A Luxury Villa and a Maid…For Free

My husband Michael and I have come to realize that we are not really city folks, even though we lived for years in the suburbs of one of Canada’s biggest cities.

But when we found a luxurious home in the hills above the Costa Rican capital San José, where we could stay for free we were happy to make an exception.

We were house-sitting a villa perched high in Costa Rica’s Central Valley, near enough to admire San José and access all its amenities, but also far enough away from the busy center. We were in Escazú, home to foreign embassies, diplomats, and wealthy business owners and one of San José’s more upmarket neighborhoods.

The large elegant home we were minding housed a collection of furnishings, paintings, and rugs collected from Morocco, Ecuador, Chile, and everywhere in between. All combined with an elegant flair that would not be out of place in the pages of Better Homes and Gardens.

Our bedroom was almost a house in itself. We had “his” and “hers” closets and bathrooms…a huge flat-screen TV at the foot of the bed…and even an office. We also had our own private patio, perfect for enjoying early morning birdsong, a perfectly brewed coffee and the vibrant orange, pink, red, and lilac bougainvilleas glowing in the sunshine of another beautiful day.

After breakfast, we would go for a stroll around the neighborhood, admiring the architecture and design of the stunning homes and the beautiful landscaping each tended by an army of gardeners.

By the time we returned, our bed was made, our laundry collected, and the remnants of breakfast tidied away. This was a first for us…we had a live-in maid.

Just like our neighbors, the villa’s owners had taken advantage of the affordability of having full-time staff. Built-in maids’ quarters are a common feature in this neighborhood. We confess it took a little getting used to, especially as the maid’s English and our Spanish were both in the infancy stages. After the first few days, we adapted.

Who wouldn’t love having a spotlessly clean home and dishes that miraculously took care of themselves?

From our hillside vantage point, we had stunning light shows of nighttime San José and easy access—thanks to our loaned SUV—to everything, we needed.

A Saturday tradition we quickly adopted was a morning trip to the outdoor market held just north of the San Miguel Catholic church in the center of Escazú. We both loved these markets and happily examined the wares of each stall before picking out the plumpest, juiciest, freshest tomatoes, papayas, pineapples, beans, and tight packed bunches of herbs.

One of the advantages of opportunities like this is the chance to take a “test drive.” Our time in Escazú was great for trying out life in the suburbs of a different county and a different community.

And with house-sitting opportunities all over Costa Rica you can also try the Pacific Coast, the popular highland havens of Atenas and Grecia, and a whole lot more besides.

Editor’s note: Enjoy the freedom of spending a few months trying out your favorite locations without ever paying for your accommodation. It’s a real money-saving way to see the world. You’ll make the most of these opportunities and stay in the most stylish homes with this great guide.

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