where will we stay?

 

Wlhen we begin Roaming we plan to stay in each location at least one month.  I’ve never taken more than twelve days off work so this will definitely be a new experience!  We have some comfort with AirBnB and have been dreaming over apartments on that site for our first ventures, mostly in France, Italy, and Portugal.  Having vacationed in rentals six times, we decided to review each place and look for lessons learned.

Our first vacation apartment experience was on a trip to Paris with our kids.  We had a wonderful Palais Royale location, two bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, and a tiny kitchen.  It was a splurge, but we loved it!  We discovered a lovely bistro at the end of the block and became friendly with the owner.  We’d love to visit again, but it’s too expensive now!  We used the same company a couple of years later, booking a smaller two-bedroom apartment with a balcony overlooking the Sacre Coeur.  It was just a touch shabby, but it was affordable and had everything we needed–two bedrooms, one bathroom, and beds for all five of us–and a tiny Parisian elevator so we didn’t have to lug our bags up several flights of stairs.

For our next vacation apartment adventure, I decided we didn’t need luxury and looked for something very affordable.  This was our first real lesson (and our first AirBnB experience!).  The ground floor apartment in Berlin looked cute in the pictures–crisp, bright colors, and compact.  When we arrived, however, it was a different story.  The bed, which looked big, was way too small, so I had to sleep on the sofa.  The bathroom turned out to be a wet room, and the shower drain was plugged and flooded the bathroom and part of the living room.  And when we opened the freezer, we found some horrible, very old, frozen food.  The first night, a drunken, angry man serenaded us outside the open windows, which we couldn’t shut because of the heat.  We paid well below $100 per night but spent as little time in this apartment as possible.

So, what happens after an experience like ours in Berlin?  You overcorrect, of course!  Our next trip was to Stockholm, and I was determined to find us a pleasant place–and I did.  Located a stone’s throw from the Old Town, our apartment on the top floor of an elevator building boasted two bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, a huge dining room with a piano, and a wonderful kitchen with an espresso machine that I spent an hour on youtube videos to master!  It was more expensive than a hotel, but it was wonderful!  In fact, it was much larger than we needed for only two people.  But it was definitely an overcorrection.

Our next adventure was in California, where we stayed with our daughter and son-in-law.  The place was close to the beach, old, and quaint.  We loved it!  However, we didn’t know that the owners turned lived above us and shared the garden, and they REALLY enjoyed spending time with us, popping in unannounced just to visit.  We, however, craved privacy and family time.  Eventually I found myself hiding in my bedroom to avoid chatting.

Our most recent AirBnB experience was on a trip of a lifetime to Tuscany, in April 2019.  We flew to Rome for a couple of days, then met our kids for the drive to our villa.  The landscape was gorgeous, our host was charming but gave us privacy, the four-bedroom, two-bath villa was larger than we needed but very comfortable, and while it was too chilly to swim, we enjoyed both sitting by the pool and warming up by the fireplace.  And perhaps the best part was cooking together and eating in the spacious kitchen!  But we had to drive 20 minutes to get to any store or cafe.

So. . .what have we learned?  To shoot for a mix of luxury and frugality.  To focus on location.  To look for gracious hosts who are friendly but don’t want to spend lots of time with us.  To make sure the basics (a clean, workable kitchen, a comfortable king-sized bed, a bathroom with a good shower) are there.  And, when it’s booked and we’ve arrived, to remember that no place is perfect, to roll with the punches and make the most of our precious time in each temporary home, and to remember our sense of humor.  And most of all, to cherish the memories!

 

This beautiful Palais Royale apartment has been completely renovated since we stayed there.  Much pricier now!

 

Sacre Coeur view!

 

 

This Berlin bed is much smaller than it seems in the picture!

 

 

I fell in love with the red fridge in our Stockholm apartment–and the espresso machine!

 

The living room of our temporary California home

 

At “home” in Tuscany

 

Roaming–At Home?

 

Like everyone else, Phil and I were getting a little anxious and depressed after more than five months of confinement.  While we acknowledge our privilege–we’re healthy, our family is safe, and we have enough of everything–staying home has become a bit burdensome.  We have one couple with whom we’ve expanded our mutual bubble, getting together occasionally while socially distancing.  On a recent visit we were commiserating about our ennui, and we talked about how anxious we are to start traveling again.  We shared some fun day trips we’d each taken, and our friends mentioned a “painted churches” trip a mutual friend had taken.

The next day, Saturday, we decided to make this trip.  We found a route outlined on The Day Tripper, filled our water bottles, and took off in the late morning.  When we “roam” at home, we like to avoid major highways to better explore the area, so the entire trip took us about five hours.  All but one of the beautiful churches were open, and we encountered not a single other person.  Who knew there was such European-style splendor in the Texas Hill Country?!

                                         

This church looks like a Faberge egg!                                     One of the many beautiful Texas ranch gates

 

More recently we discovered that our friend, alcohol ink artist Tom Wiley, writes for Ride Texas magazine, where he shares interesting motorcycle rides that also entice automobile afficionados like us.  Last weekend we took his “Old 9 Road” ride, with some variations.  What a fun day trip that turned out to be!

This just cracks me up!                                           Post-pandemic, we’ll go inside!                             Best burger in Texas?

 

Having rediscovered day trips sans shopping, other people, and inside dining, we’ve decided to copy our friends the Wileys and have a day trip adventure (“Roam from home”?) every weekend until we can Roam again in earnest.  Time to make lemonade from these lemons!

Things we’ll miss when we’re roamers

 

Wow, where to start?!  During this endless pandemic I’ve been trying to focus on the things that bring joy to our lives, the things for which we are endlessly grateful.  And I’ve realized that some of them are not going to be part of our lives as Roamers.

For example, family and friends.  Sure, they’ll still be in our lives, but we won’t be able to see them as often as we’d like.  And I’ll miss special gatherings, unable to come back to the U.S. without advance planning.  For example, I have a group of high school girlfriends who gather annually for a “Wild Women’s Weekend.”  I will have unbearable FOMO the first time I have to miss that.

We will miss Baxter, our rescue cat, more than I can say.  He makes us laugh every single day.  He is a cat with personality who never met a stranger.  How will we ever be able to say goodbye to him?  We’re hoping we can find him a new home with family or friends, so we can visit him when we’re Roamers.  But it breaks my heart to even think about giving him up.

Dinner parties.  I love to cook and love to entertain.  It doesn’t stress me out and it’s so much fun, especially when we can bring people together to form new friendships.  But when we’re Roamers, we probably won’t stay in one place long enough to form strong friendships, so hosting dinner parties will be a rare opportunity.  I’ll miss that.

Gardening!  I’m the opposite of an expert, but I love growing things, especially food.  Well, to be honest, what I really enjoy is harvesting.  The rest is just effort.  But if we’re somewhere that offers regular farmers’ markets, we can still get close to that joyful feeling of harvesting.

Getting in the car any time we need to go somewhere.  While we love walking and look forward to living in an urban environment, we’ll miss the ability to spontaneously jump in the car and go, often just driving aimlessly to see what we’ll discover.  We’ll have to plan ahead to rent a car when we want to drive anywhere.

Having a home.  This is a big one.  We love our little house and garden, and making it our own over the past three years has been a joy.  We’ve lived in eighteen different homes during our marriage, and this is my favorite house ever.  And we love coming home from a trip, getting back to this comfortable space that’s entirely our own.  I think as long as we’re together we’ll feel at home–but roaming will be the test!

We will miss these things, and so much more.  But one thing this pandemic has taught us is that life is short.  We truly cannot wait to discover new things on this big adventure!

 

 

My “Wild Women”

 

Basket Baxter

 

Gardening!