Lipstick on a Pig: A VRBO Experience

Kris and I have been traveling for a number of years and have stayed in all sorts of accommodations. Whether we are on a cruise ship in a balcony suite, a high-rise hotel on the Vegas strip or a rustic cabin in the middle of nowhere, we tend to come into the experience with certain expectations and seldomly are those expectations so far from reality as they were on our latest trip to Fredericksburg.

I’m not going to give the name of our cottage in Fredericksburg cause that would not be fair to that business. I did leave a fair review and also contacted the management company to inform them of the short-comings. I do however wish to share my experience with everyone here cause I think the tale is one worth telling cause it was just so ridiculous.

We arrived at our cottage about an hour or so after the check-in time and were absolutely blown away with the esthetic. The cottage is in a fully restored old bungalow that mixes modern amenities with rustic charm. The cottage is set in a very modern greyscale tone with shiplap moldings in each room, granite countertops, a posh kitchenette, huge bathroom with clawfoot bathtub, separate stone tiled shower and very attractive flooring throughout. I’m not an interior designer by any stretch of the imagination so I’ll just show some images we captured on our iPhones upon arrival.

As we began to bring our baggage into the cottage… thats where things began to slide slowly into the abyss. Unfortunately for Kris, her hand sanitizer opened up in the shoulder bag and spread onto some items. When she removed the items a small amount of sanitizer dripped onto the floor. I went into the kitchen and grabbed a paper towel (from the quarter of a roll provided in the kitchen). I dabbed some water from the sink onto the towel and proceeded to wipe the sanitizer from the floor as I was concerned what the drop might do to the flooring. Well, oh my God… upon wiping and then viewing the paper towel… it was as black as if I had rubbed it on coal. The floor was absolutely filthy! It was hard to detect with the eye as the floors were that posh grey faux tile. Upon closer inspection I could detect at least three differing lengths of hair…

Thoroughly grossed out and in no uncertain terms, expressed my concern to Kris about bare feet in this environment and stories of ring-worm from friends passed. An immediate aire of concern flashed across her face. We began to inspect our surroundings more critically at that point. Upon moving into the kitchen to dispose of the heavily soiled paper towel we came to find that under the sink there was no supply of any kitchen supplies (trash bags, paper towels, hand soap etc). There was a half empty plastic bottle of liquid Ajax soap and a wrapped sponge. Perusing the kitchenette there was a stunning lack of flatware, plates, cups, bowls and general kitchen utensils that have been present in all our previous accommodations. This was slightly alarming, I began to question what else might be absent.

The bathroom was no better than the kitchen. We were to be at this cottage for three days. With that in mind, we surveyed the toiletries. They were paltry to say the least. For our three days we would have only half of a roll of toilet paper. Yes, a half of a roll. Under the sink, nope, no extra rolls. In the vanity, nope, no extra rolls. We were both in a state of WTF.

Further examination of the bathroom revealed a further stunning lack of the essentials. Have you ever been in a hotel or accommodation that didn’t have those little travel size soaps or shampoo and body washes? Well, those were absent too. They did however have a beautifully folded hand towel. I haven’t seen anything quite so artistic since Carnival Cruise Lines provided those folded towel animals at turn-down. Okay, so they did the towel right, but the lack of towels was the next problem. Kris and I will need separate bath towels and separate towels for the hot tub and of course face towels and wash cloths. So, in my estimation that is 6 towels in total. That would be the bare minimum if we reused everything every day which I am willing to do for three days, if necessary. It would be nice to have a spare. I have stayed in remote cabins where there is no electricity, running water etc. and I have had more linens present. This was a disappointment, especially for what we were paying a night.

Keep in mind we have been in this place for all of five minutes and are beginning to question how honest the housekeeping services for this company must be. You see, this company operates at least 12 of these cottages in Fredericksburg so… Anyway, I get it that in these Covid-19 times people are hoarding toiletries and whatnot, but really, half a roll of TP? No soap or shampoo? At least f*****g tell me to bring my own.

At this point both Kris and I were over it. We were however fortunate that we had stopped into the local big box store for some supplies for the weekend. We also decided it would be best to buy a few supplies for home after the weekend as our stores where we live had been severely pillaged. Our shopping trip provided us with soap, shampoo and best of all toilet paper. I did not have extra linens but with care we had enough to stay relatively hygienic through our weekend.

Upon returning and conducting some business in the bathroom, the next issue rapidly presented itself. The toilet… would not flush. A quick wave of frustration washed over me. I cannot say how long I stood there in dismay. Maybe a minute, maybe five had passed. Not long enough for Kris to become concerned, not long enough for a missing persons report to be filed. I sighed and jiggled the handle…nothing. I  closed the seat and lifted the back lid to peer inside. Viewing an empty tank I was relieved (pun intended) and figured the valve had been shut off. I reached behind the toilet and turned the valve, nothing. Turned the valve the other way, nothing. Hmmm, a view of the tank revealed a few lines of lime and calcium deposit. I tapped the fill valve aggressively and the tank bubbled and percolated to life. The tank filled with water. I flushed and witnessed the bowl whirl to life. Definitely something I did not expect this kind of an encounter in this type of accommodation. In fact, I had never encountered anything like this in other properties (even the most remote cabins with flush toilets) I have ever stayed at. This would be the procedure for toilet usage this weekend, open the back and tap to flush and refill. Disappointing to say the least…

I shared this news with Kris, and as you could expect she was delighted. We finished unpacking and grabbed some cold beer and went outside in the backyard to check out the hot tub and patio area. I was ready for disappointment, I had been primed. The outside was actually beautiful. The plants were a bit overgrown, but it is spring and it had been raining the last week or so. The hot tub was covered and upon lifting the cover and testing functions, everything worked well. The tub itself had the standard amount for gravel from careless use and there was staining from the cover but nothing a Clorox wipe couldn’t overcome… fortunately we brought our own.

Several beers later and Kris and I were ready for the hot tub. It was a fairly warm evening as far as hot tubs are concerned, but we enjoyed it nonetheless and the starry skies above were gorgeous. We have stayed out in some remote locations in the hill country and have even done some limited astrophotography of those dark skies. I always thought Fredericksburg would be to bright with light pollution, but I may stand corrected. I think I could do some long exposure star trails with success here off of main street, as long as no porch lights or anything are present. 

After some time in the hot tub, it was time to clean up and get to bed as we were going hiking early in the morning at Enchanted Rock just outside of town (more on that later). Without a towel to spare, we dried and planned on using the shower to go to bed fresh. What if I told you there was no hot water? What if I told you that the hottest it would get would chill a penguin? There was no hot water in the shower… to add to the frustration though, there was hot water in the bathroom and kitchen sinks and in the claw foot tub… just not in the shower. We even left the shower running for ten minutes to see if maybe it was a distance and time thing… it wasn’t. The shower never warmed. 

Bear in mind that during this whole process Kris and I are dripping wet from the hot tub and do not have towels to spare to dry off the nasty, dirty and hairy floor. I sure as hell am not going to use my only towels for that. I don’t even have enough paper towels to dab up the water… WTF.

Fortunately, Kris is little and nimble and can use an old fashioned clawfoot tub. She was able to work her way into that contortionists cradle to wash off the “hot-tub-ness”. When it was my turn I looked at the tub with despair knowing an arctic shower was in my future. Like the condemned pleading for their life from the executioners axe, I stood in front of that tiled cell. No amount of prayer would bring forth warm water. I plunged into the icy storm. Have you ever heard the squeal of a piglet? Having grown up in a cold climate I am used to cold in one degree or another. The most unpleasant “cold-related” thing (when I was a kid at least in New Hampshire) would be in the winter when you were walking on ice and it would break and your foot would plunge about ankle, or at worst knee, deep into the icy water beneath. I would compare this with that except for it being your whole body and having to do it voluntarily. At least as a child it would just happen and be over before you could realize it. This, not so much…

That was really the final straw for me. I know it was self-inflicted at that point, but that really broke the piglets back. After I had warmed up and was ready to crawl into bed I was fit to be tied. Pulling back the comforter on the bed I was expecting to see bugs and mites crawling around like something out of Spielberg’s “Temple of Doom,” fortunately there was nothing like that. There was a curious stain on the comforter though. We neatly folded the comforter and placed it far away in the other room. The bed was warm and comfy and I slept in comfort the rest of the night. We woke up early the next morning and had a wonderful experience at Enchanted Rock

Upon returning from the day trip a shower was necessary… I took my chances with the claw foot tub. Obviously you are reading this so you know I survived. The nurses say I’ll be back on my feet in a couple weeks.

(I would like to apologize for the grammatically haphazard state of this post. Written on a mobile device on a gravel road…)

Published by DW

Freelance writer, photographer and traveler who enjoys sharing his experiences with others.

7 thoughts on “Lipstick on a Pig: A VRBO Experience

  1. OMgosh! What an experience! Hubby and I rented our first VRBO condo in Garden City SC two winters ago for two months. After three days of trying to survive the disgusting, moldy place, we went to a nearby realtor’s rental office and found a wonderful condo three buildings down cheaper, went back to the VRBO, packed up and left. I fought the VRBO and got a full month’s credit back but got stuck with a month’s rental because we didn’t give the owner a chance to come clean it. (it would have taken days to clean the mold throughout, where would we have gone during that time?!) It was hard to swallow the expense loss, but I could not have stayed in it one more night. BTW, we’ll never rent another VRBO.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, that sounds like a terrible situation you endured! So sorry to hear you were only made whole on half of the booking, that sucks. I have to say I have only had the one bad VRBO experience out of maybe 8 or 9 bookings, so I consider myself fortunate. We also tend to stay in high rise condos or very remote cabins so the properties tend to be sole proprietors, I try to stay away from folks who operate a bunch of places (as the quality is always lessened).

      I do have to say, if I had been through what you endured I certainly wouldn’t go through that agent again, WOW! Stay healthy!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Travel is enough of an adventure without having accommodation issues. Yikes. Only had one similar experience, but in a motel, before the popularity of Google research. We bailed. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have only had one horrible stay in all my travels… except for the Bossier City, Louisiana “incident,” but I’m not ready to open that wound. Thanks for visiting, stay well!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Aside from the “Bossier City Incident,” this is the worst, which I guess in the grand scheme of things isn’t too bad. I’ll tell you this much, have been on a few trips since and really study the reviews! Stay well!

      Liked by 1 person

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