UNITED KINGDOM. JUNE 6th-27th AUGUST 2019 First month.

FINALLY we got to use our frequent flyer points for a business class flight and it was a good leg to do so, allowing us to sleep through the night and arrive early into London not as wiped out as we could have, especially as we had a car to pick up and friends to join for our first day.

We had booked a fiat 500 which we had happily driven for a few days in France last year, but for a few extra pounds a day we were talked into upgrading to a Renault Clio which I have to say is very comfortable.

Interestingly it’s better to hire four weeks at a time to get better deals than for a three month period, strange but true. James my car researcher has managed to get us three different 1 month leases at $100 Aus a week.

We went straight from picking up the car to Chiswick to be greeted by friends from the Central Coast Melissa and Stephen whom were in London on their grand Europe adventure.

We drove to Windsor and left them to do the castle as we had done it last year and we spent the time picking up a few clothing requirements from good old Marks and Spencer’s and a few other items before strolling over the bridge into Eton and then meeting back up for lunch and a boat ride on the Thames.

Both having the next day free we met up in London at Covent gardens. A coffee and cake to wish Stephen happy birthday then the boys went off to the transport museum and Melissa and I walked around unfortunately it rained a lot which took the gloss off a bit but we did wander into one of the theatres and mingled with the intermission patrons and used the much nicer theatre toilets.

After lunch with the menfolk we all strolled down to the Thames and Westminster and surroundings before we all hopped on the train back to our respective accommodations. Stephen and Melissa were staying with her cousin and taking them out for dinner for Stephens birthday and thank you for having them.

We had booked into a bed and breakfast in Ealing which wasn’t too far from where they were staying once we knew we could catch up.

We were really impressed with Ealing, also the home of Ealing studios the oldest in England.

It had some lovely homes, parks and the shops were fairly extensive with most of the familiar names.

Our accommodation was very comfortable with an en-suite and breakfast was excellent, the full English.

Saturday was time to drive down to Wiltshire to Edington where we were to start our first house sit.

Driving through the UK countryside is wonderful and we drove straight past Stonehenge not far from our destination.

The local village fete was on so we had a look at that and had a coffee at the local farm shop and cafe where they also brew their own beer all which gave us a taste of the local area before we went to meet Sydney and her daughter Koala our Australian sheepdogs with their owners Lucy and Peter to go over everything and do the hand over.

Well we couldn’t have got a warmer welcome from the dogs, while we all sat down for tea,Sydney sat at my feet and Koala at James. After waving Peter and Lucy off we settled in with our girls and started enjoying the country life.

The house is extremely comfortable and surrounded by farms and fields of wheat, cows, sheep and horses oh and rabbits.

The house has a commanding view as it sits high and even if it’s raining is lovely.

We’ve since taken the dogs for walks over fields where the cows will come racing over to the fence to say hi. Down the village lanes and up over the hillside at the back of us. They are very affectionate and lovely natured and really make us feel loved.

The weather hasn’t been fantastic but we’ve managed to get out most days in the car for a few hours as there is a lot to see from here, we drove past Stonehenge on our way here and the Wiltshire white horse carved into the hillside is just a few miles down the road. Other great places to visit including Bath, Bradford on Avon and Devizes are all close by and have been enjoyable trips.

Devizes has one of the most locks on its canal for barges to navigate and it was wonderful watching as we walked along the canal bank how many people were energetic enough to take up the challenge. There are around 50 in a short space so it’s hard going and constant work. Think we’ll give it a miss.

Even going for a drive through the quaint villages is a highlight so just going to get groceries or to the movies is pleasant. The town of Westbury has Tesco, Morrison’s, Lidl and Aldi and Trowbridge a few miles further is quite a big town and where we went to see Rocketman at the Odeon. Fairly expensive to go to the movies but they do a couple of movies on a Wednesday and Thursday called Silver screens for over 55s for £3 including tea/coffee and biscuits. The movies are a rescreening of past movies but great value.

Back at our home in the village we have Netflix and Sky so have been lucky to have something to binge watch in the evenings or on a day at home.

We took a drive to Glastonbury where we had had a quick stop on a 2013 tour and thought we’d go back, but once there we realised we really had covered it on our quick stop so had a bite to eat after walking around then came on back to our very excited to see us girls. Just driving there had been pretty enough so not a wasted trip at all.

Glastonbury is a town of some character and full of Old and new people embracing the hippy/ tarot card/ crystal/ healing spiritual lifestyle.

For some reason it came across a little bit more sad than anything and it’s cafes etc were extortionately priced. The overpriced food and drink establishments were probably because there were no “brand names “ there. Some would say that’s a good thing but it seemed that the pricing seemed inconsistent with the alternate lifestyle projected as most of the other shops were either second hand stores or alternative healing/ reading venues.

The Glastonbury festival is on in a few weeks from our visit and as it’s some distance from the town centre preparations were in full swing when we drove past.

It’s a massive undertaking and from the amount of trucks etc you would think it was a few days off not weeks.

On the Sunday of Father’s Day here in the UK we drove over to visit with Pam and Tony and their Honey whom we’ll be sitting for later in July.

Lovely afternoon visit and it was great to see where we would be going to stay and of course meet the gorgeous ms Honey a golden cocker spaniel who had been rescued from a barn where she had been kept for three years and used as a breeding bitch.

Five years later she is relaxed and ready for lots of cuddles.

Back to Sydney and Koala, we have taken them on a few outings in the car and they’ve been perfect. Avebury which has a site similar to Stone Henge and is surrounded by some stunning historic homes. The dogs not only behaved in the paddocks with the sheep but sat quietly at the cafe while we had our coffee.

This meant we knew we could walk through the fields to our next village Bratton to a cafe there with them. Bratton has some amazing old buildings including one where Bloody judge Jeffrey sat during the 1685 trials.

Another day after our visit to vets for vaccination shot for Koala we took them to Devizes where we knew they would enjoy walking along the canal as do all the other dogs.

James and I managed a night at Bath Theatre Royal to see Noel Cowards play Blithe spirit featuring Jennifer Saunders who was brilliant as was the rest of the cast and the set.

When we came out it was still light at 9:45pm and was just getting dark when we arrived home at 10:30pm. It gave the town of Bath a beautiful feel and as it was fairly quiet you could imagine the people of yesteryear strolling the streets in their long skirts and top hats.

As it fast approached our end date for this first sit we couldn’t think of one negative aspect of staying here in this lovely home with these two beautiful girls who have just been the best company and so loving. We will miss them greatly when we have to say goodbye.

We were rapt to receive a five star review and would be delighted to go and stay with Sydney and Koala again for sure.

MANCHESTER Sit number 2.

We enjoyed our drive to Manchester and were warmly welcomed by Jo and Phil into their lovely three floor terrace home. A modernised Coronation Street house.

They have the lovely cocker spaniel Grover and Ridgley the rabbit who is going strong for 9 years old apart from one eye white with a Cataract.

Most enjoyable evening drinking copious amounts and eating a delicious slow cooked pork dinner. There was beer, wine, brandy,Amarillo,sherry, port, +++

In fact we arrived at 5 pm and we all went to bed at midnight which was wicked considering Jo and Phil had to get up at 4am to catch their flight to Rome.

Slightly dusty the next morning.

The area around the town is full of funky bars and restaurants and some great parks and woods for walking. It’s also not too far from some other well known towns and cities.

We quickly settled in to our new home and were spoilt with ultra modern bathroom and large bedroom.

Grover quickly got comfortable with us and even Ridgley the rabbit got more and more relaxed about having us pick her up to give her her meds and would feed out of my hand by the second day.

We didn’t use our car for a few days as we walked the local area and to Old Trafford cricket ground where some of the world cricket games were being played while we were in town.

Strangely one of the paths is laid with old headstones and it just seems quite odd to have it as a path.

When we did venture into Manchester cbd we took the tram which was quick and easy with no parking hassle either.

Another day we drove to Blackpool on one of the sunniest days we had, Blackpool is a child’s delight with so much to do and of course theirs lots of night shows as well, but we were shocked at most of the people visiting… pretty rough diamonds would be the nicest way of putting it. The streets are full of guest houses just as we have seen on tv shows and have since heard there are a lot of people living full time in them as it’s pretty good place to live if you’re not accustomed to working….

On another day we drove part of the Peak District making Sheffield our destination for a late lunch and walk around before returning home to a very happy to see us dog and clean house as the cleaning staff had been. Parts of the Peak District are stunning and we really enjoyed the drive.

We finally made the decision to get a National Trust Pass so we could start exploring all their historical places. At £120 for a couple it will take just over three places to pay for itself.

We purchased it when we went to Lyme Park and we were blown away by how many people volunteer to help at these properties not just as tour guides, but in restoring, working in the grounds etc, etc.

it was a beautiful day and the place was well attended as you can picnic in the grounds without paying to see house etc.

The amount of effort that goes into making these places interesting for everyone is to be applauded. Things for children and events and displays changing to make it interesting for return visits.

We had such a great day we quickly looked up the places we had been given recommendations to visit from people and went off to Quarry Bank mill and Manor a few days later and Dunham Massey the day after that.

Both fantastic days out with great guided tours that we managed to get on at Quarry Bank which had been a cotton and textile mill. Really interesting to see the industrial revolution in a setting which included what was a whole village built around it.

Dunham Massey had a sawmill and deer park in the grounds and another fascinating family story that begins way back….including its use as a hospital during world war 1 .

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Our days were once again quickly disappearing before our next move to Marbury where we will be in an old Black and white Tudor cottage minding George and Rosie, two cats.

On our last Tuesday evening we met Harry Fell our friend Dina’s son off the tram and we all went to the pub for drinks and dinner to watch the English girls football team unfortunately get beaten by the USA girls.

It was fantastic to see Harry as we had stayed with Harry and his brother Zac several times when Dina had to go overseas for work. Funnily we all have tickets for the cricket at old Trafford on Saturday so May see him again there. It’s Australia against South Africa in the World Cup cricket.

We had spent one day at home booking tickets for the cricket, motoGP in late August, accommodation for our last few nights in the UK and our flights to Alicante end of August where we are excited to be seeing all our lovely English friends we met on our cruise in 2018 to England.

James drove to London to change cars over for the next four weeks , after all that driving there and back they gave him the same car… and we began getting our stuff organised for our departure to Marbury.

Our second sit was another success for us and the pets as we all bonded well and I think the pets like the fact we’re not off for long stretches of the day. There’s lots of big welcomes even if we’ve only been gone an hour. Grover really loves cafes and restaurants and knows all the ones that leave a bowl of water out for dogs. James thinks he must be a retired executive whom misses lunching and breakfast meetings.

He also likes to have either one of your socks or a shoe with him in his bed, he doesn’t chew them it’s more like a comfort thing. Today he has James thong under his head.

we enjoyed having another fabulous kitchen to use but did manage a couple of pub meals out and a fantastic tapas dinner not more than 100 metres from our house sit on the funky Beech Road.

We left Manchester early in the morning sneaking out quietly as Jo and Phil had come home late the night before. We exchanged messages later and both parties were more than happy if a return sit came up, so we’re happy with that.

Next stop MARBURY in CHESHIRE.

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