Home stays come in many guises, not all pretty. The more time you put into researching the area, reading peer reviews and even checking out Google Earth, the luckier you’re likely to get.
I struck gold in Amsterdam with a home stay that was just about the most novel, romantic and comfortable stay I have ever enjoyed.
It was on a house boat moored in the heart of Jordaan (think the Marais, Paris or Paddington, Sydney) but only better. The area is a step back in time but with a really cool vibe, laneways boasting quirky boutiques, cafes and organic grocery stores and there’s hardly any road traffic because bicycle is the preferred mode of transport and believe me there are hundreds of them all with the right of way over pedestrians and cars.
The boat, called a floating home by it’s designer and host, Anton, is a state of the art one-bedder complete with Sonos, colour changing mood lighting and a hammam steam room!
Permanently moored on Prinsengracht, one of the main canals and opposite the most fabulous market, (Saturdays and Mondays), as well as a cafe selling the best apple pie in the city, there was little need to travel far from base.
I loved feeling like I was living like a native, chatting with locals (all of whom spoke almost perfect English), buying beautiful fresh produce and cooking on board. Ok, I had my photo taken about a hundred times by passing tourists on tour boats that circle the waterways, who clearly thought I was a boat-dwelling Amsterdamer as I sat on my deck sipping a locally brewed pilsner. A wave and a smile was a small inconvenience for the pleasure of feeling so utterly part of what is at the heart of Amsterdam in so many ways, it’s life on the water. Everyone takes to the canals either on small pleasure craft for a coffee outing or a picnic or a drinks party; they swim, fish and even drink the canals, which are astonishing clean thanks to sluice gates that allow fresh water in and out.
For the cost of a good hotel I got so much more; memories I’ll carry with me forever. Amsterdam you stole my heart!