Saturday, 11 July 2015

An Airbnb adventure in Bloomsbury, London

Travelling may be one of life’s greatest pleasures, but feeling like a traveller? Not so much. Standing on an unfamiliar street, squinting at a map, the realisation it might be time to croak out a few words of GCSE-learned language to ask a passerby for help. These are the things that make me cringe a little. I’d much rather appear effortlessly native. Who wouldn’t?

Last month, when in the capital for Blogtacular, the Mollie Makes Handmade Awards, a Team Simple Things planning meeting, and a rather exciting craft workshop (more to come on those!), we chose not to stay in a hotel. Although there are many wonderful hotels in London - more than 700 at the last count - we were staying for a long weekend and it felt like the right time to pop our Airbnb cherry.

Airbnb is an absolutely brilliant idea. Seriously. Over a million properties all across the world are up on the site allowing you to stay in a real home rather than a hotel, wherever you may be visiting. The place we chose was a boho cottage in Bloomsbury owned by Ben (I’m a sucker for alliteration; it was fate). As you can see from these pictures, it’s about as far removed from a sterile hotel as you can get.

My parents are big fans of house swaps, meaning we travelled a lot as kids and stayed in countless real homes. The thought of sleeping in someone else’s bed is not so Goldilocks to me. Just to make us feel extra welcome, Ben was there to hand over the keys, show us round his abode, give directions and recommendations for local cafes and restaurants, and he’d even stocked up the kitchen for us with basics like bread and milk (and a bottle of wine - definitely a basic in my book). After he left, we got a bit giddy exploring this delightfully decorated little cottage.

The ground floor - an open-plan kitchen/diner and living room - was comfy and cosy, books covered most walls and a turntable and stack of vinyl was left out for us to peruse. The sofa and armchair were large and squidgy, various knick knacks adorned the mantelpiece. But the most fascinating thing for me was Ben’s collection of art. Classic oil paintings were hung alongside music memorabilia and pop art prints. I loved his style.

Upstairs, the bedroom felt grand, with its heavy mustard velvet curtains, antique furniture, and doors through to the adjoining dressing room (which also has a pull down bed to allow the cottage to sleep four). A stack of old suitcases were stuffed on top of the chinois wardrobe, a dressmaker’s dummy wore a bowler hat, and a beautifully painted screen made me want to have packed an impractical nightdress and fluffy mules. Elsewhere, two tiny bathrooms were cleverly fitted into otherwise unusable spaces - up in the eaves and under the stairs.

And the neighbourhood? Well, if I were to move to London, all things being equal I’d pick Bloomsbury. The cottage was a few minutes from Kings Cross and Russell Square stations, but an easy walk from Oxford Street, Soho, or Tottenham Court Road. On the night we arrived we headed round the corner to a pub that served amazing tapas, and further down the road was a Waitrose and many other lovely shops and caffs. After the tapas, we went for a stroll to see what we could see, and stumbled on the Foundling Museum. I’ve always wanted to visit this London institution. It tells the story of the parents who left children they weren’t able to take care of, along with a trinket by which they hoped to identify them when they returned. Sadly, we didn’t manage to visit this time but I hope to go back.

By the end of the weekend we were exhausted but didn’t want to leave. The little cottage had begun to feel like home. Without an inflexible checkout time, we were able to pack at our own pace, which removed some of the stress of travelling back to Bristol. But not the sadness. Airbnb is such a reassuringly easy way to travel. I can feel plans brewing already… Here’s to adventures ahead!

You can find details of the boho Bloomsbury cottage here. This property worked out at about £195 per night for two adults. If you are new to Airbnb then you can sign up here and you will get £16 off your first booking.

We received a reduced rate through Airbnb for our stay but all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the companies that make this blog possible. 
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