Adventures in Airbnb

I tried Airbnb for the first time to book a place to stay for our two days in St. Maarten before our cruise. I wanted to book a whole condo/house, not just a room, and the app made the process fairly simple. Like most service businesses, there are traps for the unwary and I fell into a few with this booking. My first choice did not have availability, so I went to the second one. There were two reviews for the townhouse that were fairly good and I went ahead and booked it because we were leaving the next day. What I did not realize was that the owner also rented just rooms in the townhouse through Airbnb and if I had seen the reviews for the room rental, I would definitely have not rented the house. I had assumed that since I was renting the whole house, it would be more like a vacation rental but the owner kept his own clothes, personal possessions, and food in the house and there were no paper products like toilet paper. Also, the reviews for the room rental made clear that cleanliness was not a priority for the owner even though the cost of the rental included a cleaning fee. We found dirty glasses with ashes and some unidentifiable stuff in the sink, the sheets were stained, and I’m not sure when the last time the floors were cleaned. The house is up a very steep hill that was an 8 story hike. We had several taxi drivers refuse to drive us up the hill. The one thing going for the rental was the wonderful views of Simpson Bay from the townhouse’s rooftop deck.

Sweeping view of Simpson Bay.
Sweeping view of Simpson Bay.

Based on this experience, I’m not sure that I would use Airbnb again. The lack of real oversight and control makes the process a bit of a crap shoot. For the prices some of these places were charging including the one I booked, there are other avenues to book nice places with some assurances of what you are getting.

Unexpected trip to the Caribbean

My friend and I had planned a trip to Central America that included a cruise through the Panama Canal and up the western coast of Costa Rica.  I was really looking forward to this vacation because I’ve never been to Central America and I really needed a nice break.  Unfortunately, the cruise ship ran aground a week before we were supposed to leave and the company canceled our cruise.  We found this out two days before we were supposed to leave for Panama.  Needless to say, it was a mad scramble to cancel our flights and hotel and to rebook another itinerary.  I thought about trying a land trip to Panama and Costa Rica but it was too hard to make the necessary travel arrangements in one day.  We decided instead to take up the cruise company’s offer to rebook on another cruise in the Caribbean leaving at the same time as our original cruise.

The cruise ship will be leaving out of Phillipsburg, St. Maarten and we flew to the island a couple of days early to explore it more fully than when I was here a couple of years ago.  Now I have 2 days to see more of St. Maarten.

Pappardelle w/lamb chunks
Pappardelle w/lamb chunks

We had to take a really early morning flight and knew that we were in no shape to participate fully in the NYE celebrations. We had an early dinner at IZI, an Italian restaurant in Simpson Bay. The food was wonderful especially the homemade pasta. The chef got in the NYE spirit by adding his own embellishment to each dish. Excellent way to end 2015.

Foodie List

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve posted and I decided to restart the blog to combine two of my joys in life – travel and good food. The Washington Post’s food critic, Tom Sietsema, recently posted his 10 best food cities in the U.S.  Click here for the article. I find that lists are generally of personal taste even by experts. While I agree with the cities on his list, I disagree with how he ranked them. New York is definite higher than #8, and should be ranked ahead of Chicago, New Orleans, and Houston. While I’m partial to Portland, Sietsema’s #1 city, I think New York has a better restaurant scene.

I was recently in New York to soak in the holiday displays and do some Christmas shopping. We went to Ippudo West Side to have some ramen. Delicious! The ramen noodles were homemade and the broth was very tasty.  They serve it with a soft poached egg which I think separates the good ramen from the excellent ones.  This visit to Ippudo illustrates why the diversity, quality, and quantity of the restaurants in New York make it at least one of the best 3 cities in the U.S. for foodies.