Tag Archives: tips

Choosing the perfect workation apartment

How to choose a workation apartment

Planning a workation away from your usual base? Choosing the right space for your remote office location is key to a successful stint working away. Once you’ve selected the city or region you’ll be working from, here’s what to look for in your workation apartment.


Reliable, high-speed wifi is no 1 on every digital nomad’s list for an effective digital workation. Connectivity is essential. Beware thick walls if your apartment is in a historic building, and make friends with the maintenance guys.

When the wifi went down during our first workation stint, it was only when we headed out to grab some lunch that we found a workman in the stairwell fiddling with the wires. Good timing – we were on the verge of losing the critical router on which our workation depended.

Added bonus: the building’s owner was on site at the same time, so we were invited to an impromptu full tour of the other (stunning) apartments in our block, an immaculately restored palace full of authentic architectural detail.

Workation tip: Ask the right questions about wifi before you book, and get chatty once you move in.


If you’ve managed to negotiate a remote workation, odds are you rely on a laptop to keep your hustle on track. So choose a workation apartment that fits your personal working style. Unless you’re used to tapping away with a laptop on your knees in bed / on the sofa, scour photos of your accommodation for suitable workspace spots.

When we go on workation, my husband and I look for enough separate desk space within the apartment to accommodate a laptop, papers and privacy for when we are both on calls. You might appreciate a spare bedroom if your Zooms / Teams times clash.

Alternatively, is there a dining table and a breakfast bar? Or a dressing table that could double up as a desk, for at least some of the time? Imagine how you can make the space work for your needs.

working on the terrace
Work that deskspace

Check images of your rental apartment for socket locations, suitable seating and – critically – air conditioning units if you’re working away somewhere in the sun. Heating will be key for a winter workation.

Lighting too is important. Is there natural light? Will lamps or overhead lighting be enough to work by? Consider taking a small LED lamp with you – it will help open up your apartment and potentially make dark corners useable for work.

Workation tip: Take a multi-socket or power tower with a long lead. And pack plenty of socket converters.


Where is your workation apartment located? I recommend a residential rather than a heavily touristed area: you’re more likely to find handy local shops like a bakery, corner shop, bar or cafe. A neighbourhood print shop and library are useful when you need to get stuff done or want a quiet change of scene.

Staying in a residential area will be more like ‘real life’ and you are less likely to suffer from street noise. Research your proposed workation apartment on Google maps. Do windows overlook a cobbled street or a shared communal area? Cobbles make a racket when tourists pass by pulling roll-on luggage. Is your apartment on a busy route for guided walking tours? A stream of passers-by can be seriously disruptive if you want to keep windows open while you work.

Cobbled street
Is your apartment on a tourist route?

Accommodation outside the main tourist drag is likely to come in cheaper than an apartment in the historic centre of whichever city you choose. You’re also contributing to the local economy if you buy from independent businesses in your temporary adopted neighbourhood.

Workation tip: Research how many other rental apartments in the block where you will be on workation. If others are on holiday while you are working, expect higher noise levels that could disturb your work vibe.

Long-term rentals

On the basis that you are renting your workation apartment for at least a month, you may find your landlord able to offer a discount on fees. Check whether there is a cap on power bills as the air con / heating can take a hammering if you’re in your apartment working for long hours. Consider skipping the weekly linen change / cleaning service and do it yourself instead. This will save your landlord costs, which they may be willing to reflect in the fees they charge you.

Check your apartment carefully for equipment and facilities. Many city centre rentals offer limited cooking equipment as they cater mainly for short-term stays – will you need an oven, hob or dishwasher?

Workation tip: Ask for a spare set of sheets / towels if you’re planning on going DIY – and only do so if there’s a washing machine AND drying space in your workation apartment.


Common complaints from local residents about increasing numbers of properties being rented out, concern the thoughtlessness of short-term let neighbours.

Putting out the rubbish on the wrong days, leaving hire bikes in communal hallways, keeping unsociable hours – even drying laundry over public balconies, feature in lists of annoying renter behaviours cited by residents in Spain. Be considerate and make an effort to live like a local when on workation.

coffee in a neighbourhood cafe
Support your neighbourhood

Why not also research local clubs and pursue a new interest while you’re working away? Sports and crafts are a good place to start. Alternatively, volunteer with an eco group and join litter picks, gardening or neighbourhood clear-ups. Check social media for inspiration and get in touch.

It’s the perfect way to give back to the community you have joined temporarily, get to know some locals and maybe even forge lasting friendships.

Workation tip: Speaking the local language will help big time. Do some Duolingo before you go and consider classes while you are away.

Looking for a workation apartment in Spain? Try Genteel Home. We have used them several times – properties and service are excellent.

Seville heatwave

Coping with a summer heatwave

I have spent more summers sweltering in a Seville heatwave than I can remember. Many of them as a student when air con was not an affordable option – and latterly, working through the baking heat of a southern Spanish summer. Thankfully with the benefit of in-house air conditioning.

Add to that a string of holiday trips to Ibiza staying when family lived on the island, and I feel well qualified to advise on coping with the most extreme summer conditions.

Andalucia – south west Spain – has long suffered summer heatwaves, but it is clear that climate change is magnifying the problem. Temperatures are rising earlier in the season and staying high for longer. Residents flee to the beach if they can. If you’re planning a summer trip to the heatwave zone, what coping measures can you take to beat the heat?

Read on for my tips on coping with a summer heatwave…

Tiles beat wood

When booking, if possible choose accommodation with chill ceramic tiled floors rather than wooden flooring, which retains and radiates heat. Spanish people traditionally use rugs rather than fitted carpets, rolling them out during the winter then stashing them away during the hotter summer months.

The temperature difference between one year when we rented an apartment in central Seville with tiled floors, and the following year when we had parquet underfoot, was immense.

Furnishings absorb heat, so think minimalistic if you are fitting out your own place.

Air con and ceiling fans

Air conditioning is a must-have. Temperatures regularly top 40 degC during the day in Seville in the summer, dropping to low to mid 20s at night – if you’re lucky. Without air con you will get nothing done and will find sleeping difficult.

Some rental agencies cap power costs, so in a seriously hot spell, be warned that you may be charged extra if you over-use the air conditioning. Always switch it off or turn it down low when you go out. See below for more tips on staying cool with minimal air con.

Ceiling fans in bedrooms are a genius way to reduce your reliance on the a/c unit. A sweep of moving air from a ceiling fan is surprisingly refreshing in a heatwave and will mean you can either turn the air con right down or switch it off completely at night. Good for your pocket and the environment.

Aim high

An apartment or room on a higher floor will catch more breeze, as will outside windows or balconies. In southern Spain, especially in cities like Seville, many properties are built to the traditional central patio layout. Access to external and internal airways gives access to a through breeze, helping suck cooler air into your living space at night when lower temperatures allow you to open windows. On which note…

Close and shutter windows during the day

Keep a close watch on the temperature and make sure you do not open windows until the heat drops outside (ie at night – and often not until very late at night). Equally, close all windows and shutters / curtains / blinds as soon as the sun comes round and it starts to feel warmer outside than in.

The aim is to keep the ambient interior temperature low. Hot sun shining on floors and furniture will turn your inside space into a radiator. Keep it out to prevent your living space from heating up and don’t open up until the external temperature feels equal to or cooler than the air indoors.

Swerve the stove

My Spanish friends use their ovens for storage rather than cooking during the summer months. Fancy a roast chicken? Buy it from the ‘asador’ rotisserie shop on the corner (very common in Spain).

Eat salads, buy ready cooked food rather than cooking it yourself. Even better, eat out. Away from tourist spots, bar food is pretty low-cost in Spain compared with the UK. Tapas and a cold beer or a glass of tinto de verano (chilled red wine with soda water and ice) are a wonderful way to cool down.

Live like a local

Get up early and do your exercise / chores / tourist stuff first thing. Retire to the shade during the hottest part of the day : from 1pm until late afternoon. Emerge once things start to cool down and, in the city, don’t even start start thinking about dinner until around 9.30pm. Spanish people tend to socialise until late and rest up during the heat of the afternoon when (almost) everything shuts down. It works!

get up early to avoid the heat
Getting up early to avoid the heat doesn’t always work: Seville, 8/9am.

Sleeping tips

Got a rooftop terrace in your property? Consider sleeping up there in the open air on the hottest nights, bugs and noise permitting. I have spent many nights sleeping al fresco during Seville’s summer season. Being so far south, the sun rises later than in the UK so daybreak does not come too soon.

If you have air con, switch it on before you go to bed to cool down the room before you enter, turn it up a couple of degrees once you’re in bed then set the timer for it to go off once you’re asleep. If you wake up hot, you can always re-set it then.

Take a cool shower before you go to bed and wet your hair. A cold, damp face cloth or hand towel on your tummy, chest or forehead is also extremely effective if you’re feeling hot and bothered in bed.

If you need a duvet, you’ve got the air con set too low.

Keep your cool

Slow down your pace, don’t over-face yourself with ambitious plans to get too much done and schedule in trips to air-conditioned locations like a department store, destination hotel, supermarket or museum. Pit-stops in the cool will help you cope with the heat.

Finally, however hot it gets, away from resorts, dress appropriately. Cool loose clothing will keep the sun off your skin and help air circulate around your body. In the summer months, you will not need a cardi / hoodie or jacket – save space in your luggage and don’t even bother packing one. Instead, take a light shawl or pashmina which packs away to almost nothing and is perfect to drape round your shoulders if you need to enter a church or fiercely air-conditioned environment.

4 best ways to rock veggie January

a rainbow of vegetables for veggie January
Rainbow vegetables: among the joys of  vegetarian January

Another vegetarian January is over, and this has been the least troublesome one ever. So much so that, come Feb 1, I couldn’t think of a meat-based recipe I actually wanted to cook.

So here is my four-point guide to enjoying a delicious, healthful, inspiring month of veggie cooking.

  1. Yotam Ottolenghi: The year we discovered the joys of this genius chef’s cookbook Plenty was the year our vegetarian January became both seriously enjoyable and sustainable. The way he combines ingredients to create mouthwatering dishes is pure genius. I now own the full set of his books, having received a copy of his new Nopi for Christmas, and am itching to try out some of the meaty recipes now veggie Jan is over.
  2. Raw slaw: Hell, I LOVE raw slaw, so in my household it is certainly not just for vegetarian January. I combine any mixture of shredded uncooked beetroot, red cabbage, green or white cabbage, carrot, radish and celeriac with toasted walnut pieces, dried cranberries or sour cherries, and a shredded apple, then dress it with sesame and olive oil, mirin, pomegranate molasses, vinegar and a sprinkle of rock salt. It keeps well in the fridge, so I always make a huge batch and it tides me over for a few days. Delicious alongside griddled halloumi and roasted aubergine (see Ottolenghi for The Best Ever aubergine recipes).
  3. South East Asia: Thai red chicken curry – without the chicken – is now a Feelgood family favourite. I have a tub of homemade red curry paste in the fridge on a permanent basis, meaning it’s a matter of moments to chop up a load of vegetables for this non-meat version that is in fact as tasty as the carnivorous alternative. Just make sure you throw in the veg in order of how long they each take to cook ie green beans, chopped celeriac first and sliced onion first, followed by diced butternut squash, and courgette last.
  4. The wok. Fuchsia Dunlop is another favourite chef, and she includes some brilliant vegetarian versions of her Szechuan meat-based recipes in her inspiring cookbook Every Grain of Rice. Who knew that Ma Po Dofu could be as good without minced beef as with it? Stir-fried greens with garlic and soy sauce were a staple of my student days, and I still love them as much as ever: near raw and therefore bursting with vitamins, they give my veggie January a real healthy zing.

Nourish your digestion

And that’s the key to a successful meat-free start to the year: rather than seeing it as a time of restricted eating, think of it as a time to extend your cooking repertoire, try out new recipes and cooking styles, and a chance to nourish your digestion with more raw foods, unprocessed foodstuffs and lower fat options. It’s easier – and tastier – than you might think.