Discover home exchange stories from our members.
By Cathy H. Burroughs, International Travel Writer and Adventure Blogger
We chose the height of summer for our exploit (some would say this was the height of folly). This time seemed optimal to us as many Europe-based families and couples took their holidays; had kids on school break or their work schedules became quieter. If you choose summertime, as we did, do remember to prepare. During our trek, the heat and humidity ran a hot streak, often reaching as high as 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Perhaps due to cultural differences, many of the homes in France and Italy which were absolutely posh and architecturally exquisite in amazing locations (we really lucked out with the site’s wonderful high-end quality homes and flats) but still many did not actually have air conditioning or screens in the windows. In addition, we did hand-to-hand combat with a particularly persistent Tiger Mosquito that worked overtime.
We recognized that three months of continuous travel was a big bite for our first exchange but with the price of airfare (we adored the longer but less expensive Turkish Air – divine!) and the summer is quite laid back for my work we thought a longer trip would give us a rich immersion to fully experience our destinations – and were we ever right!
Our very first offer for a reciprocal exchange was a terrific French couple from St. Marie La Plage. They traded their wonderful beach home with a car right by the Mediterranean Sea. Every night there were live animations or free events such as beach movies, a full out Beatles Show, jazz, celebrity Zumba literally on our doorstep. There were tons of road trips including Barcelona, and the French/ Spanish coast tracing the path of many of our greatest artists as well as castles, forts, villages and swanky sea resorts. One delightful day we headed to the bohemian and happening town of Figueres, Spain to visit Dali’s Versailles of a museum. In St Marie, we enjoyed the local fresh veg and fruit stands, the morning habit-forming boulangerie, the super restaurants, seafood and pizza and the ultra-friendly local vibe of this family beach town. It is both quiet and lively with rides, games, and festivities nightly and a super helpful tourist office. We enjoyed a slew of world-class restaurants on the trip including a memorable Spaghetti Carbonara at St Marie La Plage’s #1 rated tree-filled L’Entrepotes. A superb exchange in every way!
All of our completed exchanges were A++++ as were our hosts. So we really lucked out with all of our stops for a nearly perfect day in Barcelona, Spain and two plus weeks in most of the other locales including the South of France’s St. Marie La Plage, as mentioned above, with a one minute walk to the Mediterranean Sea and nearby castles, forts, villages and luxe beach resorts; drives up and down the magnificent French/Spanish coastline and area villages that inspired some of our greatest painters; the massive thrill of the primordial monolithic Pyrenees; the walled Avignon with its renowned Pope’s Palace; the vine-yarded Provence and medieval Tuscan hillside towns with Roman ruins, aqueducts and ochre cliffs. Then onto Italy in a late night hairpin, hair-raising, turn-taking bus past Nice and Cannes to the breath-taking cities of Florence; the lesser known but not to be missed Lucca; the thrill of the canaled Venice and its adjacent captivating Isle of Lido; and culminating with the Vatican City and the eternal ancient capital of the world Rome with its overarching history and epic Coliseum, Forum and Palatine Hill.
Now after experiencing the trip of a lifetime we are firmly entrenched back home again (after a brief nearly month-long exchange to the French Caribbean Island of Martinique – but that’s another story!) and sleeping in our own bed. There is, after all, no place like home.
Next Stop: Greece, Spain, and Portugal
But you can’t keep us down long. As of this writing, plans are in the works for Spain, Greece, and Portugal: summer 2018 and a 2019 Bali undertaking. We remain grateful, indeed, to have stumbled upon the infinitely adaptable and accommodating GuestToGuest site with its 300,000 fabulous offerings in 187 countries worldwide and a host of just terrific hosts on six continents.
With GuestToGuest by our side, we have cracked the code of affordable and extended overseas travel – What a gift!