I Lost My Airbnb Virginity In Charlottesville, Virginia (And Paid Just $49 For The Privilege)

105 Caty Lane CharlottesvilleWhat kind of accommodation do you expect for $49 a night? Are you visualizing a place with 800-thread-count sheets, a memory foam mattress and free Perrier and gourmet coffee? Or for $49 bucks, would you expect a place where they rent by the hour, where you might be mingling with junkies and prostitutes and want to wear latex gloves before you touch anything?

If you’re a skeptic like me, you might have a hard time believing that it’s possible to rent a luxury apartment for $49 in Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and a host of upper-crust types who have dogs worth more than my car, and horses worth more than my home. But I found out this week that it is indeed possible to stay in style in CVille for less than fifty bucks a night.I’ve never used Airbnb before, but when I noticed they had a listing for a “luxury” apartment in Charlottesville for just $49 per night, I was intrigued. The owner of the place described the apartment as “the intersection where chic luxury & modern cool meet Eco-responsibility.” Geoffrey, the apartment’s owner, advertises the following amenities in the apartment: stylish décor made from eco-friendly materials, vegan toiletries, a charging station for electric cars, 800-thread-count sheets, a memory foam mattress, a full kitchen, Direct TV with Netflix and Amazon Instant, Egyptian cotton towels, bathrobes, stocked kitchen, washer, dryer, laundry detergent and on and on.

My first thought was: bullshit. The apartment had no reviews and I figured that it was too good to be true. Perhaps it was a scam whereby someone would jump out of the bushes and carve us up like Thanksgiving turkeys. Or maybe it was trick photography or simply hyperbole. I had no idea but I booked the place for a total of $165 for three nights, including Airbnb’s service charge, and hoped for the best.

As a newbie, I found Airbnb’s booking process to be a little cumbersome and confusing. I didn’t mind verifying my identify and even enjoyed the step where I held up my driver’s license and watched in amazement as my cam scanned the thing. But after I paid for the apartment, I got an email telling me that my card wouldn’t be charged if my request was denied. But why would it be denied? The email went on to say that most hosts respond within four hours, but they have up to 24 hours to reply.

“In the meantime, please continue to contact other hosts,” the message said. “This will considerably improve your odds of a successful booking.”

But I was due to arrive in Cville in about 36 hours and Geoffrey’s apartment was the only one I saw that looked appealing in the budget category. After spending quite a bit of time making the booking, the last thing I wanted to do was continued to look. No, I wanted Geoffrey’s luxury apartment for 49 bucks. Luckily, Geoffrey responded promptly to confirm the booking, but if my request had been denied 24 hours later, I would have been stuck scrambling to find something at the last moment.

I also recently booked a vacation rental apartment via Trip Advisor’s Flipkey site in London and I think their booking process is more straightforward. In any event, when we pulled up to a newish looking apartment above a garage a few miles outside central Charlottesville on Tuesday night, my expectations were modest. So long as there was a bed for my wife and I, a sofa bed for my boys, and no one there to mug us, I’d be happy.

Geoffrey sent us a code to enter, so we were able to access the apartment at 105 Caty Lane without having to track him down or schedule an arrival time, which was very convenient. He even asked if we needed any toys for my kids. I was amazed to discover that the place was even better than I imagined. It’s a brand new apartment, and the word “luxurious” isn’t hyperbole. Geoffrey left us a dozen fresh bagels from Bodo’s, the best bagel place in Cville, along with cream cheese, a personalized note and a free tote bag.

Along with the bagels, the fridge was also completely stocked with complimentary bottled water, Perrier, two kinds of juice and organic milk! The kitchen was also fully equipped and there was a Keurig coffee maker and free gourmet coffee. The bed is just as comfortable as my Tempurpedic at home and Geoffrey’s shower has twice the water pressure I have in my apartment in Chicago. The place is so high-tech that even the garbage cans have “open” and “close” buttons.

I’ve stayed in plenty of rental apartments in a variety of countries, and usually these places are always lacking something – toiletries, adequate cooking utensils, cutlery or who knows what. But this place seemed to have everything – umbrellas, q-tips, cocktail mixing accouterments, a set of sharp knives, detergent and even to-go coffee cups! The moral of the story, for me, is don’t be afraid to try a place that has no reviews. The place might be brand new and the price could be lower.

The only downer is that we are due to check out and now we don’t want to leave. Alas, the place is booked for the next few days. And once word gets out about this place, we’ll probably never get to stay here again. Or, Geoffrey will increase his price. I sure hope not because the world needs more cheap but luxurious accommodation options like this one.

Eudora Welty’s 100th birthday and historic landmark house

“Through travel I first became aware of the outside world; it was through travel that I found my own introspective way into becoming a part of it.” –Eudora Welty.

Today is Eudora Welty’s 100th birthday. Welty, the Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist for The Optimist’s Daughter, besides having a totally cool name, is a person who has inspired people to think, read and embrace the arts. Along with being a writer, Welty was a traveler and photographer. Throughout her life, Welty’s roots remained firmly in the American South.

As with other southern writers who remain beloved after their deaths, Welty’s legacy continues. One of my friends, who is an avid traveler, recently visited Eudora Welty’s house in Jackson, Mississippi and came back in a glow.

Welty’s house, a National Historic Landmark, is now a museum that is open for guided tours. Here is where Welty lived and wrote from 1925 until her death in 2001.

Along with being a place where one of the United States’ literary greats wrote, the house is one of the best intact examples of an American writer’s home. The Tudor-style home looks like it did when Welty was growing up here when she lived here with her parents and her siblings, and afterward when she penned her masterpieces.

Visiting her house is only one of the options for honoring Welty’s 100th birthday. There are several exhibits and events throughout the year.

The Eudora Welty Foundation Website lists several. Two exhibits are being shown at different venues.

“Welty” is a combination of Welty’s 1930s era photographs and excerpts from her writing to “show the relationship between her source material and her writing.”

You can see this exhibit through May 22, 2009 at Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia; from August 3 to September 25 at Bryan Public Library; and from November 10-January 2, 2010 at The Triangle Cultural Center, Yazoo City, Mississippi.

The other exhibit “Eudora Welty: Other Places” is a collection of photographs that Welty took took in New Orleans and New York City from 1936 to 1939. This exhibit is being shown at Sardis Public Library, Sardis, Mississippi through April 26 and at The Hernando Public Library, April 27-June 19.

According to the Website, as more exhibits and events are planned they will be added. Click here for Calendar of Events that also has contact numbers for the various locations.

Limited prints of Welty’s photo “Window Shopping” you see here are being sold to raise money for the foundation. My friend says that the home, as wonderful as it is, needs work in order to keep it up and running.