Think back to the last time you had to book a holiday rental for a family reunion or choose a resort for your summer getaway. Remember the hours you spent trawling through photos and descriptions on websites? Flicking through the back page ads in stacks of old Conde Nast Travellers? Multiply that by 26 and you have our life at the moment.
Selecting the right holiday rental, like a good hotel, takes time. It’s not because there isn’t a lot out there. There are a gazillion places — not just on HomeAway Holiday-Rentals, but on sites like vrbo.com. The issue is more about finding the right place to match your needs.
It’s not such a headache if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t really care where you stay because you’re going to be out exploring all day — you just want somewhere cheap to lay your head, to be able to make a coffee the moment you wake, and to have a fridge full of snacks and drinks to enjoy during that early evening chill-out time before you head out again.
If you’re that kind of person on one of those types of holidays then location is your main concern — you want to make sure you’re nice and central to the action, or you’re near a train station, bus stop or busy street so it won’t take you long to get there.
But if you’re planning on kicking back at the place — perhaps you have kids who need afternoon naps, you love to cook and want to have some meals in, or it’s going to be another sticky summer holiday on the Med so you’re intending on snoozing by the pool during the day and exploring the old city in the breezy evenings — then a whole bunch of factors come into play that affect the decisions you make.
If you’ve got a big stay-at-home family or group of friends, you’ll want loads of space, more than one bathroom, a big dining table and plenty of seating. If there are kids who need entertaining, you’re going to be looking for extras like bicycles or a games room. By contrast, an active young couple planning on spending their days at museums and galleries and nights at restaurants and bars, will probably be happy in a cute, clean, compact studio, as long as it’s got an espresso maker and iPod docking station.
Due to the nature of our work — we’ll be spending several hours a day writing, downloading photos, and updating the blog — our number one priority is fast broadband Internet and a big table to work at. Ideally there’ll be heaps of natural light and heating or air-con, depending on the climate. We also look for handy locations, within walking distance of the action, in buzzy local neighbourhoods rather than areas where travellers congregate. For instance in Bangkok, you won’t see us at Banglamphu v we stay in Thong Lor where the young Thai hipsters and Japanese expats hang out.
Ordinarily, our only other requirement is a good well-equipped kitchen, because Terence is a brilliant cook and we love shopping the local markets, buying fresh seasonal produce, and eating some meals in.
For our Grantourismo Project, however, we have one more requirement — we need to make sure the place is sexy. It needs to look good. It needs to be alluring. Why? Because we want you to like it. We want it to capture your imagination. Remember, we don’t want to do this trip alone, we want you to come along for the ride.
So take a look at the links — these are the places we’ve selected so far, in London, Marrakech, Essaouira, Jerez, Barcelona, Ceret, Paris, Kotor, and Venice, just for starters. Let us know what you think of our choices so far.
Update 19/1/10 And these are our latest homes to be confirmed: a luxurious home on The Palm, Dubai, a charmingly rustic casa in Sardinia, a tranquil Balinese villa, this sleek, chic villa in Phuket, a cute colorful casita in San Miguel de Allende, and these stylish contemporary homes (here, and here) in Austin, Texas. Things are getting very exciting now, don’t you think?
Update 1/2/10 We’ve had a few more fabulous homes confirmed for the year ahead which we wanted to share with you, including a traditional trullo (conical-shaped house) in Puglia, stylish contemporary apartments with stunning city vistas in New York and Buenos Aires, two breathtakingly beautiful beach houses in Costa Rica that come complete with friendly monkeys (see here and here), a characterful penthouse in the historic centre of Mexico City, a breezy hut-like cottage with makuti roof in Kenya, and an architect-designed penthouse in Istanbul that’s featured in design magazines. What do you think?
Update 10/1/10 Due to the recent trouble in Thailand, we have changed our plans, sadly cancelling the stunning Phuket villa above. We’re venturing to Tokyo and a chic apartment in Akasaka instead. We’ll update you on our post-Istanbul properties soon…