Swapping Homes Anybody?


Downtown the world famous spa resort of Baden-Baden

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Ultimate Guide to Home Swapping

Season 6 is now out and available summing up all our experience gathered over the years.
Where this blog ends, my new eBook starts giving your the real countdown for a successful home exchange:

Available for only $0.99 on Amazon. Treat yourself to an exciting trip to Europe from your armchair and pick up all the tips you need for a successful home swap. Happy travels!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Good Advice for Home Swaps

Glad to be at home after almost three months although we only had outstanding exchanges!
How otherwise would you be able to afford such an extended trip to Europe?

The house is still standing and in very good condition. One one occasion we had to sweep the garage first from sand, find pots and pans that had been rearranged in the kitchen. This year, we had nothing of that sort and are still in touch with our exchange partners; even met up with the ones we exchanged with 3 years ago. Elisabeth, that was her name, even started a blog about her experience. So if you want to hear a second opinion, go to her website on Facebook.

Every year you learn something new or you take away an idea from one of the houses that you are staying in. We were so impressed by the garden decorations in Luxembourg that we're already looking to implement such a mirror here as well.

From the start, I advised to have an owner's closet where you can put away precious heirlooms etc. Since we downsized to this smaller home we have to lock away these items elsewhere. Note to self: As you are getting older, my dear, do write down where you hid what! It seems such a trivial piece of advice but I'm still looking for my favorite little ornaments, a set of 5 sheep that I hid last year...

We learned this summer that it is wonderful to meet up with the prospective exchange partners. We do not necessarily want to stay in the same house with them, however. We prefer to meet them and then are prepared to spend the night in a hotel. When the Buckleys arrive with all their luggage for 3 months, it always feels like we're moving in and crowding in on the others. And in spite of their house description, there may not be sufficient beds for everybody when couples are used to sleep in separate beds. Sounds like a very intimate detail, but better be practical about it. 

I also took away from this trip that I really want a cleaner abroad. Otherwise I just end up doing chores like at home. And also find a different cleaner here who is willing to do our house on a Saturday. The femme de menage in Luxembourg even came in on a Sunday morning to do the necessary after we left.
What was important to us and proved invaluable again is having our mail sent to a private company in TX by the US postal office instead of it just being held there. We could screen the mail that had arrived there, either have it scanned in or sent to us in Europe. The convenience of the whole process  is worth considering the fees.

A nice thank you card and letters by all of them made our day on our return. They all really enjoyed our house and Florida in the summer.
We are ready to plan for next year. We've already had enquiries for 2017. Why not plan a long weekend in the meantime here in the States? We are going to renew our membership. I just found out that we'll get that reduced rate of $89 again...

Friday, August 26, 2016

Vianden/ Luxembourg - a real fortified castle

An absolute must see in Luxembourg are the various castles. Go and see the Grand Dukes Palace in the city center. The Royal family lives there most of the year and only opens up their home, the first two floors that is, during the summer months.
I'd like to highlight the one in Vianden which is situated in the north-east of the state of Luxembourg; about an hour's drive away from the capital. Do take the country roads Breezing along on a beautiful day in our convertible was such fun!
A cute little town with less than 2,000  people, it has a magnificent "working" castle; not just a ruin.
Set on a rock promontory, its history dates back to the 10th century combining several architectural styles: Romanesque and Gothic. The history of it is too complex to be described here. If interested, look it up on Wikipedia.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vianden_Castle. In short, it was damaged over the centuries and almost destroyed in the Second World War only to be restored in the seventies.

It is a fun place to visit, especially for children. By working castle I mean not only can it be toured but you can also see actors in historical gear parading the grounds and enacting "battles". It sits on top of a hill and then it is still a steep climb up to the castle itself.
The town itself was very sleepy when we were there. Most restaurants closed between 3-6pm for one restaurant located at the bridge from where we had a smashing view f the river , castle and hills.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Home, Sweet Home!

After almost three months we were ready to go home. Too much of a good thing...or so as the old saying goes. The trip back from Luxembourg  was pretty uneventful, only extremely tiring; but you Atlantic hoppers know that. One experience, however, was new to me and that was being able to use the internet while in the air and post on Facebook. The pics were too good to go unposted.
Clouds are just clouds, but impressive every time to see them from above.

This is Cape Cod hubby suggested.
We had good seats in Delta's new comfort area. Since hubby retired, business class is out of reach.so instead of the famous Fillet Mignon Delta usually offers up front, we had this. Edibly. I thought food in Delta's cabin class was improving. With my own monitor I was able to watch three films in a row that interested me. Between those and Facebooking, nine hours weren't too bad.

I will continue you to post a little about our remaining adventures in Luxembourg from home. As usual, towards the end there will be some tips for successful home-swapping.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Beim Siggy

Count Siegfried, the first Count from Trier who built his castle here on one of the many promontories on the Luxembourg plateaus, was mentioned before.
What a surprise to see a restaurant by that name. "Beim" simply means "chez"; alors, we had to make a pilgrimage there. Actually, we found it by chance driving by. It's situated just past the casemates, still on the Bock.
Siggy is an abbreviation even nowadays for male or female names alike which are difficult yp ponounce for non-German speaker" Sieglinde, Sigurd, Sigismund, Sigrid and Sigrun.If you have read my Irish farm book, you know what I'm going to mention now: That my housekeeper asked me whether all Germans were called Siggy because there were several in and around the town of Killlaoe where we lived.
Food always features highly on our trips as well as views from restaurants; hence the emphasis I put on Burg/castle restaurants so far. The prices at Siggy's are reasonable. A yardstick for prices is always the steak for hubby. A superb fillet mignon was well-priced at EUR 27. I had a huge salad with baked brie and a big portion of charturie of antipasti at EUR 18. The view on a sunny day from their terrace: priceless!
To our surprise, our home exchange partners had never been there. Maybe know that they know a Siggy who gave it  a personal recommendation.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

What are Casemates?

A UNESCO World Heritage site! The Bock casemates are is famous historical site and part of the fortifications in Luxembourg city, the city itself is also called the Gibraltar of the north. It was here that Count Siegfried from Trier (now Germany) built his castle first in 963.
Full of mystery, if only they could talk-- they would reveal gloomy stories of long ago when Luxembourg was the most envied fortification in Europe.
The word is derived from the Greek "chasma(ta" meaning chasm. It is a "bomb-proof" vaulted room situated in the actual body of the works leading to one or more embrasures or intended to accommodate  troops and equipment.

The interior had a spiral staircase with worn stairs hewn out of rock that reminded me of the narrow spiral staircases at Bunratty Castle in Ireland; hard enough to climb, tricky to navigate when you encounter traffic coming down.
Another set of casemates, even a hundred years older, The Petrusse Casemates, were currently closed for renovation.
Several legends tell the story of Siegfried's wife, Melusine. Allegedly, she was locked up in the Bock, knitting to pass the time and only doing one stitch a year. Another legend claims she was a mermaid and when Siegfried found out one day, she disappeared into the Petrusse only to come back every seven years and taking several people with her.
Here's a glimpse down her well, 47 m deep!

Nice and cool on a hot day, it's hard to imagine how people lived here during times of sieges. Visiting is a pure delight for children: knights, dungeons, canons...

Monday, August 15, 2016

Visitors Allowed

We had a long weekend here in Luxembourg, today being the Day of the Assumption of the Holy Mary. Luxembourg is a predominantly Catholic country. It became Catholic by a fluke of nature. The protestant Grand Duke William IV married a Portuguese woman, the Infanta Anne Maria, who was Catholic. He promised her that all their sons would be Protestant and all their daughters Catholic. Then they had six children- all girls. As a result the succession to the throne had to be changed so that girls could become the ruler (1907). Since then Luxembourg has remained Catholic.

My best friend and her husband came to visit from Germany, only a little of three hours up the road. That is one of the benefits of home swapping: you can agree with your exchange partners to have visitors. Their names and duration of the stay will be entered in the exchange agreement beforehand so that nobody runs a surprise B& B in your house. Our first swap partners this year, the people from Berlin, had their daughter who lives in New York visit them for two weeks in our abode.
This clause makes home swapping even more attractive and is one of the reasons we choose to go to Germany or a neighboring country so that family of friends can easily visit us.

Temperatures were in the low eighties.Together we walked the now familiar streets, saw the fortifications and also did a road trip in the convertible to nearby Echternach, the oldest town in Luxembourg. Its history goes back for more than 1,000 years. The remains of a Roman villa proved to be very interesting as well as the basilica that was visited by John Paul II in 1985. The Basilica St. Willibrord, the patron Saint of Luxembourg, houses his remains in the crypt in a white sarcophagus.