|Home Swappers Newsletter|
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Lois Sealey, Editor, Home Swappers
As travel writers for Cadogan guides, my husband Michael Pauls and I have stayed in hundreds of hotels over the years, ranging from five star châteaux to fleabag joints that make Fawlty Towers look like Buckingham Palace. But give us a home exchange any day of the week. While there are lovely hotels and B&Bs that go out of their way to make you feel at home, I have yet to find one where you feel so at ease that you can wander down to breakfast in your dressing gown and slippers, or find that book you've always wanted to read sitting on the shelf. No, as Dorothy said, there's no place like home- even if it's somebody else's.
Although we've been members of Home Base Holidays for only the past four years, in a way we've been staying in other people's houses in other people's countries for three decades. Our publisher believed in the Method Acting School of travel writing- total immersion by renting a house and living in the countries we write about to soak up the culture, not to mention spending endless hours in local libraries digging up good stories. Our two kids, Jackson and Lily, grew up in Greece, Spain, Italy, France and Ireland, going to the local schools, and learning the languages, slang and certainly all the rude words far better than we ever managed. And now here we are in southwest France, a bit less nomadic now, the kids all grown up-and yes, they turned out okay in spite of their gypsy past.
These days whenever we do a home exchange (so far we've done lovely swaps with Edinburgh, Lucca and Amsterdam) Michael and I still like the feeling of play acting the 'local' even if it's only for a couple of weeks- walking around the neighbourhoods, the markets, shops, and restaurants, and of course seeing the sights. Especially the minor ones, the second raters, the third division homespun attractions- a museum of socks or tin whistles, a quirky Romanesque portal, the birthplace of an obscure composer- the obscure stuff most people tend to skip when they stay in hotels where time is money and there's always that itchy feeling, that compulsion to move on to the next town to see the next World Heritage Site. Yet we tend to remember the quirky things most fondly- they have an intimacy and character and speak to the heart, and often tell you more about a country or city than most five star attractions and their dutiful crowds paying homage.
Of course as a travel writer, I'm extremely prejudiced, but I sincerely believe the more you learn about a place, the more you enjoy it. A good regional or city guide makes it easier to scratch the glossy tourist surface and find the stories, the curious nooks and crannies that make a destination truly memorable - especially when you have the leisure to spend the time tracking them down during a house swap. - Dana Facaros (Editor's note: See special promotion travel guides offer below).
Dana and Michael live in a 19th-century presbytère (priests residence) surrounded by vin de Cahors vines, 1km from the pretty medieval village of Puy l'Eveque in Midi-Pyrenees, France.
Exchanging Homes in Europe? Want to explore your destination in depth? Look no further:
Cadogan Travel Guides are offering Home Base Holiday Members a fantastic offer of £2 off on the following travel guides:
Andalucía; Bay of Naples & Southern Italy; Brittany; Corsica; Croatia; The Dordogne, Lot & Bordeaux; Gascony, The Pyrenees & Toulouse; Ireland; Italian Riviera & Piedmont; Languedoc-Roussillon; Loire; Peloponnese & Athens; Rhône-Alpes; Scotland; Sicily; Slovenia; South of France; Venice, Venetia & The Dolomites and Take the Kids to London.
Simply visit Cadogan Travel Guides for more information and to choose your ideal guide(s). Log on to your member area to find the offer code and phone number. Them, call the number, quoting the book title (s), ISBN number(s) and offer code to claim the £2 discount.
Promotion ends 31st December 2008.
Home exchange listings that include a few well chosen photos look much more attractive than description only listings, no matter now enticing a descriptive offer may be. Photos draw attention to a listing, making it much more likely that a member browsing listings will take time to read the offer in detail and then contact the member.
Now there's another good reason to add photos to your listing as soon as possible after joining Home Base Holidays. At the suggestion of a member (a big Facebook fan I think!), thumbnails (small versions of the main photo in listings) are now included within the private member area in four places - in listings that are saved as Favourites, the list of members recently contacted, all messages received (inbox) and in all messages sent to other members (sent folder).
Not only do the small photos make the member area much more colourful, and act as an enticement to view a new exchange offer in full, they are also great visual reminders of exchange offers in messages to and from other members.
The photo illustrating this article is of an eco-friendly house near Machynlleth in beautiful, rural mid-Wales. See the full home exchange offer, HE20919
Regular Home Swappers readers may recall reading the feature article, Long Haul Home Exchange with a Toddler, in the newsletter last spring, in which Leslie related the story of her first home exchanges in Holland and Germany with husband, David, and young son, Daxton, in 2006 (photo is of their home in LA,. See their exchange offer, HE18192).
Leslie is now expecting her second baby, due in late July/early August. I was delighted to hear Leslie's news about the baby but very sad to hear that she had been very recently diagnosed with Hairy Cell Leukemia. Leslie has already had an operation to remove her spleen at Cedar Sinai Hospital, Beverly Hills, the hospital where she will start her treatment immediately after the birth of her baby. Unfortunately, although Leslie and family live in LA, they are not close to the hospital and, to avoid the extra stress of travelling to and from the hospital every couple of days for treatment, it would be much better if they can find a place to live temporarily in the Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, West LA, Brentwood, or any of the surrounding areas close to the hospital.
See the blog post, Appeal for Home Exchange (or Other Accommodation) Near Cedars Sinai Hospital, Beverly Hills, for full details. If you live in the area and could consider a non- simultaneous exchange during the time needed in mid summer, or can suggest any other ideas for accommodation near the hospital, please use the link below to send a message, which will be forwarded to Leslie and David.
If you subscribe to our blog, Travel the Home Exchange Way, or visit it often, you may have read a post re-published from the blog, ThursdaysGirl, 'Top 10 Do's and Don'ts when leaving a Home Exchange' a few weeks ago.
ThursdaysG irl has an infectious writing style as well as being very insightful on home exchange issues. The following recent post is also re-published with her permission:
Not a combination that you would expect but last night with less than 48 hours before heading back to Spain it was my reality.
After gluing my surfboard back together (a minor issue with the tail pad becoming detached) I then managed to glue the tube of superglue to the kitchen counter top.
Bearing in mind that we are exchanging with the most house-proud couple I have ever met this was not good news.
My pink "non acetone" nail varnish remover did absolutely nothing to the glue but it did manage to stain the surrounding counter bright pink.
After a quick Google search of "really stupid things I have done" I learnt that I needed Acetone, or at least an acetone based nail varnish remover. After some rummaging in the bathroom cabinet I turned up a bottle of green "herbal" nail varnish remover which interestingly contained the well known herb - acetone (note to self - do not always believe product labels) The fluorescent green colour made me very nervous - what if the counter turned green? Now was not the time to be faint hearted and anyway green would be no worse than pink.
The acetone did the trick - combined with a lot of elbow grease and some delicate knife work the counter looks like new!
The incident has left me a bit on edge - what else will I destroy before heading to the airport tomorrow. Meanwhile I am pretending to be cool and relaxed about everything, I don't want to infect MBH with my nervousness. Wish me luck and remember acetone will remove superglue. - ThursdaysGirl
Anyone who has ever inadvertently caused damage while in someone else's home will feel a shudder of recognition when reading this true story (Editor's note: no Home Base Holidays member's home was harmed in this exchange!):
Haven't had a home exchange yet? Please don't be overly alarmed by this story. Accidents can happen to anyone but major damage to exchangers' property is very rare - honest.
Read more well written posts on Thursda ysGirl. Many are guaranteed to make you chuckle!
We recently received the following message from Prudence, a Home Base Holidays member who has regularly swapped her home with members from outside the USA:
'We are unable to get car insurance (which is required in the state of Florida) for persons who do not have a valid drivers license in any state in the USA. They (the car insurance companies) insist that an International Drivers license is not valid (in case of an accident) even though the individual had a valid license in their country of origin. I talked to 2 or 3 car insurance companies and they all had the same story and they stuck to it. No rider. No exceptions.
In the past, persons from outside the USA with valid drivers licenses have used our car when house exchanging with us and there was no problem with the insurance companies. What is going on? What do other people do regarding exchanging their cars when exchanging houses?'
Members do occasionally report problems with car insurance cover (but, almost exclusively, such reports are from UK members exchanging to the USA or Australia). If you live in the USA, especially in Florida, and have had similar problems to Prudence, or can offer suggestions on how to get around this problem, please use the link below to send your comments.
Although many members do include cars as part of an exchange, and this certainly saves money, it is not obligatory and, if the car insurance issues seem to be an insurmountable problem, it may be better not to offer your car as part of an exchange but rather agree with your exchange partners to either both hire cars or, if your exchange partners are happy for you to use their car, offer to pay all or part of their car rental costs while they are in your home.
See Prudence and David's full home exchange offer, a townhouse in a safe, gated community on a small lake in Miami, HE16939.
Newsletter Contributions: We are always pleased to hear from members and subscribers and to receive contributions for the newsletter and weblog - short reports on your exchange experiences, tips you feel would be useful to those new to the idea of home swapping and any questions you have on home exchange. Please include 'home exchange' in the subject line when contacting us as messages with no subjects (or dubious sounding subject lines!) or unexpected attachments may end up in our spam folder and deleted unread.
Reading this on the Website? Use the newsletter subscribe link to add your email address and receive the newsletter regularly. If already on the list but not receiving your copy by email, there can be a number of causes:
Reminder to Members about Messaging System: A short alert message is sent to you by email to let you know whenever there is a new message for you in the Inbox in your member area. The subject line in the alert messages you receive by email is: New home exchange message for you from HExxxxx (the member's User ID). Alert messages are automatically sent from the site whenever a member leaves you a message. You then need to log on to your member area to read and respond to the message. Please respond to all messages promptly even if you can't consider an exchange offer.
Although you should receive alert messages without any problem, it's a good idea to skim through your spam folder before deleting messages as a very few alert messages, like other 'good' messages, may be filed there by mistake - ISPs' spam filtering systems aren't perfect! If your ISP or email programme enables it, add our email address, homeexchange 'at' btinternet 'dot' com (replacing the 'at' and 'dot'), to your 'safe senders' list to ensure you don't miss any alerts.
The site based messaging system is for your security - you decide when you are ready to provide another member with your email address and any other contact information.
Be Alert: The Home Base Holidays private member area is for one-to-one exchange offers between members only, not for any other purpose. Please let us know if you receive any other type of message via your member area. Never respond to unsolicited messages from unknown sources.
Further Information: Check the archives to read past issues of Home Swappers Newsletter. Also, don't forget to visit the Travel the Home Exchange Way weblog for regular information and updates plus special exchange requests. To receive notices by email whenever a new post is added (generally no more than three a week), add your email address to the box above 'Get email updates' in the left hand column of Travel the Home Exchange Way.
Copyright: All Home Swappers content is copyright and cannot be used in any form without written permission from Home Base Holidays. However, please feel free to forward the newsletter (in full) to friends and colleagues who may be interested in home exchange (use the Forward Email link below the newsletter).
Home Base Holidays, London, UK 1985-2008: 23rd year providing a home exchange service worldwide
New Home Base Holidays member, Ilse, writes:
'I'm looking for a long-term house swap: our really nice home in Costa Rica for a small flat in London (1 or 2 bedrooms). We won't be moving to London until next July (2009) but I am starting to look right away because we have a four-year-old and we have to start looking for schools for her in London (I have to do things way in advance).'
Ilse's offer in San Pedro, Costa Rica:
'A refurbished and beautifully decorated home (eclectic style) by my husband, an architect. It has appeared in a Latin American architectural magazine and on T.V. It is not a large house (140 m2 total) but it truly is a "boutique" home. There is a small garden in the back, great for BBQs or eating outside. The house has wonderful features such as a sunken "Moroccan style" living room and a large kitchen. Our home is perfect for people who are urban but still appreciate warm weather & interesting culture, and escaping to great beaches on the weekends.
I was a lecturer at the U. of C.R., but moved to the UK to pursue a Ph.D. at the U. of Edinburgh. René is an architect, working on designs for C.R. clients and studying English. Our daughter Gala is four and great!
We went to London and fell in love with it. We need to find someone who wants to take a year or a year and a half off to learn Spanish (teach, work, etc.) and has a two bedroom flat or house in a relatively safe area of London, close to a good state school.
Read the full listing and colourful photos (link below). Even if you can't consider an exchange for as long as a year, but could consider a 'longish' exchange, it is worth contacting Ilse if you have a London home to swap (log on to your member area and view HE20961). Some long- term home swappers, if unable to arrange an exchange to cover the whole period, arrange more than one swap and, if necessary, rent accommodation for any periods not covered by an exchange.