Living like a local in Boston thanks to Carolyn and HomeExchange

The croissants at Clear Flour Bread rival any of those that I've had in Paris. Their Gruyere croissant, which was recently voted the best in Boston, is the perfect combination of Swiss cheese and French pastry.

Which bakery makes the best croissants and baguettes? Where can I find locally grown heirloom tomatoes and corn on the cob? What's the name of the grey building with the gargoyles? Does Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback, still live in Back Bay?

If you would have asked me any of those questions last week, I would have been hard pressed to give you an answer. But after spending the past couple of days with Carolyn, whom I had the good fortune to meet online while I was looking for a home exchange, I have a fairly good idea of what it's like to live in Boston because she has been telling me about the city's history and pointing out all of her favorite places during our early morning walks along the Charles River Basin and through the Boston Common.

Breads, tarts, bouchons and financiers at Clear Flour. Please click to enlarge.

While many people balk at the thought of letting strangers stay in their home, meeting kindred souls that I would have otherwise never encountered is the best part of house swapping. That's the consensus that fellow home exchangers Mike, Peter, Carolyn and I reached when we dined at Aragosta on Thursday evening. We all agreed, however, that it pays to be cautious and that it's important to vet prospective exchange partners. The rewards, however, are well worth it!

Even though Stephane was disappointed that his travel schedule didn't allow him to see Carolyn before she left for Vermont yesterday, they had already met when Carolyn was in Paris in April and while we were in Boston in May. As the retired owner of an event and destination management company, Carolyn is an expert on her city and I'm sincerely thankful to her for taking the time to introduce me to such a wide variety of places, including Clear Flour for bread and Serenade Chocolatier for the most amazing hand-dipped ice cream bars. Stephane and I look forward to reciprocating her warm hospitality in the near future and to showing her some our favorite spots in Paris.

If living like a local and not like a tourist appeals to you, take a look at HomeExchange. With 41,000 listings in 150 countries, it's the number one home exchange club and how I met Peter, Mike and Carolyn.

Hip, hip hooray! Our August vacation has officially started.

Clear Flour Bread - crusty baguettes, flaky croissants, amazing tarts and a sense of humor, too!
A sinfully decadent treat - hand-dipped ice cream bars!


  1. Please say hello to Carolyn from me!!

    1. I will! Your name already came up quite a few times because Carolyn and I had a good time talking about our trip to Chartres in the RAIN. And, of course, there were many times when Carolyn said, "Nancy will know this place..." while we were visiting different places in Boston. Oh! We drove past Brigham and Women's Hospital.

  2. Now what were you saying a few weeks back about those jeans feeling tighter? And what are you doing with an ice cream bar? Hmmmm.

    Have a great vaca stay in Boston. Glad Stephane has joined you.

    1. I know - thank goodness that I left "those" jeans at home! ;) It would have taken a woman with much more steely resolve than I possess to ignore the temptations of a homemade chocolate covered ice cream bar. As Carolyn said, it's like an ice-cream sundae on a stick.

      There's yet another daunting challenge for me to face because Stephane and Philippe said that we have to go to Serenade after they saw the pic of the ice cream bar. What's that saying? "Temptation get thee behind me!"....or I'll have to buy a new pair of jeans!

  3. Mmm! Must try these when I visit Boaton next month. Great tips.

    Not sure u could do hOme exchange. Privacy issues come to Mind. How do you deal with that ?

    Live denise

    1. Ah, September is when you're traveling to Boston. I hope that the weather has cooled off by then. In any case, I'm sure that the friend that you're staying with will have plenty of places to take you. There's so much to see and do here.

      Many (most) exchanges are simultaneous so I think that exchangers treat the other person's home with the same care that they hope is being shown to their belongings. Our neighbors have made 20+ home exchanges (including their car) and have never had any problems. As for privacy issues, we have a large lockable filing cabinet where we put all of our private papers, etc.

      Home exchanging isn't for everyone but it's something that Stephane and I hope to do more of in the future. At the moment, we're limited by his work schedule.

  4. Thanks for the post and link Mary Kay. I have often thought of making a "home exchange" and now I have the impetus to investigate. I am also developing the home skills to effectively prepare thanks to Joseph's handy home care hints!!!

    1. Ha! I know what you mean about Joseph's hints! His tips were foremost in my mind as I prepared our apartment in Paris for the friends who are staying there for a couple of days while we're in the USA.

      Home exchanging is a great way to "see the world", especially if your schedule is flexible enough to allow you to plan ahead. Our neighbors in Annapolis have their exchanges scheduled for the next 3-4 years. They've already been to Australia and NZ quite a few times thanks to HomeLink, the company that they use.


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