Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Piedras Blancas Light Station

On the Central Coast of California we have what we call the "June Gloom" a.k.a. fog.  Hard to imagine on a sunny, beautiful day but there are times when it's difficult to see your hand in front of your face.  Enter the need for the Piedras Blancas Light Station, illuminated in 1875 to help seafarers avoid disaster.  At night its flash pattern helped mariners identify their location and warned them of the rocky coastline nearby.  A sound signal building and fog signal were added in 1906 providing additional protection.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings, the light station is now managed by the BLM with the assistance of the non-profit Piedras Blancas Light Station Association.   The association works on restoring the light station and surrounding property with its funding coming from donations and weekly docent led tours.

Taking the two hour light station tour we followed our docent guide around the property, imagining what life was like for the light keeper and his family living in isolation on this rugged outcropping of land far from any town, any neighbor, any anything.  On duty 24/7, no matter what the weather conditions, dedicated to the safety of ships and sea travelers they probably couldn't even see.

Piedras Blancas Light Station with group taking docent led tour
Our docent explains that a large earthquake damaged the light station in 1948 and the upper part of the light house had to be removed. The association hopes to restore the structure to its original state along with rebuilding the light keeper's house pictured above. Structural repairs to the light station and adjacent structures are ongoing and future plans include building replicas of historic buildings that have been lost to time and the elements.

Looking up the light house circular stairway

The fog signal building

Fog signal building interior

Our tour culminated with a walk along the 1/2 mile interpretive trail hugging the spectacular coastline.   A wildlife and marine sanctuary, we viewed Sea Otters floating near the shoreline, Elephant Seals napping on the warm sand and seals lounging about on the rocky ledges.  Further offshore the spouts of Gray Whales could be seen, their annual migration from Mexico to Alaska just beginning. Above it all, a Peregrine Falcon perched.  Umm, on second thought, maybe the light keeper and his family weren't so isolated after all...

Interested in taking your own tour of the Piedras Blancas Light Station?  Tour information is available at 805-927-7361 and at

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Great Waters - A "Somewhere Sunday" Post

Iguazu Falls

This week's "Somewhere Sunday" journey takes us to the border between Argentina and Brazil to one of the world's greatest waterfalls.   

What's wider than Victoria Falls and higher than Niagra Falls?  You guessed it - Iguazu Falls. Well, that's if you are in Argentina.  If you're in Brazil it's Iguacu Falls - named by the Tupi Guarani people and translating to "great waters."  Whatever you happen to call it, it is the magnitude and grandeur of these great cataracts that one remembers. Spanning an area of 2.5 miles, the Iguacu River flows around rocky ledges and small islands creating 275 separate falls plunging 269 feet to the river below.  People say Iguazu Falls is one of the world's wonders...well, let's go wondering!

For an idea of the scale, look at those tiny little people at the upper right hand corner of the photo.

We'll begin our day in Argentina where views of the Iguacu River falling over the escarpment are best - but first, cover your camera and put on your hat and raincoat. Deceptively calm, the river quickly changes its character as it nears the drop off.  Wet and loud, it is so well worth the bath!  

As amazing as this side of the falls are, we won't stop here for long.  We've got to purchase our day visa and catch a cab across the border into Brazil so we can experience the full effect of the falls from below.

But our trip isn't finished yet...we've an exciting end to our journey today...we're going to do a fly over of Iguazu Falls courtesy of the BBC and Planet Earth.  So, strap on your seat belts, take your Dramamine and click here.  We'll see you on the other side...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


We've learned so much about the little details that make our house sits and travels easier and not so overwhelming. Following are some suggestions for sites that have helped us and may be useful to you.  These are popular sites with experienced travelers for good reason - they are informative, user friendly, and some are even fun!

Checking out the Hood

Would you like to see a bird's eye view of the neighborhood and surrounds of the house sit that you're applying for?  Do you want to see a street view of the exact house that you'll be staying in?  You can if you have the address and Google Earth.  Google Earth is a free program for PC and Mac users that is easy to use and amazingly comprehensive in scope.  We've used this program to see the street view of an upcoming house sit and to familiarize ourselves with the general area.  We find nearby parks, bus stops, shopping centers and roads. The images are in 3D and provide views from above as well as from street level.  It's the next best thing to being there!  You can find Google Earth at  Warning:  it's a highly addictive program that may result in hours of virtual travel experiences...

Frugal Travel Guy

The Frugal Travel Guy is the guru of traveling the world at prices you can afford.  His site is packed with information pertaining to every aspect of travel.  He is a specialist at "churning" credit cards (rotating cards that offer perks) and he offers a free assessment for choosing the most suitable credit cards for your travel needs.  His site and subscription newsletter are free and an excellent resource for keeping you informed of the best travel related deals around.  You can find him at  

Travel & Medical Insurance

Is it really necessary?  Well, only you can decide that!  But if concerns about becoming ill or injured while traveling out of the country are keeping you from traveling as extensively as you'd like then is a great place to start researching your options.  Offering comparisons of more than two dozen travel and medical insurance providers helps you weed through your options, saves time and, maybe, even some money!


There are times when we need to arrive at a house sit a day or two early for orientation with a homeowner. Sometimes we find better flight schedules or prices to our destination if we book a day or two ahead of our house sit.  When this happens we need a roof over our heads but we  want it to be affordable.  That's when we turn to, and offers everything from rooms in private homes to entire houses and often at prices much better than a hotel.  Vrbo connects you to property owners around the world that offer everything from bunk beds to McMansions. offers hotel accommodations and we've saved a few bucks booking through their site.   


Finding a flight to your destination of choice is time consuming if you are shopping for the best price and schedule. Actually, sometimes just finding an airline to a particular destination can be a challenge!  While there are a plethora of airline sites to choose from, we like and usually use and  Skyscanner is particularly useful for booking with small or budget airlines outside of the U.S.


We manage a good part of our life with the internet.  We have to because we don't have a permanent home at the moment!  While this is absolutely wonderfully convenient for us, our having dozens of passwords to keep track of and keep secure is not.  That is until we found Keypass. Keypass is a free program that encrypts your data.  We have it on our laptop and on a thumb drive and use it to keep track of passwords, user names, addresses, due dates, renewal dates, serial numbers and all of the other data of modern day life.  Why do we have this information stored in so many places?  Because if our laptop is stolen we'd have our thumb drive as back-up.  (We never keep the thumb drive in the same location as our laptops.) There are many encryption programs available - the important thing is to secure your data - but if you are interested in Keypass then give it a Google.


We miss a lot of special occasions while on the road.  Our family and friends have birthdays and anniversaries. There are holidays and other causes for celebration and we just can't be there.  But we try to always acknowledge them and stay connected and that's where e-cards come into play.  We use  It's easy and keeps track of dates, sends reminders and allows you to schedule card delivery in advance.  Interested in animating your cards?  Then may be for you.  Want to go the traditional route and send a "real" card through the mail? provides this service.  You may not be able to be somewhere in person, but you can be there in spirit!

These are but a few of the e-sources we use.  We've included many more in our book "The Housesitters How-to Handbook" and we'll keep you posted as we discover those resources that can help make planning your travel adventures more fun and less stressful. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Barcelona's La Rambla - A "Somewhere Sunday" Post

This week's "Somewhere Sunday" takes us on a leisurely stroll down La Rambla, one of Barcelona's most famous streets.  We'll start at the top and work our way toward the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell.  Maybe we'll stop for some treats along the way at La Boqueria or pick up some fresh flowers at one of the street side stands... what else is a lazy Sunday afternoon for?

While it is said that anymore there are more tourists on La Ramba than locals, it's still the place to people watch.  As we wonder the street we see human "statues" spray painted an assortment of colors, jugglers juggling for change, a mother and daughter walking arm in arm, and young couples embracing as if they were the only people in the world.  It's such good people watching that we have to remind ourselves occasionally to see beyond the people to our surroundings.  Tile work here, ornate iron balconies there, and a wood carved angel catch our eye.

Close up of ornate ironwork on balconies along La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain

Details of building decorations along La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain

Close up of carved wooden angel along La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain

People spill out onto the pavement from La Boqueria, shopping bags full of fresh fruit and vegies, meats, cheeses, and, yum...chocolates.  I think it's time for that treat we mentioned!

The site of La Boqueria has had one incarnation of a market after another since the year 1217.  It's obviously a favorite of both locals and the tourists.  

4 photos of food offerings at La Boqueria market, Barcelona Spain

As we stroll further along La Rambla, we come to Port Vell and the Monument to Christoper Columbus honoring his first voyage to America.  Standing atop a 147' tall column, he watches over the waterfront while two bronze lions stand guard at the base of his monument.

3 photos of different aspects of the Monument to Christopher Columbus, Barcelona, Spain

close up of Lion at base of Christopher Columbus Monument with ornate buildings in background, Barcelona, Spain

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Back, Back, Back in the U.S.A.

Sunset at Morro Rock from Morro Strand State Beach

Leaving beautiful New Zealand and flying back to the U.S. was nothing short of grueling. Auckland to Melbourne, Australia and then on to Los Angeles and further yet to Sacramento, California.  Twenty-eight hours.  We made it without a missed connection, but with little sleep and airline food that was, well, a lot like gruel!  We could however partake of the tempting aromas drifting through our economy class area from first class.  Isn't that rude?  (We couldn't use their bathrooms either...jeez...)

We are taking a few weeks off from housesitting and hanging out in lovely Morro Bay.  We're happy to be here to catch up with family and friends, recharge our batteries a bit, do our annual visits with doctors and dentists, and complete the dreaded duty of filing our income tax forms.  We promise not to post any photos of that!  

We will be sharing some stories and photos from our time here on California's spectacular Central Coast.  We'll be doing a lighthouse tour, visiting an Elephant Seal colony, and getting in some beach time.  We hope you'll enjoy it just as much as we do!  Then, in March we begin a month long house sit in Italy kicking off the four months we'll spend in Europe.  We promise you a spring and summer filled with travel adventures culminating with a house sit in Scotland. Sound good?  Well, stay tuned then!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Custer Bison Roundup - "Somewhere Sunday" Post

This week's "Somewhere Sunday" takes us into the hills of South Dakota for the annual Custer State Park Bison Roundup.  So saddle up pardner...

Custer State Park has one of the largest herds of bison on public lands in the world.  But at 2000 pounds a Bison eats a lot of grass and depending upon the level of rain each year the park staff must determine how large the herd can grow.  Enter the Bison Roundup now in its 48th year.  It's a site to behold as 1000+ bison thunder across the prairie.  With a little imagination, one can imagine what it must have been like when over a million of these beasts roamed free.


Cowboys and cowgirls enter a drawing each year, hoping their name is drawn so they can ride in the roundup.  The hillside is covered with spectators who begin arriving before dawn. Once the Bison are corralled, the herd is branded, vaccinated and then sorted to determine which will go to auction that afternoon.  Not up for an auction?  Not to worry, we're not either!  We're headed to the accompanying festival to see the Lakota Hoop Dancers performing.  After that we'll make a quick stop at the historic State Game Lodge before we finish our afternoon with a drive through the park to see what other wildlife (and not so wild life) we can find.  But we'll have to take it slow because the Bison herd roams free in the park!

Historically, the  Lakota (Sioux) relied upon Bison, which they called "tatanka"
for food, clothing and shelter. 

Built in 1920, the State Game Lodge is on the National Historic Register and one of three lodges in the park. Distinguished guests have included President Calvin Coolidge who used it as his "Summer White House" in 1927 and a visit by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Young male Pronghorn Antelope butt heads and antlers practicing for the day
when they've got to fight for their females.

Jackrabbits inhabit the park as well as Mountain Goats, Bighorn Sheep,
Deer, Elk, and wild Turkeys

And then there is the not so wild band of Burros and....

the baby Burros

For more information about Custer State Park visit their website

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Casablanca (Part II) - A "Somewhere Sunday" Post

This week for "Somewhere Sunday" we return to the Mosque Hassan II in Casablanca, Morocco for an interior tour.

We mentioned last week that the Mosque Hassan II was only the 7th largest in the world but its stats are still quite impressive. The interior prayer hall measures 660' x 3300' and can accommodate 25,000 people. Equally amazing is that it was built with a retractable roof! 

One request of Hassan II was that, as much as possible, materials utilized in the mosque be sourced from Morocco.  As such, much of the marble is from Agadir, the cedar wood used in the ceilings is from the Atlas Mountains and the granite comes from Tafroute.  An exception was the importation of huge glass chandeliers from Murano, Italy.  Altogether, 6000 artisans worked for 5 years to create the tile mosaics, carved wooden ceilings, stone and marble floors and columns, and the intricately sculpted plaster moldings.

Prayer Hall

close up details of hand carved and painted ceiling at the Mosque Hassan II, Casablanca, Morocco
Ornately hand painted ceiling details.

close up details of hand carved and painted ceiling at the Mosque Hassan II, Casablanca, Morocco
Intricately carved cedar wood ceiling.

Sculpted plaster moldings adorn the mosque's walls and arches.

Granite and marble were sourced from the seaside town of Agadir

Details of Zellige work 

An interlocking geometric and floral pattern covers the floor

Glass chandeliers from Murano, Italy

Gated doors  into the prayer hall