It has been quite some time since our first blog post. That doesn’t mean nothing has happened. Actually, a lot has been going on. Maybe even so much that it’s hard to collect it all in a single blog post!
Signing the deeds and receiving the keys to Mas de Muntaner marked a new episode in our lives. The first few days after having received the keys, it was hard to realize we were suddenly owners of almost 25 hectares of land. It also brought some anxiety, because where to start with so much land?! It is hard to grasp the size and to think of all the things that need to happen. After talking to various people around us, we realized the only way moving forward was to do what others do: by taking one step at a time, poco a poco. Start small, break up the land and plans into small chunks, and get going!
The wonders of town life and nature
We moved to Spain in February 2020, to be closer to Mas de Muntaner and to make it easier to liaise with the different parties involved in our project. Unfortunately, just a few weeks after settling into our rental apartment in Tivissa town, COVID hit the world. In Spain we entered a lockdown in which we weren’t allowed out of our apartment. We had great plans before the lockdown. We wanted to prepare Mas de Muntaner and the land for the renovation. We wanted to discover the area to advise future guests. We wanted to go to shops and get inspiration. None of it was possible. We spent our time working from home, discussing ideas for the future, soaking up the sun from the roof terrace, and trying to exercise in our living room with Just Dance. We waved at neighbours, joined the ‘Vermouth party from your balcony’ on Sundays (without vermouth that is, because drinking vermouth at 11 am after just getting out of bed is not really our thing…), and looked at other neighbours doing their daily routines. An interesting time.
As the weeks and months went by, the lockdown got (partially) lifted and we could finally go to Mas de Muntaner again! The first thing we noticed was the grass that reached up to our hips after the rain and sun of the previous weeks. The terrain needed some serious mowing! Just before the lockdown we created a small vegetable garden and planted some vegetables, such as tomatoes and cavolo nero. We were surprised to see that some of the vegetables survived the months of neglect and that we could actually harvest some of it! The wonders of nature.
We started the process of obtaining permissions right after buying the property, in order to renovate Mas de Muntaner and to turn it into a masovería (rural guest houses). In most cases in Spain, people don’t really worry about getting a permission to renovate. They usually just start and get the license some time afterwards (or not at all). We get it, as this process takes for ages. We were told it would take around 1 to 1.5 years for our project to get the necessary permissions. It turned out to be 2 years. As we are setting up a professional business and a tourist accommodation, we decided to do it by the books to prevent issues later on. Our project is encompassing changes for the buildings and the land, which means the renovation permissions had to be agreed on by seven(!) committees (townhall, environment, tourism, etc. etc.). You might think, so what is the problem? Well, it cannot be done all at the same time; one committee has to agree first before it can go to the next one. As each committee has about three months to respond, you can imagine the time it takes. And COVID definitely didn’t help. Moreover, rules in Spain change over time, we found out. Although we will only create two guest houses, our project was suddenly falling under the ‘hotel accommodation’ umbrella, meaning stricter rules. We needed extra environmental reports to show whether our land houses any protected animals and plants, or any invasive species (who knew our massive prickly pear is invasive?). We also had to explain why and how to renovate the land in the next years. And with a level of detail you cannot imagine!
Approval and… more plans
In July 2021, we finally got the final approval for the renovations. The moment we looked forward to for so many months! We could finally open the bottle of cava that was laying in our fridge for almost 2 years. But with the final approval we weren’t there yet. The process also includes a detailed plan of the renovation with drawings and measurements. You would think the initial plan for the renovation counting 90 pages was already extensive enough, but this detailed plan called the ‘ejecutivo’ is needed to inform the townhall of what will be done specifically and to get their final ‘go’. The ejecutivo is also needed to get quotes from contractors. With that we entered another process of various months. In December 2021 the ejecutivo was finalized, but it turned out we were still missing some documents from the townhall, so we couldn’t proceed. We also found out that we needed to comply with more environmental rules, such as drafting up a forest fire protection plan. The Christmas holidays delayed the process once again, but now in January we will start the next phase of our project. It will be an exciting time, with getting quotes from contractors and actually starting with the renovations!
In the meantime we started another process of permissions, like we can’t get enough if it ?, one for drilling a well. Water is essential for future living at Mas de Muntaner, but the property didn’t have any water access yet. Being remote, there is no option to get water the conventional way, so you can either get water delivered in trucks or drill a well. As we would like to be as independent as possible and not go through the hassle of ordering water every time, we chose the latter option. Drilling a well isn’t cheap, and again it requires getting a permission, but worth the trouble. We asked a geologist and engineer from Tivissa to survey the possible availability of water on our land, and to help us with the application process. After that, a professional drilling company had to come to drill a borehole. They used a big tractor with a drill attached and a massive compressor to power the drill. Funny enough, in order to drill a borehole to get water, you need… water! The water is needed to keep the temperature of the drill head down and to flush out the drilling debris. So we ordered a truck with 5000L of water. And then another one! Drilling is exciting, because of the process that was new to us, but also because you’ll never know for sure whether you’ll find water until you find it. Luckily, after 206 meters of drilling, we reached water! A big victory.
The next blog will hopefully not take as much time to post as this one. For more instant updates on the process, follow us via Instagram @masdemuntaner.