This is the easiest part of home exchange. After a few days you have gotten used to your exchange home, figured out its quirks, and solved any problems. Many homes have formal dining or living rooms. There usually is fine crystal and porcelain for special occasions. With our three children we never use formal spaces or fine dishware. We know what can happen. If the salon has white upholstered couches we forbid our kids to enter the room with food or drink. In fact you shouldn’t allow them to set foot in such fragile spaces.
Once in France my wife was concerned because our hosts had installed a new oven. It was shiny and perfectly clean. She was reluctant to get it dirty. You should feel free to use the home; normal wear and tear is expected.
Sometimes an appliance will fail. We had a microwave oven die, a computer crashed and should have been burned, and a hot water kettle failed with sparks and a puff of smoke. Our partners arranged for a relative to supply a new microwave. The computer was taken to the local expert who pronounced it obsolete and not worth saving. We agreed he would communicate this to our hosts, who arranged for me to use the computer at the office. As regards the hot water kettle it was only 30 euros to buy a new one at the hypermarché. After paying for this I felt less guilty about draining his 35 year old bottle of Armagnac that had been left partially open in the liquor cabinet. He had agreed I could try any opened bottles and once I tried this Armagnac I couldn’t stop. The legal term is irresistible impulse.
Occasionally there will be a problem that is serious and can’t be corrected. Once we had a car in the South of France with defective air conditioning. This made travel difficult in the hot afternoons. We only had about a week left in the exchange when this happened, it didn’t make sense to solve this problem. Once in Stockholm lightning knocked out the Internet. The normally efficient Swedes were slow to fix it because so many technicians were on vacation. The local library and a kind neighbor offered free Internet access. You need to accept problems such as these and not let them ruin your vacation.
Each family will have their own style and method for their vacation. An advantage of a home exchange vacation is that you are in an area for a long time. You can take a relaxed and innovative view towards sight-seeing. For example, our house in the suburbs of Paris was only 15 minutes drive from Versailles. We discovered that if we went at 7pm all the tourists were gone. We could park in front of the Chateau, for free, and wander the gardens in the beautiful evening light. You can think like the locals. Normally it is crazy to drive in Paris. During August folks are on vacation, there are spaces on the street for the car and you don’t need to feed the parking meters. The traffic is much less. We had a favorite parking spot next to the Luxembourg gardens, only about 30 minutes by foot from Notre Dame.
Your home will have a kitchen. It might also have a picnic basket or a cool chest. Our Danish partners kept a blanket in the trunk of the car. You are well equipped for picnics, which are cheaper and more flexible than eating at a restaurant.
Check out activities designed for the locals. We signed our kids up for a pottery decorating session at the Denby works. We still have their plates as souvenirs. A friend managed to play soccer on a semi-pro team while on exchange in England. His son went to a soccer camp put on by Manchester United.
With home exchange you can get into your own relaxed vacation routine and rhythm.
Next lesson we will talk about the end of the home exchange.