Ever get tired of the cookie-cutter hotel room? The just passably clean bathroom? The sometimes questionable bedspread or blanket? As I’ve mentioned before, living like a local is the best way to get a real ‘feel’ for a place when traveling. Not only do you avoid the bland hotel feel, you get a place that feels more like home with a kitchen, living room…and a front door key. It allows you to save money on expensive hotels, but still stay in some pretty nice digs. Plus you get to experience a more realistic slice of city life.
During my week in Lisbon, I was lucky to stay in my own apartment in the residential neighborhood of Barrio Alto.
I used Roomorama which rent apartments all over the world.
As their site says:
Roomorama was founded on the principle that there is more to travel than visiting a checklist of tourist attractions.
As two young executives caught between professional obligations and perpetual wanderlust, Jia En Teo and Federico Folcia would rent their New York apartments to a few friendly folks with a similar desire to live like locals. The proceeds in turn would subsidize their travel needs. That simple and effective method became a habit. But using classifieds to advertise their apartment -the most accessible platform at the time- took too much effort and, more alarmingly, involved too many risks: hundreds of responses to sift through; overlapping and contradictory requests; dubious, non-secure methods of payment and worst of all, no-shows.
Jia En and Federico quickly identified the demand for a service that handled short-term rental transactions quickly, easily and securely. Roomorama.com was launched in January 2009 and has since been a leader in the development of online rental communities.
- Search process for a cute and affordable place was fairly easy.
- Good website design: very clean and bright
- Good filtering system to refine results
- Tight on time? You can do a ‘shout-out’ to any apartments available for a certain city
When I arrived to my new home for the week, I was welcomed by Jorge who owns the apartment and about 5 others around the neighborhood. This former advertising producer got into real estate when he decided to leave the Ad biz, for a simpler life.
“The new, young ones were coming in and I realized they had more new innovative ideas that I didn’t have. It was time to go,” Jorge told me. So he and a partner started a short term rental company here called Lisbon Holidays.
Overall, I liked the apartment. There were some little touches for the traveler – a great stash of maps and guides to peruse through and a nice ‘welcome’ bottle of wine. Little bonuses like that are always a welcomed touch. The kitchen was stocked with dishes, glasses, appliances and even some condiments like olive oil, salt and pepper. Those are nice to have on hand since you really don’t want to have to buy them since you will only be staying a few days.
- Style: Simple, clean-lined, modern
- Bed: Nice, fluffy white duvet on bed (since apartment is only heated by 2 small space heaters)
- Location: Great, local, quiet street, nearish (but may not be close enough for some) to metro
- Tech: Nice flat screen TV, DVD player (and shelf stocked with movies and, yes, even some random porn for those lonely traveler nights), wifi
- Cleanliness: I am somewhat of a picky-perfectionist-neat freak, but I think for many, the apartment wasn’t as clean as it should have been. There were crumbs on the couch and some dishes stored in the cabinets that were not clean. There was a broken hanger on the floor of the closet, a few odd razors in a drawer in the bathroom. I just don’t think any rental should have that ‘lived in’ feeling unless you are actually staying at a friend’s house or a shared flat.
- Smell: There was a stale cigarette smell to the apartment. I am not sure if they allow smoking, but obviously I guess it’s hard to enforce. Not a fan.
- Power: I was warned that it is an old building, but when attempting to use the washing machine to wash my dirty travel duds, the power went out in the apartment no less than 4 times in five minutes. I scurried around turning off the TV, cable box, space heater…everything except a few lights. Finally it continued to clean my clothes. Oh…and about 1/3 of the light bulbs were out in the apartment.
- Water: Scalding HOT or Freezing
- Furniture: Looks good in photos, but up close and in-person, the Ikea-style coffee table and armoire were starting to show signs of wear.
Overall, I enjoyed my stay and loved the neighborhood. I just wish it was a tad cleaner so I could really feel like I could relax and spread out.
Disclosure: My stay at Casa Azul was provided by Roomorama, but, as always, the views here are my own.