On Airbnb'n it in Lyon
Whenever I look for a place to live, I seek out places with warm inviting people, and a nice clean kitchen with good light. It’s no different when I’m traveling. My boyfriend and I just spent the last month and a half traveling around France and Italy to eat and experience their cuisines, and during this time we tried our best to avoid generic and overpriced hotels.* To me, traveling is all about the people — and I find that staying in a hotel makes it harder for me to get a sense of the people and place I’m in. Instead, I like my accommodations to fit the kind of meals I enjoy most: at home, in the company of good people.
That’s where Airbnb came in. It’s a website where travelers can rent a couch, apartment or even a castle from local hosts. I’ve been excited about the service since I first stumbled upon it — it’s a beautifully designed website that allows you to find simple or swanky properties — whatever your heart desires. There I found Edouard’s flat, which was outfitted with contemporary furnishings but still had rustic details — old wooden beams, a front door that locked into a stone wall. Priced at $79 dollars a day, it seemed out of my budget, but after comparing it to local hotels it wasn’t a bad price to pay for our own private flat, complete with a kitchen.
It also came with the most awesome host, Edouard D., our go-to guide for all things food. When we arrived at the apartment, Edouard had bottle of wine and a bowl of oranges waiting for us, and also supplied us with bread, cheese, pickles, yogurt, orange juice and Earl Grey tea that satisfied us when we woke up hungry in the middle of the night (damn you, jet lag!) When we were able to wake up from our odd-hour naps, we went to an outdoor market along the Quai Saint Antione per our host’s recommendation. There we picked up some ingredients to cook our first meal in France in the coziest kitchen you can imagine (in the best way). The result: a simple, comforting meal of soft boiled eggs with green beans, garlic sautéed mushrooms, along with a potato au gratin. We also put on some Edith Piaf we found in the house while we cooked and drank Côtes du Rhône. The scene was slightly cliché, but whatever, we were in France!
In addition to Edith Piaf and cooking, mushroom foraging is a love we share with the French. At one point we mentioned this to Edouard and he immediately pulled out his iPhone to show us pictures of boletes he foraged the day before. There’s a French saying that says your neighbors would rather rat you out to the Nazis than tell you their mushroom spot. With that in mind, we gently tried to ascertain where to find our own boletes. Not only did he tell us where to go, he even introduced us to someone who lent us their car to go forage. Score!
Airbnb’s motto is “Travel like a human.” For me, that means being in an intimate space with good people and good food. It means living in a place for more than just a few days, rather then just visiting. Cooking at home gives me that sense of place, and that’s what I felt while we enjoyed our first meal in Edouard’s kitchen. What we also found in Lyon was the generosity and connection we craved with people who were willing to open up their homes and lives to us. Traveling for me is about these connections, so seldom and hard to come by. Airbnb connected us with Edouard, who hooked us up with a great apartment and mushroom foraging spots — a great way to start our trip.
* We couldn’t find a place through Airbnb while in Alba, Italy — so we ended up renting a room in a “mini-hotel,” which was a floor in a landlord’s apartment complex. It came complete with his mother, who came out her room to bark at him while smoking a cigarette, as well as bed bugs. Eek.