It’s said that you don’t really know your partner until you’ve travelled with them. That’s probably why society dictates that newly married couples spend time in exotic destinations soon after their big day. It was much the same for me. Of course, my wife and I had vacationed together many times while we were dating, but this was going to be a different kind of trip. Rather than staying in hotels like we usually did, we thought it would make things more interesting to live in our own apartment—practice for life ahead. We’d wash our own dishes, shop for groceries, do our own laundry and take a “grown-up” vacation.
With Paris on our minds, we started looking for places on Airbnb a few months before our trip. It was our first time using the service, but the clean interface and pictures enamoured us instantly. Then again, we were going to Paris—it’s hard to paint an unromantic picture of the City of Love. After much reading and research (aided by the handy neighbourhood guides on the Airbnb site), we decided upon the chic, bourgeois neighbourhood of Montmartre, lined with little pubs, brimming with wine, cheese, and bonhomie, and a stone’s throw away from the Sacré-Cœur cathedral.
We fell in love with a ground-floor studio apartment with a kitchenette, down the road from the cathedral. Wasting no time, we contacted Rafet, the host, who was happy to give us his place for four nights, and a few days later, we received an email telling us how to check into the apartment. The instructions were easy to follow, made easier still by looking up our address with Google’s Street View (this is really handy).
Being the juvenile young lovers we were, we found the whole experience quite exciting. Entering codes on number locks, unlocking a hidden safe and finally getting our keys felt like a mini treasure hunt. When we finally entered the apartment, we were thrilled to see it was exactly the way we imagined it. Nicer still was the fact that Rafet, who knew we were newlyweds, had left us a pack of delicious macaroons with a sweet congratulatory note. Even though we never met Rafet, his friendly messages made us feel like we had a friend in this new city.
The kitchenette was stocked with eggs, bread, biscuits, and juice, all available for our consumption. All we were requested to do was replenish some of the supplies, which we did happily as it meant trips to the charming bakery down the road. Being rather undomesticated, we clumsily learned to use the washer, heater, and espresso machine. In a couple of days, we felt like we’d been living in Paris for months, planning our laundry schedules and deciding who’d pick up baguettes from the bakery, even telling off noisy kids (who congregated outside our ground-floor window) in broken French. We were genuinely sad when we had to leave a few days later, but our next stop was even better.
We jetted from Rafet’s Airbnb in Paris to a more luxurious, honeymoon-appropriate villa in the village of Pogerola on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. In Villa Enza, we had a private room (carved into a cliff, no less) and access to a common area with a kitchen, laundry room, sun deck, and swimming pool, which we shared with a few other couples. Lemon trees bearing freakishly large lemons dotted the property and guests were encouraged to pick them. It was limoncello country, after all.
We’d wake up to ringing church bells (which were rather spooky in the dark of night), fix ourselves omelettes, walk down to Gerry’s Pub for a drink and tiramisu, and then take the bus to the more touristy parts of the Amalfi Coast, to gorge on clams and shrimp. In the evenings, we’d return to our comfy mansion and stare into the sunset, trying to figure out where the Mediterranean sea ended and the sky began. To this day, we believe that Villa Enza was our greatest online find.
In the midst of all that, we also managed to have our first few arguments over trivial domestic issues. But more importantly, we learned to laugh them off a while later. It was then that I understood why they say you don’t really know your partner until you’ve travelled with them.
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