The ELLE Canada editors’ guide to Airbnb.
Two editors on their Airbnb adventures while covering Fashion Week in Paris and Milan.
A CANADIAN IN PARIS Ugh. It’s 7 a.m. on a Monday morning in Paris, and I can’t get away with hitting the snooze button again. It has been a hectic few days of racing to Paris Fashion Week venues non-stop, from the Bois de Boulogne to the Palais de Tokyo to the old Crédit Lyonnais building and everywhere in between. Today promises to be another busy one, and the last thing I want to do is get dressed to schlep out the door for a baguette and café au lait. So I don’t! I just shuffle out to the kitchenette here in my little Airbnb studio in the heart of Le Marais, knowing the bread from yesterday afternoon is still good, there is Fauchon orange marmalade in the fridge and the Keurig coffee machine is primed and ready to go with a pod of—what else?—French roast.
Hotels, with their anonymity and luxe turndown service, are nice. But while a basic room at a three-star hotel probably costs three times what I’m paying here, I realize it’s not so much about the savings; it’s about getting a chance to immerse myself in a neighbourhood. “It’s a great way to meet interesting people from all over the world,” Leandro Alves, my Airbnb host, told me when I arrived. “Everyone has a story behind why they’ve come to Paris. If you have any questions while you’re here, please call me.” We exchanged WhatsApp info, and he was off.
The apartment is small, yes, but it’s comfortable and has homey touches you wouldn’t get at a luxe property—let alone a Best Western—and it’s only $200 a night. It looks exactly the way it appeared in the photos, and the bathroom is actually even posher than I thought. The windows open over rue Geoffroy l’Angevin, a small street that runs between rue du Temple and rue du Beaubourg. The bakers at the aptly named Pain Vin Fromages restaurant two stories below are obviously at work already. I am steps from Centre Pompidou, and the comptoirs of rue Rambuteau are so close that I can almost smell the Pont-l’Évêque cheese.
Despite Airbnb’s growing popularity—47 million guest visits and counting since it launched seven years ago—there’s still an air of equal parts start-up and outlaw associated with it. I stayed at another Airbnb place last season in Milan and it was terrific, but those who haven’t tried the DIY-rental service often ask me if I feel safe being in a stranger’s home rather than a hotel. Fair question, and it’s why it’s important to read all the posted comments about your host. Leandro’s were stellar, so I wasn’t worried. “We want to create an experience for a guest who wishes to have an authentic experience in Paris,” he told me when we first exchanged emails to arrange the booking. Mission accomplished. NOREEN FLANAGAN
THE ITALIAN JOB When I was planning my first trip to Milan for Fashion Week, I knew I wanted to immerse myself in the city’s glamorous and storied culture. And although I’m familiar with New York, Paris and London, I knew very little about the fourth fashion capital (pizza and Prada aside). The first part of my adventure was at a posh hotel in the city’s northeast end—it was gilded and luxe but surrounded by busy parkways that were best suited to car service, not cobblestone cruising. So, for the latter half of my week-long stay, I wanted to counter that with an experience that would let me walk as much as possible. (The city is not known for having an impressive transit system, and taxis can be tricky to procure.) I decided to try Airbnb, which allowed me to control my search options according to price, amenities and neighbourhood. Piazza del Duomo, where many fashion events are held, is beautiful, but it’s a very touristy part of town. (Hey, why fly all the way to Milan to stay next to a Zara?) Instead, I was drawn to the lively Brera area, which is known for its winding streets bursting with local boutiques, cafés and restaurants. (And it’s also a short walk from the Duomo.) Eventually, I settled on a listing called Luxury B&B Antica Brera, a two-bedroom apartment ensconced in a stunning palazzo, for $373 a night. Sì, grazie! KATHERINE FLEMMING
Noreen enjoyed her morning coffee on this banquette.