Saturday, October 19, 2013

Part III of, 'From Beatles to Boating and From Kilts to a Canine...Our Journey to All Things Great British'

Our first housesitting job ( brought us to the beautiful and quaint location of West Yorkshire, England.  The job was sitting a family of pets and a cottage that was once most likely used to house a family of servants for the nearby manor.  It was located in a village named Askwith which was a short, narrow, country road drive from the town of Ilkley.  The area had a curious mix of cow and sheep farmers with large parcels of land along with an affluent population living in some palatial homes.  
Just arrived in Ilkley
The owner of the home 'Jackie' picked us up at the train station, showed us around town and then introduced us to her family of pets.  There was Lola, the loving boxer; Oscar, the ornery, sharp witted parrot and the funny assortment of a chicken, geese and ducks one had ever seen.  All were quite happy to meet us and were bouncing about in the backyard on our arrival.  Jackie made us immediately feel comfortable in her beautiful home and with her feathered and furry family.  
Jackie and her friend Steve had plans to go on a juicing retreat in Portugal while we took care of her pets and her home.  Before they left we had the chance to get to know them better.  They took us out for drinks and a nice dinner.  She introduced us to her parents and grandma who also welcomed us and made us feel at home and comfortable.  During the ten days Amy and I enjoyed a lot of quiet country living, long walks with Lola, bike rides into town and some in-home time by the fire watching new episodes of Downton Abbey (we were able to get in 3 episodes of season 4) and a highly recommended British television series called Sherlock.  
Enjoying a fire with COAL in it.  Jackie thought we were crazy as we didn't know what to do with the coal.  We told her that we had heard of it, but didn't know exactly what one did with it.  
Although our time in Askwith was short we really felt at home there and grew quite fond of Jackie, her parents and her wonderful animals.  We are happy that we had the chance to meet such a nice family, befriend such a great dog and come away from this experience with a new friend in Jackie.  Askwith and the people we met will always have a special place in our hearts.  We look forward to the next time we should meet again.
Lola thinking she is a lap dog.  She would do this while we were watching TV or just sitting around in the living room.    She loved the attention and surprised Amy on how such a big boxer could be such a big lover.
The Askwith sign showing the distance to the two other towns we visited (Otley and Ilkley). 
The cottage and the front yard.
One of the many beautiful views of West Yorkshire.  This day was overcast, but most were quite sunny and nice.
Jackie's mom and grandma came over and joined us for a cup of tea.  Jackie's grandma reminded Amy of her grandma 'GrandMax'
It is Amy's local free range eggs for sale. 
Hey, it is Amy buying Amy's local free range eggs.
The weir we found on one of our hikes.
Some of the ducks enjoying the sun and the pond next to the cottage.
Took in the sights of the town.  The pubs in town had some curious names.
Out and about in Ilkley
Enjoying a sunday lunch at a local pub called Yew Tree.
The servant's paging system in Jackie's parents' house.  We had to take the photo as it reminded us of Downton Abbey.
"Mum's home!"  Lola happy to see her mom home after 10 days. 
Once last hug from Lola before we departed.
Saying our goodbyes to Jackie and our first housesitting experience.
Lola posing for one last photo.  I told her to smile, but I think she was sad that we were leaving.

Thank you Jackie, Steve, Lola, Oscar and wonderful family on making this experience a memorable one.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

PART II of, 'From Beatles to Boating and From Kilts to a Canine...Our Journey to All Things Great British'

(Remember to view part I and all earlier posts by scrolling down to the end of the page)

After saying goodbye to Ken, Dave, Winnie and Tina at the Manchester Airport we boarded the train for an excursion to the land of William Wallace and the home of bagpipes.  We secured a job house sitting in Yorkshire, England and had about five days until the job began, so we decided to head north and and make an unplanned visit to Edinburgh, Scotland.  Typically, when we arrive in a new location we have our accommodation(s) booked and our itinerary of what to see and do researched.  For this leg we just went with the flow and took the experience as it came. 
The Royal Mile leading up to Edinburgh Castle
The trip from Manchester to Edinburgh took about four hours.  Along our journey we passed fields of rock walled lands with bright green pastures and a plethora of sheep.  The rolling hills tucked nicely into gentle flowing rivers.  Old farm houses and small cottages dotted the serene landscape.  Light fog rolled in as we crossed over the border into Scotland.  The train was warm and quiet while many of the passengers gathered to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the Scottish countryside.  The number of sheep started to dwindle as more buildings and industry came into view.  The train announcement said that we were now on the outskirts of Edinburgh.  In the distance we could see the dark stoned structures of Edinburgh city.  The dark and solemn looking facades of the monuments and buildings presented a stark contrast from the colorful and vibrant culture we discovered in the city they surrounded.

We got off the train and asked a police officer which way to the visitor's center.  He started to mutter the directions and at that point Amy and I knew that we were not 'in Kansas anymore'.  The only thing we were able to take away from this brief exchange with this Glaswegian officer was to go upstairs.  We did just that and as we came up and out of the station we found ourselves right in front of the visitor's center and smack dab in the middle of the old and new towns of Edinburgh.  After the visitor's center found us a reasonable place for the five nights we took the short drive on the bus and settled into our hotel.  On the short bus trip there we plotted our culinary invasion of the area, and most importantly charted the quickest path to the neighborhood laundromat to do some overdue washing.  The area near the hotel was surrounded by row homes, pubs, store lined street fronts and college students buzzing about.    
Edinburgh is a beautiful, good sized city, and yet has the feel of a quaint, comfortable village.  The people are extremely friendly, happy and willing to show you the right way and offer recommendations.  After one day of using a visitor's map we had the general layout of the city down, and knew how to access all of the neighborhoods and sites of interest.  The university sits almost near the center of it all which creates a vibrant, youthful environment.  Visitors taking walking tours and buses piled high with tourists where combing the streets.  If you were ever lost and just needed a quick direction the tour guides or the tours themselves could set you straight and even give you a bit of information about what to see.
Grass Market neighborhood in Edinburgh
Edinburgh Castle
One of the many alleys "closes" off of the Royal Mile
The Royal Mile and the Cathedral
East Princes St. Gardens with the castle in the background
Me and the Scott Monument
The neighborhood where our hotel was
After our hike to the top of Arthur's Rock
A church ruin near Arthur's Rock.
Calton Hill overlooking the city
Bagpiper at the Scott Monument
The smallest little restaurant on the street by our hotel.  One guy working, but don't know where the food comes from.
The castle.  Photo taken from Princes Street
Greyfriars...with the dog statue to the right.
Folk session at the Captain's Bar.  This was our last night, so we decided to do it up nicely.
View of the old section 
Hey that is not a typical Scottish meal.  Right, but Indian here was delicious and we indulged three out of the five nights.
A variety of pubs, cafes and ethnic eateries populate the whole city and offer a pleasant refuge from a long day of touring.  The Meadows and Arthur's Rock are two very large parks that we visited and would highly recommend for a run, walk, hike or just to have a picnic in.  Amy went for her runs in both areas and was impressed on how active and well used the areas were (I assume the good weather we had for two of the days that we were there also helped).  We hiked to the top of Arthur's Rock and took in some great views of Edinburgh city and the surrounding towns from above.  Five days was our introduction to this exciting city and we cannot wait to come back and explore the rest of the country and experience the famous Edinburgh Festival, military tattoo and of course more bagpipes.  

...Until then Edinburgh