Jul 31, 2010


My family and I, we like to think that we’re pros, wise to the game, so to speak. We vacation at cottages twice a year, every year. We never encounter any problems, and always leave with leftover fish, a sunny disposition, and positive feedback.

…Until about a week ago, when we got back from a cottage we rented out for a week. A few months beforehand, we were looking through personal cottage websites. This was our routine, what we always did. Most of our previous rentals were letter-perfect to their online versions. The ones that weren’t, we figured it wasn’t a big deal, that things change with age, that the owners of the cottage were probably a nice little old couple who just hadn’t gotten around to changing the website to match their aging cottage. But this time, it wasn’t just one little problem. It was as if someone directly followed a “What Not To Do” list perfectly, leaving not even the smallest detail unattended.

The website stated that the cottage is “a cottage like no other”. The d├ęcor was modern, very unique, very “in”. Or, at least, that’s how it would’ve been described if someone had bothered to dust the place once in a while. It was very unhygienic, absolutely filthy, and most definitely not safe for small children or allergenics. To my horror, dust wasn’t the worst thing to be found atop the bookshelves and behind the tv. There were spiders in each otherwise unoccupied corner, moths helplessly clunking against the lights and windows, and flies whose eternal buzzing could not be quelled even by the highest setting on my trusty electric bug swatter.

The basement was unfinished, so instead of a glamorous looking sauna and comfortable Japanese-style bed in the middle, there were bricks, cement, wooden planks, and tools, blanketed by a thick layer of dust. It reeked of mold, sawdust, and inadequacy. On the site, however, the basement was listed as finished. Huh. Interesting.

There was yet another thing missing: firewood. The cottage came equipped with an indoor fireplace and an outdoor fire pit, for campfires. There was no ready firewood for either. My father had to go into town, and buy it and later chop it by himself to get a nice hearty campfire started. Not too relaxing for what was supposed to be a vacation.

This utter lack of care doesn’t stop at the door, unfortunately. On the site, it said that there was a canoe and a paddleboat available for our enjoyment, free of additional charge. You couldn’t have paid me enough to get into those boats. When we flipped it over, we discovered a thick layer of scum on the seats, paddles, and back of the boat. Already disgusted, we anxiously flipped over the canoe. It didn’t look too bad. Just a stray spider in its web. When that was cleared away, we hurriedly put on our life jackets and pushed ourselves out onto the water. After a few minutes of smooth sailing, we hit a snag. I felt my feet getting wet, and to my disdain, I was stepping in a puddle! Which wouldn’t have happened if not for the minute hole on the bottom of the canoe. We rowed quickly back to shore, our tempers rising in time with the water level in the boat. As we sat down, I couldn’t help but notice the grime and bugs on the furniture itself. Out of two patio swings, four chairs, and a picnic table, the only relatively dirt-free area was the hammock.

When we’d had enough, we piled in the car and happily left the miserable place behind in the dust – no pun intended.

Once at home, I tried to figure out what went wrong, why wasn’t this search as successful as the others? Why was this cottage not worth the staggering $2000 we paid? The answer is this.

Dear cottage owners: if you’re going to advertise your cottage on a rental site, then please make sure that we, as renters, can leave you feedback. Believe you me, having the option to leave feedback shows that you are confident, truthful, and that what you see is what you get.

Maria, Mississauga, ON

Jul 28, 2010

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