Originally from Australia, Simone has spent time living in Papua New Guinea, England, Scotland and the Czech Republic. Recently she was able to spend a little bit of time in Brussels thanks to house sitting.
First of all can you describe the house sit?
Brussels was our first non-British Isles house sit. We stayed in a small, ground floor apartment near the European Parliament. We had one Persian cat to look after, Lucky, while his Mexican owner was on away. And of course, looking after the apartment.
Where did you find this house sitting assignment?
What was the process for finding (and applying for the house sit)?
We contacted Lucky’s owner through the membership site and arranged a Skype chat. She was quite experienced in selecting house sitters and she chose us on the spot. There wasn’t a lot of pre-communication, possibly because of her experience and relaxed approach. We kept her informed of our flight bookings and arrival times. We also found that Barry had to leave the house sit early due to a family event, so we let the owner know, but that I would still be there. We think it’s important to be honest and upfront and I’m sure she appreciated this. When we arrived in Brussels, we spent some time going over all the necessary requirements, taking notes and getting to know Lucky.
Why do you think you were picked over any other sitters that applied?
Part of it was probably luck. Trusted House Sitters is popular so you have to get in quickly or your message won’t get read. We also had previous experience of looking after Persian cats, who need to have their eyes cleaned at least once per day. It probably also helps that we are a couple, which is fairly ‘non-threatening’ and means we can back each other up.
You mention this was one of your favourite house sits. What made it so?
Definitely Lucky. He was one of the most placid and easy to care for cats we’ve come across. He didn’t have a litter tray, he went into the garden through the kitchen window, he only ate dry food and not at set times. He helped himself from the bowl whenever he was hungry so we just had to make sure it was filled up – no danger of overfeeding! Mostly it was a matter of petting him, brushing him and keeping him entertained with bits of string. Barry’s a big fan of cats and always had Lucky on his lap when sitting on the sofa.
We also really like the area, very close to Park du Cinquantenaire. We went running most days there.
What did you see and do while you were in Brussels?
Barry has an online business and I’m working on freelance writing and other projects so being tourists isn’t our first goal. It also wasn’t our first trip to Brussels. Having said that, we explored the Parliament area, the Grand Place, watching street performers and eating mussels and, of course, waffles. I also went to the Royal Palace with its Hall of Mirrors, and the Museum of Military History at the Park du Cinqantenaire.
Brussels has a reputation for not being the most exciting city in the world. Did you find that to be true (or partly true)?
I’m not sure where this reputation comes from! With good beer, waffles and chocolate; how can that be? During our stay, a friend came from the Netherlands for the day and we had a great time drinking some tasty Belgium beer and came across a random brass band performing in the street. There was also a summer music festival on.
Do you think house sitting gave you a unique perspective on Brussels, that you wouldn’t have gotten from say staying in a hotel?
Yes. With all the business travellers accommodation can be pretty expensive in Brussels so we definitely got to stay longer than if we were just visiting. For short stays we also would have chosen a different area, closer to the main tourist areas and we would have missed out on the daily life and the Parc du Cinqantenaire. I cooked a fair bit at home and love that even the smallest supermarkets sell bottles which you fill with orange juice, freshly squeezed before your eyes.
What memories will you take away from this house sit?
Only good ones! Mostly of waffles.
Where’s next in your house sitting adventure?
We’ll be spending most of the year in Australia and are looking for opportunities in Melbourne. So far, we’ve got one gig. We’ll be housesitting in one of Melbourne’s inner suburbs with a dog for a month in June/July.
Barry (from Northern Ireland) and Simone (Australia) met while swing dancing in Scotland. They are currently in South East Asia, on their way to Melbourne, combining work and travel. They started www.thetrackandoffit.com so their parents would know where in the world they were, and to give advice to other travellers. You can read more about their house sitting and other adventures there.