Trading homes for an affordable stay in Paris

25 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Trading homes for an affordable stay in Paris


Hamilton Spectator

By MacDonald

Ah, Paris. The food. The The sights.

The hotel bill.

It was the matter of finding a place to that kept an international off our radar. As we discussed a European we realized that a hotel for my wife, Nancy, our daughter, and me would cost us as much as our tickets.

I had read about exchanges, but Nancy was hesitant to let into our home, despite my campaign about the savings.

But the of staying for free in a Paris with a car at our disposal proved

I began investigating the better-known websites before settling on thanks to the advice of Marla a friend who had used it to take her to such places as Escondido, and Italy.

But, why, I Marla, would anybody to stay in our house? We’re between Los Angeles and San Diego in Orange County and 20 minutes the closest beach. The best going for us: We’re near

That’s why, Marla Listen to yourself.

Convinced, I up, paid the $119 annual and wrote a description of our Old Towne home and neighbourhood, playing up California’s attractions, celebrity and brand-name beaches. It sounded so I wanted to visit.

Meanwhile, I trolled the HomeExchange favoriting homes in places on our list: Venice, Italy; Athens; Tokyo; Prague, Republic; Berlin; Amsterdam. A photographer friend offered to our home look good for the gallery.

Fearing rejection and smugly confident, I decided to let make offers rather send out inquiries about that looked good.


I kept knocking on the screen, asking, Is this working? Not one of the 46,000 members to trade with us? This be what online dating like.

We consulted Marla, who us that we might have to 10 to 20 offers just to get one successful I was worried about getting or leading people on. What if we talking to one family and a better came along?

That’s how it Marla said. Most will be flattered you want to in their home.

After an automated — automated! — rejection on an to Venice, I iced my bruised ego and instead on our top three choices in an architect’s duplex, an interior loft and a young family’s

The next day, I heard from the young family: who was hoping to come to Southern for three weeks with her Julien, and two young daughters heading up to San Francisco for another exchange. After a few messages, we set up a video meeting.

Julien, a musician who is more comfortable English than Iris, did of the talking. We hashed out the details, a car swap and gave each virtual tours of our homes.

We began to feel as though our were already friends.

weeks in Paris sounded a dream vacation. We estimated we save $5,000 or more on and live like locals, us a more intimate view of the of Light.

That weekend, I Iris and Julien’s preschool matching car seats. Iris was A few days later, Julien us a Google map of their favourite to eat and drink. I reciprocated.

Our virtual grew stronger.

Other continued to roll in, usually one a day and than 50 in all. I finally a kind and personal thanks-but-no-thanks for all requests.

Soon after we down at Charles de Gaulle our taxi dropped us off in front of the green doors I knew so from Google Street Iris greeted each of us kisses on both cheeks, and I as though we were finally in

The contemporary two-storey, 900-square-foot in the 11th arrondissement was big by Paris What once had been two had been remodelled with a and living room on the lower and three bedrooms and a bathroom on the top Although it was about half the of our house, it felt like a suite compared with the of hotel room our budget have afforded us.

While gave Nancy and Hannah a of the place, Julien showed me the neighbourhood, pointing out where the car was and taking me to the nearest ATM and Metro

Then they said — and we were on our own. When I in an American power strip a plug adapter, I blew out the in the entire apartment. I was reminded of one home swap veteran had me: You’re going to have to fix Don’t sweat it.

Soon, I the breaker box, deciphered the labels and reset the power.

Our new sprang other surprises on us: The combo washer-dryer took hours to complete the tiniest of laundry. The digital stove only when a pot or pan was placed on a The bag of flour hiding at the back of the broke open and created an mess.

Minor problems, especially the ideal location of our apartment, was just on the fringe of Paris’ areas. If we harboured any doubt, an trip to London reminded us of how our place was (and how claustrophobic a room can be).

Using media, we followed our swappers’ It was a bit surreal to see photos of someone sitting on your front but surprisingly reassuring to know were enjoying our home as as we were theirs.

Iris and had a great time at our place. The attended a birthday party the street. They made with fruit from our The neighbours even came for a party one night.

I’d for a similar neighbourly reception, but we saw the neighbours. Our only real was with a downstairs resident who on the door one morning to tell us we making too much noise. she left on holiday a few days

My biggest regret of the trip had to do with the house. I wasn’t in driving, but I felt compelled to we had swapped cars as well as

After struggling to unlock the Renault Twingo, find on the stick shift and escape the garage, I got to experience the nightmares of virtually invisible street maddening roundabouts and throngs of scooters.

And then there was the heat — or it was the humidity. Highs crept the 90s, and so did the humidity. Air conditioning is the here.

I swore never to visit Western Europe in or August.

But it’s hard to about a three-week vacation in One moment stands out vividly: The of us eating around the kitchen munching on bread, cheese and from our local boulangerie and

When we returned home, we our house largely as we left it. A few were out of place. A clothes had come off the wall, and a few cables had switched around on the TV.

But I’m to make those trade-offs.

I do a home swap again? It took a lot of prep work to get our ready for the exchange, but now that laid the groundwork, we know to look for in a good match.

We lucked out with our first

I can envision doing this for to come.

Venice, here we come.

Los Times

Home Swap

HOUSE SWAPPING: You can find organizations by Googling home but exercise caution and seek the of a trusted source. Reports of rental scams (especially in abound. A personal recommendation, as we helped us feel comfortable.

The we used and a couple of others we

•Home Exchange, in 1992. 46,000 members. per year.

•Homelink, in 1953. 13,000 members. $89 per

•Interval, Started in 30,000 members. $99 per year.


is essential in any exchange. If you feel for any reason, keep looking.

is key. We exchanged more 80 emails before, during and our trip.

•Photos are important. house looked as beautiful and appointed in real life as it did in the

•Make life simple for guests. Spell it all out, the TV remote to the microwave oven to the doorknob.

•Make a plan. out where you’ll leave the keys and who can help in an emergency.

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