adiós airbnb!

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airbnbWARNING: full-on rant ahead.

You may recall that I booked a small AirBnB apartment in Santiago de Compostela back in June (my trip there was to be the last week of August). The place looked basic but cheerful enough, and was a decent price, so what the heck. I wasn’t planning to be in the apartment a lot, but while there I need to work. So just before arriving (after having spent most of August without WiFi) I got in touch with the owner, Elena, to ensure there would be good WiFi so I could work. She assured me it was a strong signal, and in fact, this turned out to be true. But as for the rest…

One thing led to another after I arrived until I was unceremoniously ousted from my rental apartment… but I am getting ahead of myself.

Let’s go back to my arrival. My friends Anna and Jorge had picked me up at the airport and my first glance at the place to quickly drop off bags after picking up keys at the bar next door – Elena is basically an absentee landlady – we immediately went out for lunch. When I finally got back to the apartment to unpack and make myself at home I was dismayed by the fact that I could only open the windows for fresh air if I also left the blinds up. As I was at street-level, this not only provided me with a charming full-frontal view of the garbage bins, but it meant that anybody walking by could look straight into the apartment. So I had to keep the blinds down with the windows only slightly cracked open.

Thus, my first request was to ask Elena if she could bring over an electric fan so at least there would be a bit of air movment – I said that I knew and understood that places in Santiago didn’t tend to have air-con, but some ventilation would be welcome. I was told that she wasn’t in town, and by the time she’d be in town again the temperatures would have returned to normal (they didn’t, and this also didn’t address the no-ventilation issue).

That night I got into bed (there were two single beds in the apartment) and that’s really when the whole apartment from hell nightmare began. Aside from having soft spongy mattresses, the cheap metal bed frames SQUEAKED like crazy with every movement. I couldn’t sleep at all unless I lay perfectly still … getting the picture?

Next day I contacted Elena again about the spongy mattresses and the squeaky bed frame and I was told she had actually changed mattresses to make them softer after a tenant had claimed they were too hard (yeah, right…), at the same time saying she couldn’t take everyone’s mattress preferences into consideration, and then she suggested that perhaps the frames were squeaking from “old age”.

Really? A day later she told me she’d recently had to replace the frames after someone else had complained about one falling down on her. So clearly, these were not old frames, just cheapy shitty ones. And ANYHOW… if you are renting out an apartment for people to sleep in, don’t you think you should splash out a bit to make sure at least the beds are comfortable? In any case, as Elena was still out of town she said there was nothing she could do about this during my stay.

But let’s go back to my first morning (after next to no sleep). I got into the shower, was pleased there was decent water pressure and then… GAAAAHHH… got totally grossed out when I reached for my shower gel (which I’d put on the shelf thingy in the shower) and found gluey-wet cakes of OTHER PEOPLE’S LEFTOVER SOAP on the shelf. Seriously. Half-melted cakes of other people’s USED soap.

This led me to check out the rest of the apartment a bit more carefully. I discovered that the kitchen cupboards were not clean – they had bread crumbs, spilled sugar, various stains. And the kettle on the counter top was totally covered in grease spatters. Which of course made me wonder if the apartment had actually been cleaned since the last tenants… but hey, it gets “even better”.

I got back in touch with Elena to mention all of these issues, and her response was that I go and stay somewhere else. Really? I’d booked this place in June. It was now the last week in August – peak tourist season in Santiago. Was I really about to find anywhere else in town that didn’t cost three times as much? So I decided to bite the bullet and just stay on.

I had arrived on a Sunday. And I had put up with all the other crap until I woke up in the middle of the night (Wednesday-Thursday) to find a puddle of water oozing out of the base of the toilet. So of course on Thursday morning I got in touch with Elena, who was now back in Santiago, to tell her about this problem. She ACTUALLY ASKED ME if I would be there to let the plumber in during the day. Seriously?? I was paying a fee as a guest at this place – why the fucking fuck would I have to suddenly be responsible for letting in the fucking plumber??? (excuse the LANGUAGE, you can tell how much this absurd situation was going from bad to worse).

And so… while I was out and about in Santiago that day, Elena and the “plumber” came and decided there was absolutely no problem. Except that when I got home there was still a puddle of TOILET WATER oozing out of the base of the toilet (gross!). I took this photo and sent it to Elena. She then informed me that if I wanted the plumber to return then I would have to wait for him myself.

Now let’s back up a minute. I was on holiday. I had paid in advance, in good faith, for a basic holiday apartment near the centre of town. WHY was it suddenly MY responsibility to wait for the plumber??

But okay, I did. I waited. The plumber showed up. And the plumber was quite possibly the stupidest individual I’d ever had the misfortune to encounter in my life – even worse, he was an idiot with a chip on his shoulder. He started off (of course) by saying there was nothing wrong. Then I pointed to the puddle of water next to the toilet and suggested he have a look at the sealing ring under the toilet. Well, he then got a bit hysterical at this point, informing me (in so many unpleasant words) that I wasn’t in fact a plumber and that he would deal with this in his own way.

Eventually he did remove the toilet base, and the rubber ring, but then he left the ring to one side, replaced the toilet to its place (without the screws!) and said we could “wait and see” for a couple of days if the problem continued. WTF? When I suggested that this was really not actually a solution and that I was a paying guest, his reply was to inform me that “This isn’t a 5-star hotel!”. Then the so-called plumber grabbed the mop, started shoving it violently into the toilet (why? no idea) and then he triumphantly said to me “YOU SEE, IT’S NOT BLOCKED” at which point he removed the mop from the toilet and proceeded to slosh toilet water all over the bathroom floor. I was so disgusted at the point I just wanted this moron to leave, and so I told him there was nothing more to be done. And he left.

Then I took all the towels in the apartment and, using a disinfectant product I found in the kitchen, managed to clean the bathroom floor to a reasonable extent. And then I went out… needed a stiff drink at that point, and also something to eat.

It was while I was out that evening when I received “notice” from Elena (around 9 pm) that she was terminating our Air BnB contract, and would refund the last two nights, but I would have to be OUT the next morning. Srsly?

As luck would have it I came across a lovely family run hotel in the centre of town and I gave them a call. Bear in mind, this was at 10.30 pm and I still had no idea where I’d be staying the next day. Well, they couldn’t have been more welcoming, and I was ensured that I’d be given one of their best rooms.

Meanwhile the Air BnB helpline had been in touch with me, and were actually very helpful. They helped me get an extra day’s refund from Dread Elena (since my last day at her place had basically been HELL) and they also offered me a good-will compensation, which helped pay for the extra expense of getting a last minute hotel in Santiago in peak season. I was happy with that solution and was willing to let things go at that. As things had been settled “out of court” so to speak, I decided to take the high ground and not even leave a negative review on the site and just put the whole holiday from hell experience behind me.

But apparently Elena is a vindictive piece of work and preferred to take the low road. She actually posted this “review” on my AirBnB profile, accusing me of planning all this in advance. WTAF? Here it is, basically lies from start to finish…

With Shawn I have been the victim of a devised in advance plan. From the outset , she requested e-mail communication outside the normal channel of the web, something that surprised me. From the first day she arrived, she complained of a lot of pushy and arrogant way, so my answer was possible to cancel your reservation and seek alternative accommodation, but refused with various excuses. Several days later, she complained of a breakdown of water in the bathroom where there was none, she was sending photos bath full of water to the website, when I went with a plumber and we found nothing broken, she wasn’t in the apartment, she kept insisting and it was the plumber again when she was in the apartment, she forced to plumber to lift and to position the toilet three times, something surreal. The plumber left angry and perplexed with this woman, and he didn’t see any breakdown. I have asked the site to cancel the reservation immediately, because everything has been puzzling and regrettable. I was surprised that Shawn did not have any evaluation on the website when she told me she used much web Airbnb for travel.

Well, of course no future possible host would ever allow me to stay in their apartment after reading this bullshit, so I got back in touch with AirBnB, who had previously been so helpful, and they very unhelpfully said that this (slanderous) review didn’t break any of their rules and that my only recourse would be to reply publicly to this piece of crap and defend myself. In fact, I did have another recourse, which was to delete my AirBnB account.

And AirBnB seemingly doesn’t give a shit.

sawdust

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sawdustA bit like when you see bullheads in a bar, you can always spot an inauthentic travel piece on Sevilla that talks about all the “spit and sawdust” bars here, with napkins strewn all over the floor. I’ve lived here for over 23 years and the very few bars in the centre that used to put down sawdust have long since stopped this practice. But every now and then you find one. This was taken at Taberna Azahar, a bar I’ve been planning to go to for ages (mostly for the name, truth be told). It’s up in the Macarena barrio, not a place I frequent very often. Anyhow, although they still put down sawdust, there are little bins throughout the bar for paper napkins.

Curious though… does anyone know of any other “spit and sawdust” places in Sevilla?

málaga visiting galicia while in sevilla

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galicia-in-sevilla

Met up with the fabulous Victor (@welovemalaga) who happened to be in town for the day. Victor is not only my very dear friend but is also my biz partner with We Love Tapas (he runs the Málaga branch). And as we had both spent time in Galicia this summer we decided to “relive” those moments at El Rincón Gallego del Pulpo, a local bar that was long overdue a visit.

Great visit, great brainstorming session, along with great food and (imho) the best beer in Spain, Estrella Galicia. As a result, lots of new stuff being planned for both branches of We Love Tapas. Stay tuned!

seanna sips

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seanna-sipsAfter first meeting Seanna Yee (aka @sherrysips) last year when she visited Sevilla, I was thrilled to hear she’d be back in Jerez for an extended visit this month. You may recall that I popped over to Jerez for the day a couple of weeks ago to visit Seanna and friends, and we made plans for her to come back to Sevilla for a day.

And what a day it was, packed full of sherry, great tapas, meeting friends, cuddling cats… we even watched a sherry film El Misterio del Palo Cortado while taking a break here at Casa Az. Just like last time Seanna was a hit with the cats and she even made this short video of marvellous Morcilla at play.

So great to see you again, my dear friend and “sherry sister”. Hasta pronto! xx

The wonderful Morcilla @azahar #ninjacat #instacat

A video posted by Sherry Sips (@sherrysips) on

voracious girl

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lorraineWhen Lorraine (aka @voraciousgirl) was planning a trip to Spain a few months back her friend Rachel (who had been on one of my tapas tours in 2013) convinced her to also spend a couple of days in Sevilla. A food & drink (and cat!) enthusiast, Lorraine and I obviously had a lot to talk about when we met up for a few tapas and a bit of sherry education…