The concept of a Airbnb is simple. People rent out spare rooms and apartments on the Airbnb website. Some of the rentals are from bonafide rental agencies and Bed and Breakfasts, but most rentals are from people who have a spare room or an empty apartment to rent. The prices range, but you can find nice accommodation (in Europe) from 40 Euros for an apartment in the suburbs in Paris or for a room in the Loire Valley (similar to “Zimmer Frei” in Germany and some parts of Eastern Europe). If one has a car with a navigation system the addresses are fairly simple to find. Many of the addresses are in the city center or close to public transit. The reality is that you get a slice of local life that you would never experience staying in hotels. The owners, young and old have an entrepreneurial edge and a willingness to allow people into their homes. (The website actually allows owners to assess their guests and the guests to assess the hosts/accommodation). But after that you never really know until you get there. It is not a system that would appeal to someone who enjoys the predictability of “McDonalds” or Accor, but gems have been found. I write this in a small studio apartment in the suburbs of Paris, with cooking facilities, WiFi, T.V, close to grocery shopping and the Metro, all for $40 Euros. In Paris, yes, only 20 minutes from the Louvre by Metro. Two hundred and Fifty Euros gets you the same. We are in the suburbs but only seconds from the metro where we can shop in weekend markets, and buy our breakfast baguette at the local Boulangerie and make coffee in our room while we discuss the daily touring program. The bonus is we are the only tourist in the area. We have met some wonderful French people who have bent over backward to help us and to give us insight into their favorite attractions, some of which have become our favorites as well. To be sure the shower systems are always unique. The decor from “wow” to “what”; the lodgings have been from basements (through the garage) to attics to 200 year old stone buildings, the stairways a study in ergonomic developments in urban design. Perhaps they were designed by Davini!
We stayed in a full apartment in a village where the Scottish Steward Linige came from, a lovely family living in a village whose family sells rose bushes internationally, business women, retired women and young entrepreneurial women. It does seem to be a “project” taken on by females–for the most part the french males, when existing, see to be second in command, when renting out the family square footage.
It has been fun and refreshing, and definatley economically viable and pulling off the onion skins of predictability. And that is what travel is really about!