An Interesting Experience
We stayed at an Airbnb in Sainte-Marie, Martinique for a week, while we were visiting for the Martinique Surf Pro. Budget nightly rate, basic (but sufficient) accommodation and dozens of great reviews. What could go wrong? Well, hundreds of mosquito bites, several power outages, and a virtually unreachable/unresponsive host. At least the garden is pretty, though.
The communication with the host Simon (pseudonyms) was basically nonexistent once we showed up. He literally never replied to any of our messages after arriving. He was away for work in Paris, so he had passed the baton of host responsibilities to his parents, Mary and Chris.
Before our departure, Simon had offered for Mary to meet us at the local church and show us the way to the house because he said the GPS directions are not reliable. Fine enough, but I had expressed to Simon the need to set a specific time to meet because we cannot call Mary upon arrival (we do not have international data on our phones; we can only call via wi-fi on Skype). Our plane landed at 6:45pm, so if we allow some time to pick up the rental car & drive across island, we had both agreed on the time of 8:30pm. Miraculously, our timing actually perfectly matched our pre-planning, and Shaun and I arrived at the local church at 8:30pm on the dot. No sighting of Mary.
After 30 minutes of patiently waiting with the benefit of the doubt, we had no choice but to turn on the international roaming on our phones to call Mary. She answers (thank god) and we have a little back and forth in broken English / broken French. She says her husband is coming now, “he will arrive in 5 minutes.” (So, no one was originally planning to meet us at 8:30pm??)… Another 30 minutes later, it’s 9:30pm now, and still no one has arrived. I thought he was only 5 minutes away? What do we do? Are we at the right church? Granted, this is after 24 hours of traveling (seriously, 24 full hours).
So, for the second time, I have to turn on international roaming and awkwardly call Mary, “Bonjour, umm.. your husband has not arrived yet…?” She responds in French, which I didn’t quite understand, and 15 seconds later Chris arrives to show us the way. Chris was very friendly and generous, even offering us a shooter of pineapple juice and rum upon arriving at the house. He showed us around the property, handed over the keys, and we were finally able to rest after a rocky start to the trip.
A few days later, we wake up in the morning to discover everything is shut off. A/C, stovetop, fan, nothing will turn on. Obviously, the electricity is off, but I’m curious why the wi-fi is still available?… Our apartment is on the ground floor and the main house (Mary and co.) is on the second floor. The wi-fi is stationed in the main house, and it’s still functioning, so we realize it’s only our unit that’s out of power. Why? How?
Since we still had internet thankfully, we could Skype call Mary. It’s 9:30am on a Sunday. Martinique is a French-owned island, so it’s a majority Catholic culture. We can literally hear the church bells from our Airbnb and instinctively know this is the worst day/time for the power to go out. Mary doesn’t answer my first call. She’s definitely in church. We send an Airbnb message to Simon, even though he’s in Paris, because hopefully he will be able to relay the message to his parents. We were about to leave for the entire day to explore, and would not have wi-fi until we returned that evening. I call Mary a second time with intention to leave a voicemail and she answers! Hooray! However, our communication is again mixed up in broken English / broken French, but it sounded like she was aware that the power was out and she said it will be fixed in 1-2 hours. Awesome. We can rest assured that when we come back around sunset, the power will return and we can cook dinner, use the fan, etc…
Fast forward through our day: we go to Tartane, hang out at the beach all day, have a delicious lunch, and return home around 7:00pm with high hopes of the returned electricity. We open our front door and the power is still out. What the hell? I call Mary, she doesn’t answer… The sun is setting and we have no light. The fridge isn’t cold anymore, and our food is sure to spoil soon (it’s hot as hell in Martinique). The grocery stores are closed (Sunday) and we can’t cook anything because it’s an electric stovetop. This sucks.
After about an hour or so, someone finally drives up the property and out pops Mary. She walks around the property, and returns 2 minutes later and our power is restored. She explains to us that the power had gone out because we used too much A/C. (From late afternoon the previous day, through the night, maybe 12 hours.) Apparently, this is a common occurrence and a known consequence of using too much A/C. Why weren’t we warned of this ahead of time? Why did it take 12 hours to fix it?
Round 2 (and 3 and 4)
Later that night, as we were getting ready for bed, another blackout occurs. Lights out, power out, for the second time in a day. I don’t know if it was related or not, but we definitely weren’t using the A/C. We get into bed in the dark, disgruntled and unsure if we would wake up with power or not. This time, the wi-fi was not on, so it must have been a whole-house outage. I was particularly frustrated because I work remotely and continue to do so while we travel. I had a conference call scheduled the next day and really needed the wi-fi to work!
Besides the miscommunication, possibly our biggest problem with this Airbnb was the insane amount of mosquitos. The windows did not close and did not have screens. Plus, we did not have a mosquito net around the bed. We counted 62 mosquito bites on Shaun’s two arms, alone. We probably had 100 each. It was unbearable. Every night was a constant battle of sleeping with a sheet over your body and undoubtedly waking up in sweat, or leaving your body uncovered and get eaten alive all night long by mosquitoes. With no A/C and not even a fan, sleeping through the night was a struggle. Luckily, in the middle of the night, I noticed the kitchen light was on and the power had returned. Hallelujah!
Twice later in this trip the electricity had gone out, again. Thankfully each of these outages only lasted about 15-20 minutes, but at the time you don’t know if it’ll be 5 minutes or 15 hours!
Island hopping with surfboards is a pain in the ass. With tiny turbo-prop planes, the airlines are tough to convince to allow a 7-foot board bag on board. We didn’t know what airline to reserve ahead of time, to get to our next stop Barbados, so we waited until we had arrived to ask the kiosks in the airport and gain some local insight and gossip from the other surfers. Our Airbnb reservation was scheduled through the 8th, but the only airline that said it would accept board bags only flew out on the 6th. We had to leave early. I send an Airbnb message to Simon (although he had never replied to my initial message regarding the electricity…) requesting to leave early, and I explain the travel/airline circumstances.
A couple days later, no response. I message again re-iterating the situation and submitting a request to check out early. Later that day, Mary comes downstairs and approaches Shaun with a subtle attitude, “What? You don’t like it here?” I guess Simon sees our messages but instead of replying, he just informs his mother. She’s clearly upset with us and has misunderstood our request. Although the stay had been subpar thus far, we were not requesting to check out early because we weren’t happy, but 100% because of the limited flight options. Shaun explains this to her and she cools off a bit… but it feels awkward. We had 4 days left after this interaction. The rest of the stay was fine, but there was definitely tension in the air!
The Good Side
Okay, enough complaining. Here’s the good. The garden is beautiful, set on a hillside with cows, chickens and goats on the property. And our temporary pet cat, we named her Ginger 🙂 The pool was a lifesaver in the intense heat and the view over the lush fields was a nice touch, although difficult to soak in at sunset because of the blood sucking mosquitos.
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