We used our “halftime” break to see family, to pick up a few new supplies from REI, and swap for some clothes we wanted to take during the second half. Overall, we’ve taken less stuff on this part of the adventure than before. We’ve found out that we can get by on less, that more is available to buy when/if we need it,
Our “second half” kicked off with an overnight flight to London, direct from SeaTac airport. We were there for a planned 3 weeks to housesit for a family that was going on a vacation to the States. Read on to hear how we filled our time and about our experiences in London!
We knew we wanted to visit London, but we weren’t sure how long we were going to stay since it is really expensive. We started looking for house sitting opportunities months before our initial departure, and we found one while we were in Argentina in a flat in London. We didn’t realize how great of a location it was until we got there. The website we used to get the house sit is TrustedHouseSitters.com and we highly recommend it!
Kentish Town with Scout & Bottom
This house was located in Kentish Town, which is in northern London, but not too far from the city at all, still in Zone 2 (on the tube). It is here where we watched Scout, an energetic English Springer Spaniel and Bottom, a black cat. Kentish Town also happened to be where our good friend Jay lives while he’s working temporarily for a Portland tech company! We couldn’t believe our luck in “living” so close to him, it sure made for a much nicer stay. It was literally a 10 minute walk between our houses, and for a place like London where it is easy to live 90 minutes away and still be in the city, it was a blessing.
Scout was a special pup. He was 2.5 years old and full of energy and personality. We were so lucky to be able to take him up to the Hamstead Heath park most every morning to wear him out, either by playing with the Chuck-It (and the two ball trick) or by simply having him off-leash and running along side us. We enjoyed our adventures with Scout very much, and as you’ll read on about, he came with us on some grand adventures outside of London, too.
Bottom the cat was a simpleton who we didn’t need to interact with much at all. She was an indoor cat who kept to herself unless she needed some more food or needed her litter box cleaned. Other than the occasional swat to the head as you headed upstairs, there was little interaction with this cat.
Bounds Green and Eva the Calico Cat
Because of our troubles getting into France (see this blog post), we were lucky enough to pet sit at a flat in Bounds Green where we watched Eva, a young calico cat and tended to the owners house and garden. We found out about this last minute pet sit from our previous house sitters who knew their friends were going away. They had previously setup an arrangement with their neighbor to take care of Eva, but we were able to provide more love and care, and get a free place to stay while we contemplated our next move.
Bounds Green tube station is in north London, much further north than Kentish Town, and it’s in Zone 3. With the distance from town, there were fewer restaurants, longer distances but also more space — larger house and back yard.
Eva was a complete doll of a cat to take care of. She was a calico cat that liked to cuddle on the couch from time to time (with her insta-purr, it was pretty nice) and liked to go outside and we’re assuming have great adventures. She was fed wet food twice a day, which was really the only times she spent indoors save a few times here and there. She’d spend the nights outside and we’d find her on a chair cushion on the back porch in the morning. I’m sure in the winter when the weather isn’t as favorable she’s indoors much more, but for us it was easy as pie to take care of this sweet cat.
Living in London
Since we weren’t just being tourists in the city, we were really more living there, at least temporarily, we got accustomed to how things worked like locals. Here are a few things we learned about living in London
- Transportation – there are a lot of ways to get around London. We took
most all of them.
- Most often it was the bus or the Tube, but we also rode the National Rail, Overground, DLR, Thames Clipper (boat), bike (once), car (Uber and driving ourselves) and of course walking. We enjoyed the double decker busses and the boat ride the most. Sitting up top in the front window seats was always our favorite way to ride.
- Walking – We’re fortunate to be able to walk as much as we did without issue. Whether it’s the 15 minute walk to the Heath, walking in the Heath, walking to the Tube, walking while visiting downtown sites, walking to a tube transfer, walking to dinner, walking to Jays, etc, we were always walking.
- Grocery Stores – We’ve written about it before, but not being tourists and instead being long term travellers we often cook our own meals to save money and to eat healthy. With this comes grocery shopping, and something we always like to do when we get to our latest destination is find the local grocery store. Luckily for us, Kentish Town had no shortage of close grocery stores. In fact, we frequented three stores regularly to complete our shopping. Instead of the one-stop-shops like we have in the States, there were different, smaller grocery stores either very close to each other on the same side of the street or literally directly across the way. We liked the Co-Op, Lidl, and for cheap ciders Cost Cutter. There was a large Saisbury’s in Camden Town, but despite our constant notion that’d we go there someday, we just never did. The reason we’d use a couple different stores in one trip was because they each had their strengths and weaknesses, their own deals and focuses.
- Driving – I mentioned this earlier, but along with taking public transportation, we were able to drive a few times, too. We had the luxury of using the family cars of the houses we were sitting at and we took advantage a few times. The first trip was the shortest: 8 blocks of driving
to get used to the whole experience: sitting on the right, driving on the left, manual shift on the left, skinny roads, round abouts, etc. It was a test drive that went well, so we decided we’d be good to go on longer journeys. The first of those journeys was out to Tring for a circular country walk (see more later), we then drove down past Southhampton to Lulworth cove and Durdle Door for a camping trip, and then took a couple trips out to Marlow for country runs. Our last car trip was in the city to the London Aquatic center. Despite the hours I spent driving (maybe 15 total hours) I couldn’t get used to looking in the rear view mirror which was up and to my left side. The shifting, left lane, roundabouts, street signs and motorways weren’t really too bad, but getting used to looking up and to the left for the mirror I never got the hang of. I overused my right side mirror to compensate. Aside for a parking ticket for parking incorrectly once, we had no issues while driving in London!
Country Walks & Exercise
One thing I didn’t know about when coming to London was country walks. It turns out walks are a big thing in the UK and that was great for us. I can understand why they are called ‘walks’ and not ‘hikes’ – because it’s so flat! Yeah, there are hills, but for the most part they are gentle walks that are from 8 – 20 miles long. We had a great resource to find walks, the Timeout Walks books and websites. We also had our friend Jay take us on a couple walks where he acted as tour guide. We turned a couple of the walks into runs which was a great way to see the country and run on fantastic trails. What we enjoyed almost as much as the trails, were the stops. The Timeout Walks all include recommended inns or pubs to stop at for lunch, and a place or two for tea.
- Kent with Jay/James/Alyse first Sunday – We arrived on a Saturday and went and hung out with Jay on a beautiful day. As it was coming to a close, Jay mentioned that him and a couple friends were taking the train and going on a coutry walk in the morning. Without too much thought, we jumped at the chance to head out with them even though we knew we’d be tired and jetlagged.
- Our first introduction to country walks was a grand success. Rolling hills, forests, farm animals, sunshine, cream tea, and a local pub made this a fantastic walk. It was nice to meet new friends as well.
- Tring circular w/Scout – This was our first big trip with the car and the dog. He’s a natural at car rides, and the 75 minute drive only had one slightly confusing part (double roundabouts – like a large roundabout with little roundabouts all around it – super confusing!). But, the walk didn’t disappoint once we made it to the trailhead. Here’s the walk description from the Timeout website:
The first part of this route – following the Ridgeway along the Chiltern escarpment to Ivinghoe Beacon – is exhilarating, offering downland scenery as fine as anything on the South Downs. From the Beacon itself, it seems as if you can see half of England on a fine day. Then by way of contrast, you are then plunged into ancient Chiltern woodland, lovingly preserved by the National Trust, with fine autumn colours in late October and early November. Tea is at a National Trust kiosk on the Ashridge Estate. The paths are generally pleasant and easy underfoot, but note that on the Ridgeway the exposed chalk in some of the paths can be slippery in the wet, and in the woods the paths can be very muddy in winter. All of the climbing is in the first half of the walk: the second half is all flat or downhill.
- Marlow x2 (once with Scout) – We’re training for a marathon in Ireland, and running in the Heath was getting a little boring and not quite long enough for proper training, so we looked up a country walk that we could turn into a country run, and settled on the Marlow Circular. It’s a 12ish miler that borders part of the northern Thames, climbs up a hill into the forest, and loops back through the city. We took Scout on this the first time, and found out he can not only run well off the leash, but on it as well (when needed because of livestock (like fallow deer) or traffic). Our second trip to the same run was just the two of us, and Jenny extended her run to 20 miles in this beautiful country landscape.
- Camping near Swanage – Taking advantage of both the car we had available and Jay’s free weekend, we headed south for a camping trip. Our first destination was a walk along the white cliffs of Lulworth. One of the main attractions is Durdle Door, a beautiful arch just off shore. While it was much more crowded than we desired (or expected), we were able to escape the crowds and find some grand views of the coastline along a narrow path. On our walk back we scurried down a steep embankment with the help of a rope so that we could walk along the beach. The sun was shining bright and it was a beautiful area to be walking.
- Post walk we navigated to our campsite in Worth-Matravers. Jay and I setup the tent while Jenny took a hot shower at the campsite. The campsite itself was a large grassy field on a large farm estate where many others had the same idea. While there were tents all around us, it didn’t feel crowded and we really enjoyed the camping experience (Scout included, he slept in our tent!).
- On our drive back on Sunday we briefly checked out the Corf castle, took a walk (Jenny a run) on the Studland beach, and then headed north for London.
- Run / walk with Jay and Alyse: Milford to Haslemere
- Old Harry’s Rocks walk while in Bournemouth
Aside from those walks and runs in the country, we stayed active in other ways around the city, too.
- Running and walking in the Heath – We did this most every day with Scout. He was a great off leash running partner, and it was an easy way to wear him out for the day. The Heath has no shortage of paths and trails, and it was fun to get to know a park so well that we both felt really comfortable there by the end of it. We finished most runs with Scout with a swim for him in one of the ponds
- Swimming Pond – Speaking of swimming, Scout wasn’t the only one who swam at the Heath. We took advantage of one of the 3 swimming ponds (the mixed pond) and each did a 20 minute lap swim in the chilly water. It was a really nice day in London, and when the scattered clouds cleared, the sun was very warm.
- London Aquatic Center swimming – In our second house sit we were recommended to check out the London Aquatic Center for a swim. It was the venue for the swimming events at the 20XX Olympics! It was a fantastic facility; the pool had many lanes (the French’s qualified for lane 6 in this heat), was deep, clear, 50m long, the right temperature, and since we went for a morning session (7am) instead of the afternoon, it wasn’t crowded. We both swam over a mile and it was fantastic to be able to swim 100 meters with just one turn. Highly recommended to all swimmers fast or slow (they have lanes for all speeds), especially because the price was only £4.50 per person for an hour session.
- Bike ride – Our second house sit had bikes we used the day after our long run. It felt great to be back on the saddle and it was ‘just like ridding a bike’. The route we went along took us through a few parks and on roads. The roads were not as treacherous as they seemed as long as you yielded to cars and buses. Our destination was the Health where we rested for a bit with a view of the city.
- City walking – You can’t get around walking in London. It’s what you have to do to get around most places and it’s almost easier at times. Lots of walking was had.
- Gym in Bournemouth – The gym at our hotel while on the coast of England was operated by a separate company and offered a pool, sauna and spa in the same complex. We used the weights after a run once. We also spent two hours rotating between the pool, hot tub and sauna one late evening after a day of hiking along the cliffs on the coast line.
That’s all for now, we’ll be finishing up the second half that contains food, some more tourist sites we visited, markets, museums, and parks! Stay tuned and keep adventuring.
Will & Jenny