This is the 35th holiday home we’ve stayed in over the last year – the remaining days and nights have been in hotels, trains, tents, and so on. In spite of a couple of notable disasters we’ve been incredibly lucky to have stayed in some wonderful places.
Early in the piece we developed the flat screen TV theory of choosing houses and it has stood us in pretty good stead over the subsequent 12 months. But beyond the physical description of a holiday home, there’s an intangible something that’s hard to capture from pictures, descriptions or even reviews. It’s the ‘homeyness factor’.
There is an enormous difference between a holiday house that someone has set up as a business and one which is set up as a home and we’ve had many examples of each. At a basic level you can measure the homey-ness by judging whether the person who provided items for the kitchen has ever cooked in it. Is there a can-opener, a potato-peeler, a wooden-spoon (or other device that requires a hyphen)? But on the other end of the scale some places are so overstocked and carefully laid out that you feel you are living in a magazine shoot instead of a real place. When we arrived here in Monterey, we had to remove seven pillows from our bed before getting down to the ones we were to use.
A high homey-ness factor is awarded to the sort of place where you feel you can come home from a walk, kick off your boots and collapse into a chair. Our houses in Ireland and Poitiers were both perfect examples of this – they felt friendly, there was no big deal about deposits or threats over breakages, and no little notes telling us what do.
The place we’re in now is a good example of the other end of the scale. It’s a lovely house; decent size, well set out, good quality stuff. But the entire place is littered with little notes from our landlord threatening grievous bodily harm to our credit card if we do anything untoward to anything – like sitting on it. It’s very hard to get that homey feel when you’re dodging little billets-doux warning you not to waste water, not to turn on the fireplace above a certain number, not to eat on the couch…
Then again there’s a certain entertainment value in the treasure hunt for more landlord letters. We’ve come to treasure the faint cry from one of the kids “We’ve found another one!”.