Tuesday, May 30, 2023


 Well it's time to bring you up to date with last weeks travels.   We told you about our newest addition Annie, who we picked up while we were in Canterbury, but I haven't told you about Canterbury.

After dropping off our luggage in Southampton, we turned east and drove several hours east, past London to the village of Bridge, just a few miles outside of Canterbury.

Our VRBO for the next week is a converted schoolhouse turned into several cottages.  A nice backyard, shared game room, plus several bathrooms, and washing machine. 

Having arrived later in the day on Sunday, after getting settled in we headed down the street about 500 yards to the Bridge Arms Pub for Sunday Roast.     For those of you who might not know - a tradition in many of the pubs is to put on a Sunday Roast.   For a fixed price you get an option of meat and fixins.   Usually served with Yorkshire pudding, potatoes, and vegetables.

A pint and a roast.
Kate opted for the Beef

And I went for the Pork and Cracklings.

Our big green backyard

Each night around dusk a large Pheasant showed up and strutted around the garden for an hour or so.  His loud call accompanied by the flapping of his wings interrupted the peace and quiet and let everyone know he was in town.

Our downstairs - a large open plan dining/living area.

Monday was spent doing some odd shopping.   Groceries, plus some pet supplies in anticipation of Annie's arrival later in the week.   

On Tuesday we went into Canterbury for a walking tour of the old town.   Narrow cobbled streets turned into pedestrian zones, made it a very nice place to walk around and enjoy the day.

At the end of one of the streets we came upon Westgate Gardens.   Workers were busy planting flats of annuals in anticipation of the summer months.    This garden has been around for hundreds of years, being started in the 15ht century.

Lucy enjoys the last of her peace and quiet before the arrival of Annie

Another must see while we were here was a trip to Dover Castle.    Overlooking the town and harbor from its perch high up on the white cliffs, it sets a dramatic and foreboding vision.   

Built, partially destroyed, and re-built over the years, the current castle originates from from the mid 1100's and Henry II

Inside the great room.

The view from the roof of the Great Tower.   You can see Dover harbor to the right of center, and an approaching ferry to the left of center.   In the distance, about 26 mile away is the French Coast.   On a clear day you could read the time of day from the village clock using a pair of binoculars.

View from Dover Castle Great Tower

The castles kitchen.

On Thursday, our last day of peace before the arrival of Annie - we headed back into Canterbury to visit the world famous Canterbury Cathedral.   Seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Cathedral really became world famous due to Thomas Becket.     

The short story on Becket is that he served King Henry II as Lord Chancellor, enforcing the Kings Revenue laws.   Later he was appointed as The Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest religious position in England.  It was Henrys hope that Sir Thomas's loyalties would remain with the state rather than the church, but as the weight of the office settled in, Becket got religion so to speak, and as Henry pushed against the church, his former ally pushed back.   Eventually the pushing back and forth got to a breaking point and a few knights, decided to curry favor with Henry, and on December 29, 1170, they separated Becket from this world.

A square near Canterbury Cathedral

Within 2 years, of his death, Pope Alexander III made Becket a saint and soon the Cathedral became a shrine attracting pilgrims from all over the world.   A shine grew in the Cathedral, and soon the riches held by the church grew to astounding proportions.

Preservation of the Cathedral

During the reign of Henry VII, and his dissolution of the monasteries, the riches of the Becket shrine were seized.   It is said that Becket was summoned to court to answer charges.   Becket, having been dead for about 400 years, obviously did not appear.   So, because he was a "no-show" that became the legal vehicle used to seize all the goods.   The shine was looted and destroyed, Beckets bones were destroyed and scattered, and all mention of Becket throughout the land was removed, including from religious books.

Henry VIII obviously did not want anyone held in higher esteem than himself.

Below, the exact spot where Becket was assassinated.

Kate stands on the spot talking to the docent

One example of the beautiful stained glass throughout the cathedral.

It's a truly impressive and beautiful cathedral.   I think the Italian Cathedrals are more impressive due to the Italians skills with stone working, but it is still beautiful and hard to imagine how they actually built things like that over a thousand years ago.

The candle marks the spot where Beckets Shrine once stood.

On the perimeter of the Cathedral are numerous other chapels pertaining to other things.  There is a French chapel for instance, and below is St Michael's Chapel.  AKA the "Warriors Chapel" it was established in 1439 (53 years before Columbus sailed) and pays homage to various military figures and regiments over the years.

St Michaels Chapel

Well, soon it was Friday and time for me to make a puppy run.    The plan was the driver would leave on Thursday and drive 13 hours from Barcelona to Calais.   I would take a taxi from our place, thru the Chunnel, to Calais, and we would meet at 1230 at a McDonalds.

We arrived a bit early, and like clockwork, at 1225 our driver pulled in from Barcelona.

On the train to Calais

Well we made the transfer, exchanged some chit chat, and soon he was headed south and we were headed back on the train to the UK.

Now Lucy has a little sister

As expected, the dogs are getting along fine.   Lucy as been a bit standoffish from this high energy furball, but as the days pass, she has gotten more used to it, and now they actually lay on the sofa together. 

The next day - Saturday - we had a 3.5 hr drive to our next stop, the Village of Blakeney, on the coast in Norfolk.   Since check-in time was not till 4pm, we had time to kill, so I added a stop at Hever Castle to our days travels.

Hever Castle is the childhood, and family home of the Boleyns.   Remember Anne Boleyn,  Henry VIII's second wife?  She grew up here.

Hever Castle

Hever Castle Moat and gate

The Castle was purchased in 1903 by William Waldorf Astor, son of the famous "Robber Baron" John Jacob Astor.  As a result of his purchase, much has changed inside and a lot of the displays are oriented towards him rather than the Boleyns.   It was slightly disappointing, but beautiful none the less.

There are beautiful gardens surrounding the castle which are a destination on thier own.

Sitting room

Dining Room

After a few hours visiting and giving the dogs a good workout, we got back on the road and headed north to our next destination.    We are now in Blakeney, on the coast in Norfolk, and already have been enjoying all this area has to offer.   Yesterday was a 5 mile walk to the next village and back.

But all that if for our next post.

Thanks for following along.  I hope you are enjoying the ride.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Its an Annie!

Over the past year or so...  whenever we spoke about the dogs passing, I've always said that it would be nice if we could go dogless for a while.    As great as it is to have the mutts, they do require a commitment, and sacrifice.

I've had had trips to Japan, Australia, & New Zealand on my radar for some time now.   Trips that you can't take if you own a dog unless you can leave them with someone, or put them in a kennel - the latter which is a non-starter for us.


We're not going to Japan.
Or Australia,
Or New Zealand.

Meet Annie, the newest member of the pack

Annie at 14 weeks

Annie is a 16 week old Australian Cobberdog.   On Feb 2, 2023 while we were hanging out at Quartzsite with the gang, Annie was making her entrance into the world in Barcelona, Spain.    Little did she know the life that she was going to lead.

What's a Cobberdog you ask?  

Well the link above tells you a bit more, but it is a strain of dog, recognized as a Purebred breed in development.   Created by the same people who developed the original Labradoodle line, and descended from the original Australian Labradoodle strains, the line was tweaked a bit, and now has strict limitations on who can breed them, and requires DNA testing before they can be registered.    This is to hopefully prevent the craziness that happened with the Labradoodle line where every knucklehead with a Lab and a Poodle started breeding them and calling them Labradoodles.

A Cobberdog consists of approximately 28 different strains.

We purchased Annie from a breeder in Barcelona whe specializes in Therapy dogs.   I'd been following this breeder for a number of years and was impressed with their program.   Its a decent sized venture that has a training center and vet as part of the practice.   The dogs go thru a fairly rigorous training program to set them on a good path as Therapy dogs before you get them.   That is why Annie was 16 weeks old when we received her today.

So today at 0830, the pet taxi that we took a couple of weeks ago from Calais to London arrived at our cottage here near Canterbury.   He picked me up, and took me on the train, thru the Chunnel, to Calais where I met the driver who transported Annie 13 hours from Barcelona over 2 days.

We arranged the pickup at a nearby McDonalds, and within about 30 min we were heading back to the Chunnel with Annie on my lap.

On the Chunnel Train from France

First impressions is that she is a very chill pup.   Loves lap time and really loves people.   She's already started on house and leash training, and does not try to chew on you - even though she is currently teething.    Time and patience will tell, but so far so good.

Lucy has seemed a bit lost without Gracie.   Previously very independent - she has started to want to be at our side much more.    Now we'll see what the addition of 6 lbs of puppy power will add to that equation.

The veteran and the rookie

Based on her current weight - I'm guessing that Annie with be our smallest Doodle yet.  Yes I'll still call her a doodle - it sounds better than a "Cobber".    I'm guessing perhaps 14-17 lbs.

Finally - where did the name Annie come from?

Well you might know that Gracie was a blonde when born and was Gracie Allen
Lucy was the redhead and was Lucy Ricardo.

Well Annie comes from one of our favorite movies - Overboard with Goldie Hawn

If you've seen the movie then you know about Annie Goolahee Profit.

She's our little cookie cutter.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Back in London

 As I mentioned in ending our last post, we arrived in London and had a lot to do to get settled in for the summer.    

Since we were not able to take the ship, we had to leave a lot of baggage behind.   Some of the things were considered essentials, and I just figured that I would buy them over here.  One of the things that I had to order from Amazon was a small/medium size cooler.  Since we eat at home a fair amount, we have staples that we travel with and need some way to keep the perishables cold.

First on the order of business however, was getting our rental car.    Since we were scheduled to arrive by ship in Southampton, and I had rented the car for 5 months from there, it was easier to just stick with the  plan and travel the 90 minutes to there to fetch the vehicle.

So on Monday morning the 15th, I walked down the hill to the Finchley Road Underground Station, and took the tube 20 minutes down to Waterloo Station in London.

Waterloo Station in London

From there is was an easy 3 escalator ride up to the train platforms where I caught the 1020 train leaving for Southampton.   I informed the rental agent at Volkswagen that I'd be arriving at the Hedge End Station at about 1130 and he told me he'd be happy to come and pick me up.

Riding Southwestern Railways to Southampton

There has been some rolling strikes on the Railways lately, but fortunately my travel day as not one of them.  My train departed on time, and soon was speeding thru the English Countryside past yellow fields of Rapeseed. 

Like magic, I arrived at Hedge End Station right on time, and Steve from Peter Cooper VW was waiting for me outside of the station.    A few minutes after arriving I was seated at the table signing the documents, and recieving my keys.

Because we were expecting to have 2 dogs, one of them with a suitcase full of meds and a buggy to be pushed around in - I had rented an "Estate" car.  (That's British for Station Wagon)
VW Passat Estate

No worries though.   The longer wheelbase means and even nicer ride, with lots of room for Kates treasures to be acquired over the next several months.

The car has lots of nice bells and whistles and will be a comfortable ride for the summer.

Less than 10 minutes after arriving at VW, I was done with the paperwork and sitting in the seat working up the courage to fire it up and once again set off driving on the wrong side of the road.

I sat there for about 2 minutes, then said to myself the car was not going to drive itself back to London, so I pressed the start button, put it in gear, and hit the road.

My first stop was only about 3 miles (and several roundabouts) away.   My buddy Craig who lives in the UK had placed a "click and collect order" (That's Brittish for online order for pickup) for dog food.

I drove over to Pets Corner, picked up the order which was waiting for me, and then a few minutes later I was motoring up the M3 to London.

Left hand driving on the M3 from the right seat.

If in doubt - stay in the roundabout

One of the things that I learned last time - when I am in a roundabout and not quite sure which exit I want, there is no shame in making the circle one or two times to get your bearings all sorted out.   Sort of like Chevy Chase in Euro Vacation going round and round the Champs-Élysées over and over.

Well I only had one or two of those moments.   Last time I had many more on my first day of left side driving.   I've found its a little like riding a bike.  Once you get your bearings it's much much easier this time.

Well, after lots of traffic I made it back to London.   Our house has off-street parking which is very rare for London, and it makes it very convenient.   

Meanwhile, Kate had been patiently waiting for me to get back home so that she could open up the envelope from the US that we knew was coming that day.  I told her not to wait for me but she insisted.

Inside was Kates Irish Passport!   Its official!   As an Irish Citizen, she has all the benefits that come with an EU Passport.   Almost 3 years of work getting to this point, but the long road had come to a very successful conclusion.

Kates newly minted Passport

While here I have been ordering all sorts of stuff from Amazon.   We had so many deliveries that I am on first name with some of the delivery drivers.    In between all of these shipments however, we started to explore our new surroundings in the outlying area of London called Hampstead.

Our street - our house just past rubbish bin on the left

Hampstead is one of the desirable sections of the city, favored by artists and the type.
There are lots little side alleys with outdoor cafes and coffee shops

From our place it was about an 8 minute walk (up and up the hill) to the High Street

High Street in Hampstead

One morning we connected with our friend Raina who we met on the ship 4 yrs ago.
She lives both in the US and UK and was supposed to sail with us on the ill fated cancelled crossing.  Like us, she flew over.

We walked down the hill to the Finchley Rd Tube and took it down to the London Bridge Station.
Then right around the corner from the station we met her and her friend Simon (who we also met on the ship 4 yrs ago) at the Borough Market.   (more on the market later.)

While there we took a stroll thru the impressive Southwark Cathedral.

Southwark Cathedral

One really impressive thing was that one of Simon's ancestors is buried in the Cathedral.  We saw his grave while passing thru.

One really nice thing about London is that a good stretch of the Thames River is pedestrian friendly.   
We walked along the riverfront where I snapped this photo of the city with London Bridge on the right.

Those of you who recall my posts from previous winters, will recall the "real" London Bridge that was removed from this exact site, and moved stone by stone to be re-assembled in Arizona.   It's a shame, but the new London Bridge is a plain looking industrial thing.   Just the approaches on either end remain from the old bridge, giving a hint to the nicer structure that once spanned the river at this place.

The "New"London Bridge on the right

We stopped at a pub along the river for some lunch.   Steak and Ale Pie for Kate.

Later, we continued our walk along the Thames to Waterloo Station (where I previously caught the train to Southampton) and took the tube back up to Finchley Road.

Then, it was back up the steep steep hill to our house.

Lucy has the right idea here!

The next day Kate and I took a stroll up to Hampstead Heath.   Known as "The Lungs of London" it is a large forested park in the outlying area, just a mile or two from where we were staying.

Like everywhere here, its super dog friendly and even has swimming lakes for people and pups.

Swimming lake in Hampstead Heath

Strolling further into the park, we walked up to the top of Parliament Hill, where you get a good view of downtown London in the distance.

The view from Parliament Hill

We met Raina for lunch at the Freemason Arms,  a nearby pub, after our ramble thru the park.   After lunch she came back to our place to spend the night.    The next morning the three of us hopped back on the underground and headed back down to Borough Market to pick up some goodies for our traveling larder.

The market is one of Londons largest and oldest.   There has been a market operating at this location since at least the 12th century, and possibly a couple hundred years before that.

Our train arriving at Finchley Road

Fresh fruit and veg at the Borough Market

Cheese?  Yes please!

In addition to grocery items, the market has numerous places to pick up a quick meal.
We stopped by The Ginger Pig, who is famous for their sausages, meats, and especially their cooked sausage rolls and meat pies.

There was a long lunchtime line at their stall, but it moved very quickly.   We brought home a couple of sausage rolls for breakfast, as well as 4 meat pies for dinner.   We froze a pair of the pies for a quick dinner later on down the road.

Sausage roll

A Beef & Stilton Meat Pie

Our tour guide Raina had one last great suggestion before we parted ways.   There was 2 tube stations about equal distance from our house.   One was uphill, and the other downhill.   We had planned on returning to Finchley Road and walking back up the steep hill, but she suggested that we take a different line from the Waterloo Station back home and arrive at the Hampstead Station instead.   Hampstead is the other station near us, and its a downhill walk to our house.   Now that is smart!

Heading West to go East

Well Sunday morning had arrived and in a blink of an eye our 8 days in London was already over!   

Our original plan was that upon arrival in Southampton, I was going to place our hanging suit bags containing our "grownup clothes" in a storage facility there rather than dragging them all over the UK and Ireland for the summer.    I had figured that I'd bring them with me on the train when I picked up the car,  but I nixed that idea due to all the walking involved.  I also thought the car would be big enough to just leave them inside of it.

When I started to pack the car however, it became painfully obvious that while I could squeeze 20lbs of crap into a 15lb bag - it would be rather uncomfortable for Lucy in the back.

So plan C emerged.   I called the storage company and for the 5th time resorted my plans and told them that I was indeed coming and needed the space.    So when we departed London on Sunday morning, rather than heading east to Canterbury, our next destination, we first headed west 90 minutes to Southampton to the immaculate Locknstore facility to drop off the suitcases.     A much better plan.   Now Lucy only has to share the back seat with the cooler.

Departing Sunday morning on Finchley Rd 

Meanwhile, the weather has been fantastic.   While we were in NY it rained almost the entire time.   We had a sunny day to drive to Newark and fly out, but then the rain returned in France and it rained there almost the whole time.  We entered the Chunnel on a cloudy day but emerged out the other side to a bright sun shiney UK day.    Since then we've not had a drop of rain.   Great temperatures for walking too.

So now we are in Canterbury.  (think Thomas Becket)  Lots of castles, cathedrals, and great things to see here.   We are here for 6 nights, and already 3 of them are over.   Yikes!   I think we are living life in dog years!   

But Canterbury is the subject of the next post....