We love the concept of Airbnb, a site where hosts can offer their houses, apartments, spare rooms, and couches to travellers for a fee which most often is significantly less than you’d otherwise pay in a hotel or similar. But up until recently we hadn’t tried it – crazy, I know.
We had a false start a couple of years ago in Los Angeles where the host cancelled a week before we were due to stay there (it was a week before New Year’s Eve so accommodation was rather hard to come by at that stage), and to be honest had been a little scared of trying it since. But seeing as we had decided to head away on our northeastern USA road trip at very short notice, all the traditional forms of accommodation in and around Montreal were either booked out or very expensive, so we decided to give Airbnb a go.
We found a place in a rural area near Farnham, about 40 minutes from Montreal and not far from the US border which was in a good price range ($74/night) and looked like a nice place to spend the night.
Driving into Quebec from the US was really weird. It was the same landscape, the roads were the same, but suddenly all the signage was in French and the speed limits were in kilometres! Our cellphones lost reception and Kathy our GPS voice went silent. We were in Canada!
Fortunately we had realised that the GPS didn’t have Canadian maps before we entered Canada, so we had time to hotspot the Macbook while on the road in Vermont and take screenshots of some Google Maps of how to get to our Airbnb home for the night. It really wasn’t that hard to find – thank goodness!
Rookie mistake – we thought all GPS’s that had USA maps also had Canada maps! Apparently not.
We were greeted by Montreal native Vincent, his Cuban wife Sandra and their three little kids, Solange, Leonard, and Alicia, as well as Sandra’s mother and their cute Lassie-like puppy Pepito. Vincent spoke great English, which was a relief as our French is rather lacking, but Sandra only spoke French and Spanish, which was a fun challenge for us and for her!
Their house is lovely – it was built in 1845 and Vincent has been lovingly restoring it to its former glory by exposing the gorgeous beams, polishing the floors, and re-cladding the outside in brick. It will be a beautiful home once it is finished – he has even dug about 2 feet of dirt out of the basement to create a huge wine tasting room and cellar, and humidor for Cuban cigars. There is also a small vineyard on the property, from which Vincent makes his own wine, and he also made ice cider this past winter – we were lucky enough to try it and it was delicious!
After a lovely homemade Cuban meal (which cost a small surcharge) and some delicious strawberry daiquiris we practised our Spanish and French with Sandra and she practised her English, and then they took us to a new local brewery in Farnham, the closest town. The beer was great, and it was nice to hang out with such lovely people and see some of the local surroundings that we wouldn’t have known about if we were in a hotel. We stopped by the beautiful Farnham cathedral on the way back which was pretty magnificent in the dark. We had a comfortable sleep and headed on our way to Montreal the following morning.
Vincent and Sandra lead incredibly busy lives but they were so welcoming. It was truly fantastic to stay in their home and it was a great first Airbnb experience! We’ll definitely be using Airbnb again very soon!
If anybody is interested, here is the link to stay at Vincent and Sandra’s place!
Next up… Montreal and Quebec!