Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Airing My Views -- Airbnb

     Having never tried Airbnb, I was a little leery of the experience but circumstances made it sound like a good idea.  Jack and I were traveling with our daughter so instead of the usual one hotel room, we were going to need more space.  Money was definitely an object.  She lives in Penzance in Cornwall in a small flat so we had to arrange accommodations for us there.  Lodging is not inexpensive there and the exchange rate makes it worse. 
     Looking on the Airbnb web site, I found a listing for a room on a main shopping street.  The listing was totally honest about the fact that it might be noisy but the price was really right and the location good.  We had the upstairs room on the left and shared a bathroom with the flat owner who was a delightful young woman.
     I loved the view out of the window and the only disconcerting street noise was when a truck unloaded at 4 a.m. 
     I just rolled over and went back to sleep.
Here's a close-up of our little "kitchen."
     Rachel supplied coffee, tea, milk home-made granola, fantastic bread from the bakery downstairs, Cornish butter and jam.  We had a small table and chairs under the window and could not have asked for more!
     Our next stop was Cardiff where we stayed upstairs in this home.  Our rooms had obviously been kids' rooms -- and, like our grown kids, they'd left a lot of things behind!  The beds were comfortable and our hosts couldn't have been more accommodating.  Again, we had a little fridge, and this time, a microwave, with breads, cereal, etc.  The microwave came in handy for leftovers from the night's dinner!  We were actually in the village of Llandaff -- on the west side of Cardiff. This was a great location for walking -- handy to an excellent Thai restaurant, Bay Leaf.  We walked to Cardiff Castle -- but it was a "fur piece;" fortunately the bus stop was handy!
     This was one of the nicest places we stayed -- we had the whole house!  It was a few miles north of Aberystwyth.  It had been completely renovated -- everything was sparkly and new.  We had a complete kitchen, however, our host provided no food.  Warning: when a Welsh person tells you something is a short walk, take it with a grain of salt!  Zoe and Jack decided to leave the car and walk to the nearest grocery.  They were exhausted when they got back!  We were here two nights so we made a grocery run when we were sightseeing in Aberystwyth.  We had a cooler in the car and packed lunches most days -- another cost-cutting tactic!
     This was our living room.  Notice we have a TV!  Most places didn't.
     And a lovely kitchen!
     We spent several nights in northern Wales and again we had a whole house -- not as fancy as our Aberystwyth house, but certainly adequate -- and breakfast items were supplied.  The only drawback was that it was in a very nondescript village.  It was handy for the day trips, though.
     The kitchen table was nice and large -- good, since the owners had stocked the house with games and puzzles.  Zoe and I had a jigsaw on the table most of the time we were here -- finished it before we left.
We enjoyed the back patio -- especially since we had found a store with Diet Dr. Pepper -- Zoe's and my drink of choice!
     After we toured north Wales, we crossed the border into England and spent the night in Telford, home of the world's first cast iron arch bridge.  We were back to sharing a bathroom but our rooms were great and our host super.  Parking is at a premium in Telford so he drove me into the historic district so I could take photos without having to find a place to park.  It didn't hurt that he looked a bit like Colin Firth!  And he cooked us breakfast!
     Our next stop was our only not-so-great experience.  I have a feeling that in future, this place may be dropped from Airbnb.  Again, shared bathroom, but there was only one guest besides the three of us.  The scary thing is that there were a number of other rooms and the write-up said that up to 20 people could be hosted.  I didn't see another bathroom so I found that unbelievably scary!  I didn't even take a picture!
     Our last stop was in Weston-super-mare; what a wonderful way to end our trip!  Our rooms were so cozy and although we shared a bathroom, we had it to ourselves. 
     This is the closest we came to what we would consider a traditional B and B.  Our hostess was charming and she fixed us a lovely breakfast.  The house was full of antiques and interesting pieces.  We were tired and anxious to get back to Penzance so we didn't spend any time in the town.  It's a popular seaside resort and I'd love to go back and spend more time.
     All in all, our Airbnb experience was overwhelmingly positive.  I'd certainly do it again.  From start to finish, all our exchanges were satisfactory.  Online prices were quoted in dollars and we could sort options by price.  I was shooting for $100 a night for the three of us -- and most of our stays met that criterion.  The Airbnb people were extremely helpful in getting us set up and we had plenty of correspondence with our hosts before our stays.  Next time we'll know to ask if food items are supplied.  After our stays, we were asked to rate our experiences -- and our hosts were asked to rate us, too.  I know there are questions here in the U.S. about bed taxes, etc. and I understand the concern of more conventional accommodations -- but it really worked well for us. 

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