Because love knows no borders, the entire family went to France for a wedding this summer. After the wedding, we joined the happy couple, and their toddler, in Honfleur by the French North coast. To find a place we – 7 people – could all stay at a reasonable price, we used Airbnb. We decided on Alexis’ cottage, also known as “Nafsica’s cottage”, just outside (1092 Chemin du Petit Saint-Pierre) of the Honfleur city center.
The cottage lies secluded behind a locked gate. A short driveway takes you to the cottage’s parking space, which has room for three cars – four if you’re a bit adventurous. You’ll have access to a huge garden with lots of open space, more than large enough for family football matches. In the garage, you’ll find some games for the kids, and a coal based barbecue grill. Inside the house, Alexis was kind enough to leave us a bottle of wine, and a little food, which was great because we arrived on a Sunday when most stores are closed.
The cottage sports everything you’ll need: Kitchen, living room, dining room, 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms (two with bathtubs and toilets, one with a shower), and 2 separate toilets. The bedrooms will house a total of 7 adults, 1 child, and 2 infants. In short, this place has room for everyone, and then some. It also has high speed wireless internet, because let’s face it, you have to share pictures of your vacation on Facebook.
Sounds like the perfect place, doesn’t it? Well, there’s more.
When you open the front door, you’re greeted by a faint smell of mold. Head left, open the doors to the living room, and it’ll hit you in the face like a sledge hammer. Everything in the living room smells of moist and mold, to the degree that it took me 3 days to get reasonably used to it. Just make sure you don’t bury your head in any of the pillows and inhale deeply. I accidentally did that, and it made me feel dizzy for half an hour.
The problem is even worse on the second floor, where black mold has settled quite comfortably in one of the support beams, and in the wall around it. The roof around the support beam is also sagging a bit. My guess is that the sagging is causing water to leak into the roof structure, and the more it sags, the more water and mold. It’s a bad downwards spiral.
So Alexis’ cottage has a serious mold problem, and I’m glad we didn’t stay there for more than a week. For the people who live there permanently1, it’s a serious health hazard.
Neither is the house particularly clean. You’ll find spider webs in most corners, and the showers look like they haven’t been properly cleaned for quite some time. The bathtubs aren’t much better. We gave both of our kids baths in one of the bathtubs during our stay. Running my hand along the inside of the tub, it didn’t slide against the tub’s surface like it would if it was was clean. Instead, it felt like I was touching a surface that was coated with glue.
This is gross when it happens in the bathtub at home. It’s outright disgusting when it’s this obvious your taking a bath in other people’s filth.
It might be that you don’t mind the mold, and the dirt, and decide that Alexis’ cottage is the place for you to stay. But if you do, make sure you have all your affairs in order before you go to bed at night. Should a fire break out, there’s a good chance you won’t notice until it’s too late. The house’ fire safety equipment consists of one – 1 – smoke detector, which is laying in the stairway. Does it work? I don’t know, because I didn’t have the common sense to actually test it. Neither did I see any fire extinguishers or similar equipment in the house.
On the plus side, all rooms have windows large enough for you to jump out of, should it come to that. Also, the second floor is not terribly high off the ground, so the fall probably won’t kill you. Hopefully, your kids will also manage to get their windows open, and gather the courage to jump.
A bit too harsh?
Maybe I’m the problem. Perhaps my standards are too high. It might be that when I stay at someone’s home, and not in a hotel, I should expect a little dirt, fire hazards, and some fungal spores in the air I breathe. Neither hazardous mold, nor dirty showers and bathtubs are mentioned in any of the English reviews of the cottage on Airbnb. Perhaps these are actually non-issues for most people?
I’m not trying to scare you away from booking a week at Alexis’ cottage with your family and friends. Consider this a public service: At least now you know what it really looks like inside before you open the front door.