AirBnB Makes Travel Available to Everyone


AirBnB is a very popular new way to rent a place to stay almost anywhere in the world. Using the Internet, travelers can choose to rent an entire house or apartment, a room in someone’s home, or just a sofa to crash on. I’ve used vacation rentals many times. For my recent trip around Europe I rented 11 places, six of them via AirBnB.

I liked booking with AirBnB more than with the other companies offering similar services. Why? One reason is that all the places I rented were managed by their owners. The difference between the welcome I received from AirBnB hosts and professional managers was very noticeable. Most of the owners met me when I arrived. The three who couldn’t arranged for their mothers or a friend to greet me and make sure the place was ready for my arrival.

Two other important benefits are offered by AirBnB. The first is that the cost is generally lower than that offered by other large online vacation rental companies. The second is that many hosts on AirBnB offer very liberal cancellation terms. (AirBnB has three levels of cancellation; not all of them offer a full refund if you cancel – watch out for this!)

The website puts the owner and the tenant in touch with one another via text message or email very quickly and maintains that link indefinitely. This is really helpful when you have questions or need directions for finding the place you’ve rented. Although I never used it, I was glad to know that an AirBnB employee was just a phone call away if I had a problem.

One drawback of using AirBnB is that the company wants immediate payment of the full rent at the time of booking. That is held until 24 hours after your arrival as protection for you in case the rental is not available or you arrive to find that the rental is unacceptable. This was never the case with any of my AirBnB rentals.

Here’s a brief description of each of the places I stayed in that were arranged on AirBnB. Click the blue city name to see the apartment.

My AirBnB in Antwerp is located in the recently restored old port area of the city meaning I could easily walk to the center of the city. The apartment is owned by Astrid, a young mother who no longer lives in the city. Her friend Gloria manages the apartment and was very helpful to me. The apartment is large. It includes a commodious living room with kitchen on one end; and a bedroom that’s bigger than mine at home. Astrid has made a number of improvements such as installing a washing machine and a dishwasher. The apartment is located on the third floor (American) in a hundred-year-old building. Although I didn’t meet Astrid we communicated via email and phone several times. She was always pleasant and helpful.

My AirBnB in Collioure is a four-story, single family home with a very small footprint. Each floor contains one entire room and nothing more except the staircase. The building is old but has been totally rehabbed and has a new kitchen (pictured above) and bathroom. It’s just steps from the Mediterranean sea. It’s owned by Elise who lives in another part of France. Her mother met me at the train station and welcomed me to the rental with the next morning’s breakfast and lots of information. I was only here for three days in February but the weather was mild and the location allowed me to totally explore the small town. Communication with Elise was easy. Her English is excellent and so is her vacation rental.

My AirBnB in Nice is one of the very best of the entire journey. The owner, Beatrice, is a very charming French lady who speaks English well. She welcomed me warmly and spent an hour or more telling me about the apartment and the neighborhood. Her place is beautifully decorated and very comfortable. It’s in a high-rise apartment building in a middle-class neighborhood not far from the center of Nice. When I left Beatrice came to see me off. I felt like I’d made a new friend.

My AirBnB in Quimper is a nicely decorated, one-bedroom apartment located in the center of the city on a pedestrian-only street that was very quiet. As you’ll see if you click the link this apartment is stylishly furnished. The owner, Marion, is a young woman who has recently married and moved to another city; this was her apartment prior to her marriage. Marion refused to meet me upon arrival until I insisted that she do so – then she arranged for her very pleasant mother to clean the apartment and to meet me. This was the only time I had an AirBnB host who was anything other than professional.

My AirBnB rental in Totnes is a “mother-in-law” apartment attached to the home Denise has occupied for a number of years. The experience of sharing Denise’s home made my stay there very nice. I had been reluctant to rent a room in someone’s home until I decided to go to England where the cost of anything else is very high. Staying in my hosts’ home turned out to be one of the best discoveries of the trip! Denise and I went out to dinner on the evening of my arrival and then on to see a movie with her friends. The space I occupied included a fully equipped kitchen, but I often settled myself at Denise’s kitchen table to use my computer. Denise is a charming and helpful hostess. I enjoyed my days in her home.

My AirBnB rental in Hastings was a room in a six-bedroom home where Francesca has lived for many years and raised her family. There were women coming and going in this traditional rooming house almost any time at all and after nearly four months alone I really enjoyed their company. Francesca provided breakfast and I could use the kitchen to prepare my own dinner. A real bonus here was the sometime-presence of Francesca’s two-year-old grandson. He’s a darling and it was nice for me to spend a little time with a young child. Francesca and I have become friends on Facebook, and I look forward to seeing her again one day.

This has become a very long post so I’ll stop here but next time I’ll share with you some of what I learned about traveling the AirBnB way.

Antibes: A Favorite of the Rich & Famous


Antibes is a small city made famous by Brigitte Bardot in the late 1950s. Audrey Hepburn and Liz Taylor among other celebrities vacationed here in the 60s. Over the years many wealthy and famous people have come here looking for a summer escape. The old town lives beside the sea, behind walls that are hundreds of years old. Located just a few miles west of Nice, Antibes is perhaps the best known of the small resort towns on the French Riviera. (I’m skipping a few thousand years of the history of Antibes here – if you want to know more turn to my favorite, Wikipedia, by googling “Antibes.”)

Yesterday I took a train ride to Antibes. An old French fort overlooking a marina filled with yachts was the first thing I saw upon departing the station. Snow covered Alps were clearly visible just a few miles inland. I first walked along a street lined with yacht brokerage firms.

A short walk brought me to an opening in the town wall built in the 1600s. Once inside I found a map of the “old town” and a charming Indian restaurant where I enjoyed a good lunch.


One of the entrances to Antibes through its town walls that date from the 1600s.


A map of the old town made of painted tiles. You can see how small it really is — but there are many people living outside the old town.

I wandered on, finding the square at the center of town lined with discrete shops and galleries. “Discretion” seems to be a requirement if the town is to continue attracting the people who own those yachts. By now you know that I love finding authentic places that are hundreds of years old and maintained with grace. Antibes is one of those places.



Following the narrow streets led me to the water’s edge where a wall topped with aged, eroded bricks protects the town. On the other side of the wall is a small beach and some very large yachts.


An old small cathedral faces the sea on the land-side of the narrow road that runs behind the wall. The former castle, now the Picasso Museum, is next to it. Tall old houses made of stone line the route – gardens are tiny and occupy any useable space.



I’ve never seen such a large group of “red hot pokers.” The building in the rear is the Picasso Museum.

I was surprised by the flowers blooming in late February. I haven’t seen many in Nice but already in Antibes the town has started hanging pots of flowers in the square. A row of blooming poppies was in front of the train station. Many homes featured flowers by their doors.



This house is amazing! First, it’s covered in very old vines. It has plants and doo-dads all over it. If you want to see, leave a request in the “Comments” below and I’ll send you more pictures of it. I loved it!

Tomorrow’s a travel day.  I’m flying to Malta.  If you don’t know where that is ask to show you.  I’m excited about going there.




A Parade of People


Yesterday’s “Flower Parade” was pretty much the same parade I saw on Tuesday evening except that Tuesday’s floats were replaced by floats carrying large bouquets of flowers. I had expected a bit more “Rose Parade” – that is, flower-covered floats. This one featured a parade going around a divided boulevard for about a half-mile in each direction, making a loop and coming back again. The tradition seems to be that the people in the parade throw flowers to the observers, especially branches of yellow flowers from Mimosa trees which are blooming now througout the Riviera. People left with large bouquets, sometimes struggling a bit with a neighbor to grab them.

My seat wasn’t as favorable for this parade as for the previous one. My view was obstructed by the people in front of me and by being too close to the floats as they passed. The view from the other side of the street was between two trees. I found people-watching to be more interesting than the parade so I’m sharing with you today a few photos of both people in the parades and those watching.


With this big smile on her face this young woman was on stilts about a yard high which were on in-line roller skates! She skated about two miles — after having done the same thing for two hours the night before! And still smiling.


Here you can see the 3-feet-tall stilts on skates. How do they do that?


I heard someone say this young woman’s group was from Brazil.


Pretty girls on one of the prettiest floats tossing Mimosa branches to the crowd.


The small band from Kotor, Montenegro. A bevy of girls marched in front of them — more girls than musicians. Behind them, on the other side of the boulevard, you can catch a glimpse of the girls from Korea in their traditional dresses.



An English voice in the row behind me said, “He’s a witch doctor.” Look at the faces of the crowd behind him — they must be thinking that too!


These ladies were on horseback.


All those balloons are tied to her outfit. She’s another I remember from the previous evening — on high roller skates, floating round for miles.


A lovely girl from Nice.

And in the crowd…


Handing her mother a flower she just caught!


You can’t see all of his face but you can see enough to know how delighted he was to see this young lady.


As I was leaving this little guy challenged me with the sword he had just purchased.

It’s just occurred to me as I looked carefully at my pictures that the people performing the more difficult acts — those on stilts and the jugglers and many others — may make a profession of doing their acts in parades around the world. If it’s true that some are from Brazil, I suspect many of them are.  What a way to make a living!

It’s Carnaval Time in Nice


The King of Media

Last night I went to the official Carnaval (Mardi Gras) parade in Nice – it was a fun experience! Huge bleachers are set up for viewers who purchase tickets in advance. It was mostly a parade of floats but there were a few small bands and plenty of lovely young women. I only saw about an hour – it began at 9:00 p.m. and lasted quite a while!

The theme of the parade this year is “King of the Media.” I no doubt missed a lot of the meaning of the floats that French people would understand. The floats seemed to be ridiculing greed and the modern media. For example, the lead float, the “King” was a jester. The Queen’s skirt was made of magazine covers. Other floats and giant balloons were obviously recycled from other years and I didn’t understand their meaning at all. The characters on the floats are beautifully made. Here, with brief explanations, are a very few of the 100+ photos I took.


A small part of the crowd waiting for the fun to begin. (My camera didn’t always handle color well in the darkness.)


The Queen — notice the cell phone coming out of the top of her head,


The first band in the parade was from tiny Kotor, Montenegro. One of my favorite places, Kotor is not very close to Nice. This was one of a few tiny marching bands from far away. Another was from South Korea.


There were many things for children, including this float of Toy Story characters. In addition to Woody they had a number of his favorite toys — but Buzz Lightyear was missing.


To me, this was the strangest float of all. It featured at the front Muammar Gaddafi and an American astronaut, in the center a very large General DeGaulle, and at that rear Moses (or God) with the Ten Commandments. A prize to the person who can explain that!


A very large dinosaur!



There were a number of dancing girls without many clothes.


Before the parade began I had a chance to see the sunset at the nearby Mediterranean beach.

Today I’m off to the afternoon Flower Parade — it is isn’t rained out. Remember, if you want to see a larger version of any of these photos you can simply click on the picture and it will open in a new window.


The Oldest Part of Nice, France


My best memories of Nice from our visit in 2002 are of the market in the old Italian section of town. Nice was traded back and forth a few times by Italy and France before becoming permanently part of France in 1860. But the old part of town, leading up from the waterfront, was – and still is – very Italian.


Today I went to the “Vielle Ville” (the Old Town) and spent a few hours wandering there.


I was delighted to find that the outdoor market was open on Sunday.


My favorite pictures are from the flower market.


Here are some Valentine flowers for you!



I’m in Nice and it’s nice


Yesterday I spent hours on trains going from Montpelier in southwestern France to Nice (pronounced “neece”) on the southeastern corner of France. Until the late 1800s Nice was part of Italy, and the atmosphere here still has that relaxed and happy feeling that Italy is known for.

The view from my train windows yesterday ranged from heavy industrial (oil refineries, for example) to the famous “Cote d’Azur” – Antibes, Cannes, and several less well known towns on the edge of the Mediterranean. There’s a relatively narrow band of flatter land and beaches between mountains and the sea. As we approached Nice the view was of beaches, beautiful city, and snow-capped mountains in the background. I took 85 pictures from the train but mostly I just got reflections on dirty windows. I’ll post three I didn’t delete here to show you a bit of what I saw along the way. These aren’t very good pictures — they were taken from a moving train!


I passed many miles of vineyards yesterday. They are still in their wintertime mode but I’ve seen a few with leaves sprouting.

My apartment for this week is the best! My “hostess” is a lovely lady who has provided everything I could ask for – she even supplied fresh bread, coffee, milk, orange juice, butter and jelly for my breakfast today. The apartment is beautifully decorated and features a queen size bed that folds into a wall. You can see it by clicking here. This apartment is in the center of a busy residential area with all manner of shops and services within a few blocks. Public transportation here is excellent, with a tram a few blocks away that will take me to he center of the city and buses just at the door. One of Nice’s train stations is just five blocks away.

Nice and mountains

A distant view of Nice with snow covered mountains in the background. The low, late-winter sun was beginning to make everything golden. I tried for a shot that included palm trees but they aren’t good enough to share.

Last night I found a small bistrot near the apartment where I dined on a drum stick of a guinea hen – something I’ve never had before. The food was good and the charming owner/chef was very pleasant to me. Using a mixture of French, English and with help from his smart phone translator, we had a pretty good conversation.

I am here during Mardi Gras, and while I was in the café giant floats passed outside, on their way to join the opening parade which was held last night. I have tickets for two Mardi Gras parades this week. I hope to send you detailed reports and pictures soon.

I’m off to explore this wonderful city. George and I were here for two days in 2002 and I hope my memories help me find my way around.

Happy Valentine’s Day!