Estimated reading time:7 minutes, 28 seconds
Everyone onÂ Islington Faces BlogÂ has a story.Â Â Londoner Rachel Zatz has been planning a big trip to Brazil after she last visited 10 years ago with her eight-year-old. But sheâs had to wait for her son to grow up, find time to learn basic Portuguese and think of a way to travel without ruinous bills. The answer has been to rent out the spare rooms in her N7 home.Â InterviewÂ withÂ Nicola Baird
***This post is sponsored by Airbnb***
Rachel Zatz and partner Scott live just off the Holloway Road in a quiet, mostly ex-local authority row. They moved to Islington from Camden about a year ago after buying a four-bedroom home here.
âWe had a friend living with us, but they moved and my son moved out so we had spare rooms,â explains Rachel in the living room thatâs lined with shelves of records and set off by a music deck along one wall.
Itâs clearly a room ready for the next party, but looks homely with Scottâs two cats, Rizla and Ginger, relaxing in the spring afternoon sunshine while we wait for the kettle to whistle.
The pair were seasoned couch surfers (you register on a website and then find a sofa to kip on at someoneâs home for free) and regular hostelers. Scott has trvelled all over Asia; Rachel spent a year in China as part of an Anthropology BA at SOAS and even travelled for months at a time with her son, Spike, when he was little. But it wasn’t until they visited Portugal last year (2013) for Rachelâs birthday that they used Airbnb for the first time. âIt saved us so much money,â remembers Rachel â and they enjoyed the experience too. So, as soon as they were back in London they began renting out their three spare rooms, see here.
âPeople say âIsnât it weird having someone in your house you donât know,â but itâs travellers like us. Iâm not good at being on my own â I came through squatting and new age travel, and Iâve done 12 years with just me and Spike. Now I want the communal thing, so when you are stuck in London itâs a way to meet new people, pay the bills and get a little bit extra,â says Rachel, 46, sipping from her I-heart-London mug.
To make sure the right sort of visitors book with them, Rachel adds: âWe keep it cheap so weâre not getting business people.â
âWe get cool people who want to party, go to Camden or the Emirates, into the West End or to the museums and we can tell them which bus,â says Scott. Heâs not a fan of âsuitsâ, but quotes another Airbnb host who pointed out: âIf you donât like the guy, theyâll be gone in a couple of days.â
Rent your spare room
Turns out quite a few families are renting their spare rooms with Airbnb around Islington. Â Airbnb have even set up a local office and are looking for more host homes, see how to sign up here.
Hotels are fiendishly expensive and a bit formal for many people. Rachel doesnât like them at all:Â âHotels are not a luxury for me,â she says. âI like to smoke a bedtime cigarette and I donât want to get dressed and go outside.â Â Thatâs why she makes it clear to potential visitors that she and Scott smoke and have two cats. âWe donât cater, we keep it clean and tidy, though not to hotel standards, and we have clutter – so weâd rather charge less (ÂŁ25 a night plus an extra ÂŁ5 a night if thereâs an extra person) so people are not bothered. I think thatâs why we havenât had families.â
Ready to travel
Those extra sessions vacuuming and sorting out clean sheets and duvets is helping Rachel and Scott fund a three-month trip to Brazil, starting this May.
âI went to Brazil with Spike when he was eight, but a month wasnât long enough, I said then I had to go again, but I knew it had to be when Spike was 18. Being in Brazil for the football will be fantastic,â says Rachel who has secured tickets for four World Cup games in Salvador, and plans to watch other matches on Brazilian TV.Â Â The pair have booked an Airbnb place – âwe got a good deal and weâre near the football,â adds Rachel about their accommodation in Salvador.
They also plan beach stays and a five day trip down the Amazon river from Manaus.
Rachel Zatzâs tips: as good for tourists as Islington locals
- There are good restaurants on Stroud Green Road â Jai Krishna, the Indian vegetarian,(161 Stroud Green Road), and Pappagone (131 Stroud Green Road) for pizza because it is cheap and cheerful.
- Pubs: Iâm not a big drinker and I like a vegetarian Sunday lunch. The price in Islington pubs is outrageous!
- At the AngelÂ “I go to Desperados for Mexican (67 Upper Street). Emporium by Islington Green is good for coffee.”Â
- “We send people to Holloway Road for basics and supermarkets. Itâs cheaper, local and has good food. There are brilliant cafes but not great after 6pm. Me and my friends go to a lovely tapas place, El Molino, (379 Holloway Road) all the time for lunchtime meals â four dishes and a drink for around a tenner.”
- “People come and stay here because theyâve booked tickets for a match at the Emirates or going to a West End show. Iâd recommend Visit London for special offers â theatre needs to be pre-booked. And get an Oyster card the first tube trip you make. Visitors can get their Oyster refunded when they leave.”Â
Get to know Islington
Long term the pair hopes to run a campsite in Spain but for nowÂ – and before their big Brazil adventure – thereâs plenty to explore in Islington.
âAfter only a year of being in Islington, Islington is so much better than Camden,â reckons Rachel who has been impressed by council compost collections. Compost know-how is one of her specialities, knowledge honed while she worked on the Camden Green Fair. She even set up hot-composting collections on the last estate where she lived.
âWe still advertise as near Camden because thatâs where tourists want to go,â she admits. But then Scott and her start talking bus routes from Holloway Road â the 390 that stops by the British Museum, the 29 that goes to the West End or the 17 to St Paulâs where you can get off and walk over the Millennium Bridge, or in the summer join a free beach partyâŠ
It is clear Rachel and Scott are as much fans of all that London can offer, as their new home borough, Islington â just so long as they get a travel fix regularly too.
Airbnb, www.airbnb.co.ukÂ offers places to stay in 34,000 cities; 192 countries. A study from Airbnb community generates ÂŁ502 million in economic activity in the UK (Jan 2014) calculated that a typical Airbnb host occasionally rents out the property in which they live, and the typical host earns ÂŁ2,822 per year by renting 33 nights per year. Also 85 per cent of Airbnb hosts wants to âlive like localsâ. Full press release here.
CouchsurfersÂ –Â sofas in 100,000 cities.
Youth hostelsÂ –Â worldwide.
***This post is sponsored by Airbnb***
Over to you
If youâd like to feature on this blog, or make a suggestion about anyone who grew up, lives or works in Islington please let me know, via email@example.com. Thank you.Â
If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right), @nicolabairduk
This blog is inspired byÂ Spitalfields LifeÂ written by the Gentle Author.
Thanks for stopping by. Nicola