If you know me you know I am all about the smaller, boutique properties. And that is for many reasons – but lately even more so now that our new reality includes the oh-so-familiar term social distancing. At this point in time, I think more of us are looking for that more personal, unique property with elbow room as opposed to staying at a resort with hundreds of other travelers. One collection that really caught my attention is The Mint Collection which offers three properties – one in Spain and two in Chile.
So naturally I invited Julie Cardamone, the Founder of The Mint Collection to join me in a video chat to introduce you all to these amazing accommodations and she graciously accepted my invite and sat down with me to share all there is to love about these exclusive properties.
So, lets waste no time! May I present you with this marvelous peek into her unique, charming and oh so inviting collection!
Company Background: After being in leisure travel for six years and falling in love with the industry – Julie started The Mint Collection in 2018. Her idea with this collection was to solely focus on those fabulous, independently owned boutique properties – that as she so poetically says “have a true heart and soul behind them” and that “there’s a real purpose for these lovely little gems that are so inviting” and because of this she wants to share them with the US and Canada.
Properties: As noted in the introduction there are three properties in the collection. Read on to choose where you want to stay at on your next adventure!
- Mas Torroella – Costa Brava, Spain: Located along the Costa Brava Coast of Spain – yet only 90 minutes to the Barcelona International Airport – Mas Torroella is an ideal getaway that is very easily and conveniently accessed – whether it is your only stop or in combination with a Barcelona city stay.
- Accommodations: This exclusive-use villa consists of just ten rooms – each with en suite facilities so you don’t have to worry about sharing a bathroom. The total capacity is twenty-eight people.
Now – since this is an exclusive-use villa – this is without a doubt – a blank canvas that can be turned into accommodations for any type of getaway you can think of! How about a “We can travel again!” celebratory trip with a group of friends. A multi-generational family reunion to spend time in each other’s company instead of on Zoom. A corporate retreat to regroup after working from home most of twenty twenty. A destination wedding that dreams are made of. Or whatever else you may have in mind. And while you are staying there, I can arrange – through Julie – anything you want to make it even more special – from wine-tasting to a yoga instructor to having a chef there a few times or the entire stay – and more.
- History: So, first of all – the name. Mas actually means manor and Torroella is a family’s last name. The last Torroella owned it until the 1980s and then it sat for about ten years – abandoned. And during this time the nearby residents sort of used it as their own personal park. They would go there and camp out and some would even ride their motorcycles up and down the stairs. So, it became a thing – a place to hang if you will.
Eventually Sylvia’s father – Sylvia is the current owner – bought it and by this point – as you can imagine – it was extremely dilapidated. Her father actually bought it more so for the land as he liked to hunt. However, he fell in love with the home and decided to bring it back to its glory. So, he started renovations – but after the first floor was finished – the ceiling collapsed on the second floor – so they had to start all over. Unfortunately, her father passed and never got to see the finished product, but Sylvia took it over and finished what was started.
While you are here you are not only enjoying the expansive country views and nature that surround you – you’re also enjoying the history of the house itself. It is filled with stories behind every little nook and cranny and features a lot of the owner’s – Sylvia – artwork. And while there is a book provided in which you can read through all of villa’s history – Sylvia is there to greet you and is more than happy to give you a tour and relay its past.
- Things to Do: Another great thing about the villa is that it is just ten minutes from beautiful beaches and also just ten minutes from several little medieval villages – which make for great day trips! There are also golf courses nearby and as for gastronomy – there are some Michelin-starred restaurants nearby as well.
On the grounds there is a playground in the back yard for the children – or the young at heart. And for the grownups there is a fabulous spa that also houses an indoor pool. There is also a large outdoor pool and tennis courts as well. The grounds are large and well spread out – which means even if you are there with extended family – you can still find your own space and have alone time too.
- Gastronomy: Well, I already mentioned the availability of Michelin-starred restaurants nearby but if you are eating in – here is a fun fact of sorts. One of the things that’s really important to Sylvia is that you all gather for meals together. (Not that you have to!) And since she values shared mealtime so much, she made sure every place where you can dine can accommodate all 28 people at one table. So, whether it be in the dining room or outdoors that table is available.
- Booking: Remember since Mas Torroella is an exclusive use property, you have to make sure you plan ahead so you can get the date you want. Julie’s tip was most people want to go there during the high season which is July and August. However – shoulder season or what’s considered off-season – is absolutely beautiful and sunny and there are very few people on beaches, so you have the same beauty but less crowds! That sounds like a win-win to me!
- Hotel Casa Real – Santiago, Chile: Located just 45 minutes from downtown Santiago or 45 minutes from the Santiago International airport this property is perfect for the final days at the end of a Chilean adventure. As Julie noted – after all the excursions and travel – and let’s be honest visiting Chile means a lot of planes, cars and boats – it’s ideal to take some time to relax and reflect on everything before heading home. And you’ll do just that at this property. You’re going to eat delicious food and you’re going to drink delicious wine and relax and who knows – maybe pull out that book you brought along to read that you never opened – and be only 45 minutes from the Santiago airport when it is time to head back to reality!
- Accommodations: Featuring 16 rooms total – there are 11 rooms and there are five suites – Casa Real is a grand home that is run like a traditional hotel and is surrounded by 100 acres of manicured gardens. Fun Fact: The owner – who is in her 80s – stops by every Wednesday morning to walk the gardens with the head gardener and make sure everything is up to her standards!
- History: Casa Real is set on the Santa Rita Winery and the hotel itself was once the original founders summer house. Santa Rita is not just about their wine – it is also about the history of Chile and its culture.
The winery’s restaurant – Doña Paula – is the actual building where Doña Paula famously hid 120 soldiers that were seeking refuge during the war for Chile’s independence. During the tour of the winery, you will get to see just where they were hidden by her. A great example of travel as a living classroom – this time a history lesson!
Across the way you also have a museum that is made up of artifacts that the owner had collected throughout his entire life. There are over 3000 pieces housed here and as you walk through; you get a really great overview of both the history of Chile and its different cultures. That being said this honestly makes Casa Real a perfect choice for either the front or the back end of the trip to Chile. So, if you are one of my peeps who wants to brush up on the history of the country – to learn a bit more about it before you continue on to the other Chilean cities – we can tack it on at the front end! Either way it’s a marvelous addition!
- Gastronomy: Breakfast and dinner are served at the house. For lunch you can also opt to eat at the house, or you can choose one of two other alternatives. You can have lunch at the restaurant at the winery next door – which is an event in itself as to get there you can either stroll through the gardens and once you get to the edge there’s a little secret door you get to go through that only hotel guests know about – or you can have a horse and carriage pick you up and take you over. The other option – which Julie shared is her favorite – is that you can ask for a picnic basket and then head outside, pick up random tree to sit under and proceed to have a lovely picnic lunch.
- Futangue Hotel and Spa – Northern Patagonia, Chile: This area is also known as the Lakes District. From Santiago there are actually four different airports that you can fly into which are Puerto Montt, Orsorno, Valdivia or Temuco. Depending on which airport you choose for your arrival the drive time to the hotel is anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours.
- Accommodations: Futangue has a total of 26 rooms of which 24 are rooms and two of them are suites.
- History: So much history here! It’s located right at Lake Ranco and the family has been vacationing there forever. About 25 years ago the father was approached by a local Mapuche who told him that there was a lagoon at the top of the mountain that he just had to see. So, they trekked up the mountain with just machetes in their hands because there were no trails and came upon this beautiful lagoon. The father fell in love with the land and wanted to do everything he could to protect it. He ended up purchasing different pockets of land and created his own private reserve and for the last 25 years that’s what he’s been doing. He has brought in engineers to build over 70 miles of trails. He also had biologists study the land and they ended up discovering seven lagoons, natural hot springs at the top of one mountain, a lava field and an endless number of waterfalls. It’s a beautiful piece of the country that is untouched. And the beauty of it is that it’s a private reserve so they’re not letting big groups in. So – yup you got it – great for social distancing since it is so very off the beaten path!
- Culture: There are a lot of local elements weaved through out the property that bring out the culture of Chili. For instance, the throw blankets on the beds in the guest rooms are actually hand made by a local lady – and one of the excursions you can participate in is that they will take you to her shop and she’ll show you how she makes them. And the artifacts that are on display throughout the property are all gifts the Mapuche culture gave the family because they have such a strong relationship with them. Another excursion you can take is to the island in the middle of Lake Ranco where the Mapuche still live. Being that the family has such a great relationship with them they welcome guests in and you can meet with them and see how they live and just really immerse yourself in their culture.
- Things to Do: You can go horseback riding as they have the horses right there on property for you to ride. There’s also an excursion for children where a guide will take them to a specific part of forest and help them locate a Darwin frog which is a really cool looking frog that is native to Chile. Oh – and if you are up for it -they also have a cool adventure where are you can repel next to a waterfall and then when you land down in the water you can get into your kayak and well – kayak away!
And if none of that is your speed – there are hot springs to relax in – and depending whether you feel like hiking to the ones in the mountain or not – you can enjoy them up there or they also pipe down the hot water from those springs into pools closer to the property. They also have an amazing spa where they make their own oils out of berries that you can find right there in the park.
- This property is seasonal – open from September through April. Julie noted that they are rather new and are only in their second season, so occupancy is still low – another plus for social distancing! Being that their season is our winter here in the US – what a great way to keep summer going! This is also a great place to add to a do a multi-destination trip – for instance, a stay in the Atacama Desert then a stop at the Lake District and then on to southern Patagonia!
Updated COVID-19 Information As of this writing the CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential international travel to Spain and Chile.
I don’t know about you – but I plan to make at least one of these picturesque boutique properties a must do on my list of travel plans. If you feel the same – contact me now so we can start curating the perfect adventure for you!
For more details on the fabulous Mint Collection, their price points and more – contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!