Swapping Homes Anybody?


INSIDER SECRETS TO HOMESWAPPING. NOW THAT WE'VE WALKED THE WALK,

WE CAN GIVE YOU THE STRAIGHT TALK ON HOME SWAPPING. (Season 4)





Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Trip to Delft

                                                                
Known for its delicate blue and white china, pottery and porcelain, Delft is another cute little Dutch town with an old town center you need to see when you're over here.Only 45 km away, we made a spontaneous decision after the rains had stopped and reached it within half an hour. The Netherlands in its entirety is really within easy reach. It has two interesting museums: the Prinsenhof and the Vermeer museum. Hubby and I like to wander through a town, experience the atmosphere, get a feel for its people and observe often while sitting in a street cafe.
 Holland  refers to a province on its west coast and is often used as a pars pro toto for the official term, the Netherlands.the A small country of only 16 million inhabitants, it covers 2,119 sq mi and is closest in size to Maryland. CA is about 11 times the size of the Netherlands.

City hall in the old market square      
I found another interesting list of comparisons for your information:

If Netherlands were your home instead of The United States you would...

have 46.24% more chance at being employed !
live 1.31 years longer

An amazing phenomenon is that really every Dutch speaks fluent English; in restaurants and trendy shops anyway, but also the unsuspecting old guy at the bus stop whom we asked for directions or a sales assistant in a local DIY store where we asked for a spider spray.
Why has Holland so many spiders? We encountered that problem already last year on the houseboat.I've never seen that many; thankfully not even in Florida!Well, explained the salesman, Holland has a lot of water whch attracts a lot of mosquitoes. For that, nature created a balance by having enough spiders to eat them.
By the way, you need a special permit for such an insecticide!

Monday, July 28, 2014

It's bucketing

Just like in Ireland.Well, all the good rain comes from the west via Ireland most of he time.Saturday we had set out on a bicycle tour only to abandon the bikes at a metro station and head back home after waiting under a bridge for the rain to stop for about an hour. Then we gave  up. We don't have the gear - plastic ponchos- the Dutch have; most others don't seem to mind. They just zip along on the cycle lanes, around cars, among foot passengers, over crossings, red lights or not.Yet, we never saw an accident.. They seem to have the right of way, most not even wearing helmets. I posted the funniest contraptions last year.Here's another gem with room for two kids:


Sunday turned out a beautiful day and we set out to retrieve the bikes. From there we pedaled liked two true locals to a park in the city center where the big museums are: Vondelpark. Although everybody , young and old, was out in force, on foot, skateboards, bikes, lying on the grass, we didn't see any fondling. It must mean something else..:). In fact, it was named after the 17th century writer Joost van den Vondel. Not used to arduous biking, I hate to admit our derrieres were overwrought. We left the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum for another day, a rainy day we said.

But today's deluge was so heavy, we just hunkered down. There is washing to do, cooking and other menial things when you swap homes. You live just like at home, at least the chores are similar. It's not like being in a hotel. Actaully, I consider that one of the few downsides of homeswapping.
Now the sun is out, it's lovely again and we're going to procure some groceries so that we don't starve .
Maybe a little bike ride around the lake that is opposite our house,  seen on the right at sunset.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Sad Day to Arrive


We arrived in the suburbs of Amsterdam on a glorious sunny day. Our exchnage partner were grounded at Schiphol airport for hours because the first flights from Ukraine arrived.I hope they didn't see the unloading of the coffins the way it was televised later for hours.
We were so grateful that we didn't have to fly over a civil war area! If not even the airspace is safe anymore for civil aircraft-- what is the world coming to?

We're about 7 km from the city center. The house is beautiful,an old railway house renovated a few years ago. Very modern inside, with  a huge kitchen cum dining room, a high-tech German kitchen (Miele) and all its appliances. The coffeemaker is almost too modern, built in and high maintenance as we already found out.

The sink has an extra spout for boiling water.Yes, that's how we made tea and coffee (we always travel with a little filter and filter bags).
The back yard is fully enclosed and shielded from view  by a wall overgrown with ivy. The whole place is ideal for parties.

 
The good weather lasted for 2 days all the while we were checking out appliances, shopping for food, trying to get the TV and PCs to work and unpack. We also got a nice bike ride in. We should have dropped everything there and then and make use of the heat and sun and drive to the beach, Sunny days never last long in these parts of the world. Our planned bike ride into Amsterdam fell into water...(German expression). We got soaked and returned home.Now it is sunny again....Ain't that just the way ?
On TV live footage of arriving planes and corteges through the city of dozens and dozens of hearses continue, the streets filled with mourners.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

We've arrived!

First in Germany after a very comfortable flight on Delta. So grateful we didn't have to cruise thru Eastern European airspace.Our first port of call was the historic little town of Wildeshausen in Oldenburg (Lower Saxony) where my family lives.It was bequeathed town rights in 1403 and has been celebrating this fact ever since with its annual "Schuetzenfest"- a marksmen shooting competition. A big excuse for a gigantic festival and brewhaha; a tradition that many small German towns keep up lovingly.The best shooter will be King for a year and can choose his queen. Of course, he must also be a big sponsor of the event.Even children get involved in dancing competitions. I remembered the one time I was allowed to participate at the tender age of 10.My wish wasn't granted,; I didn't become the children's queen.
Wildeshausen has been an important market spot on the Flemish/Dutch trade routes since the Middle Ages. It's Protestant Church Alexanderkirche houses relics of Alexander the Martyr which were brought from Rome in 851.
Wildeshausen is a quietly touristy place. Its biggest attractions are of an archeological nature: Menhirs or graves belonging to a megalithic culture on the so-called Megalithic Route between Oldenburg and Osnabruck. People lived and buried their deaths there about  5000 years ago. Here's an example near my aunt's house:
 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Still Nervous about Home Swapping?

Several comments reached me admiring how brave we are to do home swaps. Yes it is a great and cheap way of traveling, but...
Let me alleviate your concerns. You mustn't forget that you are in your exchange partners house while they are in yours! They might be equally nervous about their precious possessions. (if they are really valuable- just lock them away) . Apply the Golden Rule: Treat others like you want to be treated yourself!
In addition these swaps are facilitated through an American agency. You sign a contract that you will pay for possible damages you incur. And so do they. Also, we have had many conversations with them via email, and even Skype. So you get to know them a little. We already consider them as friends. It has been working for us.
In 2 weeks we will be arriving in Duesseldorf. From there we'll start out round trip and visit my family on the way.
Maybe you think I'm foolish to post this fact. Our house will be occupied by our swapping partners. Never empty. Doesn't that give you extra peace of mind?
Still lots to do. For example put a hold on your mail. In our case we have it forwarded to our respective destination through a Texas based company. That costs a bout $100.
Starting to think about what clothes I need in Europe. At the moment, it's fierce hot in Germany, but that may not last. So naturally we need more when we're over there for 7 weeks. Coming here to sweltering holiday for a beach holiday, all you need is a shorts, a bikini and flip-flops. That's why we always travel wit several "enormes valises" as my dear French called them in surprise when she saw them.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Home Swaps without surprises

Still thinking about doing a home swap or not? Once you get used to the idea of strangers sleeping in your bed, you will actually have a good time seeing the world or your preferred country for next to nothing.I have a few tips for you how to plan your trip and what to watch out for when you're embarking on your first home exchange.
Sign up with a well- renowned agency. That will set you back approx. $120. For that you get access to their database and can choose from thousands of members in over 100 countries.Maybe you just want to do one trip this year or next summer and test it.Maybe you want to make the flight overseas worth your while and add on another exchange in a different location?
For me the biggest joy comes with the planning, i.e. perusing different countries, looking at houses, seeing their gardens and interiors.It is not unlike signing up on a dating site and looking for a partner- if for a different purpose. I'm keeping my old professional etiquette as the owner of a dating agency and won't divulge which agency we signed up with.. (They are USA based).
There are also sites for seniors only, but they have smaller houses or condos only. If you have a family, you may want more space!

More tips the next time! We painted our porch since my last post. More to do...! Less than 3 weeks to go...Amsterdam is our first exchange destination.http://www.habitatapartments.com/resources/sections/amsterdam_canals.jpg

Friday, June 27, 2014

4 Weeks and counting....

Time tends to fly too fast every year when we prepare for our trips although we should know the routine by now. After all, it's our 4th year of swapping homes. It's useful to keep a check-list and start early enough...but what is early enough, I wonder and haven't found the answer.
We spruce up the house, spring clean and also store items of value or personal nature away into our owner's closet--only to take them back out on our return.We thought we were doing good until a minor storm blew over a tree in our backyard last weekend.Two days of chopping wood and hauling branches to the curb later, the mess is over.
It seems to be the year when everything wants to self-destruct and cause us additional chores.Within the last week the dryer went, we installed a new microwave, repaired a rusty stove door, the TV needed a serious repair and today I noticed that the toaster is on its last leg - or only burning on 2 cylinders.
Whether you decide to touch up paint or freshly paint in and around your house when you embark on a home swap is obviously up to you. Not everybody does that. We are happy campers when our swapping partners exchange faulty light bulbs, empty trash cans and removed enough stuff from overflowing closets so that we can hang up our clothes or put our own food into the fridge.
The cleaner is booked for our departure day so that I don't have to strip the beds and wash and put fresh sheets on. I also always appreciate not having to make the beds first when we arrive at our final destination after long day of traveling.