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