July 15, 2012

House Swap!

Bad joke alert:  I was tempted to call this post "wife swap" because I thought it might get more readers. ;-)

A few years ago, when we were still residing in the Blackfriars neighbourhood, I found a great website for thrifty (aka cheap) travelers.  Here's the "about" blurb from the site:

Home exchangers trade their homes, condominiums or apartments at a time that is convenient to both parties, but these are not the only types of accommodations that one gets to choose from. For example, one exchanger traded his home for a 40-foot yacht. Another couple swapped their villa in Italy for a RV in Oregon because they had always wanted to tour the U.S. in true nomadic style. Often, home exchangers will include their automobiles as part of the package.

A $100 charge to my Mastercard later, I was a home exchanger!  I "staged" the rooms in our house by shoving all the excess junk to one side of the room, out of the camera viewfinder's range and snapped away happily.  The next step was to upload our pictures and write a description of what we wanted in a house exchange and what we had to offer.  I waxed on about the Great Lakes, the city of London, Niagara Falls, beautiful beaches, Toronto, proximity to the U.S. border et cetera.  I posted a picture of the four of us, where Richard and I actually looked good (we were going to a charity do and were looking particularly natty), and I made sure that our home looked as comfortable and welcoming as it could.

We had an offer to exchange homes with some Dutchies the first week that our profile was active.  The Mom was a psychologist and she and her family of five were coming to London so that she could attend a conference at UWO.  Our proximity to the bike path and the school was "perfect for her"! Unfortunately, the dates didn't work for us and we had to decline.  We also received offers from Italy and another from the Netherlands, but neither tickled our fancy.  The fourth family to contact us was from Ireland, in Lucan, and wanted to know if we could come in July.  We said yes, were totally excited and - ugh - had to cancel on them in December because we bought a house and our closing was only a month before we were due to leave for the Emerald Isle.  I didn't want the added expense of a vacation that summer and so we kissed the blarney stone goodbye for that year.

Fast forward two years (May 19, 2012).  Home Exchanging was not even on my radar as I had let my membership expire; however, I was still interested in participating in an exchange and when I received an email offering me a $36 renewal, I jumped.  I deleted our previous listing and updated it to reflect our new home and surroundings.  I only posted pictures of our living room and the exterior of our house because I was of course doing too many things at once and only had a limited amount of time to work on the profile.  The plan was to stage the rest of the rooms in the house and take additional pictures a few days later.

Before I had time to take pictures of the rest of the house and less than three days later,  I found this email in my inbox:


Nous serions intéressés pour échanger notre maison en aout 2012 - entre le 4 aout et le 26 aout 2012 pour une durée de deux ou trois semaines à votre convenance.

Nous habitons en Bretagne, notre situation géographique vous permet d'être au centre de la Bretagne afin d'y apprécier tous ses charmes.

Nous sommes une famille de 4 personnes.

A bientôt.

Anne et Serge
Thomas et Clara

Magnifique!  We were ecstatic.  The dates work for us because RB is a teacher and is home for the summer holidays.  I think we discussed it for about two minutes and I sent an email back to Anne and Serge letting them know that we were interested and that we would be looking into flights.

It is now mid-July and we depart for France in less than two and half weeks - the first of August.  I am exhilarated and cannot believe that we are actually going on this amazing adventure.

We are swapping homes, cars and bicycles.  Coordinating arrivals and departures has been a bit onerous, as my French is pauvre; however, I have managed.  I have been sending emails back and forth to Anne (in French), which is a bit of a nightmare because she only writes in French. Bah!

The plan is to fly in to Paris and to stay overnight at an airport hotel (Radisson).  The Frenchies are spending the night at the same hotel and so we will be able to meet and exchange home and car keys.  The hotel offers a "park and fly" package ($185 Cdn) which we are taking advantage of (free parking for seven days and buffet breakfast in the a.m.).  Anne and her family will fly out of Paris the following morning and we will continue on to the city proper where we will stay for four nights. After our Parisian jaunt, we're off to Guer, in Bretagne.  We are planning to visit the coast, Normandy in particular, and perhaps a sojourn to Belgium.  I haven't been to Belgium before and neither has RB.  I think he wants to go there just for the beer.

You can view our listing here (you might have to register, which is free, to see it):

House Exchange


I don't want to hear any cracks about my decor, people.

Also, please do not ask me why folks want to come to London, Ontario.  Everyone asks me this!  The mind works in strange ways.

Last week, we received an email from a family in Georgia, who reside in a log cabin on a mountain lake.  I told them that we would exchange with them next year.  

Stay tuned for more updates.