How much do you think it would cost to stay in NYC for a night?
Well, how does $20.50 per night sound? “You’re joking”, some of you may be thinking. “What kind of conditions are you living in”, others may be thinking, perhaps even with a tinge of concern.
Well, it’s the truth. We’re staying in an Air BnB, a website which allows you to stay in the homes of local people in 190 countries. It’s no couchsurfing or house-sitting; alas, you do still have to pay, however, from my brief perusal it seems quite a cheap means of accommodation, compared to hotels and hostels.
Our first time using Air BnB was nothing short of an adventure. What price can you put on that?
Due to our ingenuity and massive amount of foresight (sarcasm), we had got the address ahead of time, so when we turned up at 122 Hillside Avenue to discover it was an absolutely massive apartment complex, we suddenly didn’t feel so clever! We had no idea what apartment number we were staying in.
Using our guerrilla skills, we managed to sneak in through the front door as a group of guys were leaving, but the hallways stretch far off into a fine vanishing point, doors frequenting every few metres, an unpleasant discovery. And as for the 7 or 8 floors… Well, let’s just say I wasn’t fancying our chances if we had to knock on doors and ask passers-by which apartment ‘Francis’ lives in.
Catching what may be the slowest wifi ever, but wifi nonetheless, we send an email to the mystery man, the fact our last email only a few days early remained unanswered only slightly deterring us from even bothering. And then, we sit, and wait, and consider our options. Thankfully, considering our options doesn’t really take too long; there’s not that many of them!
Luckily, our main man Francis actually replied pretty quickly and told us he was coming down to meet us. What should we expect him to be like? I was convinced a big beaming man would come down and greet us all with a hug. On the other hand, the three girls I’m staying with seemed to have images of a chain-saw wielding mass murderer ambling down the stairs, sharpening his knives and muttering about how much his last victims, er, I mean guests, enjoyed their stay.
Eventually, Francis, a well-dressed man in his mid 50’s bounded down and introduced himself, donning a huge smile. He immediately started scooping our luggage up in his arms and heading for the lift, firing questions at us in a strong New Yorker accent, intrigued about where we were from and what we are doing in his neck of the woods. Everyone seems pretty happy to be proved wrong on their murderer notion, and equally happy to have actually found our apartment!
Francis showed us around our apartment, the smile never leaving his face, proudly displaying the sizeable apartment we would be staying in, fully decorated and kitted out, as if it was still lived in, yet still cosy and comfortable. It emerges Francis doesn’t actually own the property but is neighbours with the owner, who is touring Egypt playing guitar in his band. After a brief tour, in which Francis ran around the apartment with a frantic excitement showing us everything, from how to open the front door, to where the washing machines and tumble dryers are, to where we can find extra towels, he seems to effectively adopt a ‘make yourself at home’ policy. Not bad, considering this is a chap who but 5 minutes ago was a mere stranger.
So, my first experience of Air BnB’ing can only be described as a very positive one. Staying in a great city, in a great apartment, with a great host, for cheap, not a lot to complain about. I’m confident I will Air BnB will of use again in the future.
Note: We got locked out of our flat on the third night (classic), and were embarrassingly forced to shuffle up to Francis’ big wooden door at 11:30pm. Francis opened the door, still wearing a smile, and was equally helpful and friendly, only too happy to assist, assuring us nothing was too much trouble. What a great guy. Here’s to Francis!