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Slow Food, Slow Travel and Home Exchange

by John Mensinger on October 22, 2011

There are many people worldwide that think life is too hectic, busy, and standardized. They want to slow down, relax, and enjoy authentic local experiences. One organized group is Slow Food. To quote from their website: “Slow Food stands at the crossroads of ecology and gastronomy, ethics and pleasure. It opposes the standardization of taste and culture. . .”

Can we say that house swapping stands at the crossroads of cost efficiency and cultural enlightenment, friendship, and pleasure?

I just returned from a one week business trip to France. I didn’t do a home exchange but I didn’t stay in a hotel either. I spent 3 nights staying with one friend and two nights each with families that we had traded houses with in 2000 and 2005. That equaled four homemade French gourmet dinners washed down with Muscadet, Morgon, Pinot Noir d’Alsace, Sancerre, Bergerac, Pic St. Loup, and Jura. Slow food at its best.

Slow tourism too. I only had 3 days of business so spent a day walking the streets of Nantes, admiring the old buildings, the Chateau, and visiting shops large and small. On the drive to Paris I saved 20 euros by taking free roads instead of the costly autoroutes. You are driving slower, driving through towns, so you see more of France. I stopped in the small towns of Vendome and Chateaudun, both of which are worth visiting. The former is known as the little Venice of the Loir for its many river channels. There is an ancient abbey, a ruined castle, and talented municipal gardeners. Chateaudun lives up to its name with a striking castle showing architecture from the 12th to 17th centuries. The town is charming too, though extensively modernized thanks to the Prussian Army in the 1870 war.

Home exchange is slow tourism. You have the support of your host family and their friends, and you have plenty of time to see local life, culture, and attractions. You can check out local food at the markets, restaurants, or neighbors. Our family spent an entire month in Berlin and don’t mind that we didn’t have time for many famous museums and sights. We look forward to slowly discovering more of it in the future.

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