Last week I reported on a near fiasco with our flat reservation in Plymouth, which turned into a success story in Cornwall. Turns out not all fiascos can be avoided. Here’s a story that lends a bit of reality to our otherwise happy adventures.
We left Cornwall a week ago, bound for the Salisbury/Stonehenge area. Our rented flat was in the remote village of Dinton, adjacent to National Trust land. The property was owned by the cutest looking elderly couple and a brother-in-law – all smiles for the camera in their profile – and it was called Honeysuckle Homestead. Does it get any sweeter than that?
Only the sweet little trio wasn’t there when we arrived. In fact, they didn’t own the property any longer. And the new owners weren’t expecting us, and had rented out the flat to a family of three. They were nice enough to offer us a room in their adjoining B&B at the same rate. We didn’t even know there was a B&B on the property. Or an RV park. And that bucolic scene they painted in their listing didn’t take into account the train track that ran parallel to the property. Buyer beware, especially when it comes to shopping online.
Let me take a moment to talk about accommodation reviews. Of course the listings are going to pump sunshine, so I read the reviews forwards and backwards scrutinizing every word for hints as to what’s really going on. But airbnb reviews are very short and sweet, for the most part, and I didn’t understand why until I got here. One reason is that most reviewers I read were Brits, and Brits are just painfully polite. For the most part, they find it very uncomfortable to say anything negative. You’ve gotta love ’em for that. But it doesn’t help when trying to reserve accommodations. Another reason is that airbnb allows you to write a public review and also a second, private review which only the owner of the property will see. So dirty laundry is not usually aired in front of the airbnb shopper.
In hindsight, there were only four reviews of Honeysuckle Homestead on airbnb – all variations of “Nice place, nice hosts.” A bright red, flapping flag should have gone up.
I don’t really care to relive this in more detail, so I will just say that between the railroad track maintenance that went on from somewhere around 1:00 in the morning until the trains resumed again around dawn both nights – think jack hammers and incessant diesel engines – and no hot water on the second morning, we called it quits after two nights (out of our reserved five). We found two other places to spend the other three nights. It was a bit choppy as far as packing up and moving on so frequently, something we tried to avoid this trip, but it beats the rhythmical hum of a diesel engine in the night.