Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Gone Deep Underground Into A Coal Mine.....

The country of Wales has long been known for it's coal mining in the Rhondda Valley and throughout South Wales. By 1913 the port of Barry, Wales had become the largest exporter of coal in the world, with Cardiff coming in second. Coal was shipped across the world via rail.

Today we went deep underground, some 300 feet to get a glimpse of what life was like as a coal miner. The Big Pit National Coal Museum located in Blaenavon, allows visitors to enter a real coal mine to get the full picture. First we were suited up with helmets complete with head lamps and a belt that held a battery pack for the light. We were also provided with a backup respirator that offered ONE hour of air,  just in case there was an emergency need. Our equipment weighed in at five pounds but with no light down under, it was certainly necessary.

Suited Up With Plenty Of Layers Of Clothes On

We met up with our tour guide who worked as a "real miner" for many years. He was full of tales, stories and experience having taken the plunge down into the mine thousands of times. We boarded the same shaft used by miners throughout the years and descended down into the unknown.

The Miners Getting Local Kids Suited Up

The bad news is that we could not take ANY battery operated devices into the mine.  This included cell phones and Cameras!  In other words, no pictures of the inside of the mine.

Into The Cage We Go


Along with being a UNESCO World Heritage Site the museum has won the prestigious Gulbenkian Prize for museum of the year. But like all museums that offer a wide array of educational programs, this one was packed with bus loads of school children. Our tour guide had his work cut out for him as he had to deal with 28 children and their teacher who did little to discipline them along the way.

Plenty Of Kids Around

Mining was a family business and those children born into mining families were put to work by the age of five. It was believed that IF a child was not put to work by the age of eight he would never understand the meaning of work. Women, children and the men of the household all served in some capacity in the mine.  Children ONLY attended school on Sundays when they had a day off from work. During the workday children worked a twelve hour day with only a candle to light up their work areas. Hard to believe that kids that young were forced into a life of labor and eventually this law was changed to allow only older children to work the mine.

Borrowed From Online So You Get The Idea Of The Inside

Another Borrowed One

Views Outside
The Workshops

We chatted with one miner who served for 40 years since he began work there at age 16.  He told us a story about working in a different mine down the road. There he had to walk THREE miles underground to get to where he would begin his shift each day. Then he had to walk another three miles underground at the end of each shift. He went onto explain that his work area was so compact that he worked in a squat position for 12-hour shifts which kept him fit, but later caused his back problems.

After finishing up our fascinating one-hour underground tour we headed outside to explore other parts of the museum. As it seems is typical here in Wales the weather literally changes by the minute. What started out as a lovely sunny day soon turned to rain, snow, sleet with heavy winds then back to sunshine and a repeat of the whole mess. Our sunglasses went on, came off, hats on, then off and the same with gloves and other warm weather gear.

We toured the Pit's bath house that made life a whole lot better for the miners and their families. The facility offered both clean and dirty lockers to house their belongings along with showers, filling stations for their water bottles to take into the mine, and even a boot washing station. This whole process kept miners clean from debris, grease and disease that they didn't bring to their homes.

A Ghost Of A Man In The Bath House


The Big Pit offers visitors a well laid out, easy to understand museum full of interesting objects that most anyone would enjoy seeing.  And the best part of all is that admission to the Pit is totally FREE and offered us fabulous views into Welsh life along with views of the country side......along the gringo trail.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Is Ya Packin' Alright?......

As we approached the cashier at the checkout she looked at Clyde and asked," is ya packin' alright?"  He said, "yes, " and smiled as he turned toward me.  She was merely asking him IF he wanted to purchase a plastic grocery bag for 5 pence, something required by law here.  There are no free bags throughout the whole UK so we usually have with us the reusable type.

The Morgan, our hotel in Swansea
The ceiling in the hotel dining room


While the main language spoken here in Wales is English, it's barely something we can understand. In fact much of the time we think they are speaking Welsh but after tuning in more carefully we pick up a few words that we know. After all these years of speaking English we consider ourselves to have a good handle on the language, although perhaps not quite fluent yet? Or at least not they way it's spoken here.

Swansea Bay

Lighthouse Boat

We are in Maesteg, Wales, a smaller town located less than an hour from the more well known city of Cardiff. While chatting to the homeowners who relocated from South Africa, they mentioned a fellow American girl that works in the nearby grocery store. Thinking that she might enjoy meeting another American they suggested that we might stop in to say hi while doing our shopping. Clyde approached an employee and asked if the young woman was working today. The employee turned to him and said, "yeah she be here but then she go, ok?" Well alrighty then we thought as we walked away with a smile. The store by the way is ASDA owned by the American retail giant Wal-Mart.

Our Temporary Home in Maesteg

Add caption

WOW!  What views!

Over the past week we relocated from England into Wales for our current house sit.  With a few days free in between sits we explored castles, the seacoast, small villages and large cities along the way. Last Friday we enjoyed the sights of the lovely seaside city of Swansea.  With a day of perfect weather, we sat lazily on a bench taking in the beauty of the Swansea Bay Front.  Cuddled up to Clyde I lay my head over on his shoulder and enjoyed the unusual flicker of sunshine that is so rarely seen here. We literally must have looked like homeless people to those passing by. But little did they know that we really are homeless, although by choice, as we travel the world house sitting.

My new buddies:  Henry and Dave
Henry is the slut
Holly is on the other couch


That was the last we have seen of the sunshine as the rains poured down for the past few days. But fortunately we do have a splendid view of the countryside below from our temporary home that sits high up on a hill. The arduous task before us here is to cuddle and care for three dogs while their owners are away on holiday. Hopefully the sun will come out  tomorrow so we can hit the road to immerse ourselves in the Welsh countryside, castles and culture that's all around us.......along the gringo trail.

Terry and Clyde are able to "Travel The World House Sitting"  and so can you!  We have created a website to help people who want to learn about house sitting.    Information for both the prospective house sitter and for someone who needs a house sitter.

the New Website                          -->  CLICK HERE

How to Get Your First House Sit -->  CLICK HERE

How to find a house sitter          ---->  CLICK HERE

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Inside A Private Estate.....Not Open To The Public....

Not far from our present house sit location is the massive estate called, "Chequers." A mansion on 1,200 acres of land near the Chiltern hills, it is the private country house of the Prime Minister of England. It is here that present Prime Minister Theresa May can go to unwind from a hectic week in London.  She can also choose to entertain there, host heads of state for business meetings, engage her cabinet in formal sessions, or just hang out by the swimming pool with family.

The Main Entrance to the Estate

This is the front entrance of the Estate

This is a private home that is NOT open to the public ever.  But with a friendly husband like mine who friended an old acquaintance from Panama online, we soon found ourselves getting an invite. But before we could set foot into the home we had to undergo a background check from the local authorities that we apparently passed with flying colors.

To make a long story short, someone we  knew from Panama is now living here in England working as a Steward at the estate. She IS allowed to invite friends into the estate when the Prime Minister is not in residence.  We were thrilled when she offered to give us a tour and gladly took her up on the offer.

We made our way over to the guard gate following closely behind our friend and guide.  First we had to open the trunk of our rental car in order for the police to search it, making sure we weren't trying to smuggle in extra people. Finally we made our way into the back entrance used by the staff to get ready for our exciting tour.

Aerial View taken from Web

We were delighted to be offered a guided, private tour with her and one of her colleagues.  For TWO hours we were enlightened about the history of the home that included tales of past famous visitors that slept, worked and enjoyed the company of the present and Past Prime Ministers.

Picture Taken Driving in

Needless to say the inside of the estate is gorgeous with large rooms filled with grand furniture, valuable artwork and memoirs of the families that have lived there. Yet despite the size of the place it felt rather homey and comfortable.  I had the urge several times to plunge down onto a sofa and take in the ornate scenery that surrounded me while enjoying the crackle of a fire.

The lovely home seemed to go on forever as we toured great halls, libraries, dining halls, offices, ten or more guest bedrooms, a large indoor swimming pool, restaurant sized kitchen and so much more. Unfortunately due to the privacy of the estate we were NOT allowed to take photos inside.  We also had to sign confidentiality statements agreeing NOT to talk about anything that we learned while inside. But I DID ask and was told that YES we could tell people that we visited the home, since that was allowed.

This room had signed Photos
of all of the Past Prime Ministers
We were standing where The Queen Mother is
(Picture was found on the internet)

We left the home giddy with excitement and feeling so fortunate about being permitted into a world that so few Brits ever see let alone foreigners. This surely was the highlight of our three months in England and will be something that stays etched in our minds for years to come. For anyone seeking more information on the estate there is a link below.

This is the Library
We walked in the footsteps of the Queen
(Picture  was found on the internet)

Here's to another amazing experience, to having friends in the right places, thankful for a husband who has never met a stranger, and for more wonderful adventures.......along the gringo trail.

Terry and Clyde are able to "Travel The World House Sitting"  and so can you!  We have created a website to help people who want to learn about house sitting.    Information for both the prospective house sitter and for someone who needs a house sitter.

the New Website                          -->  CLICK HERE

How to Get Your First House Sit -->  CLICK HERE

How to find a house sitter          ---->  CLICK HERE


Thursday, February 16, 2017

The City Of Oxford, England......

If visiting university towns made us smarter we should be genius' by now since we explored yet another one today. Known for the famous ancient University of Oxford, the city is full of culture, beautiful architecture and more. There are some thirty different colleges and universities within the Oxford University system making the city come alive with young people riding bicycles through the congested streets.

The University of Oxford has been shaping young minds since 1096 and has produced some of the greatest minds and successful people in the world.  The list of alumni include members of the Royal Family, Nobel Prize winners, Olympians, actors like Huge Grant just to name a few.

We also discovered Oxford Castle, it is a large, partly ruined medieval castle. The castle standing now replaced the older wooden structure in the 11th century.  Later on, more buildings were added to the complex as the structure became used for a prison, a hospital and county offices during different times.

We strolled along the cobblestoned streets taking in the sights, sounds and vibe of this lovely city.  Come along with us and enjoy the sights of Oxford, England in the photos below......along the gringo trail.

Terry and Clyde are able to "Travel The World House Sitting"  and so can you!  We have created a website to help people who want to learn about house sitting.    Information for both the prospective house sitter and for someone who needs a house sitter.

the New Website                          -->  CLICK HERE

How to Get Your First House Sit -->  CLICK HERE

How to find a house sitter          ---->  CLICK HERE

Life In Portugal....At A Snails Pace....

Yesterday was just another day in Portugal when my dear husband Clyde said he was going to run to the pharmacy for a few things. Time passed...