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Hoteling it in Hobart

Hoteling it in Hobart

I wanted to visit Hobart (again) before making my way to Launceston for my first interstate house and cat sit. So I booked a room at the same place I’d stayed about five years ago. The Alabama Hotel.

The Alabama Hotel describes itself as a ’boutique style art infused hotel’, ‘with emphasis on creating an enjoyable, affordable and artistic space’. I already knew the hotel’s amenities were pretty basic, but it redeems itself with the vintage interiors, furnishings and bric-a-brac scattered over two floors. It has a small bar and nice outdoor space, and they do coffee from 8am each day. The hotel’s location’s pretty decent, too. It’s on Liverpool Street. Less than a minute away from Elizabeth Street Mall, and about a 10- to 15-minute walk to Salamanca Place and Franklin Wharf. And there’s a Woolworths a few doors down.

It cost me just under $500 for five nights in a deluxe queen room. This time my room was directly above the bar and looked out on to Liverpool Street. Room 17 has a queen size bed, bar fridge, dressing table, heater and fan, and a small wardrobe to hang your clothes up in. Each floor has separate male and female bathrooms, and I’ve never had to wait to use the shower. Not back in 2014 and not in 2019 either. Shared bathrooms gross me out, but the ones here are really clean (shared bathrooms still gross me out). Enough about the hotel, here’s some fun things to see and do in Hobart.

Places to go

Battery Point

I have a feeling this is one of the most expensive suburbs in Hobart. Traditional homes, with beautiful gardens and views of the water. My favourite thing to do is walk up and down the streets admiring the architecture, and people’s well kept gardens.

North Hobart

Continue walking up Elizabeth Street for about 20 minutes. There’s Indian, Vietnamese, Thai and Mexican restaurants, European-style cafes and the typical Australian pubs/hotels, and the State Cinema. The State Cinema has been operating for 100+ years. The cinema’s bookstore is also worth checking out.

Hobart Cat Cafe

On my way to find lunch in North Hobart, I saw what I thought was a shopfront selling cat trees/towers. I thought a shop like this, especially in Hobart, was odd. I crossed the road to have a better look and could see it was actually a cat cafe. My favourite! This cat cafe is huge and they have a proper food menu. It looks like all the food is made to order in their kitchen. And like all cat cafes, they’ve got a drinks menu (alcohol included (unlike most cat cafes)).

The seven or eight cats they’ve got are rescues and I’m sure they love their new home. Some of their play things go from floor to ceiling, and they’re spoilt for choice when it comes to finding a comfy spot to nap in. Another great thing about Hobart Cat Cafe is you don’t need to book. You can just rock up. Like I did.

Hobart CBD

The city centre has some good stores and the food options are a lot better than I remember them being last time. I picked up a cute fox print from merchant and Thai Veggie Hutt, directly under the Alabama, has delicious-looking vegetarian dishes. The only downside is they close at 4.30pm. And they’re not open on Sunday. Augustus Chocolates is another good one for homewares. Hobart also seems to be big on street art now. You’ll find it everywhere you look in the CBD.

Daci & Daci was my favourite place for pastries and sweets, and they do breakfast ‘til 11am. And I like the Brunswick Hotel. It seems like a more grown up pub/hotel, with a great duo playing the night I went. Harry and Jane. This place gets extra points because they do espresso martinis.

Salamanca Place

The Saturday market is overrated. I told myself I wasn’t going to bother with it again . And I shouldn’t have. I went down at about 11am. As expected, it was ridiculously hard to get around. Some of the stalls have some good stuff, but I’m sure you can find it at other locations around Hobart and Tasmania.

I do, however, like the shops down here (i.e. not the market stalls). Norman and Dann was my favourite this time. Lots of Japanese-y stuff, cat stuff and cute homewares.

Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens

The gardens are about two kilometres out from the CBD. Easily walkable in the cool weather. Beautiful rose gardens. And it’s surprising to see they’ve got a substantial succulent and cactus collection.

Museum of Old and New Art (Mona)

I didn’t visit Mona this time. I considered it, but the main exhibit I wanted to see—’Eat the Problem’—finished in September. I don’t think this gallery will appeal to everyone. Some of the exhibitions are a bit crass. There’s a poop-making machine, a wall of vulva moulds, and it’s owned by a professional gambler. And it’s a bit of a pain/expensive to get to if you don’t have a car in Hobart. The Mona ferry is about $20, and I’m not sure if that’s each way or return. Uber might be an affordable alternative.

Other things worth checking out

  • Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery—admission is free or at least it was when I went.
  • Hobart Convict Penitentiary—I did a tour of this place last time. Very interesting.
  • Mt Wellington—I’ll be driving up here tomorrow before making my way to Launceston.

Next stop

Launceston is my next, and final, stop on this trip. I’ve got a 10-day house and cat sit in West Launceston. This sit was found through Aussie House Sitters—a website I haven’t used before. It has more Australian house sits than TrustedHousesitters, housecarers.com and MindMyHouse combined.

House sitting closer to home

House sitting closer to home

House and cat sitting in your city/town is probably a great way to start out. You’ll get some ‘experience’ and hopefully a five-star review. But it wasn’t until May 2019, after completing 11 sits in the United States, that I accepted an invitation for an overnight sit in Brisbane.

Pre-October 2019

The Brisbane couple own a one-bedroom cottage in Paddington and have a one-year-old Ragdoll. His name is Kush Kush. Well, actually, his name is Pudding now. But it was Kush Kush when I first looked after him in May. The couple adopted him nearly a year ago after their other Ragdoll, Charlie, passed away. These guys originally reached out to me before Charlie died, but I was cat sitting in East Boston at the time. I’d never been fussed on the idea of house sitting in Brisbane. It was more of a holiday thing for me. But I’m glad they kept my details. Paddington is one Brisbane suburb I’d happily house sit in. And their offer was even more appealing because they owned a Ragdoll.

A few weeks back, the same couple reached out again via TrustedHousesitters. They asked if I was free to look after Kush Kush (he’s still Kush Kush (or Kushy) to me) in mid-October. But for two nights this time. I was very much available to look after Kushy a second time.

THE SECOND SIT

When I went to meet the couple on Friday afternoon, they mentioned they’re planning an overseas trip next year and asked if I’d be interested in a substantially longer sit. The dates aren’t set, but they said they’d get back to me ASAP because they seem to think I’m quite popular. They were also keen to hear about my last house and cat sitting holiday. They knew about the trip because they’d messaged me while I was looking after Nancy and Griffin in Nashville.

Kush Kush was out in the garden when I arrived. He’d almost doubled in size (weight) since I saw him last. But he was just as cute. The couple now had a cat flap built into the back door to give him easy access to the garden, but they had to tape the flap up because he refused to use it otherwise. Even with some adjustments, he still seems to struggle with it. He just fits through. And he much prefers to meow at the door to be let back inside.

Sunday morning came around pretty quickly and it was time to start packing up. Bed stripped, dishes washed, bins emptied, cat fed. But where was Kush Kush? I wanted to bring him inside before I left. This is the second time I’ve been ready to leave and the cat’s nowhere to be seen. It happened the other week with my friends’ cat, Dorian. After a few looks in the garden and shaking Kushy’s box of treats, I wandered around the side. Again. I lifted up a tarp. Still no Kushy. But he must have been nearby because started to meow. Thank God. I grabbed him and locked the door behind me. I messaged the couple to let them know I was heading off and to contact me if they had any problems/concerns when they got home. “Many thanks for looking after Puddo and the cottage. See you next time,” was the reply.

Next stop

Next week I’m off to Tasmania. I’ll be staying in Hobart for a few nights before driving to Launceston for a 10-day house and cat sit.

What’s next: Two years on from my first house and cat sit

What’s next: Two years on from my first house and cat sit

With no new cat sitting content to share right now, I’ve decided to reflect on my house sitting journey so far. I’ll touch on where I’m off to in the next few weeks and where I hope to make it to in 2020.

The journey began about this time two years ago. When I responded to my first ad on TrustedHousesitters. After celebrating the 2017 holiday season with Harvey, I spent the following Christmas in Boulder, Colorado, tending to my favourite cat so far, Nika. This was my fourth house and cat sitting trip since starting out.

My last international cat sit saw me brave the humidity in Birmingham, Alabama, where one-eyed rescue cat Zoey cat kept me company for two weeks before I boarded the train for New Orleans. I had a week ‘off’ in New Orleans, i.e. no cats to care for, but I’d happily return to house and cat sit in the Crescent City. So, hey, if you’re from New Orleans and need a sitter, send me a message.

I’ve gone on to do another 14 house and cat sits since December 2017. I’ve sat for the same couple twice. I’ve done three separate sits in Seattle. Meeting very different personality types each time. I’ve also been invited back to look after several cats I’ve cared for. If only America wasn’t so far away, right? House sitting has seen me bus, train and fly to 12 of the 50 states, and all this travel has helped my Velocity Frequent Flyer balance grow. My suitcase now travels for free on all Delta Air Lines flights thanks to my silver status with Virgin Australia. Having to pay that extra $30 USD for a checked bag really, really hurts. I also quite enjoyed my Amtrak trip despite the train being three hours late. The bus isn’t too bad either. Provided it doesn’t break down (this has happened to me three times (so maybe the bus isn’t the best)).

A bit closer to home, I did a one-night sit for a couple in my hometown, Brisbane, and I’ll be looking after their cat again this weekend. Their one-bedroom cottage is pretty central. It’s just off Petrie Terrace. They’ve got a lovely, spacious garden for an inner city property. The only downside to this place is when you open a window. Your neighbour’s property seems like it’s less than a metre away. Their Ragdoll, Kush Kush, is another memorable character. He was adopted not long ago after the couple’s old Ragdoll passed away.

I looked after my friends’ cat for a week in September while they holidayed in Sri Lanka. My friends’ neighbourhood is another good one. Yeerongpilly. Lots of good food options. They live right near the train line and it’s about 15 minutes from the Brisbane CBD. Their cat belonged to an old manager of mine, and my friends took him on at the beginning of the year. Another Ragdoll.

Then just the other day I saw an ad for a sit in Savannah, Georgia. Savannah’s a city I’ve recently become interested in and the sit would’ve seen me celebrate Halloween in the US. This is still something I’m keen to do, but it won’t be this year. While waiting to hear back about the Savannah sit, I saw an ad on Aussie House Sitters for a sit in Launceston, Tasmania. I’ve been wanting to go back to Tasmania for quite a while and I’ll often search my usual sites for Hobart sits. While it’s not Hobart, Launceston will be somewhere new to explore. I spoke with the homeowner a day or two after responding to her ad, and she said she’d love to have me. She told me she’s used a live-in sitter before and loves the idea of being able to offer her home to someone in exchange for cat care. For anyone who’s looking to get a house sit in Australia, Aussie House Sitters seems to have more Australian listings than all the other sites combined.

I’m also keeping my eye on ads for Singapore sits. It’d be a nice, short getaway over the Christmas break. Most workplaces in Australia close from Christmas Eve up ‘til New Year’s Day and it’s not that much more expensive to fly at that time of year. Brisbane to Singapore return usually starts at around $500 AUD and it goes up a couple of hundred dollars around Christmas. It’s a lot more affordable than planning a house and cat sitting trip to somewhere in Europe during December. And, of course, I’m always looking to return to the United States. Savannah and Charleston are high on my list for cities I’d like to house sit in next.

And now for some self promotion. For anyone who’s interested, I post quite regularly to the One cat at a time Facebook page. There’s more cat photos and less pretty scenery shared on the Facebook page. The cat photos seem to generate a fair bit of engagement and interaction between the people who like/follow the page. I also had my house and cat sitting article published in the October edition of Travel Play Live. It’s is an independent travel magazine produced in Australia. You can buy it online or at one of 800+ newsagencies across Australia. 

Birmingham, Alabama: The last cat sit on the trip

Birmingham, Alabama: The last cat sit on the trip

Birmingham was definitely a change of pace. There isn’t a Starbucks on every corner. Not even a 7/11. Not one. In the entire city of Birmingham. But they did just open a cat cafe here.

It’s been a quiet 10 days, but that’s probably what I needed before heading to New Orleans for a week. This was my final house and cat sit on the trip. I’d never thought about going to Birmingham. Or anywhere in Alabama. But Vero and Clint’s TrustedHousesitters ad changed my mind.

I was looking after Zoey, the one-eyed rescue cat, in the quirkiest of homes. The home belongs to a Belgian artist, Vero, and her handyman husband, Clint. And their house’s located in Avondale. Avondale’s about 3km from downtown Birmingham. And like most inner-city neighbourhoods, Avondale’s now a gentrified, much sought after place to live.

Clint picked me from the airport before showing me around the area and parts of downtown. He also pointed out the cat cafe shopfront. He said he expected it to open while I was in town. And he was right. We then went to the house where I was introduced to Vero and her Belgian guests. They were all heading to Florida the next day. Before they left, Vero gave me a list of her favourite vegetarian/vegan cafes and restaurants. My favourite was Taco Morro Loco. Literally down the other end of the street. And both delicious and affordable.

Vero and Clint’s house’s filled with what I assume is art from all over the world. As well as Vero’s own. Vero used to own and run Naked Art Gallery, in the city’s Forest Park neighbourhood, but she closed it earlier this year. The internet tells me it was open for more than 20 years. Vero and Client are well travelled, and they’re not the kind of people you think of when you think about Alabama. They’re pretty well known around Birmingham, too. Their house looks like any other on their quiet street. But with a few more plants out front. You’d never guess what kind of craziness lies behind the dark blue front door.

Now more about their cat. Zoey has 24-hour access to her own screened-in porch. And she only eats Fromm Family dry food. Three times a day. Vero said this food’s responsible for Zoey’s super soft coat. You’d never guess how soft it is from the pictures. Zoey liked to spend most of her time sitting on the couch with me. I do recall Vero and Clint’s ad saying she wasn’t too much of a lap cat. True. But she did love having company and being petted.

Places to go

So there’s actually a bit more to see in Birmingham than I’ve listed. But with the extreme humidity and the bus system being a nightmare, I spent half the trip in the house writing and being lazy. Sometimes the highlight of the day was when the bus actually showed up. The city’s bus network has real-time functionality on its myStop app, but I don’t actually think it works. Or at least not very well.

Downtown

Most of the stuff I enjoyed was downtown. Walkable. And I did walk it two or three times. But I was done after that.

  • mo:mo: A Nepalese–Vietnamese casual dining option in the Pizitz Food Hall. I found Asian food quite hard to come by in Birmingham.
  • Birmingham Oddities: Turns out this store’s only open on Saturday (thanks for that, Vero!). The guy runs it on the side. It’s one of the more affordable oddities stores I’ve been to.
  • What’s On 2nd: An art, antiques and oddities store across from Birmingham Oddities.
  • Reed Books: A second hand bookstore. And they’ve got some vintage bric-a-brac for sale.

Avondale area

  • The Market at Pepper Place: Saturday farmers market.
  • The Red Cat Coffee House: This is on the same site as the farmers market. And who’d have guessed? There’s lots of fun cat-related things inside.
  • Taco Morro Loco: One of Vero’s recommendations. Their plastic table cloths from the ‘80s… hmm. But their vegetarian taco is delicious and only $3 USD.
  • Sloss Furnaces: A National Historic Landmark. And now a ‘park’ of sorts. These guys used to be the largest manufacturer of pig iron in the world. Production stopped in 1970. I’d say this is one of the most iconic things in/about Birmingham.

Gatos and Beans

Birmingham’s—maybe even Alabama’s—first cat cafe. Gatos and Beans opened a few days after I arrived. The $10 entry fee includes your coffee or tea. Plus one hour with the cats.

The space was truly designed with cats in mind. The cats can get way up high, all the way to the ceiling, by jumping from piece to piece of wood. Gatos and Beans also had cardboard boxes for them to sleep in. Because why sleep in a comfy cat bed when you can sleep in a cardboard box, right?

All cats can be adopted, and have come from Kitty Kat Haven & Rescue.

Next stop

My next stop’s New Orleans. Then back home to Brisbane via LAX. See you soon, Gracie.

Two Abyssinian cats for company just outside Seattle

Two Abyssinian cats for company just outside Seattle

This was my third house and cat sit in the Seattle area within the past 12 months. Only this time I was staying in Lake Forest Park, not technically Seattle. Lake Forest Park’s about 20 kilometres north of downtown Seattle, but it’s still Seattle to me.

I was looking after two Abyssinian cats, Max and Luis, who were purchased from the same breeder somewhere in British Columbia, Canada. I think they’re either nine or ten years old, and they’re cousins. Luis, the more social and friendlier of the two, is believed to be showing early signs of kidney disease while Max’s only health concern is his weight. I wouldn’t necessarily consider Max obese, but he’s definitely a lot ‘softer’ than Luis. The owners are currently trialling Max on a wet food only diet after advice from their vet. Luis, meanwhile, has access to the biscuits (dry food) via a programmed tag on his collar.

This house and cat sit was the last one I applied for before leaving on my trip. I had a five-day gap between when my Austin sit ended and when my Birmingham, Alabama, one started. Sure, it would have probably cost about the same to pay for accommodation somewhere on the same side of the country. But this place—back on the west coast⁠—looked like a great place to relax. I FaceTime’d the husband one day from work. Before the chat ended, he said they’d love to have me sit for them. He also said I was able to stay a day or two before/after the sit if I needed to. And I did. I arrived a day earlier and flew out the same day they returned.

During the same chat, the husband was rolling on the floor with Max. Max—the softer, less social cat—seems to truly love the husband. And only the husband. The wife told me that when the husband’s away, Max doesn’t think too much of her either. All he wants is to be fed and for his real owner to return. Luis seemed to appreciate anyone’s company. He’d follow me around the house and sleep on the blanket at the bottom of the bed.

Now for the actual house. It overlooks Lake Washington. And what a view. I asked the couple if there was a path/trail or park that I could go to to get a closer view of the lake. The husband gave me a confused look and said it’s mostly private residences occupying the waterfront. He was right. Then he said there are two ‘clubs’, which require a paid membership, where you can access the water. For swimming or boating. This seemed so weird to me—paying to swim in the lake. Paying to view the lake was even weirder.

Not only did the couple have a beautiful house, they had a nice garden as well. I know nothing about gardening and being responsible for a garden like this makes me nervous. Especially given the couple were really particular about everything. Note: The garden was still thriving when I left.

Their garden had brightly-coloured flowers, several different types of succulents and a few oriental-looking trees out the front. I’m not sure how a garden like this would fare outside Seattle because Seattle gets a lot of rain. But I was asked to water it every second day if it hadn’t rained. I was able to water the back garden from the deck while looking out over Lake Washington each afternoon.

My first full day in Lake Forest Park saw me return home to a black out. At first I thought my hair straightener had tripped the power. The couple had mentioned their kitchen was sensitive to multiple appliances being used at once and I was getting worried. I thought my Australian-bought GHD may have overloaded it. But no. It turns out a neighbour had been digging. And, as we all discovered out, they’d dug too deep. The power had been cut to about 40 homes in the area and didn’t return until 1am the next day.

After the couple left for their four-day weekend, the wife messaged me to say there’d been a small earthquake in the area. I didn’t notice anything. I would’ve been totally unaware unless the wife mentioned it. Despite the power loss and earthquake, I made it out of Lake Forest Park alive.

Not long after the couple had set off, they messaged me to say they’d discovered the name of a park where I could view Lake Washington for free. Lyon Creek Waterfront Preserve. It was a short walk away from the local shopping complex and I decided to check it out one afternoon. While it was nice, I can’t imagine paying for something like this. Maybe these clubs offer something in addition to lake access, but it still seems stupid to charge people to swim in a public lake.

And while I was in town, I caught up with the first Seattle couple I house and cat sat for. It was pretty much exactly on one year ago when I met Melinda and Rich. They had two senior kitties, Leo and Lily, who needed caring for for two weeks. We’ve stayed in contact since then and I now consider them friends. Melinda and Rich are now looking at becoming house sitters. They’d like to travel around Europe and they think house sitting’s a great way to do it. It definitely is, you guys.

Places to go

Like I said before, this isn’t my first time in Seattle. So these aren’t necessarily places to check out if it’s your first time there.

Fremont neighbourhood

I’d wanted to go Fremont for a while now. But it was always a bit of a mission on public transport (I’d previously stayed in Capitol Hill and Madrona). And it was still a bit of a mission this time because I couldn’t work out what the go was with bus transfers. I ended up walking from downtown Seattle. About an hour or so later, I made it to the Fremont Troll.

Other things worth checking out in the neighbourhood include the Fremont Vintage Mall, and Peace Love and Happiness Club. Peace Love and Happiness Club has some really interesting plants, succulents, and pottery. ZapVerr, a Thai restaurant, does a great eggplant dish.

Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls is also something I’d wanted to check out on previous stays. I think I had it noted down for my first trip to Seattle, but I was a little apprehensive about renting a car in the city. I wasn’t sure if the driving would be as crazy as it is in Los Angeles or if it was a little more relaxed. But this time I got a car. Snoqualmie Falls is about 30 minutes from downtown Seattle. The falls, of course, are really beautiful. There’s a hike or two to be done, and a restaurant at the entrance.

Mt Rainier National Park (kind of)

The couple I was house and cat sitting for told me Mt Rainier was about three hours from their place. Apple Maps told me it was two. I thought the couple may have been exaggerating or liked to make a few stops along the way. I got to the entrance of the national park within two hours, but the main points of interest were another hour away. The couple was right. I would’ve continued, but my rental car only came with half a tank of petrol. And I knew this when I set out from Seattle, but I didn’t anticipate the three-hour drive. I didn’t want to get stuck without fuel. So after about half an hour in to the national park, I turned around. It was also pretty rainy and foggy the day I drove out there, and Mt Rainier couldn’t be seen because of the weather conditions. But if you have a full tank of petrol, then definitely make a day of it.

Next stop

My next stop’s Birmingham. I’ll be cat sitting for Belgian artist Vero and her husband, Clint. I’ll be here ‘til 28 July before making my way to my final destination—New Orleans—for a cat-free holiday. Then it’s back home to Australia.