TRAVEL with pat and lew

Archive for the ‘home exchange’ Category

* 2009 home exchanges

Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 19, 2009

We’re starting to plan our 2009 travel, from May through October. Our current interests include Paris (always), Poland (in June, July or August), the Greek Islands (in late May), and the south of Spain (in October). Anyone interested in an exchange for our Collioure apartment is welcome to check our listing at … 

* Pat & Lew on

                             We’re listing # 52059 and we’d love to hear from you.

NOTE: We have room for two people only; no pets, no smoking. 


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new friends in Perth – Annemarie and Mark

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 22, 2007

In Fremantle, a couple walking by is attracted by our American accents.

Mark is from Ohio, a teacher who was recruited to Australia in a program which offered a two year position. That was 30 years ago. Mark met Annemarie, fell in love, and never left. They have three sons and a daughter and a wonderful life down under.

Mark gives us their number, and several days later, we call. They invite us to join them for lunch, pick us up, and take us to a small town between Hillarys and Perth. The stir fry noodles, veggies, and chicken are excellent, as is the conversation.

We learn a lot about living in Perth. Mining income in the region is way up, driving prices sky high. Housing has appreciated dramatically in the past three years. Mark and Annemarie’s five bedroom home has doubled in value, but the cost of living has also accelerated, and traveling anywhere from Perth is ferociously expensive – $1000 roundtrip to Sydney, $2000 to Europe, much more to the U.S.

A week or so later, we again have dinner with Mark and Annemarie, at the Fratelli Restaurant on the West Coast Highway with a wonderful view of the sunset over the Indian Ocean.

After our trip to the outback, Annemarie reports she has told all her friends and we have become an “urban legend.” No Americans have ever been known to be in Fitzroy Crossing, let alone stay the night.

Annemarie reminds us in every email that they’re still talking about us in Perth.

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why did we do a home exchange in Perth?

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 22, 2007

Geographically confused as we may sometimes seem to be, we do know that Australia is not in Europe.

So when Fran and Claude wrote to us seeking an exchange, we said no, even though their two story town house on a marina near Perth looked absolutely fantastic. Fran emails to ask us to reconsider, and of course we did, to our great eventual pleasure.

We get to work by email on several typical home exchange issues … car (we don’t have one to exchange, but we get useful information about where to rent one in Perth), internet in Perth and Collioure (we will each leave computers for the use of the other), telephone (we will both use Skype), arrival details and how to get in (we will be met at the home in Perth and have mailed the Collioure keys), and tourist stuff.

Looking at the pictures of Fran and Claude’s magnificent home, we ask several times if they fully comprehend just how small our 300 square foot apartment is.

They are undeterred. After they have arrived in Collioure, we ask if they are all right. Claude says, “You have a comfortable bed, a good shower, Collioure is great, and the view from your terrace is spectacular. What else do we need?”

We have also made a connection for Fran and Claude with our Collioure friends Valerie and Lorcan, and they hit it off, getting together many times.

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home exchange sites

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 22, 2007

This page provides references to home exchange member and blog sites, with short descriptions about what those sites offer. We are happy to list sites which others bring to our attention. However, we are not active users of these sites, so we have no special knowledge regarding them.

Pat and I are members of, listing #52059. Please contact us through that site if you’re interested in a home exchange with us.

OTHER INFORMATIVE HOME EXCHANGE SITES … Green Theme International, a membership site for home exchange listings. Non-members may view listings but access to contact information is available only to members. Basic Plan 1 costs £21.00 US$ 38.96 €31,50.  … a non-fee home exchange travel blog associated with the GTI home exchange site.  … a non-fee site with information on the concept of home exchanging, choosing a home exchange club, and making the most of your membership. Includes an extensive data base covering many home exchange clubs.  a non-fee blog site with answers to questions on swapping homes, specific topics related to home exchange vacations plus Home Base Holidays members’ home swap stories and exchange offers. You can sign up for email alerts when new posts are published. … For more information on all topics related to home exchange … a for-fee international home exchange agency which has been operating for over 22 years. PLAN 1 costs £29. … INTERVAC was started in Europe in the early 1950’s by a group of teachers who were looking for economic means to travel internationally. Since 1950’s INTERVAC has grown to over 11,000 listings from some 50 countries annually.

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new friends in Perth

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 20, 2007

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lunch with our home exchange partner

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 13, 2007

Usually, in a home exchange, you don’t get to meet your exchange partner. But this is a non-simultaneous exchange, so Anne was there to greet us to her home, and a few days later, we have lunch with Anne and her friend Bill.

Anne has suggested Pedro’s Gourmet restaurant in the midst of old-town Ajijic. We arrive first, and Pedro, who turns out to be Peter, seats us.

Anne and Bill arrive. Our conversation includes a review of the Home Exchange Instructions for Guests (in Collioure) which I gave to Anne the day we arrived. She has questions, which I try to answer.

The logistics of getting from Ajijic to Collioure are not simple. We discuss options, but do not reach conclusions. I offer to help more as their plans develop.

Peter comes by, and tells us he is singing in a concert next Friday, our last night in Ajijic. We buy tickets (150 pesos each), as do Anne and Bill, so we will see them again. Bill picks up the tab for lunch, over my objections.

ps. the concert was excellent, and a wonderful way to spend our last night in Ajijic. There were 60 voices in the chorus, all local, supported by an orchestra of local high school students. It was great.

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from Key West to our home exchange in Ajijic, Mexico

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 12, 2007

We’re excited to be traveling. It’s almost 3 months since December when we got back from New York. We love Key West, but we always have a travel bug.

Packing is a snap. Delta allows us to check two 50 pound suitcases each. For a 10 day trip, we each take one suitcase. Mine weighs 39 pounds, Pat’s 38. We pack a heavier than necessary carryon. On the return trip, we’ll switch books to the checked bags.

We drive to Miami, where we are anticipating dinner with our friends Ron and Eileen.

Eileen wants books. Eight hardcover and 24 paperback copies of The Heretic. Plus one copy of A Good Conviction. With everything else on her plate, I think she’s going to be my publicity agent. Maybe when we get back, she’ll have booked me on Letterman.

As always, the conversation is non-stop and full of laughs.

The next morning, we get to the airport before any Delta employees. Why do they tell you to be there two hours before the flight if they’re not going to meet you? Once Delta arrives, check-in and boarding go smoothly.

We had taken the early flight so that all our driving would be in daylight. The roads are not the best, and the drivers are horrible, switching lanes unpredictably. As we leave the airport, see no signs to Chapala (later, on our second trip, we confirm that there were none) and take the road in the wrong direction, north to Guadalajara instead of south to Chapala. For several miles, there are no exits and no turnarounds, but eventually, I find an exit which leads to a loop and the right direction.

The trip from the airport to Chapala takes about 35 minutes. We could have turned off a few miles before Chapala, but the signage was again abysmal, and the map was unclear, so we end up in the town of Chapala when our actual destination is Ajijic. A group of musicians waiting in a parking lot sets us on the correct path.

Our initial impressions are of a very poor country. This is accentuated by the fact that we are months away from the rainy season and everything is dry and dusty.

We are in Ajijic on a home exchange, and we have traded our 300 square foot apartment in Collioure for a truly extraordinary residence. We are met by Anne. This is a non-simultaneous exchange – she will go to Collioure in May – so she is staying with a friend in Ajijic while we’re in her house.

We estimate the home is more than 2000 square feet. The design and the Mexican architectural details are just superb. In the living room, there are columns and arches, like a Moorish palace. All of the cabinetry and the doors are of the highest quality. There are colored tile floors throughout. Outside, the grounds are spectacular.

The gardener, three times per week, and the maid will continue during our stay.

As we often do after a day of  travel, we go right to sleep.

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Dublin was our first home exchange

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 3, 2007

The row home on Sullivan Street, near Phoenix Park, about 2 miles west of the city centre, is larger than our apartment in Collioure. It’s on two floors, linked by a treacherous circular staircase. We carefully heed our host’s warning to walk in bare feet or shoes, but not socks, and have no accidents.

There are always new things to learn when you live in someone else’s home. Like hot water. We were instructed to turn the switch in the press to start the hot water heater. The press? Not only where is it, but what is it?

It’s a closet. We finally find the switch in the closet in the downstairs bathroom.

Once we get the system, the hot water is plentiful. But one day, hurrying home with not much time to make a dinner reservation, we realized we had not left the hot water on. It takes about 20 minutes to get up to temperature. We cancelled our reservation and went another day.

Someone knocks on the door. They’ve heard that the house is for sale, which is true, and they want to take a look around. Should we? We decide that our host, who wants the house sold, will not be upset if we allow the visit, but we watch carefully.

The bedroom is decorated beautifully, and the linens are superb. But we’re learning that most of the world apparently does not read in bed, like we do every night, and the lighting is really not adequate for that purpose.

There are shops nearby, and local pubs, all described in the materials and maps our host has left. It’s fun to shop locally, although we don’t buy much, since we’re not doing any real cooking. In fact, although I like to cook, we didn’t do much cooking on any of our trips all summer. It’s not easy to get used to someone else’s kitchen, and there are so many great restaurants to try.

We left our Dublin home in the same condition we found it, and were pleased to find that our home exchange guests in Collioure did likewise.

All in all, a positive experience.

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arranging our first home exchanges

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 22, 2007

In Key West in early 2006, our home in Collioure taking shape, we put together other elements of our plan, beginning with the highest priority – travel. We explore the rapidly expanding world of home exchange.

Home exchange was started some years ago, by teachers and others, but it has really taken off since the internet facilitated the process. The basic idea is a house swap between two consenting adults. The matchmaker is the internet site, but once you find each other, you’re basically on your own.

There are many home exchange sites. We choose, pay the $49.00 annual fee, and employ the site’s user-friendly procedures to describe our apartment and neighborhood, indicate where we want to exchange, and upload the pictures we took during our recent January trip for exactly this purpose.

Once our site is established, other members can access it by location or property number (we’re #52059). If they’re interested in a swap, they send us an email and we can check out their listing to see if we like their place. We, in turn, search the site for homes of interest to us.

Our apartment is small, so we look for exchanges where the exchange party is one or two persons. We also eliminate smokers and pets.

As the spring of 2006 progresses, our first summer of travel comes into focus.

Dublin is the most straightforward. Pat finds a suitable apartment, initiates a correspondence, and we’re soon set for two weeks at the end of July.

My ancestors come from Eastern Europe, and many were murdered there by the Nazis. The transition from Hitler to Stalin, and the eventual emergence of free countries from the dissolving Soviet Union, are events of great interest to me.

Pat looks for home exchanges in Budapest and Prague. She finds a listing in Budapest, but it’s not available on a convenient date. The same listing also mentions an apartment for rent. The dates work, the rent is reasonable (much less than a hotel), and now we have two weeks in Budapest scheduled for late June.

As recent converts to home exchange, we tell everybody about it. Debbie, a runner friend of Pat’s in Key West, turns out to have a brother Evan living in Paris. Debbie sends an introductory email to Evan, and we soon agree to swap apartments for one week at the end of August.

A couple from Perth writes to us. They’re already scheduled to be in France for much of the summer, and want to extend their trip for the month of October.

We’re impressed with their home, a two story town house on a resort marina, but decide that Perth is too far. Our travel objectives are in Europe. We say no.

A return email asks us please to reconsider. We say something about 300 square feet compared to their opulent residence, and they say that’s ok. So we agree to spend October in Australia.

All this is arranged before we return to Collioure in June.

Posted in ... 2006, home exchange | 3 Comments »

Paris in September

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 10, 2007

Pat has been corresponding with the owners of an apartment in the Marais district of Paris since last year, and we have now finalized an exchange for the first ten days of September. We hope to go to Paris several times this summer. It’s a very pleasant five hour train ride from Collioure, so anyone who makes a trade with us can easily include a Paris trip before or after Collioure.

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Mexico in March

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 10, 2007

We’ve just arranged a non-simultaneous exchange with a woman who lives in the Lake Chapala area of Mexico. We’ll go there in March, and she’ll go to Collioure in May, before we arrive. Pat has been tracking the Lake Chapala area for some time. It’s one of the largest ex-pat communities for Americans and Canadians. We’ll fly to Guadalajara and drive (30 minutes) from there. Ann, our exchange partner, called today, all excited about Collioure. Unlike a simultaneous exchange, where of course you don’t meet, Ann will be staying with a friend when we are at her place, and we’re making plans to meet. Pat tells her that we’ll bring our “Instructions for Guests” and the key to our Collioure apartment. This will be the only vacation travel we do from Key West this year.

Posted in ... 2007, ... Mexico, home exchange | 3 Comments »