Thursday, 30 April 2015

Home Exchange? My Experience + A Competition to win one year's membership!

I am holding a competition to win membership of a home exchange company ( for a year, worth £100, - I have experience of home exchanges and recommend them as a great way to have more holidays and travel further.   There are more than 65,000 members of this site alone and plenty of interesting places to visit.  To enter the competition, please add a comment at the bottom of this post and I will draw out a lucky winner on 31 May.  There is no pressure to do an exchange once you join - but my guess is that you will find something appealing.

Why do a home exchange?  Well, price is one thing.  You swap your home for someone else's for your holiday or trip abroad.  You pay nothing for the accommodation.  Some people even exchange vehicles (I have not done this), so you can save on car hire too.  Also there's that thing of having a nice home and then paying to go somewhere on holiday that's not as nice as your place.  That has happened to everyone.  Something is missing...the Wifi, the dishwasher, the lawn...something.

You may also get local recommendations - so you don't waste time on 'rubbish' days out or eateries.   I left a list of places to visit and places to eat.  They were well received and appreciated.  When you go somewhere new, you may well want a local's recommendation of somewhere really good, rather than the tourist hotspot.  Also, we have a vegetable plot in our back garden and we were more than happy for the visitor to partake of our produce - and as it happened we did the same!

There are also all the advantages of staying in another part of the world - either nationally or internationally.  I have heard of retired people who hop from one home exchange to another.  Others have done long term exchanges of a month or more so they can really experience the new location.  I have just done it for holidays.  We live in South Devon and I suppose people want to come here on holiday, but similarly, we want to go to a city, or somewhere new that we haven't visited.  I crave novelty.

The disadvantages.  I suppose human beings are hugely diverse but they are highly unlikely to treat your house with disrespect as you are staying in their home at the same time.  You can draw up a 'contract' before the exchange to express what you find unacceptable behaviour in your home.  Most exchange sites have a check box for smokers / non-smokers and dog owners.  I do not wish to swap my home with smokers and I do not wish to have dogs to stay (I am allergic to them).  My home has always been looked after.  I think we broke one glass in a place we stayed and found an identical replacement before we left.  My house has been left undisturbed, clean, tidy and, more importantly, occupied whilst I am away.

I have found finding a holiday rental difficult to say the least.  I do not want to be situated next to a nightclub or somewhere ugly that is just out of shot of the camera!  Also, when we were about to book a holiday online, we realised that we were about to spend the amount that we would spend on a new car on something that was a 'promise' and unknown.  There is also the possibility of not having home comforts: toys, cushions, a large sofa.  This doesn't usually happen on an exchange.  As for families - it's great (as long as your children don't trash places) as there are often toys, musical instruments, DVDs and gardens that they will enjoy.

I have stayed for two weeks in Tuscany, Italy.  Their house was gorgeous.  Views, a pool, lovely local places to eat and drink, nearby picturesque villages, lots of sunshine, good shopping....they seemed to enjoy themselves in our house too.  They were English and used the time over here to catch up with some of their friends and family.

We did a week's exchange to Yorkshire.  That was very much a 'family' home exchange and it worked really well.  My kids were delighted to find a hammock in one of the bedrooms, a different lot of DVDs, plus some amusing chickens.  We enjoyed the really nice master bedroom, the well-equipped kitchen, the easy parking, the views, different cafes, parks and the local people.
As for the future?  We have had lots of interest in our home from people in central Germany.  That doesn't particularly appeal for a family holiday, so I have politely replied 'no thanks' to them.

Sometimes I find a 'perfect' place and they owners don't wish to swap with me.  There is something on the cards for October half term - a nice-sounding 3 bedroomed house near central Amsterdam - nothing has yet been confirmed, but they have contacted me and I am interested.  I am hoping it will happen.

I think exchanging homes is ideal for foodies - I certainly really enjoyed the local produce in Italy and got an insight into Yorkshire grub too when I went there.  You can always leave a 'local food' gift for the people.  I think that my visitors enjoyed my spice cupboard, vegetable patch and the recommendations I left for local eateries.   I did not leave a 'food gift' but I would in the future.

Here is the secret recipe for a successful home exchange according to
To learn more, visit  the home exchange website

To enter the competition for one year's subscription to the website, please leave me a comment below.  No-one has yet entered the competition (18/05/15) so it will be easy to win!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Exeter Food Festival 2015: A Flavour

 General view of Exeter Food Festival 2015.  It seemed to be busy - and I visited on the Friday and it was also held on the Saturday and Sunday.

 Luscombe Drinks.   This was a chance for me to try the new flavours - I have always enjoyed the Lucombe Hot Ginger Beer - I had never tried the Passion Ginger Beer which was lovely.  I liked the balance of fruit to ginger.

There were many impressive displays of local produce.
 Quickes Cheese have a great reputation locally - but the huge cheeses they had brought along were pretty impressive.

 Gaucho BBQ - huge chunks of meat on the grill here.  I think they were cooking dinosaurs!  There were several men queuing up for their lunch.  I did not partake, but I did stop and stare...

 Pasty demonstration in the demo Ashgrove kitchen with Chunk of Devon and Glenn Cosby.  My friend and I wanted tips on filling and crimping pasties.  This was demonstrated in a kitchen and there was an overhead screen for the audience to see the details.

The eggs I always use: Black Dog Eggs.  Free range from Crediton.  Apparently they sell loads via my local store - that's because they are so good.

A great day out!  I enjoyed it thoroughly and got a few cooking tips along the way. Thanks to L for accompanying me and being so nice.  I also had my nails painted whilst I was there - bright purple to match my coat.  There were many food samples and it was a good chance to try out something new, make purchases and chat to the producers.

Market Street Cafe, Newton Abbot and River Cottage Collaborate with Young Chefs

Market Street Cafe are doing something very clever.  13 weeks ago Young Devon got together with River Cottage with a suggestion of training up some young people into chefs, and using up some space they had.

The result is a cafe in the centre of Newton Abbot (entrance is opposite Ridgways Shoes, near the library and Jolly Farmer pub) called the Market Street Cafe.

I attended the launch of it and the food and drink were delicious.  I think they are giving young people the opportunity to get trained as chefs and then show off their prowess.  Richard Younger-Ross and Anne-Marie Morris were there (I don't know if you noticed but there is an election soon...).

There was a real buzz about the place.  I think it is now open to the public.  I recommend you try it!  We had (amongst other things) roast beef crostini, scotch eggs, really good fishcakes, home made fish fingers, plus a range of local drinks

The cafe is located above the Change Academy rather than below it as the newspaper article states. There is a flight of steps to navigate.

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