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

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.

2020 plans

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

Looking after two senior kitties in Nashville

Looking after two senior kitties in Nashville

This Nashville house and cat sit was the first one I applied for when putting my month and a half-long trip together. And it wasn’t until recently I’d even thought about visiting Nashville. But I’m glad I decided to. The people here are probably the kindest of any city I’ve visited while travelling through the United States. The makeup and skincare lady at the local Walgreens even hugged me.

The place I was looking after was described as a ’20s Tudor duplex in the 12South neighbourhood. It’s close to restaurants and cafes, shops, and a bus line. But the one and only time I tried to get the bus, it didn’t show up. Sigh. 12South’s pretty close to downtown Nashville, though. It’s only 6km away. And I’d be caring for two senior kitties, Griffin (19) and Nancy Kuan (15). Griffin, the grey kitty, has early stage kidney disease. But she’s otherwise healthy. Nancy doesn’t show any signs of old age and looks like a big kitten.

Debra, the home owner, and her partner were heading off on a week-long cycling trip starting early on 20 June 2019. This meant I was unable to meet them in person because I didn’t fly in until midday. This was actually the first house and cat sit I’d done where I hadn’t met the person/couple/family beforehand. We’d Skyped when I first responded to Debra’s ad and again when I was staying in Las Vegas to go through some of the trickier stuff (i.e. the cat stuff).

When I first arrived at the 12South residence, I fed the kitties and then decided it was time to feed myself. It’d been nearly 10 hours since I’d had anything substantial to eat. I was glad to be out of Vegas because I’ve found it hard to find any decent, proper food within walking distance both times I’ve been there. And so what was the first thing I ate in Nashville? A maple glaze donut from Five Daughters Bakery. Hardly healthy, and not really substantial either, but it was delicious. Then I made my way to Kroger to buy some proper food for the next few days. Kroger was a name I recognised from staying in Cincinnati. And I knew it was a complete supermarket, not a convenience store or pharmacy that sold poor quality fruit.

The house sit

It was great to have some cat company again after five days in Vegas. I’d been told Griffin likes to eat plastic. This meant I had to keep all plastic bags hidden in my suitcase or out of sight, or up high. Griffin also enjoys chewing on cords. I’d have to put my iPhone and laptop chargers away ASAP, and put my hair straightener back in my suitcase when I was done with it. Nancy, the younger of the girls, was less of a potential hazard than Griffin. But she much preferred to be left alone. Or maybe she just didn’t like me much. The girls weren’t allowed outside, but Debra has a great screened in front porch where they can sit while I’m home. Sitting out here was Nancy’s favourite thing to do, but it held little interest for Griffin. And both cats drank from tall glasses, not bowls, which was very entertaining.

Debra’s home is filled with so much fun stuff. Interesting art and books, and eclectic homewares. Her place’s probably the most interesting (good interesting) home I’ve stayed in since travelling as a house and cat sitter. She’s got affirmations and notes, and reminders for house sitters, scattered throughout her place. Really helpful. And the notes and affirmations are cute. But my absolute favourite thing about her house… She has a fridge with a cold water dispenser. This is truly my favourite thing in people’s homes. It means I don’t have to spend a fortune on bottled water. And there’s nothing better than cold water.

Places to go

Unlike my time in Vegas, I was able to visit/see all the things I had set out to do during my stay in Nashville. Here’s some places I’d recommend to anyone thinking of coming the music city. And there’s plenty of music-related attractions—like the Country Music Hall of Fame, Johnny Cash Museum and Musicians Hall of Fame—but these don’t interest me.

Downtown

I had Tootsie’s written down as a place of interest. And it was the first thing I spotted when I arrived downtown. It’s a bar, but I didn’t expect it to be anywhere near as busy as it was. I didn’t go in. I was, however, still able to appreciate the pastel purple exterior before continuing along Broadway. Pretty much every single bar along Broadway’s packed with drunken tourists. One of my Lyft drivers said most locals avoid downtown. And I can see why. I tried two less busy bars before moving on. I paid $10 USD for a vodka at the first bar, then $8 USD for another vodka at BigShotz on 2nd Avenue. Printer’s Alley is a few streets over—it’s less touristy and less busy—and has more reasonably priced drinks. I tried Fleet Street Pub where I was served a horrible American English take on an espresso martini. I was done after that. Downtown Nashville is crazier than Hollywood Boulevard and some places I’ve visited in Japan, but it’s still worth checking out.

Frist Art Museum

The Frist Art Museum is about a kilometre away from where everything’s happening downtown. I’m not going to lie. I only went here for the Frida Kahlo exhibition they’ve got running until 2 September 2019. I learned so much about Frida Kahlo. She contracted polio at six years old. She was hit by a bus at 18, and the injuries kept her in and out of hospital for the rest of her life. She married when she was 22. And her pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. Frida Kahlo died aged 47. The art on display was pretty interesting, too.

12 Street South

12 Street South was less than five minutes away from where I was staying. My favourite shop on this street was White Mercantile⁠, a southern style homewares store. Five Daughters Bakery (donut shop) is a bit further up and Frothy Monkey, a café and bar, is meant to be good. There’s lots of great street art to see while you’re here. The flower mural and Mobe Oner’s Rivive! Nashville piece were my favourites. ‘I believe in Nashville’ had swarms of people waiting to get a photo with it. On my last day in Nashville, my Lyft driver and I were talking about tourists’ fascination with murals here. She said there’s a set of angel wings in The Gulch that has tourists lining up around the block for. The Lyft driver was ashamed to admit she didn’t know where the popular ‘I believe in Nashville’ one was. “What kind of person am I if I don’t have a photo with it or know where it is?” she joked.

Hillsboro Village

Hillsboro Village, near the Vanderbilt and Belmont universities, is a few blocks of mostly independently owned stores. My favourites were:

  • Native + Nomad—clothing and homewares
  • A Thousand Faces—a Nashville souvenir store, but not a tacky one
  • Apple And Oak—cards, stationery and homewares
  • Altar’d State—clothing and accessories, homewares, and plants.

Make sure to stop in at The Grilled Cheeserie for a snack/lunch. Get the spinach and artichoke melt.

8th Avenue vintage and antique stores

The vintage and antique stores on 8th Avenue are walkable from Hillsboro Village. It’ll take you about half an hour. There’s the 8th Avenue Antique Mall, Classic Modern, and Dealer’s Choice Antiques and Auctions (didn’t have time to check this one out). Classic Modern’s quirky and quite reasonably priced, but I guess it is more vintage and kitsch than antique-y.

Unrelated: I met a homeless veteran, Larry, at the 8th Avenue Burger King. Larry told me he was originally from Birmingham, AL, and I told him I was going there in a few weeks to house sit. He thought I’d come all the way from Australia just to cat sit in Birmingham.

Gardens of Babylon Landscapes

Gardens of Babylon Landscapes is part of the Nashville Farmers’ Market. They have their own outdoor section and it’s huge. While I couldn’t take any of the plants back home to Australia, I did manage to pick up a few planters. And I would’ve loved to buy one of the pink ice cream cone planters, but I felt they were a bit expensive ($25 USD plus tax). The food part of the farmers’ market was way too busy when I went—lunchtime. A bit stupid of me. So I didn’t spend long inside. But it’d be worth checking out at a non-peak food time.

Next stop

Now I’m off to somewhere where the humidity is likely to be even worse. That’s Austin, Texas. I’ll be staying in an apartment in downtown Austin. And Shady, a grey cat, will be my feline friend for the next two weeks.

P.S. Check out Debra’s hair salon, Sweet Seven Organic Salon, on Lindell Ave.