Category Archives: Airbnb

Tips on booking lodging via Airbnb – by an old hand

> 1) Use the filters to decide what kind of accommodation you want. (entire house, entire apartment etc.)
> 2) Also put on the filter that you want superhost only. (These are the properties that have gotten very good reviews.)
> 3) Look for a place in or close to the neighborhood you want to be in.
> 4) read the host descriptions and the guest reviews carefully.
> 5) Look carefully at the cancellation policy.

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Splitting the cost of an Airbnb rental — made easier with a new “group payment option!”

Our Airbnb in Memphis

Check out the story below from Realsimple.com about a new way to pay for an Airbnb that should make it easier to share a rental with friends, which we often do.   A related issue we’ve run into: How to share the tab in locations around the world with English friends who pay with pounds while we pay with dollars – not just lodging but car rentals etc.?

The photos are from our recent Airbnb adventures!

Airbnb Is Making It Easier to Plan Your Next Group Getaway
Maybe it’s time to book that reunion with your friends?

Our Airbnb in Clarksdale, MS

By SARAH YANG November 28, 2017
Friends in a Cabin
Thomas Barwick/Getty Images
The next time you plan a vacation with a group of friends, you won’t have to worry about reminding someone to pay their share of the rental house and the inevitable awkwardness that comes along with it, all thanks to Airbnb’s newest feature. The accommodation site just launched split payments, allowing groups to pay their own portion of a reservation through Airbnb.

View from our Airbnb in Duluth

Our Airbnb in the woods outside Oxford, MS

RELATED: The Most Wished-for Airbnb in Every State

When consumers were asked what feature Airbnb should launch in 2017, one of the biggest requests was a group payment method. A recent Airbnb survey found that 79 percent of American travelers have been on multiple group trips in the last five years, but sometimes there are issues that arise when it comes to payments. About 38 percent of people reported that they were not fully paid back from a group trip, and 52 percent of travelers said they had to front $500 or more for the trip.

Our Airbnb in Albuquerque

The new split payments feature was created to solve these problems (and prevent any fights with friends). The trip organizer will request to book a listing and the reservation is put in an “awaiting payment state.” The trip organizer’s portion will be charged and others in the group will have 72 hours to pay their portion of the reservation. This new feature will only work with listings that qualify for split payments—and it will be available in 191 countries and territories and more than 44 countries.

Breakfast delivered to our Airbnb in Devon

Our Airbnb, Coconut Grove/Miami

Our Airbnb in Nashville

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North from Bentonville through Missouri Ozarks to Kansas City and then home

After a quiet night at our airbnb in Rogers, we dropped in at the hip happening coffee shop in downtown Bentonville, Onyx, which was buzzing, on a Sunday morning no less. After a few jolts of caffeine, we drove north through Missouri, passing what seemed like many road signs advertising Jesus, guns, churches and anti-abortion.

Stopped for gas in Lamar and toured a local outlet of the “Beef Jerky Warehouse,” which had more varieties of jerky than imaginable and some interesting T-shirts. We were taken aback, while reading a little wall sign about Lamar’s history, to see a casual mention of the KKK meetings (once) held in town.
In Kansas City, where the fall colors were most spectacular, we had lunch with a favorite relative, Uncle Kenneth, on the Plaza at the Parkway Social Kitchen. Not bad. Particularly appreciated the servers, who were gentle and kind to our elderly relative, which was much appreciated. The drive home to Iowa – where the trees also have turned fiery reds, yellows and oranges during our one week away – was also uneventful.

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Shack Up Inn/Cat Head in Clarksdale, Helena/Arkansas and Hot Springs

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Shack up inn

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Hot Springs bath house

This trip has been very hit or miss, with places I am glad we went and others I could do without. Sadly Hot Springs is a miss. Haven’t been here in 28 years and it seems down at the heels and sort of spooky. We are staying at a spiffed up motor court and although the owners have done a very good job of tarting it up, the neighborhood is shabby, with a very unspiffed up motor court (Dame Fortune, which we found via airbnb) a stone’s throw away and some shuttered old hotels.  It’s also at a busy intersection so lots of loud cars and motorcycles. (I’m getting fussier in my old age…) The famous old baths downtown look faded and the crowd is a bit rough.  Dinner was at Deluca’s Pizza, which was good except for the service and the weird glamour shot photos on the walls.

 

We did have an interesting day, driving backroads through the cotton fields of the Delta and the still-dying towns. Helena, Arkansas, which I have visited twice before, is still desperately poor, although there are valiant efforts at redevelopment.

Helena chef

In a food shop downtown, a nice chef whipped us up some sauteed shrimp atop a baked potato seasons with rosemary and garlic. We ate it outside, sitting on park benches atop the levee, looking out at a loading dock on/near the Mississippi River. We drove back roads to Hot Springs…another America, Trump’s America, faded towns and worn-out  places.

The day began with a visit to the Shack Up Inn, a collection of old shotgun shacks and cotton bins converted into lodging in a field south of town. Noah and I stayed in one of the shacks almost 10 years ago. The place has grown — there’s now a suburb (“Shackville”) adjacent to the original cluster and a new funky office/store/restaurant/ music venue. A very small wedding was taking place during our visit. We also stopped in at Cat Head, a blues music and folk art store run by a passionate and very knowledge blues fan originally from Ohio. The town still looks pretty bombed out and the black neighborhood in particular is very poor but it still seems to draw lots of blues fans, especially foreigners. I was sad to hear that Rat, the kind man who owned the famous Riverside Hotel died. He gave us a very memorable tour of the hotel 10 years ago. (He was an older man then.)

We also drove through to Friars Point and Lula, two desperate towns just north of Clarksdale en route to Helena. No change there that I could see.

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Greenwood, Money, Cleveland, Merigold, Clarksdale : Mississippi Delta

Great drive here from Birmingham. We took the longer more backroads route from Birmingham through Tuscaloosa back into Mississippi. It was technically maybe 2 hours longer than using the interstate but seemed much shorter because there was so much to see: one small church after another (picture a neighborhood street but lined with churches not homes); vast fields of cotton; big new McMansions, the occasional old beauty and many tumbledown shacks and trailers (although not as many as I remember from my last trip here 10 years ago).

Greenwood is a well-heeled town with an elegant looking spa hotel on the main strret, a great book store (Turn Row which I liked better than the more famous one in Oxford), an excellent local crafts/gift shop next door with excellent local pottery. We had a stylish lunch at the surprisingly sleek and contemporary Delta Bistro, which has white walls with colorful contemporary art. We ate surprisingly light  fried green tomatoes dotted with chunks of crabmeat and excellent jalapeno catfish cakes with “comeback” sauce akin to a spicy Russian dressing. The  famous Italian restaurant in town, Lusco’s, is open for dinner only. It gets rave reviews!

Heading north to the tiny town of Money, we drove over the Tallahatchie bridge (made famous by the Bobbie Gentry song) and drove past the gracious-living old home where “The Help” was filmed. (The lady at the gift shop tipped us off.). Then we stopped at an old church where blues legend Robert Johnson may be buried (“may” being the key word) and the crumbling weed-strewn wall of the remains of the drug store, Bryant’s, where the Emmett Till tragedy began. (There are very helpful historical signs in these lonesome spots).

Onto the bigger city of Cleveland where we dropped in at the famous meat market/restaurant which was setting up for what looked like a good dinner, with the tables at the opposite side of the room from the meat counter. My favorite t-shirt was in a shop next door (“Jesus loves this hot mess”) plus some “fighting okra” gear (apparently the real mascot of Delta State). (Later read that Trump has opened its first small town hotel in Cleveland. Ick.)

Next a quick stop in the worn but interesting town of Merigold where we sound the famous pottery shop (after passing by it twice) on a residential street. We were excited to find the famous juke joint Poor Monkey on the other side of Highway 61, a wooden shack with hand painted signs on the edge of a field along a tree -lined dirt road. The sign said it was open for music on Thursday only (this was a Thursday) but we soon found  out that the owner died almost exactly a year ago and the place is closed indefinitely.

Delta Bistro, Greenwood

Robert Johnson believed to be buried in Money, MS

We stayed at a remarkable airbnb in Clarksdale, an elegant old White House run by a bohemian and charming Southern belle who grew up on a “farm” nearby. (We’re guessing it was a plantation from the presumably inherited furniture and photos inside the White House.)  We stayed in  a beautiful old room with a well-appointed bed, old faded lamps, and three of four walls were windows.  The other two rooms weren’t occupied and the owners live elsewhere so we had this huge house to ourselves. The ground floor had an eccentric mix of old to-the-manor-born furnishings and contemporary art and photos of the belle during her modeling and design days in NY City.

Our loquacious host, sent us to a great place for dinner that we never would have found otherwise — Kathryn’s on the Lake, about a half hour outside of town on Moon Lake. Very unassuming on the outside, just a plain lakeside building, inside it had knotty pine walls, taxidermy, local art and red and white checked oilskin tablecloths. Clearly a favor of locals, four good old boys sat in one corner, another big family in another. The food was outstanding– steak filet, onion rings, a squash casserole, Kentucky Alexander (yes, I will be dieting when I get home) and excellent service.

At night, we went to Ground  Zero for blues. Not the best. It was open mike night and the talent was spotty but interesting to see who gave it a go. The pros on stage were good. A weathered old black guy named “razor blade”, willowy white girl playing guitar, a white middle aged guy from England also on guitar (and particularly good!) and a young black guy on drums. We were struck again by how many Europeans were there as well as some very drunk Aussies. We were hoping to go to Red’s (a more “authentic” juke joint) but it didn’t offer music on Thursday. We did find out that unlike in the past, blues can be found almost every night in Clarksdale now. The city seems to have made a concerted effort to do this, which is good news and useful for the future. Red’s, for example, has music on Wednesdays, as well as the weekend.

 

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Cotton fields/Tula,  Elvis Birthplace & Johnnys drive-in/Tupelo, and Avondale neighborhood/Saw’s Soul Kitchen of Birmingham 

Tula, Mississippi

Alabama at last. Wanted to come here for ages, not sure why but my friend Kathy Jones Is from Mobile which may have contributed to my curiosity. We are staying in yet another great Airbnb in the Avondale neighborhood, in a lovely old wood house with a big front porch on a street with well-renovated old once-modest homes. Yet another “historically hip” neighborhood east of downtown, akin to Cooper-young in ’emphasis, East Nashville, Silver Hill in Albuquerque and wherever we were in Salt Lake. I seem to be drawn to these places… call it the Royal Oak factor (my parents had an art gallery in this suburban Detroit city, an outpost of coolness before the whole place turned hip.

16th Street Baptist

But I’m afraid that the NYTimes 36 Hours Birmingham sort of oversold the city, as Dirck politely put it. Nothing has bowled us over beyond the 16th Street Baptist church where the infamous bombing that killed 4 girls during the early 1960’s still stands regally. We walked around a very quiet downtown (on a Wednesday morning) and read civil rights signs that are part of the walking tour here, which was interesting but we skipped the big civil rights museum because we spent hours at the Memphis one.

Sloss Furnace

We did have a good soul food/smoked meat sampler at Saw’s  Soul Kitchen in our neighborhood and the Sloss furnace, a former industrial site for producing pig iron, now a museum) taught us about Birmingham’s reputation as  “The Pittsburgh of the south.) The Red Mountain hiking area through the woods of an old mining area wasn’t terribly interesting or scenic and the trails were poorly marked so never made it to our destination (Grace’s Gap).

Harvested cotton “module”

About half of this 19th century Avondale airbnb house is off bounds and being renovated but we have all the rest of it to ourselves, and there is plenty of space. Two bedrooms, a bathroom, a lovely sitting room with an old fireplace, comfy couch, interesting paintings, wine and fresh bread awaiting us. So nice. We got here at about 5 and quickly set out on foot to explore, landing at Naked Arts, a good crafts gallery. The owner, who still has a Belgium accent although she’s lived here for decades, suggested a good street to walk on and a good restaurant (39th street to 41st street, where we ate at Avondale Brewery— delicious grilled sandwich with pork belly, fried egg and cheddar cheese; a salad with greens, bacon, watermelon, feta) and there was a talented guy singing and guitar-playing good covers. We also had excellent soul food the next day at Saw’s.

elvis birthplace, Tupelo

During our morning in Oxford, we enjoyed our fantastic Airbnb in the countryside , which had the most comfortable bed! And then we enjoyed the huge second floor screened in porch where we ate homemade coffee cake, left for us by our host, and watched the sun stream in through the pine trees. We walked past the chicken and rooster house on the property to a big workshop where the co-owner, a metal worker, was making big sculptures. Nice guy and he suggested a great drive nearby where we did, as promised,  see fields of cotton near the tiny town of Tula ready for harvest and post-harvest cotton compressed into large “modules” about the size of a mobile home.  We continued on a pretty back road (highway 334) to Tupelo, where we enjoyed Elvis’s birthplace and church, which was surprisingly interesting. Screens dropped down on three walls of the tiny church for a film reenactment of a Pentecostal service, complete with a young impressionable Elvis. Facts I never knew: Elvis had a twin. Stillborn, sadly. Also, Elvis’s dad Vernon spent time in jail. A bad check. We ended up eating burgers at nearby Johnny’s Diner, sitting as fate would have it, in Elvis’s booth, eating delicious burgers that arrived wrapped in waxed paper. Old school.

Another nutritious meal. I haven’t had orange crush since maybe 1974. Too sweet.

Almost forgot that we visited the home of another very famous Mississippian – William Faulkner. Rowan Oak couldn’t be more different than Elvis’s humble home. It’s a lovely white columned gentlemen’s estate with a giant trees lining the path to the front door.

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National Civil Rights Museum/Memphis, Memphis BBQ/not on Memphis, City grocery, Square Books and Snack bar in Oxford, MS

I went to the Lorraine Motel where MLK was murdered for the third time today and was amazed to see that a woman who was protesting a proposed civil rights museum on the site back in 1989 was still there with her protest signs. She apparently thinks it memorializes the murderer. I disagree. I was as impressed today as I was during my second visit to the site (when it was a museum) about 9 years ago with Noah. It does a powerful job of laying out what led to the Civil Rights Movement and eventually MLK’s murder, with a dramatic finale: the (now glass-enclosed) motel room where MLK was shot on the balcony.It was poignant to visit this place now, with so much racial unrest. Still.

 

The City Grocery, Oxford,MS

Tonight we are staying in another really cool Airbnb in the woods south of Oxford,MS.  It’s on the ground floor of a house in a rural area with an unlikely contemporary art gallery (the Tree House Gallery) on the edge of a two lane winding country road. We have our own apartment with not one boring piece of furniture, artwork or rug. Shabby chic, interesting art everywhere, antiques, rugs from foreign lands. It’s a treat. And there is a huge screened in porch above us that I hope to linger on tomorrow morning.

Our Airbnb in the woods outside Oxford

Not surprisingly, my stomach is rebelling from all the rich food we have been eating. We tried another BBQ place recommended by locals (Memphis BBQ in Horn Lake, MS) but didn’t like it as much as Central BBQ – atmosphere was too fast foody. In Oxford, we stopped to browse in  the charming and very Southern square at the famous Square Books and had a beer on the second floor balcony of  The City Grocery, a beloved second story old bar overlooking the square (which reminds us a bit of Franklin, TN) and ate rich food at Snackbar nearby (fried oysters in a creamy sauce for me and dirck and I split “Vietnamese coffee ice cream” which had thru-the-roof butterfat content. My stomach is starting bubble up again just thinking about it.)Locals were raving about new places — Saint Leo’s (for pizza) off Oxford’s Square and Grit in the tiny town of Taylor (famous for the Taylor Grocery, a southern restaurant in a building that barely looked open anymore (part of the charm, apparently). Sadly, it wasn’t open on a Monday.

Memphis airbnb

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central BBQ, Rum Boogie Cafe, Otherlands Cafe, Rev. Green’s Church, FourWay, Sun Studio, Southern Folklore center – Memphis!

Rum Boogie Cafe

Loving this town. This morning we spent over two hours in church, much of it listening to fantastic gospel music by not only Al Green (aka Rev. Green) but an assortment of church members, all with fantastic voices! The church, on a remote exurban road, was full of visitors from Brazil, Germany, Australia and Iowa….we bumped into a friend sitting in the pews who is from Des Moines.

Central BBQ

New friends, Judy and Brian from northwest Iowa (met them at Rum Boogie Cafe)

Affter church, we went with two friends we met for the first time last night at Rum Boogie Cafe, a fun juke joint on Beale Street, to Four Way, the famous soul food restaurant for lunch. Turns out the rest of the after church crowd was there so the place was packed. But it was worth the wait. Great people watching, especially the church women dressed so elegantly, with fabulous hats worthy of Ascot. The last time I saw such great hats was at Charles and Di’s wedding in 1981. The food was delicious too — fried chicken, with two sides (excellent cornmeal dressing). We sat next to a table of churchgoers who were really friendly and we enjoyed talking with them while our chicken was being fried (which took awhile).

Trying out Elvis’s mike at Sun Studio

We have been struck by how nice and welcoming people have been here. People smile and say hi when you pass them on the street or wait in line with them at a restaurant (“Where ya’all from?”) and everyone seems to have a story or favorite rib joint to share. (The man I was sitting next to at Four Way told me his favorite rib place is Memphis BBQ which is actually in Horn Lake Mississippi, which we have since tried. Too fast food  an atmosphere for us. We will stick with Central BBQ, where we enjoyed dry ribs yesterday in the “historically hip” Cooper Young neighborhood, where our lovely 1920s Craftsman style Airbnb is located. Our hosts have done a great job fixing up this house, as have many of their neighbors with similar bungalows. (We also saw some great shotgun shacks on Blythe Street, parallel to Cooper.)

Heavenly gospel music at Rev. Green’s church

After Four Way, we took a totally entertaining tour of Sun Studio— our guide was a lot of fun and the tour reminded me a bit of touring the Motown headquarters in Detroit. Then to the Southern Folklore Center, which happened to share space with a Jewish museum. The center’s co-founder, an outgoing filmmaker named Judy, gave us a guided tour of the center and pointed out several of her relatives in the historic photos of Jews in Memphis decades ago. Who knew? (Apparently Jews own the famous Peabody Hotel…) Also thoroughly enjoyed a light breakfast at Otherlands Cafe in our neighborhood, with mismatched tables and local art including a folk artist named Karen Capps who it turns out lives a block from where we are staying.

We went back to Beale Street tonight (Freeworld, 30-year -old cover band, at Blues City Cafe where we sat with a nice couple from Denmark. Swedes were at the table next to us.) At one point, a guest artist – an older woman – got on stage and played a mean harmonica and sang. Who knew?

A singer with the band

Beale Street was more fun than I expected. I was worried it would be full of drunks like New Orleans’ Bourbon  Street …but we got there relatively early, which may have helped. And the music was great. On Saturday night, we  wandered into Rum Boogie and encountered, as one guy put it “a smoking hot band” (Vince  Johnson  and the Plantation Allstars) followed by a slightly less smoking one but when I walked to the bathroom, I stumbled across  another great band in the next room and a dancing crowd. Just nice to see people having a good time. Some of the best music was on the street with various bands playing and at one point on a surprisingly warm night (it was 91 degrees at one point) I found myself line dancing in the street with a bunch of strangers. Why not?!

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