Airbnb Online Experiences

A fabulous day in Paris with a Parisian: An Airbnb Online Experience

The Louvre pyramid (by I. M. Pei) at night.

I often imagine myself back in Paris. I don’t mean the lockdown version. I mean the Paris where one can flâner without attestation papers. Strolling the Covid-free, virtual city with our guide Herbert was a real treat. My tour group visited le musée du Louvre, le Palais-Royal, les Jardins du Trocadéro, and le Moulin Rouge to name a few sights. Herbert is not a typical guide. He and his colleagues teach their guests about French culture and challenge them to think deeply about the value of their social interactions. Since I’ve learned French from a French person, I’m versed in this topic. In fact, I find it refreshing to acknowledge someone with a “bonjour” or “bonsoir” at the beginning of every conversation. I often greet my English-speaking friends with these very words. They’ve come to accept my French soul.

One thing I learned from Herbert: how to plan the perfect Parisian picnic. You’ll recall that dining outside was one of my summer goals. Well, Herbert gave me a bit of insider knowledge to mull over. I’ll be an expert at hosting meals outside by spring 2021. I enjoyed A fabulous day in Paris with a Parisian so much that I’d like to repeat it. I’ll have to come up with an excuse to book a private group—perhaps a birthday. I’ve even suggested it to my work colleagues as a team building exercise. But, let me not get ahead of myself; I’m making crêpes next.

Works Sighted: A rainy night at the Louvre (December 2013).

Bake French Pastries in Paris: An Airbnb Online Experience

Choux Pastry (Pâte à Choux)

My first virtual day in Paris was spent making chouquettes via an Airbnb Online Experience hosted by Carlos of Aten-Te Aute. I signed up for “Bake French Pastries in Paris” even though I’m not skilled at waking up early on weekends. The class started at 9:00 AM Philadelphia time (2:00 PM in Paris). Not only was I awake and presentable when logging in to the Zoom meeting, but I also had all of my ingredients measured before the start of class…mise en place, as they say in the culinary world.

Aten-Te Aute offers several online cooking classes, but I couldn’t have been more pleased with the one that I purchased. It was my friend B. who suggested that we attend the experience together (which we did). She’s been meaning to perfect her pâte à choux technique. The third guest also joined us from Philadelphia. Carlos was a welcoming host. His backdrop, a colorful depiction of a lively, but intimate, café scene, created a cosy ambience. He checked our progress after each step; no one was left behind. On account of his knowledge and anecdotes of Parisian life, I’d like to take another cooking class with him. Carlos’s composed teaching demeanor made me feel calm and confident in the task at hand. I wouldn’t say that I’ve had as much French culinary training as Sabrina (played by Audrey Hepburn) in the 1954 movie of the same name, but I left the class with a newly acquired skill and a plate full of savory chouquettes to show for my hard work.

Packing for Paris

Trench coat, blazer, striped shirts, slim pants, A-line skirts, cashmere sweater, button-up, ballet flats, Veja Sneakers, boxy leather bag, and a cashmere scarf.

Paris is my second favorite city (surpassed only by London), and I’m heading there now. Goodbye Palombara Sabina. Thank you Nonna Angela and Mariana for my incredible stay. Let my virtual trip around the world continue! Here’s my itinerary of Airbnb Online Experiences:

My virtual suitcase is packed. Allons-y!

Works Sighted

J.Crew Factory schoolboy blazer; J.Crew 2011 icon coat; Italic Annie mini trunk bag; Cuyana alpaca scarf (heather light grey)

Everlane modern Breton tee; J.Crew Martie pant (navy); Veja Campo

J.Crew striped boatneck tee; J.Crew Martie pant (black); Margaux Demi flats (cerulean)

Eric Bompard classic V-neck pullover; Grace Karin vintage pleated A-line midi skirt (black); Margaux Demi flats (black)

Hinson Wu Isabella White Stretch Cotton Tunic; Grace Karin vintage pleated A-line midi skirt (navy); Repetto Lou ballerinas (lux patent leather beige)

Pasta with the Grandmas: An Airbnb Online Experience

Antimo Caputo 00 flour; eggs; Corelle bowl; Anchor Hocking measuring cup; Trader Joe’s Tunisian fouta towel.

“Making Pasta with the Grandmas” offers virtual cooking classes for various types of pasta. Each Zoom meeting is hosted by one of five Italian grandma/granddaughter duos. My lasagna class began with lively Italian music and was lead by Nonna Angela and her granddaughter Mariana. The event started at 5:00 PM Philadelphia time. Palombara Sabina was six hours ahead, but the time difference didn’t show on the presenters’ faces. Nonna Angela was an attentive instructor, and Mariana translated the directions for the nine guests in an upbeat manner.

In an effort to bring Italy to their students, the hosts played a video montage containing footage from the in-person version of the experience and scenes from the town. I imagined that the stunning Lazio landscape was right outside my window. We rolled dough by hand, made sauce from scratch, and, an hour and a half later, finally put our creations in the oven. The guests thanked Nonna Angela and Mariana for the delightful evening, releasing them from their teaching duties. My husband and I enjoyed our lasagna with salad, Chianti Classico, and S.Pellegrino. Dinner was straight from Italy.

I’ve spent a bit of time researching Palombara Sabina. Here are a few sights that piqued my interest:

Works Sighted: Antimo Caputo 00 flour; eggs; Corelle bowl; Anchor Hocking measuring cup; Trader Joe’s Tunisian fouta towel

Packing for Palombara Sabina

Button-ups, A-line skirts, ballet flats, Superga sneakers, Lonchamp le pliage bag, Italic Annie bag, and a cashmere scarf.

I’ll be making lasagne with Italian nonnas next month. Yes, I’m leaving Lisbon and heading (by virtual means) to Palombara Sabina, a commune located in the Metropolitan City of Rome (about a 60-minute drive from the capital city of Rome). Pasta with the Grandmas was started by Nonna Nerina and her granddaughter Chiara. As I’ve previously mentioned, prior to the current situation, Airbnb Experiences were only conducted in person.

Although I bypass many formalities of traditional travel during my virtual ventures, I like to pretend that I’ll be boarding a flight. This means packing my virtual suitcase, listening to music by artists from my destination country, and establishing a list of places that interest me. (Lately, I’ve been expanding my Italian playlist beyond Pavarotti.) Although I’ve been to the capital city of Rome before, I haven’t visited other areas within the Metropolitan City of Rome. Visiting Nonna seemed like the perfect place to start.

Here are a few online sources that helped me visualize this medieval town and the people I’ll soon be meeting:

  • This stunning visual compilation.
  • An aerial view of the hilltop town. (The older part of town is located on the top of the hill, and the newer part of town is situated farther down the hill.)
  • The municipality’s history as stated on its official website.
  • A video by travel vlogger Christine Kaaloa documenting her visit to Palombara Sabina and her experience cooking with Nonna Nerina.
  • An American mom’s commentary on her family’s experience cooking with Nonna Nerina (2:06; previously aired on TV2000).
  • An Italian talk show segment featuring Nonna Nerina and Chiara (previously aired on TV2000).

Works Sighted

J.Crew slim perfect shirt in Baird McNutt Irish linen (white); 3.1 Phillip Lim + Space for Giants belted asymmetric pleated cotton-twill skirt; Margaux Demi flats (black)

J.Crew slim perfect shirt in Baird McNutt Irish linen (French blue); Officine Générale Kendall belted pleated wool skirt; Superga 2750 Cotu Classic Navy

J.Crew slim perfect shirt in Baird McNutt Irish linen (navy); Gucci houndstooth wool-blend tweed wrap skirt; Gucci Marmont logo-embellished leather loafers

J.Crew 2011 icon coat; Cuyana alpaca scarf (heather light grey); Italic Annie mini trunk bag; Longchamp le pliage shoulder bag L (black)

Italic boxy cropped cashmere sweater (ivory); Grace Karin vintage pleated A-line midi skirt (navy); Margaux Demi flats (platinum)

J.Crew slim perfect shirt in Baird McNutt Irish linen (French blue); Loewe pleated linen and cotton-blend midi skirt; Margaux Demi flats (cerulean)

7 Wonders of Lisbon: An Airbnb Online Experience

Nuri sardines, Arca Nova Rose Vinho Verde, Pastel de Nata, and Trader Joe’s Tunisian fouta towel.

I signed up for “7 Wonders of Lisbon” and spent the week preparing for my virtual journey to Portugal. After visiting Fine Wine & Good Spirits, placing an order on Amazon, and swinging by Trader Joe’s, I declared myself officially ready with a bottle of vinho verde, a can of sardines, and the ingredients to make pastéis de nata. I followed this recipe for Portugal’s famous custard tart but had to convert the measurements from metric to USCS. It took me two days to bring the tart to fruition, but the effort was worthwhile. The description of the experience instructed participants to bring a bottle of their favorite wine, a tin of fish, and something sweet to eat, but I took this a step further by acquiring authentic Portuguese products. I wanted to get as close to Lisbon as possible.

When the time came (5:00 PM EDT / 10:00 PM GMT+1) to join the virtual session, I picked out an outfit (long navy skirt, white button-up shirt, and sandals) that would have been suitable for Lisbon’s temperature (66 °F) that night. As the Zoom session loaded on my computer’s screen, I imagined my husband and I leaving our nonexistent Lisbon accommodation to meet up with the group in person. Maybe I’d bring my pashmina, I thought.

The group was composed of six participants and an engaging host named Andrea, who waisted no time getting the session started. We began with a round of introductions and briefly discussed our personal experiences as they related to the current state of things. Then, we traveled virtually to the spot where the in-person version of the tour begins, Estação de Rossio. Andrea led us through the history, culture, and cuisine of the city she calls home in the seven segments of her presentation. Her personal stories and recommendations made me look forward to visiting Lisbon even more. Here’s a list of fifteen places that have piqued my interest during the course of my online exploration of Portugal’s capital city.

Shopping Destinations

  • LX Factory / An artsy village of sorts with shops and eateries. I’d especially like to browse the books at Livraria Ler Devagar. Here’s some footage of the complex.
  • Embaixada / A gallery of shops located in the architectural gem Palacete Ribeiro da Cunha. Take it all in (00:35).
  • Charcutaria Moy / A provisions store selling a wide variety of tea. They also carry chocolate, sauces, spices, coffee, and more. Have a look around.
  • Conserveira de Lisboa / I’ll be buying canned sardines from this shop that was founded in 1930 as a grocery store. Although canned fish was at the core of the company’s business from its inception, today it specializes solely in this type of product. It has three in-house brands: Tricana, Minor, and Prato do Mar. Here’s an interview with Tiago Ferreira, one of the shop’s partners.
  • Bettina & Niccolo Corallo / This family-run coffee and chocolate cafe doesn’t seem to have a website beyond its Facebook page. As you can see (11.16), the establishment is small…not somewhere you’d sit for an extended period of time. I’ve heard the chocolate here is the best in Lisbon.

Restaurants

Museums

Works Sighted: Nuri Portuguese Sardines in Olive Oil; Arca Nova Rose Vinho Verde; Pastel de Nata (made by me); Trader Joe’s Tunisian fouta towel