The Wonderful World of Home Exchange

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If you’ve been following my blog recently, you will have noticed that most of the places we stayed in Australia were home exchanges. Our first swap was last February in Madrid. Since then, all our exchanges have been with Australia – two simultaneous and four non-simultaneous. Two have included a vehicle, which is an enormous boon when you consider the price of renting a car.

View from the front window in Launceston

Apart from the question of cost, one of the great advantages of house swaps is that you get to be a local. When you’re lucky enough to meet the owners (not always possible in the case of simultaneous exchanges), they can explain the ropes and give you tips on things to do and places to visit. Otherwise they can leave useful information.

Relationnel was particularly appreciative of having a glimpse of Australia from the inside. In the past, we’ve either stayed with friends or motels or rented holiday accommodation which is not quite the same as living in someone’s home during their absence. The general spaciousness, the kitchen equipment, the video installations and the laundry facilities impressed him the most. I had problems with the heating (or rather the lack of heating!)

View from the living room in Coles Bay

We are no doubt not very representative of French people in general, but our television in Paris is concealed behind a large armchair as we very rarely watch it. It’s quite big but nothing like the size of the ones in most of the homes we stayed in. Our exchangers must have been a little disappointed to see our somewhat basic video installations. In Blois, we don’t even have a TV because we are too far from the centre of the town to have international channels. However, we expect optic fibre to be installed within the next two years.

Welcome fireplace in Hobart

We noticed that everyone in Australia has kitchen tongs so we bought a set for Blois for our Australian visitors. We have some in Paris but I never remember to use them!  Fridges are much bigger in Australia, for one thing, and no one seems to use lettuce driers which are standard equipment in most French households. All the barbecues were gas or electric.

Armidale house from the front

A laundry room is very rare in France and there are pratically no washing machines here that use cold water, which is why the cycles are so long (the machine heats the water). We had problems using some of the machines in Australia because theywere often programmed for cold water only and it took me a while to realise where the problem lay. Here, you can choose between 30°, 40°, 60° and 90°. Some of the machines are enormous in Australia – 9.5 kg – which is wonderful for washing sheets and towels. Also, you only have to put them out on the line for a few hours to dry. It’s far more complicated and time-consuming here!

Just one part of the garden in Armidale

In France, I have always had central heating. In Paris, our apartment is grossly overheated because we are on the 4th floor and even if we turn off all the radiators, the hot water coming through the pipes easily takes the temperature up to 23° or 24° instead of the regulatory 19°C. But the most important thing is that central heating means that all the rooms are evenly heated.

Armidale house from the back

In Tasmania, where it was still very cold, particularly at night, there were usually no radiators in the hallways, bathrooms and toilets although there were heated overhead lights in the bathroom. Since the rooms were often quite big with open-plan living spaces, it meant that the rooms were often chilly. In Hobart, though, we had a fireplace, which was wonderful. I do admit it’s far healthier to have less heating – I’m just not used to it!

View in Terranora from the back deck

In three of the houses, we had the most splendid views and I was only sorry that our simultaneous exchangers were deprived of the wonderful view of the Palais Royal gardens from our balcony because of renovations. One of the houses had an absolutely stunning garden and the rooms were furnished with antiques. My nephews, aged 5 to 10, who were staying with us, thought it was a castle!

Kitchen view at Terranora

I’d like to say thank you to all our exchangers who gave us the opportunity to stay in their lovely homes. This post is not a criticism in any way – I’m just pointing out interesting differences between French and Australian homes that we observed.

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19 Responses to The Wonderful World of Home Exchange

  1. Susan Walter says:

    Sigh — lovely jacaranda in that last photo.

    I always by kitchen tongs in Australia to bring back. I could never get good ones (if I could get any at all) in the UK, nor here in France.

    I can relate to the lack of heating in Australian houses — when we moved from Victoria to Queensland in the 70s we were astounded at how many homes had no heating at all — and it’s not like south-east Queensland is tropical — it frosts in the winter and the rural houses were often single skinned weatherboard with no insulation.

    I would say that French apartments don’t have laundry rooms, but rural houses usually do. That and separate toilet rooms is one of the things I really appreciated about moving here from the UK (I also have an LG washing machine that runs on cold and takes 9.5kg :-)) and I dry my washing outdoors on a Hills retractable line that we brought back from Australia because all the clothslines here were so flimsy. I spent 12 years in London in a quite large house that nevertheless had no separate laundry and a bathroom the size of a cupboard with no separate toilet — unpleasant and inconvenient.

    • Fraussie says:

      Well, I’m certainly going to buy a 9.5 kg LG washing machine for Blois! It’ll make it easier for the gîte. We don’t have separate toilet rooms here though, but we do in Paris. The tongs (all four pairs) we just bought are in our lost suitcase …

  2. Gigi says:

    What do the french use for Tongs , Fraussie? I’d happily swap with you if you ever want a couple of weeks on the Gold Coast 🙂

    • Fraussie says:

      They usually just use a fork which isn’t nearly as efficient of course. What do you use your tongs for? Your lovely house with its beautiful view would definitely make an excellent swap!

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  7. Gwendoline says:

    A washing machine in Oz that only uses cold water?? Didn’t know they existed. Washing machines in France that HEAT the water!! Didn’t anyone ever think of just hooking up the existing hot water to the machine??!! O la la. Big commercial opportunity there for someone. That tiny ancient fireplace in Hobart! They still exist in many old homes in Oz as some sort of decorative piece but I haven’t seen anyone use one or rely on one. I love my heating, gas and wood and electricity but it is true that in general Australians use less heating than in Europe…of course there are generally very few areas where it snows.

    • Rosemary Kneipp says:

      Most washing machines we came across in Australia used cold water and the washing powder was often Cold Power ! I guess that machines in France heat their own water because of the different types of water heaters but I’m only guessing. The long cycles are certainly very annoying in any case.

    • Rosemary Kneipp says:

      The washing machines in Oz were not programmed to use only cold water – their owners had only connected them to the cold water tap. I assume the fact that the machines heat their own water in France comes from the different types of water heaters, some of which may not be able to sustain the heat, but I’m only guessing.
      From what you say, we were really lucky to have an open fire in Hobart.

  8. Gara in Sydney says:

    Enjoyed reading about your exchanges, as an enthusiastic and experienced exchanger myself. Am still searching for a Paris exchange, so if you or anyone you know would like to exchange with my modern apartment by the beach in Sydney, please let me know. Am also keen to exchange with New York, so if anyone in New York reads this ……
    My home is on the http://www.homebase-hols.com website – No. 24311
    Am happy to bring some kitchen tongs to an exchange home, as I do when I go to England, can’t manage without them!
    A bientot!

    • Rosemary Kneipp says:

      Hi Gara, I do hope you find an exchange. I’ll certainly think of you if anyone I know wants to go to Sydney. Who knows, perhaps once my daughter is living in NY she will be interested in swapping some time!

  9. Gara in Sydney says:

    Thanks Rosemary, fingers crossed!

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