Being in the habit of
We were looking
to make an extended trip to visit our fast-walking, subway-chasing,
black-wearing, taxi-flagging urbanite daughters, The Piglet and Decibel. Bunking with
them in their microscopic Manhattan flats or paying $500 a night
for a “cheap” hotel were out of the question. The hotel
costs alone would be enough for the down payment on Buckingham
So we logged
on, posted pics of our house and set NYC as one of our preferred
destinations. We were floored by the flood of e-mails from Manhattanites
who wanted to escape the summer in the city. Were talking
hundreds of takers. With a few more searches, we discovered that
the possibilities were nearly endless – we could take ski trips,
spend April in Paris, run with the bulls (wherever they run with
bulls) – anywhere from Walla Walla to Guatemala.
In no time
came an offer from a designer in Park Slope with a quintessential
New York brownstone. Fiona and her family were old hands at the
exchange game and they suggested a three week swap. She promised
to leave take out menus, a Zagat restaurant guide and a subway
map. We promised snorkeling gear, beach towels and directions
to the crab races. After a few emails and a phone call or two,
we were on our way.
we found two bottles of lovely wine as a welcoming gift, a list
of the houses “quirks” and a note on the individual
specialties of the local markets. We immediately took the Zagat
to the brownstone’s stoop with a bottle of the wine and mapped out our urban
culinary escapades. We soon realized that Fionas kitchen
would not get much use – there was Ethiopian, Indian, Halal and
New Yorks first pizza (Lombardis – go there!) to be
consumed. And consume we did.
are some things were learned along the way:
to each other prior to the exchange
This is REALLY important. It’s very comforting to be able
to ask questions over the phone, especially for newbies.
a “house file”
Ours had issues like “don’t use the hairdryer upstairs
and the espresso machine in the kitchen at the same time,
but just in case, the fuse box is by the fridge” and
“stick your finger in the hole of the TV to turn it
sure your rules are clear
Fiona’s family didn’t wear street shoes in the house and
forbade smoking. We put a ban on using Grandma’s china.
that each exchange will pose special issues
Fiona recalled “a very amusing period in a French home
trying to get into the washing machine.” A highly educated
woman, she found the knobs and levers of the Gallic system
of laundering indecipherable. Leave clear instructions – especially
for those who come from far away places.
about the first day
Make sure your exchangers know where the closest grocery store
is (with directions and store hours). They are going to show up
tired and hungry so be sure to let them know how to find the nearest
late-night diner too. If your area has unique customs, fill them
them an option of a housekeeper
We took advantage of this – less stress and more time at the Statue
of Liberty, eateries and cheesy tourist diversions
Try not to use it, nice if you need it.
anything you use or break
Most of the online exchange sites have a rating system – you don’t
want a bad rating – you will be black balled in the future. Plus,
it’s mannerly – don’t be a heathen – it’s not nice. Remember, they’re
in YOUR house too!
a thank you note
Be sure to let them know about the great time you had and problems,
if any, that arose – it is helpful for their future home exchanges.
experience was fantastic and our research shows that most all
exchanges go off without a hitch. So don’t be afraid to take wing
and swap that empty nest!
David & Veronica,