Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Palazzo Versace, Gold Coast

I am still in the same housesit and have been there for more than two and a half years now! So, I thought I would expand this dormant blog with reviews of one night holidays. Given I am housesitting, it is difficult to get away for any period of time. The owner comes home every few weeks for a few days - which gives me a bit of a window of opportunity...

I mamanged to find a discounted deal on a night at the Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast. The over the top extravagence of this hotel is a lot of fun. It is of course more an aspirational place than the real thing - what those who are not quite in the upper echelons imagine the luxurious life to be. But that was absolutely fine by me and I enjoyed every moment of it

I invited a few friends to partake of the high tea that they offered while I was there. The wait service for the high tea, we agreed, needed a bit of polishing . But the food was really nice and so was the setting. My room was fabulous with a wooden parquet floor, a marble bathroom with separate rooms for the loo, the shower and the huge spa bath - which I have to say was fantastic. The gold trimmed tap filled the spa up in no time. There was a small balcony overlooking the huge 'lagoon' pool and a tiled fountain wall. You could have the sliding glass doors open wide and the room didn't smell of disinfectant - unlike many hotel rooms.

The bed was incredibly comfortable as was the pillow (70% duck feathers, 30% down). You can actually buy the pillows if you want - and people do, it seems. I'm thinking about it :-)

There were medusa head logos on everything you could lay your hands on - including a kind of embossed affair on the bottom of the glasses, on the bedheads, furniture handles, everything. The bar fridge had everything right down to the bottle of Veuve Cliquot and there were plenty of chocolate and nut snacks. Navy blue versace dressing gowns hung in the cupboard which had a light which automatically turned on when you opened it.

A good wide screen tele with lots of channels and every internet connection you can think of ( I avoided the net). The turn down service included two very kitch red lipped shaped chocolates - but I really enjoyed them :-)

I saw some spectacular fashion amongst the three weddings that were being held - all women of course. I didn't see any noteworthy style amongst the men unfortunately. There were also some pretty dodgy looking lack of fashion statements around as well... There were a lot of families staying - the central pool and Seaworld just down the road are attractions here. It is definitely not a quiet and secluded experience, but that was part of the fun.

The buffet breakfast which started at 6.30 am was superb and had everything you could think of. The 3 restaurants are pretty expensive, but there are also some restaurants in the boutique shopping centre next door - which are not much cheaper really it has to be said - but fabulous waterside settings. Check out time was a civilised 11am.

The rooms were almost 50% off on the deal I found - which is now sold out. I found it on an excellent travel deals site travelzoon if like me you are in the market for this sort of thing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A long housesit

The beautiful house I am currently occupying - the same one as in my last post - originally started as a 6 week sit, then turned into 3 months, then into a year and is now a two year housesit! These are the kind of housesits that are often used to hype housesitting, but in reality are as rare as hen's teeth. I have certainly lucked out! I mentioned in my last post that I had been hesitating over whether or not I should stay for the long term. I decided to stay on and am very glad I made the decision. Even if I am not in my inner city haunts - it is beautiful and restful here which has been helpful in allowing me to try and catch up on an enormous backlog of work.

There are no pets but as it is in the country, there are certainly lots of animals around. The current animal interaction involves two deranged magpies who spend entire days hurling themselves at their reflections in the French doors of the main bedroom and making a dreadful mess on the windows and on the verandah. I think they have a nest in one of the nearby trees and are too stupid to distinguish a reflection of themselves from a real potentially invasive bird. I put brown paper on the outside of the windows and that seems to have cured the problem.

I mentioned a cat that used to live here but which disappeared a couple of years ago when another housesitter was looking after it. But while on holiday at home (!) in August, the house owner saw it running across the road as he was driving along. He called the cat which rushed over and he took it home but it was gone again the next day - but not before he had taken numerous photos. It would appear the cat is living happily somewhere down the road hidden on acreage.

After an enormous amount of rain earlier this year, there is now no rain at all and everything is very dry.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Still housesitting!

Just reading back on my last few entries, it became apparent that I have been exhibiting symptoms of housesitting burn out! Inevitable really after 34 moves in a little over 3 years - and that's not counting other trips away.

The last house was a bit of a nightmare on the insect front. Giant cockroaches in the dishwasher, a thousand ants if I dared leave a crumb on the kitchen bench top. Giant painful biting ants in the garden and (shudder) lice on the pigeons. Of course one has to expect these things in a subtropical climate - particularly now that the eight year drought has come to an end.

But what of my current circumstances? Yes, I'm still housesitting. But things are a bit different at present. I have two favourite houses, both on the north side of Brisbane. I looked after one of these for two short period in January. The old cat had died and been replaced with two very decorative and frisky white cats - barely more than kittens actually. They were a lot of fun and very pretty to look at.

I am now in my other favourite house and have been here since February. If I wish, I can stay on for the whole year. I have been hesitating a little because I am a bit of an inner city person at heart and this house is in the country on 10 acres with tank water. But it is only 35 minutes drive into the CBD and a fairly pleasant drive. Not too far to see my friends and engage in my usual activities - in particular yoga.

The house is perched on top of a hill which is surrounded on all sides by other hills. So one has the view and the space and light but feels sheltered at the same time. The house itself is a huge old queenslander with 12 foot ceilings and an 8 foot verandah arouund the entire house. There are beautiful paintings on the walls to look at which are a source of constant enjoyment. There is also a decent sized plasma TV and DVD player and an excellent stereo with an ipod dock.

For really hot weather there is a salt water pool which is just lovely to swim in. There used to be a few pets that came with the house, a cat, a dog and two tanks of lizards. The cat (an excellent cat) disappeared a couple of years ago - possibly bitten by a snake - and the dog and the lizards have been moved elsewhere by the owner who is currently living abroad. Although it took quite some getting used to being here without the company of the pets, it is actually a lot easier not having to rush home to feed them and keep them company. The lizards were fairly self sustaining providing they had an adequate supply of live crickets, but the dog and the cat needed care.

The peace and quiet of the house has been conducive to much productive thought and the beginning of organisation (!) It is also a relief just to be in one place for a decent length of time. Just before I moved here, a new and excellent flatmate moved in to my home base which also makes things generally easier and means I have the option of moving home. It has also been nice to see people I have invited out to lunch visibly relaxing in the peaceful environment.

Generously, the owner is paying electricity and phone line rental bills and wirelss broadband. This is really an exceptional opportunity amongst housesits. A lovely house for a whole year with the bills paid - what could be better? And how often do these kind of housesitting opportunities come up? Almost never, in my experience.

There have been a few maintenance issues with a broken water pump, dead envirocycle (waste water) pump and the driveway needs grading as it is seriously potholed after all the rain. None of this has been too serious and has not been too difficult to deal with. The owner also gets a lot of mail which I send to him via fedex when a sufficient quantity accumulates. A team of mowers come around every couple of weeks to deal with the exponential growth of grass occasioned by the rain and heat.

I still haven't decided whether I want to stay here for the whole year but I do seem to be settling in.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Fan tail pigeons

I am looking after the large old Queenslander stately home again for a couple of weeks over Christmas. The owners have now acquired some pets - two beautiful white fantail pigeons who have their own dovecot and the free run of the garden. They look exactly like the ones in this picture. It seems the owners kept them in a netted area with the dovecote for a while until they got used to it and realised that there was no reason for them to fly away. They seem to fly off somewhere for a couple of hours in the afternoon, but apart from that they are usually walking around the garden near the dovecote or sitting on the roof nearby. They have enjoyed their new home so much that they have produced a fledgeling which is now three weeks old.

In the last few days this rather ugly little pigeon has been sitting at the door of its dovecot space looking out. Yesterday while I was on my way out for a walk I noticed it walking around on the lawn under the watchful eye of its parents. When I came back I found it sitting under a bush - not very safe at all. After phone calls to the owners and to the pigeon breeder it was determined that the bird needed to be put back in its nest.

I went and found a large step ladder in the shed and after some experimentation got it on level ground. Armed with a teatowel I approached the little chick with some trepidation. It got up and ran away but not very far and fortunately it didn't really struggle once I got hold of it and carefully placed it back in its rather scabrous nest. I noticed small black mites (lice?) crawling over it. The pigeon breeder gave me the name of a place 'Bernie's Produce' where I can go and buy some pigeon lice powder. So I will go out today and procure some of this.

It seems the fledgeling will keep jumping out of its nest for the next few days and I will have to keep putting it back in until it starts to learn how to fly properly. I am hoping that it might take a break from these attempts until the owners get back at the end of the week.

The other slight disaster yesterday involved my topping up the water level in the pool which was getting low. I put the hose on at 4 pm on Sunday - the Council designated pool topping up time but then completely forgot about it until at midnight when I suddenly remembered and leapt out of bed. The pool is now very full, but at least it didn't overflow. I hope this water usage isn't going to cause a problem. Better than a broken filter from having too low a water level I suppose! The joys of housesitting - and probably homeownership I would say. I'm glad I don't own a house.

There are no screens on this house and I have been eaten alive by mosquitos after the return of Brisbane's tropical climate after 8 years of drought. I might stop taking multi vitamin tablets until I move out as I have noticed that when I don't take them I don't get bitten.

The house is a really lovely place in summer, much better than in freezing winter in spite of the mosquitos and the necessity to keep a close eye on the garden. Most of the garden is taken care of by an automatic sprinkling system linked to the rainwater tanks and bore water. But there are numbers of potplants and staghorns on trees that need attention.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Three years on...

I’m back to the house of mad parrot infamy that I first housesat three years ago. This is the first luxury house I sat and the first time I had to deal with dogs and birds. I can’t believe it’s that long! One of the dogs has died in the interim, the staffy is three years older and has had his balls cut off after they developed a tumour and the parrot is a bit quieter since its stroke – 3 years on. Nonetheless she does like attention and having her beak stroked and being given bits of veggies. She has a much bigger cage now – which is much better. The fish in the outside pond have long since fallen prey to visiting kingfishers so there is now a tank inside the house with a Siamese fighting fish called Fang. There is a mirror on the tank so the fish spends a lot of time beating itself up. So the pet situation is not quite as full on thank goodness! For all that it’s still a very labour intensive house.

The day I moved in I made the mistake of inviting somebody over who completely overexcited the dog and it ran itself into exhaustion and sore paws. One paw has some of the skin worn off it. On Monday the dog limped around stiffly and licked his front paws endlessly. He is a lot better today and although he is still licking one of his paws – it seems to be a bit better and I was able to take him out for a short walk. Last night the poor dog had another crisis when a big thunderstorm hit. The dog is thunderphobic and goes into a complete panic meltdown during storms. The owners had left me with some tranquillisers for these situations and I gave him one as soon as I saw the ominous clouds and heard the low rumblings. It didn’t seem to make a lot of difference and the dog hyperventilated and trembled for about 3 hours and stayed glued to me. It was a bit annoying as I enjoy thunderstorms and this house is on a hill overlooking the bush and the river with a fantastic view of proceedings.

The dog has a complex diet of kangaroo mince, rice, pasta and vegetables and dog biscuits. The owners decided to change vets after their previous vet scoffed at the rice and vegetable component which takes a bit of an effort to cook up. I cooked up a batch last time I was here but I think there are enough supplies there to last the distance this time.

I had to get rid of another serious chemical infestation when I moved in. A green thing attached to the loo bowel, an ‘airfreshener’ on a shelf in the loo. In the basin area outside the loo was a perfumed candle and a jar with some kind of toxic liquid and a set of sticks that looked like incense sticks soaking it up. There was another jar with sticks next to the television. There are also a number of perfumed candles in the dining room and sitting room but I have left these where they are as there are too many of them and I just keep the verandah door open while I am around and about. The house is absolutely spotless so there is no need for all this junk.

The sitting room has a huge plate glass wall overlooking the river and a lovely 50 inch Panasonic plasma TV with a top of the range Yamaha surround sound system under the television. When I was last here, there was a Rank Arena CRT TV and an array of speakers around the room. I remember the owners talking about their prospective purchase of the Yamaha system. Foxtel - almost the full package - is connected to the sound system so I can play the radio stations with the television switched off.

Back to the house. The pets aren’t the only things that are labour intensive. The owners feed the wild birds – so I have to put seed in a feeder tray for the rosellas and the sulphur crested cockatoos. They also mix up some kind of powdered milk concoction but I haven’t got around to doing this yet. They also throw kangaroo mince at the butcher birds, currawongs and magpies – so the birds are continually hassling you for food by hopping up and down outside the kitchen window and tapping on it with their beaks or if I have left the screen door open for the dog, some of them actually come into the kitchen.

I don’t really approve of feeding wild life. It means they are less able to find their own food and they become tame which is dangerous both for them and humans. Not to mention the mess of discarded birdseed and bird droppings which I will have to clean up.

I spent half an hour this morning cleaning the pool of bark and leaves and fixing up the kreepy krawly after last night’s storm. A simple cover on the pool would avoid these problems and save water.

There is a complicated and paranoid system of locks on everything – with the keys not working particularly well in the locks, so this is all a bit irritating along with the burglar alarm. I don’t like alarms much – I am always worried they might unexpectedly go off when I am setting them or turning them off.

There is a large garden. I’m so glad it rained last night! The owners are very active retirees – hence all the labour they create around the house.

The dog is currently sitting at my feet obsessively licking its paws. I have noticed in general that terriers seem to do this – it seems to be an anxiety thing in most cases.

For all its obessiveness and regimentation, the house is beautifully organised which makes it easy to live. It has a lovely kitchen and one of the best ovens I have cooked with. It’s a Miele. The benches are made of sandstone.

It’s the perfect spot for marking large numbers of essays!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The dogs

This is the last full day in the current housesit. I move out tomorrow. It has been quite nice – not too far from work, in a fairly interesting area, a small and basic but modern sunny and comfortable house. The dogs are starting to get a bit annoying. The golden retriever/Labrador cross is completely neurotic and whenever I get home it barks hysterically, whimpers and then when I let it into the house it races around at full speed after having picked up toys in its mouth from the toy box. The other dog – a fairly solid silky terrier, staffy something cross follows suit. In the mornings they are up at 4.30am – 5 pm with the Labrador going through the full whimpering, putting a toy in its mouth routine if I get up to go to the loo. At that point I close my bedroom door as otherwise they both start jumping on my bed and the Labrador is a big dog. At about 6am I get up to open the door so they can run out and then 6.30 – 7pm they get their breakfast.

Last night while watching television, the golden retriever wanted to jump on my lap and lick my face – yuck. It does this fairly frequently. As it is a very large dog and as I am not that keen on having my face slobbered on all over a bit of a struggle usually ensues. Yesterday evening the smaller dog wanted to join in as well and jumped up on the couch preparing to jump on to me. As soon as I finish my dinner a whole routine of the little dog sitting up on its hind legs and begging and the other dog starting to bounce around starts. They want the bones from the lamb chops, so I have to get up and do the washing up immediately to stop the harassment. I don’t know how people can live like this year in and year out. It’s exhausting.

The garden is huge as well, it took me more than half an hour just to water the whole thing on Sunday – I was using the rainwater tanks. The garden is mostly in pots – I think for two reasons: to save it from the scrub turkeys whom I have to feed with corn cobs and wild bird seed every day and also it is on a steep slope with a drainage problem, prone to large volumes of water turning into a rushing stream when it is raining heavily.

I have to clean up and pack today – one of my very least favourite housesitting tasks. I’ll have to put the dogs out in the garden while I am doing this. They follow me everywhere and the golden retriever starts getting hysterical if I move around too much. But overall this sit hasn't been too bad - not like the nightmare the last one was.

I must remember to restore the chemical infestation to the bathroom. All the 'airfresheners' are in a bucket covered by another bucket in the under the house area. Even so you can still smell them when you are near the buckets.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


This housesit continues peacefully. One incident however of course! The pool filter started beeping and a light flashing saying there was no waterflow and the chlorinator was on hold. A phone call to the owners however revealed that one of the wires coming out of the chlorinator cell had vibrated loose - which apparently it does frequently. Easily fixed!