Hi. I’m Madolline.
And I’m seeing the world One cat at a time

Charleston: Cat sitting two cats with two very different personalities

Charleston: Cat sitting two cats with two very different personalities

I spent the last 10 days cat sitting two rescue kitties, Jasper and Mia, in one of the cutest homes in downtown Charleston.

Candace, the home owner, offered to pick me up from the airport after my 30-hour journey from Brisbane. We hadn’t spoken or Facetime’d prior to my arrival, but when she pulled up in her Prius, it felt like I was being picked up by a friend. We’re about the same height, and both have nose rings and red hair, but Candace is way more arty. She’s such a kind and vibrant person, and I see her as a bit of a Charleston icon.

We drove straight to Candace’s place where she showed me around, and introduced me to her husband, Will, and one of the neighbours. Sarah, directly across from Candace and Will, is an African American lady who’s lived here forever. Turns out it’s Sarah’s 85th birthday soon. Candace said she wrote Sarah a ‘Happy 58th birthday’ card. Sarah laughed, did a little dance and said she feels young on the inside. Candace said Sarah’s always there to keep an eye on what’s happening and not much gets past her. I was then introduced to Jasper, the tabby-looking cat, and Mia, the petite Siamese, before calling it a night.

Despite living together for six years, Mia doesn’t like Jasper at all. They eat in separate rooms to avoid Jasper scoffing down Mia’s serve. And when you open the door to check how Mia’s going, Jasper barges in to lick whatever’s left behind. I’ve never met such a food-driven cat before. It’s entertaining, but it can get messy when you’re trying to scoop the cat food out at dinner time.

I’d often catch Jasper in the sink after I’d put the empty bowls in there. Sometimes he’d even go under the sink to rummage through the recycling bin. Licking the rinsed cat food cans. And he doesn’t just love cat food. Jasper enjoys human food, too. Candace and Will told me to put my food in the microwave or pantry if I need to step away otherwise Jasper will help himself to it. Just the other morning I caught him trying to rip open the plastic packaging that encased my Target cookies.

Jasper and Mia also have automatic feeders. One each, of course. But this is mainly to stop Jasper overeating. He’s on a strict-ish diet to keep his weight steady. I remember going to use the bathroom at 3am one time⁠—the feeders go off at 5.30am—and Jasper was patiently waiting beside his automatic feeder. He likes to check it multiple times throughout the day in case food has been magically been dispensed. And sometimes he’ll stick his paw in hoping for a few extra biscuits. Both cats drink from glasses, not bowls, like the two cats I looked after in Nashville.

Candace and Will’s home is in a very walkable part of Charleston. The closest cafe’s less than 100 metres down the road. You can walk to Hampton Park in about 10 minutes and the main attractions in downtown Charleston in about half an hour. There’s a bus stop around the corner and it’d probably get me downtown in less than 10 minutes, but I remember Candace saying the buses out here aren’t the best (i.e. mightn’t show up or are running late). Charleston seems to move at a slower pace, with most stores not opening ‘til 10am and even later on Sundays. But I think that’s what people like about this place—it has an easy-going vibe, and the locals are warm and friendly.

Places to go

Downtown Charleston is where most things are happening/located, but these were my favourites.

Historic Charleston City Market

This kind of market can be disastrous. Think Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. But this Charleston one has a lot of locally made stuff and quality souvenirs. I told an older lady about my cat sitting travels while deciding which Charleston prints to buy from her.

Old City Jail

So doing the Charleston Haunted Jail Tour is the only way to see inside the Old City Jail. Kind of annoying and kind of definitely overpriced, nearly $45 AUD for a 45-minute tour, but it’s interesting.

America’s first female serial killer, Lavinia Fisher, was hanged here in 1920. Her and her husband preyed on solo travellers who stopped in at their roadside inn. The tour guide said the Fishers killed between 70 and 100 men, but it may have been a lot more.

Rainbow Row

I think everyone would recognise Rainbow Row from Instagram. As the name suggests, it’s five or six colourful homes along East Bay Street. They’re just up from Waterfront Park (pineapple fountain). Wandering around Rainbow Row’s surrounding streets was even more enjoyable because there’s beautifully constructed homes everywhere you look.

City Lights Coffee

This is where Candace works part-time as a barista. City Lights Coffee is set in an intimate space in the heart of downtown Charleston. It’s just up from the markets.

City Lights Coffee’s meant to be a great people watching spot, but I can’t comment on this because I was chatting to Gregg, the South African owner, and Jackie, the other barista, the whole time. All their regular customers sit together and chat the day away—I’ve never seen this before. It was cute. It was very Charleston.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream

I remember the name from when I visited Los Angeles two years ago. I just never had the chance to make it to their Larchmont Village location. Jeni’s is located on the main strip in downtown Charleston. Two ‘half’ scoops costs $5 (and tax is included!) and their salted caramel flavour is actually salty.

Nathaniel Russell House

I got free admission here thanks to another one of Candace’s connections. Nathaniel Russell House has been restored to how it would’ve looked back in 1808. Everything in it is incredibly elegant, most likely bespoke and very European. Mary Lou, an immaculately presented lady, was my tour guide and I could imagine her living in this place. She told us the Russell family lived here for three months at a time before Nathaniel Russell returned to Rhode Island for work. Nathaniel Russell was a merchant and slave trader. He had 18 slaves living in—and working from—his Meeting Street residence.

In and around Charleston

Other places I enjoyed visiting in Charleston were Angel Oak Tree and Magnolia Cemetery. Magnolia Cemetery’s walkable from Candace’s, but a car was needed to get to Angel Oak Tree. And I did a day trip to Savannah. I hired a car because the bus was $30 USD each way and the train $49 each way, and their departure/arrival times weren’t great either. The car cost about $90 USD for the day, which seems expensive now I think about it, but I guess I’m paying for convenience.

Next stop

I’m on my way to Baltimore right now. I’m not house or cat sitting there, but it’s an in-between stop for a few days. Then I’m off to New York City for a week-long cat sit in Brooklyn.

Where house and cat sitting took me in 2019

Where house and cat sitting took me in 2019

My first house and cat sit for 2019 was at the end of my December–January winter trip to the United States. I spent just over a week in Santa Fe, New Mexico, looking after a feral cat called Kitty Rumi.

The Santa Fe home—like most homes in New Mexico—was Pueblo style. This is the traditional architecture of the Pueblo Indians who built most things with adobe bricks. I would describe the lady’s house as a cute clay shack. It’s definitely one of the more ‘simple’ homes I’ve stayed in, but not in a bad way. I feel it’s just how homes are designed in New Mexico.

I remember leaving the house one night to walk 20 minutes down the road to get dinner. It was the only time I’d left the house that day because I spent most of it sleeping. It was snowing on and off, it was cold, and it was nearing the end of my trip. I was tired. Anyway, I walked to Annapurna’s World Vegetarian Café where I got a Mediterranean pasta dish and stopped in at Carl’s Jr for my diet coke. I was so excited to get home and eat the pasta—I’d heard great things about Annapurna’s. And everything on the menu sounded so good.

I got back to the house and tried to unlock the door. I’d locked both locks despite the lady saying not to lock the top one. I thought this was more of a ‘I don’t lock the top lock because it’s a safe area’ rather than a ‘DON’T LOCK THE TOP LOCK BECAUSE WE CAN’T UNLOCK IT’. I tried several times. With all the different keys. The top lock wouldn’t budge. I went around the side hoping I could open the glass door where my room was. Nope. Then I went around the back hoping to unlock the back doors. I can’t remember the exact setup, but something prevented me from unlocking the screen door. ‘Well, shit,’ I thought. ‘What am I going to do?’ My phone was unable to call or text anyone because my plan had expired, and all I had was WiFi access. I was able to message (thank you, iPhone) the lady explaining what’d happened. She told me her boyfriend would be over to help out. He lived up the road. Thank god. He was eventually able to open the door and I learned never to lock the top lock again. If it wasn’t for the boyfriend, I don’t know what I would’ve done. Stuck outside forever in the cold. With my pasta and diet coke.

I returned home to Brisbane just before Australia Day. I then did my first local sit for a couple in Paddington over the long weekend in May. This coincided with my 29th birthday. I’ll be looking after Kush Kush for a third time over the next few days. Not long after, I left on my longest house and cat sitting trip yet. I was in the US from mid-June to the first week in August. My first stop was Las Vegas where I was staying in a hotel. I hired a car so I could make it to some of the state’s more interesting attractions before flying to Nashville for my first cat sit of the trip.

I made my way to 12South where I was greeted by cats Nancy and Griffin. Both ladies are quite old and I’ve learned Griffin has recently passed away. I think she was 19. The most memorable (entertaining?) thing from this sit was seeing them drink their water from a glass, not a bowl. I also learned Nashville was full of drunk tourists, but I’m still keen to go back. Just not in the summer.

I then flew out for Austin where I met the couple I was sitting for at the airport. These guys stick out in my mind because they were so… likeable? And personable. Their apartment was in a great location. Pretty much opposite the flagship Whole Foods store and in a less busy part of downtown Austin. Their cat, Shady, was another character. I remember he’d sit on the stove and I’d freak out. Even though I never used the stove, it just made me nervous.

After two weeks in Austin, where it was incredibly humid, I flew out to Seattle. I was very happy to be flying into a cooler city. One where it usually rains at least once a day. I was technically cat sitting in an area that’s not quite Seattle, but is about 20–30 minutes from downtown. I still find it easier to say it was Seattle. The actual neighbourhood is called Lake Forest Park. This sit was memorable for a few reasons. The cats were cute, sure. And the view of Lake Washington was great. But the couple were very particular. Highly strung. And I couldn’t quite gauge that from their TrustedHousesitters listing or the FaceTime chat I had with the husband. Despite it probably being my least favourite sit, I was thankful to get a five-star review out of it. 

I took an overnight flight from Seattle to Birmingham, Alabama, for my last sit. This home will be hard to beat in terms of being the most fun and artsy. Clint and Vero, the owners, have also just left on an adventure. Each room in their house was full of unique art pieces they’d made or collected from their travels. They’d even renovated the main shower to resemble (or at least in my mind) a cave/rock climbing wall. I’m not quite sure how to describe it. And their cat, Zoey, still remains the only one-eyed cat I’ve cared for.

Not long after flying back to Australia, I discovered Aussie House Sitters. I’d check the site each morning for sits in Tasmania in the hope of finding one that:

  • was in a central enough location (so, like, Hobart or Launceston)
  • only had a cat or cats (i.e. no dogs or other animals)
  • was more than a few days, but wasn’t longer than two weeks.

I found one in Launceston and signed up.

The Launceston sit was probably my favourite one this year. The home was so homely. The cats—two young Birmans—were adorable. Literally. Their names were Dora and Abel. The lady calls them ‘The Adorables’. And the city was beautiful. My Uber driver on the way to Hobart Airport was like: ‘Launceston is a bit boring, isn’t it?’ I totally disagree. I guess if I didn’t have a car, it would have been very hard to get around and I wouldn’t have been able to visit half the places I did. But I definitely loved Launceston and would love to go back.

And now for right now. Today’s my last day looking after Jaspurr. Another Ragdoll. ‘Do you only look after this type [Ragdoll] of cat?’ my friend’s sister asked. Her question made me laugh, but I can see how she’d think that. Jaspurr’s the first cat I’ve looked after who had his nails painted. Green and red glitter for Christmas. Festive.

This sit began on Christmas Eve and was at a property in my hometown. I decided to take it as a kind of mini vacation. And it has been just that. The couple’s apartment is in West End, but it’s kind of like a community of its own here. Their street is very resorty and I keep thinking I’m at the coast. Despite apartments everywhere you look, it’s very quiet. And the pub down the road’s my new favourite. The Montague Hotel. They have $10 espresso martinis all day every day.

Next stop

What’s in store for 2020? Well, I’m sure it comes as no surprise I’d like to keep exploring the US. And while I have a list of places I’d like to visit, it isn’t exhaustive. 

Living with two Birmans in Launceston

Living with two Birmans in Launceston

I was fortunate enough to secure a house and cat sit in Launceston thanks to Aussie House Sitters. I hadn’t considered Launceston as a holiday destination before, but I’m glad I finally made my way to the north of Tasmania.

I applied for this sit on a whim. I didn’t have a membership with Aussie House Sitters, but I’d check the website every day for sits in Tasmania. I was a bit reluctant to sign up because I have memberships with four other house sitting sites, but I caved when I saw this ad. I signed up and responded as quick as I could. I made sure to mention I’d owned a Birman (both her cats are Birmans (and I did actually have one before I got Gracie)) before clicking ‘Send message’. I got a response within 24 hours and was told I was the first person to reply. We arranged to speak on the phone the next day.

The lady told me her cats are called Dora and Abel. When you put their names together, they’re ‘The Adorables’. I had to tell my mum this because I knew she’d love it. It’s something she’d do. It reminded me of how she chose to spell my name—Madolline. Pronounced exactly how you’d say Madeleine (mad-a-lin), but with ‘doll’ in the middle. I was confirmed as the sitter while we were speaking, but now I had to work out whether I’d start in Hobart or Launceston.

I decided to start in Hobart. I’d fly out of Hobart as well. I was able to get cheap flights through Virgin Australia and had enough Velocity points to get $100 off the fare. It cost me just over $300 all up. I then booked five nights at Hobart’s Alabama Hotel and decided I’d make my way to Launceston on the Monday.

The drive from Hobart to Launceston took about two and a half hours. I saw a lot of sheep farms. And a lot of roadkill. Perhaps the most roadkill I’ve seen on any my travels. This record was held by the stretch of road from Austin to San Antonio via Fredericksburg in Texas. When I went to collect my car in Hobart, the customer service guy asked if I wanted extra insurance in case a kangaroo hit my vehicle. For those not from Australia: If an adult kangaroo hit my car, it would survive and hop along. My car, however, would be ruined. Maybe not ruined. But it’d need to be repaired. The coverage would cost me $300+. An extra $300? I declined.

The house sit

It was great to have my own toilet and shower again, as well as a car (hired), proper fridge, TV, and washing machine. I could live without fear of running into—and having to talk to—someone en route to the bathroom. I was also treated to an electric blanket and a heated towel rack.

Dora and Abel—the cats—are a little over one-year-old. They’re from the same litter. Dora, the darker coloured one, is the braver of the two. Abel was in hiding until my third day in Launceston. Not long after, he was walking up to me to rub against my legs and was happy to play. He even jumped onto my bed on that Wednesday afternoon, but ran out in fright when I came back in after a shower.

Abel became a lot more comfortable with me as the days went on. He no longer hid in the cupboard and slept on my bed most nights. Or at least for a few hours before he and Dora would run amok. Abel began to follow me everywhere and would jump on the bed as soon as I’d enter my room. Dora also eased up.

The home was very traditional English cottage. Or at least what I imagine an old English cottage to be like. It was also decked out in cat stuff—cat ornaments, cat cushions, a cat hot water bottle cover—and included a cat-shaped door mat to greet me each time I came home. The lady’s garden was pretty, too. It didn’t require much attention because it rained half the time.

I was able to walk to the Launceston CBD in under 15 minutes and there are several grocery stores close to the lady’s home (i.e. 10- or 15-minute walk). Most of Launceston’s main attractions were walkable from the house, but I wouldn’t have been able to do any of the day trips without a car. 

Places to go

Launceston, much to my surprise, seemed to have nearly everything a larger city has. They even have snow monkeys—yes, those Japanese ones—in one of the parks.

Launceston CBD

This was the first place I wanted to check out. The Launceston CBD has plenty of cafes and bakeries, and a diverse range of cuisines (unexpected (or maybe that says more about *my* perception of small towns). My favourite stores were:

  • Inside Home and Gifts—I’m not sure if the store’s associated with the magazine? But they’ve got lots of Australian-themed Christmas stuff, skincare, plants… just a lot of nice things. Go visit.
  • miiOmai—a cute clothing store.
  • Acreage—homewares and fresh flowers, and coffee. I went back to buy an Ivy & Wood diffuser after mulling about it for a few hours. The scent is ‘oakwood and cinnamon’ and it’s lovely. Turns out the brand was founded in Brisbane.
  • Mission Shop—lots of good quality second hand art, dinnerware and bric-a-brac. All of the op shops I visited were so clean and tidy.
  • Gourlay’s Sweet Shop—we nearly have the same last name. Gourlay’s sells a lot of their sweets in vintage tins. I got a cat one for my mum. We’ll soon find out if she’s fussed on what it contains… chocolate covered strawberries and cream lollies.

The city centre’s got several nice parks. Prince’s Square and City Park. City Park is the bigger of the two. It’s the one with the snow monkeys. You can see/watch/observe the snow monkeys for free any day of the week. When the lady I’m sitting for told me about them, I was a bit confused. ‘Snow monkeys in a public park in Launceston?’ I thought you’d have to pay to see them. Like they were in a zoo attached to the park. But, nope. Not the case. Snow monkey viewing doesn’t cost a thing.

I was taking a photo of some flowers in Prince’s Square one afternoon when a guy came up to me to tell me the name of the plant. Turns out he’s from Brisbane. He then said something like: ‘I’ve never been to Germany, but this park is what I imagine Europe to look like.’

Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain is about a two-hour drive from Launceston. The day I went, it was snowing. Quite heavily. This meant you weren’t allowed past Dove Lake and couldn’t drive through the national park in your own car. The shuttle buses came every 10 minutes, but it’s still not ideal having to walk to/from where the bus drops you. Minor annoyance aside, Cradle Mountain National Park is beautiful. Maybe I’ll return another time. Sans snow. And in hope of seeing some wombats.

Campbell Town

If you’re driving from Hobart to Launceston, it probably makes the most sense to stop in at Campbell Town on the way. Or you can do it on your way to Freycinet National Park. I was hoping there’d be a bit more to see here, but it was still a cute town. There’s a bookstore with an Alice in Wonderland theme going on and an okay antique store. Apparently JJ’s Cafe does a good vanilla slice, but I can’t vouch for this because I wasn’t hungry. And I stopped in at a small weekend market, run out of a hall, about 20 minutes up the road. The town is called Epping.

George Town

George Town wasn’t on my list of places to go in/near Launceston. I hadn’t even heard of it. The lady I’m sitting for told me about when I explained I was hoping to do Bay of Fires in a day. She said that was a bit ambitious and suggested George Town instead. I went on a Saturday and it seemed most of the stores along the main street were closed. It was windy, rainy and about 10°C when I got there, but I’m not a beach person anyway. I actually think the beach and sea looked nicer in the depressing weather. There’s quite a few spots to stop in at, but I only did Lagoon Bay and the Low Head Lighthouse.

Batman Bridge

I’m not sure if the bridge is related to the Batman comic in any way, but I saw a sign for it on my way back from George Town. A quick Google search tells me the Batman Bridge was one of the first cable-stayed truss bridges in the world. If that means anything to anyone. It offers a nice view of the Tamar River and there’s a park area underneath.

Cataract Gorge

A nature walk minutes from the CBD? Yep. Cataract Gorge. It annoyed me having to pay to park my car to appreciate nature, but you’ve got to pay to park pretty much everywhere in Launceston? A bit weird considering it’s a small city. There’s a few walks you can do along Cataract Gorge, then there seems to be some paid activities (river cruise, chairlift, cliff walk(?)). The one-kilometres walk I did takes you to the basin where there’s a cafe and flower garden.

QVMAG

Admission to the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery—or QVMAG as it’s written everywhere—is free. The art gallery and museum aren’t located on the same premises. The art gallery’s technically in the Launceston CBD while the museum is about two kilometres out. Most of the exhibits/rooms at the art gallery were being audited when I went. This meant I couldn’t view them and I was done within 15 minutes. The museum, however, was very interesting. Lots of Tasmanian tiger history, including a fur/skin replica you can touch, and dinosaur objects.

Freycinet National Park

It took me about two and a bit hours to get to Freycinet National Park. Honeymoon Bay was my favourite part of the national park. It’s one of the first stops in the park and it’s easy to find. I didn’t have as much luck with my second stop, Sleepy Bay. I gave up trying to find it after finding the parking lot, but no track to the water. A lot of the locations (beaches, bays, etc.) are only accessible by foot. I didn’t realise it’d be like this. But I guess that’s my fault. These hikes range from one to five hours. Not my thing.

On my way back to Launceston, I decided to stop in at a cafe I’d passed on the way. The Pondering Frog. I remember a sign saying they did ice cream and thought I’d get some to see me through to Launceston. The Pondering Frog looked cringey from the outside and I expected their menu to be limited. But I was wrong. They even had deep fried Camembert. I got the pumpkin falafel burger and it was unexpectedly good. While eating my burger, it was then I discovered Freycinet National Park and Bay of Fires aren’t the same thing/place. I must’ve thought the rocks in Honeymoon Bay looked close enough to the images I’d seen on Google. So stopping in at The Pondering Frog proved to be a win-win for me. I got a decent meal and learnt I still had somewhere left to visit that afternoon.

Bay of Fires

The drive from Freycinet National Park to Bay of Fires is very picturesque. You’ve got the ocean on your right for most of the journey. If you’re not up for the long drive north, you could probably stop at any of the beaches along the way. But Bay of Fires is really, really pretty.

Can you see how it looks kind of like Honeymoon Bay? I wish I’d come here before going to Freycinet National Park, or dedicated an entire day to St Helen’s, because I was a exhausted when I arrived. Before driving back to Launceston, I stopped at Banjo’s for another ‘see me through to Launceston’ snack. Banjo’s is a Tasmanian bakery chain I’ve seen in most of the bigger towns and I hadn’t eaten at yet. I got the spinach and curried chickpea roll. It, too, was surprisingly good.

Verdict: Aussie House Sitters

Would I recommend Aussie House Sitters? Definitely. Especially if you’re looking for a sit in Australia. While TrustedHousesitters is my preferred website, TrustedHousesitters doesn’t have nearly as many Australian sits available. The Aussie House Sitters website is easy to navigate and you can filter results based on your preferences (sit length, house type). My only gripe with Aussie House Sitters is I wish it’d offer a combined membership across all its sites (House Sitters America, House Sitters Canada, etc.). I haven’t renewed my House Sitters America membership because I can’t justify the cost right now.

Get $10 off

Use my code to get $10 off Aussie House Sitters membership.

Next stop

My next stop’s home. I’ll be working for about a month in the lead up to Christmas, then I’ve got a local house and cat sit over the break. After spending the past two Christmases abroad, it’s time to celebrate with family in Brisbane. Follow my Instagram account to see what I get up to between now and then.

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.

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. And I’ve been invited back to look after several cats I’ve cared for. If only America wasn’t so far away.

A bit closer to home, I did a one-night sit for a couple in my hometown. I’ll be looking after their cat again this weekend. They’ve got a lovely, spacious garden for an inner city property. The only downside to this place is your neighbour’s property seems like it’s less than a metre away. Their Ragdoll, Kush Kush, is another memorable character.

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. Their cat previously belonged to an old manager of mine and they took him on at the beginning of the year.

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.

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 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.