Sunday, August 5, 2012

Our Vacation "Experience"

This is not one of my normal scrappy posts, or even a recipe - but I wanted to share our vacation "experience" with all of you, and the lessons we've learned. 

We've just returned from a "RELAXING" week's vacation, my hubby, our 2 sons ( 23 and 17) and our 9 month old Portuguese Water Dog puppy, Maggie, and me too! Let me add a note at the beginning of this post.  We were looking for a place to get away from it all - to disconnect, relax and reconnect and that is what we actually did, despite the condition of our accommodations!  Let me tell you about it.....

You see, for months, I searched and searched for a vacation home that was within driving distance from our home, had at least 2 bedrooms, with 3 beds, allowed pets, and had a pool that our puppy could learn to swim in.   In February, I found what I thought was the "ideal" place, in Mt. Tremper, NY, about 20 minutes from Woodstock, NY.  The description says it is a "Spacious Modern Retreat W HUGE Heated In ground Pool feat in NY MAG"  While the house WAS "spacious" and certainly a "retreat," it was far from "modern," and I have no idea what magazine it was featured in -or can not even guess why! 

We have rented homes and condos through and in the past - in other areas of the US - Florida, San Diego, CA, Myrtle Beach, SC - we even rented an apartment in Barcelona, Spain through the Internet too - all with WONDERFUL results, and had amazing experiences. All of the others were just at they were described and shown.  ( The inside of this home did photograph well on the website but reality is another story.) The other rentals cost just as much or even less than this one, and were immaculate, some were ocean front and even designer decorated. 

Well, to say we were disappointed in the actual condition of the home we rented this time, would be an UNDERSTATEMENT!  We were speechless when we pulled up. My hubby and the boys said  "This is it? Are you sure?"  ( there was no photo of the front of the home on the website.) My 17 year old even went out to his car to search for nearby places to stay on the POI's in his car's GPS!!  (Let me also say that my family does not have a sense of adventure like I do - I knew we would have fun together, even if the home was in desperate need of updating, TLC and a good cleaning.  I begged them to stick it out, and reassured that it would be okay) 

It is hard to see in the photo, but the siding was lengths of trees cut from top to bottom, quite "RUSTIC." There were no curtains or shades on any of the downstairs windows, or in 2 of the bathrooms, and only a few shades in the upstairs Master bedroom. While there is no one around, and the home IS secluded, it does NOT help when you want to sleep in past sunrise in the morning on your vacation.  ( Especially the 2 giant skylights that are located over the master bed!!) The front window had a sign that said "Hippies use the side door" okay, being near Woodstock, this was kind of funny - 

After walking inside - the musty smell was a bit overwhelming. ( this was remedied for the most part, by a trip to the local IGA food store and about 5 or 6 room deodorizers and 2 cans of spray)  As others had posted in reviews on the website for the home, there was children's artwork taped up to the walls - clothing hanging in closets ( even a wedding dress which must belong to the owner) one room was clearly their daughter Sophie's room - photos, toys, trinkets and stickers confirmed this.  The "double" bed in that room was an open futon couch, with 2 futon mattresses on it, propped up underneath with a few pieces of a tree trunk. Every room was in desperate need of a paint job.

This is the Double bed in front bedroom - aka Sophie's room.

The bathroom off of Sophie's room was in very poor shape - They had painted the tub at one point, and the paint was peeling off.  The drain was all rusty and the tub filled up over your ankles, not to mention the mold. I would not have put a child in that bathtub.

Bedroom # 2 had two single beds - also in the front of the house - no curtains.
Not sure why, but the space underneath the map of Africa has been painted with a @ 3'x3' square of white paint.  I do have to say the wood floors were very nice, and probably the newest things in the house.
This is the 2nd bed in this bedroom. There is a rug rolled up under it - and dusty kids toys stowed under the lovely electrical panel. - Again - no curtain on this window that appears from the outside deck to have once been a doorway.  The top dresser drawer was broken and fell forward when opened - that didn't matter as didn't use any of the drawers - the smell was too musty both in the drawers and really bad in this room.

 This is the 2nd bathroom - off of the 2nd bedroom - it was very small, the one window did have a shade - there was a small corner stall shower with a neo angle door - no one wanted to shower in it. Oh, I forgot to take a picture of the Sponge Bob light switch plate.  Hubby tried to shave here, but the sink filled with water, and took forever to finally drain - he had to move over to Sophie's bathroom to finish shaving.

 Here is the Dining Room.  It is the room you walk into from the front door ( which is located to the left in the photo  (yes, that is Maggie in the picture)  The info says the table seats 8 - but there are only 4 chairs! The table itself is kind of cool - it is like an old door or old farm table -problem was the dirt that came off of it when we cleaned it and had to use 5 Clorax Wipes.  The wood stove was very rusty - I personally would not feel safe if we needed to use it.  I think it is original to the house. Notice there ARE curtains on these windows - not that they block much light, but really didn't need to in this room. Had to laugh too - look closely - there are 2 curtain rods that do not meet in the middle - and the 1 panel on the right is hung upside down - not sure the last time they were washed either.

 This is a view from the kitchen area to the front door - with Sophie's room on the left - the doorway with the chin-up bar (??why??).  Lots of games there to play - but the ones we picked were missing a few letters ( Upwords) and directions, also SORRY - but Sorry had no directions.  Oh, that white color on the baseboard area to the left of the front door is where they stopped painting - lots of spots like this throughout the house.

Here is the kitchen - that cool design in the front of the counter looked like tile in the website photos -  no, I was wrong - (see the photo below.)  The fridge was great though - it was clean, and made ice.  The microwave and  stove/oven were okay - only one shelf in the oven, but that wasn't a problem.  There was a working dishwasher too - and they did provide dish liquid, dishwasher soap, foil, trash bags,  a roll of paper towels, bar soap and toilet paper.  The toaster was usable, I did bring my own Keurig machine, as that was my choice and what I prefer. The pots and pans were pretty unusable, I am glad I brought my favorite frying pan.  There was no bowl to make pancakes in, or to use for a tossed salad - ( well, there was one, it was kind of small and had a big chip in it.)  Thank goodness my parents came up to visit on Monday, I had my Mom bring me a cutting board and a big plastic bowl. I left the bowl there for the next people to use - and we used plastic silverware and paper plates while we were there - things just didn't seem clean.

Okay - on the far wall, you can see some of the Art Work I was talking about. While it is cute and sweet - and I am sure they are proud parents - it seems like it has been up there for years - it is just taped up not framed.  I have no problem with the artwork it self - just the way it was displayed was kind of like "stick it here and leave it for a few years" kind of feeling.
Above you can see what I thought was tile under the counter is actually a table cloth that is folded and affixed to the underside of the counter - kind of a cool idea from the front - but not as appealing from the back. It was a good place to hid the trash can though.

Here is an added room - it has a single bed - and a computer that doesn't work - the keyboard isn't plugged in, and there is no place to plug it into the PC -so it is useless. (but, only WIFI was advertised, no computer - so I'll give them that one.) That yellow and orange splotch on the wall is a piece of painted canvas.  Again, there IS Wifi - BUT there is NO cell service - we were only able to text to other iPhone users, and we could also use the land line phone.  Again, this is not a bad thing - just kind of off putting when you are so used to being connected, but it did help us to relax.
In this room is also where the washer and dryer are - in what may have once been a closet? The floor drops down, no molding, and the dryer was covered with thick dust on top.  They did provide linens, towels and laundry detergent, along with a laundry basket filled with clothes/linens?
Across the back of the house is the living room / play area.  Oh look - the curtains here were pieces of net/fabric draped over the 2 windows - okay then!  The red lounge chair was neat,  and kind of funky.  The "sofa" was like a large pit - great for relaxing on - if you didn't pick up that green fuzzy throw/blanket that covered a multitude of stains and use.  Yes, that is the only TV in the home too.  Be sure you don't have both of the air conditioners running, along with the TV and the washer or dryer - or you will trip a breaker, then have to try to find it in one of 3 breaker boxes. The A/C in this room tries to cool the entire downstairs - it does keep it comfortable, but the bedroom doors need to be open at night or the cool air does not get to them. There was cable, so we were able to enjoy watching the Olympics together in the evening.

The Ping Pong Table was something that we were looking forward to use - we had plans of a week long tournament - OOPS! -the website didn't say it was a child size one - and we only found 1 ping pong ball, and after one game and we were done - but there were plenty of other little kids toys literally piled in the space under the stairs.  Hula Hoop or yoga mat anyone?

Here is the one photo I took of the upstairs master bedroom.  The photos on the website do not show that there is a balcony over looking the living room - behind the dresser -which could be a concern for those with small children, or those seeking quiet or privacy from the living room below.  Behind our puppy's crate on the left was a pile of stereo equipment and CDs in a crate just sitting there. The photos of the master bedroom on the website are actually otherwise accurate - with the exception of the balcony and close up details.

View looking up while laying in the bed - while the 2 skylights may be cool for looking at stars before you go to sleep - they are not optimal for vacation morning sleep ins.  Shades would have been nice.

Under the 2 night stands were 2 holes in the carpet and holes in the floor where there must be duct work that no longer has a grate on it - but insulation along with lots of dirt and dust is peeking through.

 The carpet in this room could really use replacing.

On Friday afternoon, our last day, the A/C in the master (one of 2 in the house) stopped working and started to spit out water and black "stuff" maybe mold?  We were unable to sleep in that room on the last night, as it got extremely hot, and had to put one of the futons from Sohpie's room on the living room floor where the only other A/C was. I did make a call at 6pm when it was discovered to the # that was left for the care taker of the home - and did not get a call back or visit, I also sent an email to the owner who lives in NYC, who replied to me the next day with "Sorry, I couldn't reach him either."

Ahh.... the "Master Bath"  there was a large jacuzzi tub, that also doubled as an open shower - quite unique, showering in the "open" and it was actually the best shower in the house - other than the fact that you had to awkwardly climb over the edge of the tub and on the slippery stair to get in and out.  The jets on the tub appeared dark, and I would not want to see what might come out of them if the tub and jets were used. Tiles were cracked all over the floor, the light would go on and off by itself, oh -and check out the splotch of green paint on the wall.....
There was a matching splotch of the same paint over the toilet ( which felt like you were tilted backwards when you sat on it.)  Why paint here and there? and who rents a home like this?
Okay  - enough of the inside - let's move outside.  Back downstairs to the sliding door off of the kitchen -  it doesn't lock.  I did read a review from Aug 2011 that did say that - but I would have thought a year later this would have been repaired.  The owner said they never lock the home, and he even leaves his keys in his unlocked car. - Well - that is him - I am sorry, but if I am in a home, in the woods, in an area I do not know - I want it to be secure, while I am sleeping, and while I go out, and leave my belongings ( camera, jewelry, electronics) there.  We figured a way to put a baseball bat at the bottom of the door channel to make it secure, and be able to sleep at night.  It may be their preference, but it should not be forced on the renters.  

While it rained the first day, the rest of the week was sunny, and we were able to enjoy the deck with our morning coffee and our puppy, since we were up with the sun.  The grill was also great to make a few dinners on.  If you look on the top of the picture - you can see the grapevine covered fenced in pool area. 

Yes, we were able to relax at the pool - despite the need for it to be drained, scrubbed and repainted.  The caretaker did visit it each day and add chemicals, but it really needed more attention - we did find a dead mouse in it one morning - but that can happen anywhere.  I just kept saying to myself - "it is cleaner than a lake, and I can see the bottom."  Our puppy learned how to swim, and enjoyed the pool too - and that is one of the reasons we selected the home - so that is a plus.   Be sure to bring bug spray or those clip on OFF fans - this place can get pretty buggy (not the owner's fault) but a forewarning would have been nice, as well as maybe cutting the grass while we were there - or sooner before we arrived, as walking though it stirred them up.

Here you can see the discoloration / algae in the pool, as well as the distance from the house, and the need for at least a weed whacker.  The cushions for some of the pool chairs were hung over the fence and were moldy and not something anyone of us wanted to sit on either.

Also - there were at least 10 light bulbs that needed to be replaced inside and outside of the house, and part of the $2000 rental fee for the week included $150 for cleaning -  I would think that the cleaning company/person they used would actually clean the home before the next guests arrived and would check these things out.  Here are just a few photos of what I mean:

Top of the fridge - besides the layers of dust, notice the paint job, and the poster that is hung up (barely) from 2001.

One of the lights in the kitchen, over the stove.

SO - in the beginning of this post - I spoke about Lessons Learned - and here they are - ( Listed in "TOP TEN" order:)

10.  Never believe everything you read on the internet!

9. The people in Woodstock, NY ARE really stuck in the 60's!

8. Clorox Wipes are my friend!

7. "OFF" clip on fans are AWESOME!

6. People have a different idea of what "Modern" is.

5. Using pieces of hot dogs to get your Portuguese Water Dog puppy into the pool and to teach her how to swim works wonders!

4. Disconnecting from civilization ( well, almost ) isn't so bad.

3.My husband and sons really love me, and I am proud of them for sticking it out with me, and making the best of the situation.

2.I love to hear my sons and husband laugh! ;-)

And the number one lesson learned .....

1. Relaxing and Reconnecting and spending Quality time with my family is PRICELESS no matter where we are!

Yes, while I think (well, I know,) we over paid for this rental, this "experience" will not stop me from renting through one of these websites again in the future, BUT, I will be sure to pick one that has more reviews, and reviews that are not 6 months old or older, as well as try to get more photos from the owner of all of the rooms.

Thanks for coming along on our journey - all in all, my family does admit that they had fun, it was just not the fun we expected!

((HUGS)) ~ Sherri