My First Airbnb Experience in Naples

In recent years, staying at people’s homes while traveling has become somewhat mainstream. Back in the 1960’s in India, my grandmother started the local chapter for Servas, a travel exchange program designed for people to further global peace. While growing up in Chandigarh, I was able to interact with guests from all over the world who came to stay with us while traveling through India. No money was exchanged with these strangers; they would bring gifts and we would offer them our home, food and local tours. It was a wonderful experience for me to be able to see the world through their eyes.
Through my adulthood, I have hosted and stayed through Servas and Couch Surfing. During a recent visit to Naples, Italy, I decided to give Airbnb a try.
Airbnb works a bit differently as homeowners do list their places officially on the website (with pictures, prices, services, etc), and bookings and payments are accepted through the site. You can browse through the listings, see the actual location on a map, photos of your room and read guest comments.
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I picked B&B LA TERRAZZA (‘O CAFÉ) in Naples for 3 nights at $90/ night. Though a 3-star hotel would cost just a few bucks more, I decided it would be a better experience to stay at an authentic Napoli home with locals than at a hotel since I was traveling by myself.

The place was actually better than described. The B&B was off a busy street in an apartment building. The owners, Valentina and Dario communicated with me prior to my arrival (through text and Airbnb chat) giving me directions and buzzing me in to the building once I got there. There was plenty of security with keys and cameras. The 4 bedroom/ 4 bath apartment was located on the 5th floor of an old building that had been renovated. Though it was off a busy commercial street, the apartment was fairly quiet. There was a small elevator and you needed a key to start it. A unique feature I had not seen before.

The apartment itself was very spacious. Rooms were located along a long hallway. There was a reception desk where Dario checked his bookings, and a common kitchen where Valentina cooked meals. The couple usually hung out in the vast patio which backed up to one of the historic churches of Naples. Unfortunately, the church was destroyed in the last earthquake and hasn’t been renovated since. Nevertheless, it was beautiful to look at the ruins.

Airbnb in NaplesMy room was huge with high ceilings and a spacious private bathroom. There was an air conditioner (needed in 90F Italian summer), a king size bed, a couch, desk and chairs. The WiFi was fast enough to stream movies. I felt like I was staying at one of the Italian aristocrat homes built in this area during the 16th century, only everything was renovated and modernized.

airnbn napoliThe place was centrally located, only 10 minutes walking distances from the train station, port and historic city center. During my visit, I never had to take any transportation as I could just walk everywhere.

Valentina and Dario, in their heavy Italian accent, planned by itinerary once I got there. Valentina spoke excellent English. She mapped the places I wanted to see and recommended a few restaurants (including her parent’s pizza place down the street, which was excellent). I frequently sought their advice as I had been warned that Naples is not the safest places for a woman to be traveling alone. Valentina, being a native Napoletana, told me which streets to stay off at what times of the day, better roads to take for scenic views, and how to navigate the busy train stations.

Airbnb in NaplesThe couple use to own a restaurant too, but since Valentina discovered she had celiac disease, she really didn’t want to be making pizza and pasta all day. I don’t blame her! Only in February this year, they opened La Terrazzo Bed and Breakfast after selling their restaurant. Now, they have 5 rooms on 2 floors of the building. They live in one and rent out the other rooms. I highly recommend La Terrazza for anyone who wants to have a comfortable yet authentic Napoli experience.

Founded in 2008 and based in San Francisco, California, Airbnb is in more than 34,000 cities across 191 countries. The 2 million+ listings include single rooms, villas, wedding venues, yurts, tree houses, beach homes, and even windmills and castles! If you haven’t yet checked out Airbnb yet, click here to join and receive $25 in travel credit.

PS – This is NOT a sponsored post. All opinions are my own. 

12 Days of Christmas – Pear Custard Pie

Hear’s another recipe to keep your Christmas kitchen aroma!

Pear Custard Pie

Streusel

  • 1/2 cup Original Bisquick® mix
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine, softened

Pie

  • 1/2 cup Original Bisquick® mix
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 medium fresh pears, peeled, sliced (about 3 cups)

pear custard pie

HEAT oven to 350°F. Spray 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray. In small bowl, stir 1/2 cup Bisquick mix, the oats, brown sugar and nutmeg. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter, using pastry blender (or pulling 2 table knives through ingredients in opposite directions), until crumbly. Set aside.

In small bowl, STIR 1/2 cup Bisquick mix, the oats, brown sugar and nutmeg. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter, using pastry blender (or puling 2 table knives though ingredients in opposite directions), until crumbly. Set aside.

In medium bowl, STIR all pie ingredients except pears with wire whisk or fork until blended. Pour into pie plate. Arrange pears evenly over top.

BAKE 25 minutes. Sprinkle streusel over pie. Bake 12 to 15 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on cooling rack 30 minutes. Serve warm. Store in refrigerator.

~ Courtesy of Janice Leary at St Frances Inn, Florida. 

What does a B&B in Greenland actually mean?

Search for hotels in Nuuk (Godthåb in Danish) and TripAdvisor results in only two hotels and one Bed and Breakfast. Nuuk is the capital and the largest city in Greenland, with a population of 16,000. It is south enough that you don’t see snow, only a few glaciers floating around. It is very difficult to find a room, not only here, but practically in all of Greenland, which has led to the concept of hostels and guest houses.

city of Nuuk

When I was informed by Tupilak Travel, a Nuuk based travel agency, that my reservation had been made at Bed and Breakfast Hansine for two nights, I pictured a cozy cottage with a few rooms, a sitting area with Greenlandic style decorations, and perhaps the innkeepers serving fresh pastries and coffee for breakfast.

Read about my First Time at a Bed and Breakfast in Georgia.

Little did I know that the concept of B&B in Greenland is a little different than that in the US. As Tupilak explains, “Bed & Breakfast entails a stay with a Greenlandic family either in the city center, in the suburbs of Nuussuaq, or in the newest part of town Qinngorput with breakfast included” in the price. Basically you are inside someone’s private home, sort of like an AirBnB.

Bed and Breakfast Hansine really meant the house of Hansine, a charming 67 year old Danish lady, which she opened up to visitors to make extra income. From the outside, the metal building looked like a run-down housing project. There was graffiti on the walls and wooden walkways in need of repair. You had to buzz the resident to be let into the building and climb three floors of stairs (there weren’t any elevators) to get to her flat.

bed & breakfast hanse from outside

Upon arrival, we took off our shoes by the door as its customary in Greenlandic homes. Mrs Hansine greeted us with all smiles, gave us a quick tour of her two bedroom, 1 bath apartment, her cozy living room decorated entirely in purple, and a tiny kitchen with a balcony. It overlooked the harbor and had an amazing view of the Davis Strait.

Our room had a twin size bed, dresser and chairs. There were family photos and knick knacks all over, hinting that this was probably her own bedroom. There was another smaller room with a single bed, occupied by another American tourist at that moment. We had one bathroom for all four of us to share. A few rules were explained regarding opening of windows and doors. No internet was available.

Hansena wasted no time. She immediately took me to her living room and started showing my photo albums, guest books, family trees, certificates of descendants, and family pictures. She spoke some English, but her accent was hard to understand. She told me that her family was from Denmark and Sweden, she had grown up in Copenhagen and moved to Greenland over 30 years ago. She use to work at a reading glass store in Nuuk, but is now retired because she’s too old. Repeatedly, she informed me that today was her daughter’s 26th birthday, but she was away in Copenhagen, studying at a technical school.  Among many stories, many of which I only half understood, she referred to her Danish ex boyfriend several times.

hansine serving breakfast

We were given a key to the flat so we can go in and out as we please. The city of Nuuk is small and walkable. You can’t really get lost. In just an hour, I came to know where everything was – the harbor, museums, church, tourist office, shopping mall, two grocery stores and handful of restaurants. Buses and taxis take you to the new side of Nuuk, which has modern residence and taller buildings.

When we would return to Bed and Breakfast Hansine, we would often find her sipping tea in the living room, reading tarot cards or watching American TV shows. She would ask us about our day and repeat the ritual of story telling/ photo watching once again.

The following morning, Hansine prepared a big spread for us as well as the the other American guest. We sat by the window and enjoyed scrambled eggs with peas, carrots and crispy bacon, loaves of fresh bread with cheese, jam and butter, and coffee. This was a good opportunity to have a conversation with Hansine about the Greenlandic lifestyle, especially relating to her as a single elderly lady living by herself. She seemed pretty happy with her life, always smiling, sharing her memories and meeting friends.

Tupilak Travel arranges stay with host families for 500 DKK (US $100) per night for single room and 900 DKK (US $180) per night for double occupancy. The cost of a hotel is approx. $400 per night and is usually sold out during the peak season.

Notable Alternative to Hotels in Nice

When considering lodging along the French Riviera one might think of high priced fancy hotels that only the rich and famous can afford. What if there were lodging facilities with more space than the average European hotel room: offering a nice bed, complimentary WiFi, free parking, and free breakfast in a more intimate yet traditional setting?  Does having an authentic French experience by staying in a Niçoise home and catching a glimpse of the life of the locals peak your interests?

If this sounds like the experience of your dreams, then strongly consider staying at a bed and breakfast in Nice.  Unlike the hotels that line Promenade des Anglais, the major street along the coast of Nice, these properties are found in residential areas.  Most of the bed and breakfasts in this region are not located in the city but in the countryside, and many are older homes.

Just 2.5 kilometers outside Nice’s city center exists a secluded and charming estate surrounded by an abundance of aromatic flowers. Le Castel Enchanté, run by Alberto and his family, is an authentic French B&B. It sits high atop a hill at the end of a lengthy, narrow winding private road. The road is just narrow enough to fit one car, a true French experience.

Castel Enchante driveway

 

Entering the doorway of Le Castel Enchanté, has the feeling of being welcomed into a private home where your visit is excitedly anticipated. Alberto exclaims, “Bonjour madam,” with a big smile.  There is no formal check-in, just a quaint verification of identity and on to tour the estate. The building of Le Castel Enchanté has an old-time feel with modern day amenities as it was built in the 1850’s but restored over time.  The establishment was originally built as a hotel and named “Castel Enchanté” meaning enchanted castle.  In the 1960’s the hotel, which had its own restaurant, was downsized and later transformed into a smaller bed and breakfast by 1980.  The historical facility has been under the current owner Alberto’s care for just over a year and is thriving.  Its rustic feel and homely appeal delight visitors from all over the world.

Alberto at castel enchante Nice

Alberto carries the bags and escorts guests to their assigned accommodation, then gives a quick walk through of the chamber.  Each of the five rooms at Le Castel Enchanté has its own personality and name.  The room, Nemuphar is a soft salmon color with large windows facilitating great views and natural light. The wood furniture is of a rich hue and appears to be antique. Floor to ceiling french doors open into a second smaller room that has a single bed, full length mirror and ample space.  The suite is charming and easily accommodates a family of three.

Castel Enchante Room Nice

The suite has all the basic amenities a person would require. The floor of the bathroom is tiled in an ultramarine blue color.  The oversized bath towels are plush with high thread count and work well with the overall scheme. Shelving in the bathroom creates ample space to place toiletries, and the temperature of the shower water does not disappoint. Sufficient seating, wardrobe, coffee maker, iron, a mini fridge, and free WiFi bring together the essential necessities ensuring relaxation and comfort.  Before leaving, Alberto explains all about breakfast.

The remainder of the establishment is comprised of Alberto’s personal living space and common guest areas.  Breakfast is served in a semi-formal dining room in front of a fireplace reminiscent of home and a coziness that ignites emotions of being a member of the family.  During the colder months breakfast is served indoors but guests can enjoy cool Mediterranean breezes and views of Nice from the gardens while dining alfresco in the summertime.

Castel Enchante Terrace

Additional outdoor spaces on the property include patios and a swimming pool.  Loungers, benches, and chairs are abundant and allow the stunning nature and city views to be relished while relaxing. Many of the herbs and fruits that grow on the grounds make their way to the morning marmalades and juices. Fragrant flowers, towering trees, and creeping vines fashion an illusion that the bed and breakfast is no longer in a residential community but completely cut off and secluded, creating a sanctuary for your retreat.

Residential Area Nice, France

Le Castel Enchanté is a bed and breakfast for seekers of an authentic French experience in Nice, France.  Alberto’s attention to customer service and comfort during a stay at the Castel will be a delightful diversion from the sea of hotels in the touristy city center of Nice.

When visiting Le Castel Enchanté a car is strongly recommended.  February to March is a very quiet period.  In April there is a Lemon festival.  May rings in the Grand Prix race and international tennis matches in Monaco with many people staying in Nice.

~ By Kaylah Burks, an athlete, who enjoys traveling the world while staying health conscious.  Follow her on Instagram @jadenlie

Book your stay at Le Castel Enchante now with TripAdvisor

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First time at a Bed and Breakfast

I don’t think I have ever stayed at a Bed and Breakfast before. At least not in a 1872  Victorian home! I think what I feared was not being able to predict the quality of the space, the privacy of the room or the amenities I would have. The fear of the unknown you can say. Now, I am a new fan of B&B’s. Continue reading “First time at a Bed and Breakfast”