Airbnb is all the rage now in rental holiday accommodation and is THE go-to for many travellers today. The need to ‘feel at home’ whilst ‘away from home’ is tantamount to a relaxing vacation of any kind and this is what Airbnb offers! Of course, hotel stays are still a very popular choice for many jet setters as star ratings, well known branding and luxury comforts such as daily chambermaids, room service and a 24 hour concierge are hard to beat! BUT, sometimes you just want and need the other extravagances in life… be it value for money, freedom of movement, washing machines or just a simple kitchen in which to potter around and this is by far (in my opinion) the best way to travel!
Comfort comes in different forms and having been guests and stayed in many Airbnb’s over time (and now becoming proud ‘Hosts’ ourselves), I thought that is was only fair I shared with you our very own various wild and wonderful experiences. Over the years, we have resided in some excellent spaces, been treated badly in others and sometimes (but rarely) been taken for idiots and ignored, but that’s just the way it rolls in Holiday Rental Land and here is a rundown of some of our most favourite, memorable and scandalous episodes!
(Actually, I really could just some it all up in four little words… DILDO IN A DRAWER… but that would be a spoiler alert AND a very short blog!)
THAILAND: Waking up right on the beach is always a good sign of a great day and one of our first ever stays was on the island of Koh Samui. A fantastic one bedroom right on the beachfront in Maenam was a fantastic way to spend a week in the sun and one that will always be remembered. Now the same place has been totally renovated and turned into a swish two bedroom house with a price tag to match, but back then we were very fortunate to experience this morsel of island luxury when it was still just a little shack on the beach with the sand and sea literally on your doorstep!
GREECE: In this Cycladic wonderland, we rented three amazing places, two in Santorini and one in Mykonos during October 2020 (the height of Covid mind you) and all were unforgettable in their own special ways! In Santorini we rented a cave house that happened to come with an extra lodger – a little black and white cat – who jumped through the bedroom window every morning and proceeded to pounce onto the bed and ferociously attack your feet, or cry and paw at the front door until we let her in! We considered this a bonus, but the owners (who lived next door) thought otherwise and were horrified and apologetic. With a roof top pool, lounge area AND a view, it was cheap as chips and a perfect way to experience Thira and all her bewitching charms.
In Oia, we were fortunate enough to find an Old Bakery which had been cleverly transformed into a luxury home. Complete with a breathtaking, uninterrupted sunset view across the Caldera, once again we had a small family of felines that gifted us with their presence every morning and evening, eagerly awaiting their daily treats of feta and milk!
In Mykonos, we rented a blue and white beauty situated directly above a chic tourist boutique in the centre of the action in Mykonos Town. Surprisingly quiet and with a spacious balcony dripping with grapevines (and of course – another cat ), we were a mere one minute walk from Little Venice and the famous windmills and surrounded by wonderful restaurants and a labyrinth of winding painted pathways. Upon arrival, we were also gifted with a huge basket of breakfast goods just in case we needed it and a lovely meet and greet lady who kindly helped us to find our way and settle in. Magic!
COLOMBIA: We rented two excellent places here, one in Cartagena and one in Santa Marta. Both came with private pools and again, neither were overly expensive! Given the blaring heat during summer and the bedlam that came from the town’s streets, our little sanctuaries were a treat come sundown as we plunged into crystal cool waters after a hectic day sightseeing. The beauty of the colourful homes in Cartagena’s Centro Historico were resplendent and we were again lucky enough to find this treasure of a house in which to reside for a few days. Santa Marta is a tiny, beachfront city and our enormous apartment with her rooftop area (including a functioning electric bbq) overlooking the main square was excellent value for money, but is now, unfortunately, no longer for rent.
NICE, France is where we have been guests the most, but not all of these will get a mention! During Covid (again), we stayed in a lovely, homey apartment in the Port area for a month. The Australian owner (who actually lived next door but was confined in Brisbane) allowed us to rent his place at a very cheap rate, which was both generous and welcome as we too were stuck due to pandemic pandemonium! He was also kind enough to allow us to leave our belongings in his personal storage cupboard when we took a trip over to Corsica for a few days! It was one street away from the sea and had a huge kitchen which, for some strange reason, had so much baking and hotel kitchen paraphernalia that we could have started our very own pop-up Covid catering company!
Another apartment in Nice which deserves credit, was an enormous one bedroom with a huge fully renovated bathroom and original exposed stone walls. Gorgeous! It was in famous Rue Bonaparte, in the Place du Pin and was smack bang in the centre of the lively gay area. We stayed here for about two weeks until we were forced to return to Paris and then back to Australia and Madagascar, and we also had front row balcony seats to witness the final nights of revelry and the sad closure of all the restaurants and bars in France on the 29th October 2020.
SARDINIA: On this emerald sea isle we rented a houseboat (which was both an out of/ and a tick the box moment) but fun! It was moored in the main marina of Alghero and was extremely small and tight, but clean and modern and had a little outside deck area on which to have an apéro at sunset! We rented a second apartment in the capital, Cagliari and it was beautifully furnished with a large balcony and fully equipped kitchen where we could prepare some delicious meals with all the fine Sardinian produce we had purchased on our daily trips around this scenic Mediterranean city!
ISTANBUL: We were three of us in this large, old style apartment in Beyoglu, directly opposite the magnificent ancient monument, Galata Tower. Quirky in its decor, with a retro 50’s inspired black & white checked bathroom, it was spacious enough for all of us to get lost in our individual areas and had not one but two little balconies on which to sit and enjoy the famous scenery of the Bosphorus and the nightly Galata light show!
MEXICO: Mexico City is HUGE and we rented a 1920’s loft in the leafy, affluent part of town of Colonia Juarez. Not far on foot from the main area of restaurants and bars, this space was cool and sleek, but with some very steep and intimidating stairs leading up to the bedroom! It was right opposite a gorgeous Italian trattoria and even had a bakery and a French bistro below, so those points alone made it a good deal and well worth a special mention!
PARIS: We began and finished our Covid journey here, in the City of Lights, as we again rented two apartments which are both (unfortunately) no longer available. The first was in the Marais district and was typical Parisian style…floorboards, antique furniture and French doors which led out to a long, narrow balcony. We were on the top floor, surrounded by the famous blue/gunmetal grey zinc rooftops, and every night we sat and watched as the little bookshop across the road flung open its window to sell wine and fresh produce to the stranded Marais dwellers as everything else was closed.
The second was on Boulevard de Sébastopol in the 2nd arrondissement. A second floor Haussmann style apartment with a circular wrap around balcony (that we used every night come rain, cold wind or rare sunshine!) Perched here, wrapped up in our winter woolies, we watched the world go by whilst dining on molten aromatic cheeses and fresh baguette as the whole city was under lockdown. Thanks to the pandemic, our one week here turned into two, but it was such a lovely place – cosy and chic – that our Covid winter blues were quickly dispersed as we whiled away the hours in lockdown; Parisian Style!
Bad experiences come in varying forms. It’s not just a leaky tap or that the oven doesn’t heat up very quickly, I’m talking about ridiculous situations that should never have happened! Here are some classic examples…
MEXICO: One time in Puerto Vallarta, I got the shock of my life and it wasn’t due to the beauty of the town but because I actually got mildly electrocuted! Great location, but with a mini torture chamber shower with an exposed wire (water + electricity does not pave the way for a memorable Mexican holiday), we basically had to beg the owners to fix it as they were very reluctant to acknowledge the situation, even after my near death experience!
Next we rented a little cabin in San José del Cabo and this came with a (not mentioned) view over the noisy main highway, a huge romping dog (courtesy of the American owners who lived next door and assumed that everyone was a canine devotee), an air conditioner that blew only hot air AND polyester sheets that sparked every time you rubbed up against them! So we moved…to a little house in Cabo San Lucas that was fabulous once you found it, but we ended up having to wait hours to move in as the previous tenant and HER DOG refused to vacate and had to be forced out by the owner and caretaker! Seriously, who are these people?
THAILAND: Again in Koh Samui, we had paid for a small island house for a month, but when we arrived the previous tenants once more refused to leave! Their belongings were strewn all over the yard and the owner tried to tell us that this was quite the norm and to just deal with it and move in a few days later! Mmmm ok? We gave up on the spot and eventually found another place after more time and searching, but the best part is that we were refused a refund for all the trouble caused as it was considered our issue that we didn’t have the patience to wait!
GREECE: In Paros, our lovely little apartment on the hill had everything one required sans hot water! In summer, this normally would not be a deal breaker but it was October and cold and Paros is well known as the Windy Island. To be out all day on a motorbike or a ferry freezing to death and return home to an icy cold shower, only to be informed that we were supposed to turn on the ancient thermostat 8 hrs before, was not fun! It also would have been handy to have been told about this small but important detail upon arrival. Once again the owner argued with us and said that it was indeed working (it wasn’t) and kept trying to turn it on and off, eventually reporting TWO DAYS LATER that, “Oh, I think it must be broken!” No s*#t Sherlock! We ended up boiling water in the kettle and having sponge baths. Good times…
COSTA RICA: In Punta Cahuita we rented an igloo tent. I know…sounded good at the time, except that when we arrived it was monsoon season and yet again the hot water issue raised its ugly head. The shower area, which was off to the side of the tent, had also become a safe haven from nature’s wild elements for various spiders and other creepy crawlies and (guess what) the thermostat was broken! We complained twice and were informed by the owner (who resided in a huge house at the rear of the property), that we really didn’t need hot showers anyway as it was more refreshing to have cold ones! Thanks for the brilliant advice and I hope you’re enjoying your nightly warm bath. Combine this fun fact with an army of giant crabs that held us prisoners whilst they surrounded the igloo every evening, only allowing us to enter the bathroom at our own peril, and I’m positive that I still have bladder issues and PTSD due to this adventurous stay!
Two other times in various locations, we found and paid for apartments only to be cancelled (for no reason) the day before our arrival! Thankfully we were fully reimbursed by Airbnb but it’s not an ideal situation as the struggle of having to re book somewhere in a hurry is never part of the plan, even if we do like to ‘live on the edge’!
TURKEY: My favourite story is when we had booked a place in Bodrum. We were literally only two hours away when we called to let the owner know our arrival time (as is the norm) only to be informed that he had RE SCHEDULED US to the next month instead, as he had other tenants already booked in! Complete disbelief ensued as he had obviously stuffed up his availability calendar but had chosen not to tell us about this major hiccup! We then had to frantically find a place to stay (in high season) and eventually, after three hours of stopping at every hotel and inn in the town, found a horrible little dive of a motel with lime green walls, a creepy guardian and a stagnant pool for an exorbitant price per night! It was either that or sleep in our little car. The chaos continued here as we had booked the cancelled Airbnb for three nights and had to then wing it the entire time. Stressful? Just a tad!
NICE is not always nice:
In Nice, we had reserved two different apartments and got confused as to which one we were moving to first. Honest mistake, we stood outside the wrong building only to realise that we should have been across town at the alternative space. Apologising and eventually turning up twenty minutes past our booking rendezvous time, we were then castigated by a Russian girl and her overly buff boyfriend who were our meet & greet! Bloody hell…it wasn’t the end of the world but the terrible attitude and nastiness of this was not a great start to that stay!
As I hinted at earlier, we’ve also had some very weird and strange situations presented to us. Please enjoy these true stories and feel free to weep tears of mirth at our various misfortunate escapades!
PANAMA: Let’s begin with a bang… In the old town of Panama City, Casco Viejo, we must have stayed in about seven Airbnb’s over the year that MB (Monsieur Bleu) was working there. The majority were lovely, as the architecture here is remarkable and all the buildings have been perfectly refurbished and restored back to their former Spanish glory.
We had chosen a gorgeous place right in the centre of the town and marvelled at its lovely decor and feature wall of Panama hats. All good so far! Surprisingly though, the owner had a large liquor cabinet which was unlocked and full of top shelf booze which, if we had been any other couple I’m sure, would have been drunk and destroyed within hours of arrival! We didn’t touch it of course, but it was an odd thing to have in a rental apartment. Moving on, when we were getting ready for bed and putting our belongings in the bedside drawers, MB took out a box exclaiming “What is in THIS?” Upon close inspection, I realised (to my horror) that it contained a rather ‘well endowed’ pink rubber DILDO! Now, I am as far removed from a prude as anyone will know, but this added gift with purchase shall we say, was NOT something that we expected to find! Unbelievable but so very true. Luckily for us, we didn’t discover any more sex toys lying around the joint, but combine that with the unlocked bar and the collection of Marvin Gaye records available on the stereo system and I think what we had actually rented was a Panama Party Pad!
Still in Casco Viejo, we rented another lovely apartment that had just been put on Airbnb. Still smelling of fresh paint and floor polish, it came with a small balcony overlooking a quiet cobblestone street. Normally, there is furniture on such a dwelling, but this was bare, so we took two of the stools from the breakfast bar outside so we could have a drink at sundown. Low and behold, the next morning, I was SENT A PHOTO from the owner, again chastising us like children, of how dare we use the indoor furniture outside. We had been secretly photographed and then reported and charged with stool abuse! It was utterly ridiculous. If you don’t want specific furniture used, then buy something appropriate or, on second thought, don’t rent out your place at all if it’s that damn sacred!
THAILAND: In Koh Samui once again, we rented yet another beach front property. This one was very tiny – a one bedroom cabin really, but location, location, location! There was nothing wrong with this space except that it again came with an island dog who thought it owned the place and a little access gate from the beach. Much to our surprise, one fine morning we awoke to find a couple of local cleaners happily lounging on the sun beds on our little terrace! They didn’t see why this was an issue as there was an unlocked gate and were not impressed when we gave them their marching orders! Come evening on the same day (it must have been a full moon I’m sure), island doggie came a knocking and proceeded to jump on me whilst I lay on the (now available) sun lounger and try to mate! I was literally molested by a horny half Labrador lad and all MB could do to help was convulse with laughter and FILM IT! ’Twas one of our more interesting stays on Samui!
PARIS: The first time we rented an Airbnb in Paris was years ago in the picturesque and hilly Montmartre district. We were new to this style of accommodation and really had no idea what to expect, but what we did know was that the place should be yours for the duration of the stay and a little like a hotel, devoid of any personal objects and neutral. But NO! Here, the owners had literally just rented out their home – still full of all their stuff, as if they had just popped off to the shops for a few hours! The cupboards were crammed with clothes, so we couldn’t use them and there was washing in the dryer and even cups and plates in the sink! Fortunately we were only there for two nights (it did had a view of the Eiffel Tower), but we have never felt so uncomfortable in an Airbnb setting since, including the Dildo in the Drawer dwelling!
Still in Paris, we stayed in Montparnasse for another couple of nights – great location and apartment once again, except we were told to wash our own sheets upon checkout. We also had to fold the previous tenants sheets that were on the drying line so we could use it! After paying an exorbitant cleaning fee privy to some ridiculous Parisian standard, this situation (I now know) is a regular occurrence and a pet peeve for many renters. Totally unacceptable and downright disrespectful behaviour all round.
Our final bizarre BnB story was in Nice, France.
Again in the Port area (we like it there but couldn’t afford to buy), our tiny home away from home had a small balcony on which to reside. YET AGAIN, we were given instructions to “Please empty the air-conditioner bucket as the water overflows onto the balcony below”. Of course we did as were told (like good tenants), but the contributing factor of the enormous spiky cactus that entrapped the water bucket made it a task not for the fainthearted, as we had to wear sunglasses for our eyes and socks on our hands for protection so to be able to manoeuvre around the plant in order not to get stabbed! Seriously people….what are you all on?
The balcony was tiny enough as it was without the offending needle projecting object, and the rest of the limited area was taken up with an interesting array of dead, dry foliage which had obviously not been watered due to the underneath apartment predicament!
In closing, I would just like to give all future Airbnb hosts (and guests) some valuable tips and something to consider before you take the plunge and book a space or take peoples’ money and allow them into your homes:
1: Take thermostat issues seriously, have it regularly checked AND turned on prior to your guests arrival and/or inform them of what to do!
2: Maybe don’t yell at your guests – not a great start!
3: Check your calendar and don’t double book during high season just to be greedy!
4: Spend some cash and invest in good cotton sheets and some new pillows!
5: Don’t crowd your balconies with plants (dead or alive) so that it cannot be used OR put prickly plants in positions of areas requiring access!
6: Please check all light bulbs are working and replace where necessary – it shouldn’t have to fall to the tenant to buy new ones!
7: Don’t charge a cleaning fee and still make the tenants wash their own sheets!
8: Don’t leave all your clothes and personal effects everywhere – trust me, we are not interested in your wedding photos or your skanky ski boots!
9: Please ensure your previous tenants move out BEFORE your next ones arrive!
10: Invest in some appropriate outdoor furniture for your balconies and FILL UP YOUR ICE TRAYS!
And for the love of God, please ensure that all your kinky copulation gadgets are locked away, as no one wants to (in the dark) mistake one of these for their glass of water! As the song says, ”There’s a fine line between pleasure and pain!”
…”we cannot stay home all our lives, we must present ourselves to the world and we must look upon it as an adventure”… Beatrix Potter