Vacation Abroad: Of Wine, Bleach, and Nougat

by missfootloose on September 7, 2013 · 10 comments

in France, life abroad, travel

French summer rentalEarly this spring my prince and I rented a cute summer cottage in France from an American man who lives and toils in Pennsylvania. The pictures on the Internet rental site were lovely, the place looked idyllic. Five earlier renters had given it five stars and waxed euphoric about the place. We talked on the phone with Mr.P from Pennsylvania. He spoke with love and enthusiasm about his little stone hideaway among the vineyards. If only he could retire there!

It sounded just perfect. We felt jubilant about having found it. We sent him a check.

You can feel it coming, can’t you?

Here’s what I have to say to Mr. P from Pennsylvania:

We were your first renters this year. You came to France and visited the place before we arrived, presumably to get it all in order for the new season.

We appreciated the flowers and the wine you left us as a welcome. We would have more appreciated a clean kitchen. The grime was griming everywhere – in the floor corners, on the sticky water kettle, in the greasy frying pans. Some of the coffee cups had old dried-up coffee stains in them. From last year’s tenants, we expect.

Grime

(Am I exaggerating?)

We appreciated the food you left us in the fridge, but . . .

We would have appreciated it more if the microwave oven hadn’t been filthy and looked like a chemistry experiment. It had not seen a proper cleaning since Charles de Gaulle was in power.

Filthy microwave oven

God knows what universes of dangerous bacteria were proliferating in there. I sanitized it. But only because I needed to use it.

The bathroom was spacious and the shower was great, with good pressure and hot water. We appreciated that.

What we didn’t appreciate was the dirty floors and scummy corners that must have been accumulating dirt for years. I invested in a bottle of bleach and emptied it out over the floor.

Scummy bathroom

The rust stains in the toilet were not an attractive decoration, either. With proper care, toilets do not get irreparably bad like yours, and I speak from experience, Mr. P from Pennsylvania: I’ve had water from hell.

The garden could have been a little paradise but it had been neglected and you’ve never done much with it. The outdoor furniture had been exposed to the elements all winter long and everything was covered in dirt and leaves. Mold was happily using it as a breeding place. It should have been cleaned for our use.

You mentioned a cleaning lady. What cleaning lady? When was the last time a proper cleaning lady had sanitized the place? During the Cruisades?

What you have here is not a cute summer cottage, Mr. P from Pennsylvania. It’s a filthy shack. Shame on you.

*

Dear Reader,  I’ve decided to spare you further photos of the grime; I trust you’re convinced I am not the Queen of Clean having a hissy fit over an honest spot of dirt. However, you’ll be relieved to know that in spite of our disgusting living quarters, we did not catch the plague and we had a good time in France this spring. We went back to France again in June and July and had our usual luck of finding a nice apartment in an ancient village. So, in order to clean your mental palate and leave you with a more appetizing visual image in your head, I offer you this photo:

Nougat shop

French nougat

I do not have much of a sweet tooth. I wasn’t even tempted to go into this utterly sweet little shop in a French village where we were visiting with friends. But the cute shop assistant knew her job and managed to lure the four of us inside to try a sample. What can I say? I was seduced! A coup de foudre, one might say! Between us we bought probably a kilo of the stuff. And then it was all finished before sunset. Yes, it was yummy delicious.

NOTE: Just so you know, we’ve rented modest vacation places unseen over the Internet for years – in Italy (a number of times), Portugal, Costa Rica, Turkey, France. (I’m not talking about villas with swimming pools.) We’ve never had a bad experience. Maybe we had it coming?

* * *

Your turn: Tell me about your vacation horror stories. I know you have some.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Sara September 7, 2013 at 11:01 am

Grrrrrrr.. how gruesome! Name & Shame this dreadful man as those photos cannot tell lies..
In my youth.. I am ancient now.. I worked for a wonderful London based company called Continental Villas. (sadly no longer in existence). I was based in St.Tropez.. sigh, I know, such hardship.. there were 5 of us and we each had 5 villas to take care of. WOE betide us if ‘our’ villas were not immaculately squeaky clean.. Consquently the company had clients who came back year after year and, just as importantly, OWNERS who let the company have the villas every year.
No wonder he handles the place himself, NO respectable villa company would touch the place.. ugh.

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Gordon Barlow September 7, 2013 at 11:48 am

Eww! A bit of bad luck there, Karen. You’ve made a fun story out of the experience, though!

My wife and I have mostly booked places with an eye on our budget, so of course some of them have been below what we’d have liked. In our youth – which I suspect is a lot longer ago than Sara’s youth – we put up with some horrendous overnight accommodation. There’s one item on my blogsite from July last year (“Clean Sheets”), which will bring a smile to the faces of anybody who has travelled in the Middle East.

Also, we’re pretty tolerant of cultures whose general standards are lower than we’re used to. A weekend in a cheapo hotel in Costa Rica springs to mind, and more than one hotel in a village on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, and… but – ugh! – I can become very boring about standards of hygiene in Latin America! Yet we could live there, if we had to. (And the way the world finances are going, we may have to!)
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Welshcakes Limoncello September 7, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I’m very relieved to know you didn’t catch the plague!
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Stickyricesomtam September 8, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Oooh would love to hear more about the better places you’ve rented. We’ve never ventured to renting via the net because I’m never sure what’s a reliable company. Do tell!

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Zhu September 8, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Ugh. That really sucks, having to start your holiday cleaning other people’s dirt and mess!
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Sonia Marsh/Gutsy Living September 9, 2013 at 2:51 pm

How could they have had so many wonderful recommendations?
Did you end up cleaning the place for the next people to enjoy? 🙂
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Mara September 10, 2013 at 5:01 am

I am not miss clean either, but that looks revolting! I wonder what his own home looks like…
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Sara September 10, 2013 at 5:11 am

I would rather not.. but am mighty glad that Washing Soda & a sponge clears up the mess after I have ‘played’ @ canning & chutney & jam making in an all white
kitchen!

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Sami Veloso September 11, 2013 at 10:56 am

Obviously the previous renters that gave the place 5 stars had very low standards! The owner should be ashamed to rent out something that looks like that!! Yuks
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DorineO September 12, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Probably he asked recommendations from family or friends, who never were in France. Easy to arrange that kind of things. From someone who rents out a dirty house like this one, one can expect this.

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