Tried it, and This Happened: Europe & Airbnb Experiences
Bonjour a tous! Having just returned from the trip of a lifetime in Europe, I’m reflecting back on what I did and invested in, that made it as great as it was. Something new that I’m so glad I tried was a function of Airbnb called “Experiences”. Everyone knows them typically for their “Homes” component...but did you know you can book meet-ups, tours, happy hours, photo shoots, craft classes, and other activities, wherever your destination happens to be?
From previous trips I’ve booked, I’d always notice those options, but hadn’t tried them yet. Several months before my trip, I sat down and wrote what I wanted out of it. Among other things, my goals were to try new things, explore where tourists wouldn’t know to go, and invest in professional photographers to capture new memories.
So as I started to plan out my itinerary, I took to Airbnb, having seen options for tours and workshops and classes and photographers. For Paris, one of them caught my interest: a coffee shop and pastry tour in the artsy and gritty neighborhood of Montmartre and the posh and fashionable neighborhood of Le Marais, the Jewish Heart of Paris. The event description was witty, thorough, and funny. Reviews were glowing and they had plenty of openings that made for an easy booking for the dates I’d be in town. And only for $39? Yes hun! I booked that sucker and looked forward to what I’d learn about Paris from a few locals.
The next one I booked was a photographer. I found one I liked, Ludmilla, a German expert in Paris, who’s qualifications looked completely fleeked out (literally has a Master’s in Photography). Her profile on Airbnb showcased glowing portraits of her clients, beaming in front of the Eiffel Tower. I was sold.
Finally, looking onward for my two-night stay in Budapest, I sifted through more photographers and found yet another promising candidate. Andras offered a photo shoot and tour, taking clients through the major sights of the city on both sides of the Danube in 90 minutes. Who’s got two thumbs and is cultured AF? Moi baby!
The weeks came and went and before I knew it, I’d checked into my hostel in Paris and was ready to experience my first Airbnb...Experience. On a rainy Sunday morning, I walked to meet the group atop a bridge arcing over the Canal St. Martin. My tour guide, Adele, was there waiting for me, with a huge grin and a spare umbrella. The group was her father, a friend, and her friend’s mother. In other words, everyone already knew each other, then there was me. But it made absolutely no difference in the end - everyone was so warm and welcoming!
I’m usually ambivalent toward tour groups. The type of people you’re with all day can make or break the experience, so for that reason, I feel that tours are a bit of a gamble. But this one truly was awesome! The small group dynamic made it easy to talk to everyone, and our guide was able to answer everyone’s questions.
I also felt I learned great pieces of history and fun facts about these two novelty areas - including walking by the “fake” oldest house in France, which had been designed to mimic Renaissance-era housing, and over time people started believing it was truly the oldest house in Paris! Another memorable tidbit from our tour was stopping at a square in Le Marais named for the number of Jewish children from its resident elementary school that were sent to concentration camps in Nazi-era France. The school was reopened and named to commemorate them; acknowledging the past, while also looking forward to a better future.
At the end of the tour, the five of us left happy, laughing, and fattened by all the croissants in Paris. Right away, the verdict was in: my first Airbnb Experience was fantastic!
The next one was my photographer booked for the next morning. Ludmilla and I were to meet at Cafe du Trocadero, right in front of the Eiffel Tower. She was timely, responsive, and acknowledged my personal objectives as a blogger that I wanted to get out of the shoot.
Ludmilla was very knowledgeable and knew how to coach poses very well. We’d arrived before the open square in front of the Tower got too busy, and she was able to capture the soft morning light in my portraits. She also still heeded to poses and locations that I wanted to capture, as well.
A few unique touches I appreciated were Ludmilla’s option to pay a small fee to get images expedited, and her willingness to book again for another shoot the next day. We made time for three different outfits among the two shoots, and I left with enough content for my blog and Instagram for the rest of the month. Once again, she made herself available to meet me early in the morning, when the lighting is best, and I took her suggestion for a new location: Place de Vosges, which turned out to be a lovely place for very Parisian portrait pictures. Both shoots were a lot of fun, Ludmilla was a delight to be around and I was tickled by how beautifully her pictures came out when I received them.
My third and final Airbnb booking was with Andras in Budapest. Once again, I was to meet with him early in the morning, at 7:30 at Matthias Church. I learned that this was a hot spot sight to visit in the city, and what a magnificent place to start. Andras had planned out a great route for the walking tour: Matthias castle, along Fisherman’s Bastion behind it, down the hill and through the village, across the chain bridge to the other side of the city, passing the Four Seasons hotel, and ending at St. Stephen’s Basilica. WOW.
All throughout, Andras shared a wealth of knowledge for each stopping point in the tour - it was amazing! He knew everything from history pertaining to wars from centuries past, to silly fun facts, like when Will Smith was in Budapest to film for a movie, and he climbed to the top of the famous Chain Bridge and danced at the top, sparking a viral video and prompting travelers from around the world to mimic his crazy antics. For that reason, a sign is now posted that reads: “DO NOT CLIMB THE BRIDGE.”
The photography was also incredible. I shared that I had woken up with a cold and wasn’t feeling my most photogenic, but he assured me that wasn’t at all the case.
Andras also went above and beyond to be certain I’d make the most of my trip. He recommended which Turkish bath houses to visit, helped me with purchasing a daily public transit pass, and recommended what other parts of the city to visit before my flight out of there the next day. Because of Andras, I walked away with what I felt was a more meaningful connection to a new city, having learned so much about its history and each building, square, and monument’s role and context in their culture.
Airbnb will send you follow up emails to remind you to leave a review. All three of mine received glowing reviews! It’s the least we can do to folks who deliver such quality creative services - what a cool way to earn an income! What if you could make money delivering novelty tours in your own city?
If you’re curious to try one, I say read the reviews, find positive ones, then pull the trigger baby!!
Have you tried your own Airbnb Experience? Leave a comment below and tell us about it.