I’m a fan of road trips and quirky places. Once you get well acquainted with the Capital Region, there comes a time when you have to drive farther and farther away and need a place to stay overnight. Why not try something different? Enters Airbnb, “an online service that provides a platform for individuals, generally private parties, to rent living space and short-term lodging to guests”. I discovered this service about a year ago and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Not only is it often cheaper than a hotel, but it gives you access to a wide and wild array of opportunities — private rooms, entire apartments, castles in England, boats in Paris, seashell houses in Mexico, caves in Spain, tipis in Australia, domes in Chile, or even igloos. You will likely spend hours browsing Airbnb’s own picks, adding places after places to your wish-lists, daydreaming about a cute boot house in New Zealand, a renovated church in Germany, or your own private island in Fiji… or Saranac Lake, NY. Today’s topic though: a cute tree house.
More photos below. Click on any of the thumbnails to open a larger view, or check the full-screen Flickr slideshow if you have Flash installed.
For a group of friends, this makes a lot of sense too. The six of us rented an apartment in Paris near St Germain last summer and it went smoothly. Instead of paying for three separate hotel rooms, we were able to share more time together, enjoy breakfasts at the same table, and save money we happily spent on more cheese. Closer to the 518, I rented a very cozy and very private house for a night back in October, with a fantastic view on the lake near the Ashokan Reservoir to wake up to, tasty restaurants a few minutes away in Woodstock, and the nearby Mohonk Mountain House to visit. Browse the many properties, read the reviews, chat with the hosts, and give it a shot.
I’m not affiliated to Airbnb of course, and this might not always be the most practical solution. I was looking for a place to stay in NYC for a last-minute trip when we realized that with less than 24 hours to spend in the city, a lot of ground to cover, and a train to catch early in the morning to Albany, it would be easier for us to check out from a hotel. See you another time, cute Victorian room in Soho.
Now this peculiar tree house in Vermont, pictured in this post, was quite the looker. I bumped into it on Airbnb while trying to find an ideal destination in Costa Rica. There are some spectacular places to rent there, but my head exploded at the sight of a Rainforest Tree House w/ Hot Springs for $85 a night, or a 18 acre tropical jungle retreat for $75. I’ll make this small slice of paradise happen later this year hopefully, even if I need to jump off a plane to get to there (not really). One tree house led to another, when I noticed this gem only a few hours away in Lincoln, Vermont. The reviews were positive in a surreal way and it looked lovely, so when the opportunity arose a few months later I booked it for a getaway around Valentine’s day…
…or at least I tried. If you check the tree house’s availability in the “Calendar” tab, you might sigh once you realize you’ll have to wait until December 2013 (!) to get up there. This is a popular destination, firmly planted in the Top 40 properties on Airbnb. Here is my tip though, but don’t spread it too far and wide: try to contact the hosts and ask if they can put you on a parallel waiting list, should a last-minute cancellation open up a spot. I plead my case and it worked for me rather quickly. It may help if your account is in good order, or if you received decent “reviews” from previous renters in the past, I’m not entirely sure, but the truth is the hosts are genuinely nice and accommodating people.
The hosts, Ellie and H. were very responsive by email and phone, and kept in touch throughout the whole process. The place is a little under 3 hours from Albany, easy enough to find by GPS. We arrived right around sunset after a stop in Lake George, NY. It had snowed about a foot in Vermont the night before but my fearless driver still got her
Subaru Hyundai a few dozen yards from the house, at the bottom of the hill — H. was already outside to give us a helpful hand with our luggage. Here comes my second tip: take it easy in winter, drive slowly up the first small incline, and don’t bother with the last hill (picture above). If you are the proud owner of a useless rear-wheel drive like I am… leave it at home, or wait until Spring.
Our hosts made us very comfortable right away; we all enjoyed wine, tea, and snacks in their gorgeous house while sharing our stories and inquiring about the best place to get dinner. Ellie, a writer, had been in Paris not so long ago, she had a lot to say about my capital. Take a look at the Frank Lloyd Wright inspired lamps H. has built over the years, they are beautiful. We retreated to the cabin a little later and it turned out to be just how I had imagined it, a quiet and cozy little place 30 ft. above ground, with a tree growing straight through it. Access is by a ramp 70 ft. from the main house and pretty, multicolored lights show the way at night. It is very nicely decorated and full of details. It creaks just the right way when you get in, but feels really solid otherwise. I learned later on that H. and his son had built it over three summers — a great project to undertake with your offspring, if you are asking me; I’d probably nail my own foot in the process.
Temperature plummeted to -12F that night, but the two space heaters and a handy pile of blankets kept everybody warm. I ventured in the hot-tub after dinner at the Bobcat Cafe and survived; bring your swimsuit, absolutely. Don’t mind the ladder to the loft, and there is a small single bed in the cabin too, though I wouldn’t recommend three adults in the tree house when space is such at a premium. I’d add that if you are taller than 6’3″ neither beds are likely to be the best fit — fair warning. Should you decide to stay a few nights, the main house offers a very inviting guest bedroom and a full, private bathroom, for a change of pace. There is no bathroom in the tree house, because, you know… tree house! Update: there is a chamber pot (see photo), I forgot the hosts mentioned it, perhaps jokingly. I suggest timing your last glass of wine carefully, how’s that for a third tip?
The squirrels went a little crazy during the night, looking for warmth in the structure, and I woke up early to take some photos at sunrise — I recommend you try too and gaze at Mt. Abraham and the Green Mountain National Forest. This is a place where I could see a lot of people retire. You can read high praise about the breakfast in the reviews and it sure didn’t disappoint, what a feast ready for us in their sunny dining room. I’m a breakfast kind-of-guy and I could have stayed a few more hours at the table, engulfing everything in reach. We shared some parting thoughts with our hosts, and were on our way before noon. Stop at the Middlebury College Museum of Art or check the Otter Creek brewery on the drive back.
I’ve nothing but good words to share about the whole experience, this was a fun little tree house to visit in Vermont and Ellie and H. took the best care of us. Your turn. If you need some inspiration, feel free to check my Airbnb wish-lists too.