitting adventure began this weekend.  We are registered here. We have been looking after two very sweet cocker spaniels and a vocal Burmese cat in BOA not too far away from our soon to be rented out home.  It has been a great first experience for us as the three girls have been an absolute pleasure to look after in very comfortable surroundings.  We had views right across BOA towards Westbury White Horse, underfloor heating and sunshine streaming in through the bi-fold doors.  Tilly, the younger dog, had Tim pinned to the settee for most of Saturday whilst I was at work – his excuse for not moving from the same spot for several hours!  We have had some pleasant walks in and around the local area and along the canal and seen some parts of the town we never knew existed.  There are so many alleyways concealing tucked away houses with pretty little gardens and great views.

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Tim with his very affectionate charge!

We went out last night to the Castle, a flatcappers pub, for a couple of real ales and some food.  I have to say mine was the best pint I have had since I was last in Yorkshire probably a year ago!  I forget what it was though! Doh! This was the first time we’d been able to go out in BOA and not have to get a train, taxi or bus home (or walk or cycle!). It made for a very pleasant evening with much chat about our future plans (or lack of them!) with then just a 5 minute stroll ‘home’ and a rapturous welcome from our 3 charges. Purrfect!

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It’s a tough job!

Coming home tonight has been a wrench as we have fallen in love with all three of ‘the girls’!

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How can you resist that little face?

As an aside:

Whilst we were on our first pet sitting assignment we had a message from another house sit we had applied for in BOA for 5th March 2016.  The couple wanted to meet us in person and it just happened that their house was just a few minutes walk away.  On arriving we were welcomed by Tusker (I forget which breed of dog he is but it’s posh and French!) who happens to belong to a friend of a friend who was doing a landscaping project for the owners.  Small world!  We met the two boisterous collies and the owners are happy for us to look after their collies and cat for the night on 5th March.  So that will be assignment numero deux.  I think the younger collie could be a bit high maintenance but we’ll see!