We’ve stayed in many Airbnb flats, but our stay in the picturesque village of Viladrau must have been the most wholesome. We found the perfect house for digital nomads who love to take long walks in the woods.
The original compelling advantage of Airbnb was the warm-hearted interactions you might have with the hosts, letting you feel less like tourists and more like the locals and their friends.
It was exactly the case in Viladrau, under the roof of Jan and Sandra.
Our exchanges went way beyond the brief, polite conversations we normally had with other hosts. We talked about their rescue dogs, city dwelling, and living in the woods. We shared travel stories and life stories.
They also did things that we wouldn’t normally expect from our hosts. Jan picked us up after he finished work in Barcelona, and drove us to their house - an hour away. He offered the same lift when we had to go back down to Barcelona again. Sandra remembered to add some candles on our breakfast cake on Ian’s birthday.
Jan and Sandra have two dogs, Uma and Nala, who were full of character. Both rescued from a lab, they showed anxiety at times, but they could be very affectionate. They would waggle their tails madly when they saw me the first time in the morning. Their presence created a very homely atmosphere, and encouraged us to open up to our hosts.
Even though I am totally a cat person, I couldn’t help falling in love with them after two weeks. For the first time ever, I was intrigued by Ian’s idea to get a dog when he’s 60.
The house has two floors and a basement, nicely decorated and immaculately clean. The balcony where breakfast is setup has a magnificent view of mighty mountains covered in tall and old trees.
Besides having a cozy room for ourselves, we share a lot of common space with Jan and Sandra: a small settee on the second floor, a working desk, a couple of tables out in the balcony to catch the sun and grow a tan, and a hammock in the garden (exclusively for Ian 😜).
Yes, I haven’t told you yet. There’s a massive garden. Big trees gave lush shadows during warm afternoons and the dogs kept you entertained. As the wifi also reached the garden, we spent quite some hours working in the hammock. It wasn’t great for our backs, but did amazingly for our creativity.
And the garden literally opened out to the woods.
Viladrau's mountains are a part of the Montseny National Park. There are many trekking routes and you can get a map from the tourist centre, which was less than 50 metres from Jan and Sandra’s front door. Handy, right?
The tourist centre has some exhibitions and a screening of a documentary about the Montseny area in the days of witches and bandits. This might sound silly, but the stories scared me a little when we went into the wood one evening. Normally I would never agree to a late-night walk, but two other guests told us that they had come because that evening's sky was especially dark and it was possible to see shooting stars. After a lot of persuasion from Ian, I reluctantly left the house to go into the wood after 9 pm.
Ian did catch a glimpse of a shooting star twice while we lay uncomfortably on a fallen tree trunk in the dark. My eyes weren’t quick enough for the stars but I loved the smell of the forest and was amazed by its stillness.
We did all other walks in the daylight, though the branches of huge trees protected us from being overheated. There was also a stream if one wanted to cool down a lot. Though the air temperature was about 30 degrees, the water felt icy. Somebody, whose name I won’t be calling out here, didn’t care about the cold or the swimming prohibition and went skinny dipping where the stream formed a decent-sized pool.
If there is one inconvenient thing, it’s the walk from the house to the village. There wasn’t much shade along the path, and it took us about 15 minutes. I think normally there are bikes to use, but these were temporarily out of action when we visited.
The village has just a few restaurants so by the end of our two weeks, we had got to know most of the owners. The food was really tasty and the price was very reasonable. We had lunch a few times at a small hotel where they served a set deal: three courses and a bottle of wine for €9,95 each (!).
The village’s two small grocery stores had somewhat random opening hours. Their stock was limited but we were more than happy to repeat ourselves on spicy chorizo, juicy tomatoes and delicious tortilla.
Then there was wine. A lot of it. We often had our drinks in the restaurant but we did buy a bottle on Ian’s birthday. A ten-year-old bottle for €8. You have to open it and wait at least one hour before you should taste it, to allow some of the alcohol to evaporate off. You can’t rush these things when in Spain.
Bonuses for Digital Nomads
- The house has plenty of desks and tables with a strong wifi network.
- The village has a lot of space for exercise, running and biking, plus an outdoor swimming pool.
- The wood is beautiful with many trekking paths to keep you occupied during days off or weekends.
- The living cost is quite a bit cheaper than most cities or towns in Northern Europe - we reckoned about half the rate.
So for two weeks, we worked mostly outdoors, dined extravagantly on great food with a friendly budget, and took long walks in beautiful nature. If we didn’t have to go back to the Netherlands for our marriage registration, we would have stayed a lot longer. However, we promised ourselves we would be back.
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