Seven Weeks In

We stayed at Camping Aquarius for a week. That’s the longest we’ve been in one place in months, other than our month at home in August, which says a lot about the quality of the place. Of course there were things that irritated us – we wouldn’t be normal (“normal?”) if we weren’t grumpy sometimes. So I’ll start with the not so good stuff. This is a site owned and largely populated by Germans. This means that everyone has a bike and uses it. Walking along the narrow paths that weave between the pitches, you have to take almost as much care as walking down the hard shoulder of the M1. Even the cleaners bomb around on tricycles with all their cleaning stuff in a huge basket on the back. The children are the most dangerous because they have nothing in their heads except their destination, whether that’s the beach, the playground or the kids club. The miniature males of the species  are even more alarming because they add deliberate skids to their journey just for the hell of it, sometimes falling off right in front of you, laughing and jumping back on before you can check if they have any broken bones. I would love the place a whole lot more if the site would organise it so that some paths are for walking only. This is particularly important en route to the spectacularly good shower blocks, first thing in the morning, when half asleep and without your glasses on.

There is only one other thing that would improve this site – a swimming pool. The adverts say that you will love the beach for swimming and playing and this is true if you don’t mind salt water and sand. Ive had enough of these pesky things having brought up three boys and would like now to swim in clean water and not get sand in all the corners you would prefer not to have grazed and irritated.

So now for the good stuff. We were blown away by the language skills and the helpfulness of every single staff member we spoke to. They swapped effortlessly between Spanish, German, English and French without any hesitation, sometimes managing three conversations in three different languages at the same time. Many sites in Spain have reception staff with outstanding language skills but here it seemed to be everyone, including the girl on the checkout in the supermarket who could make jokes and add up in English. We know from learning French that those two skills are often the most difficult.

After our experience of being robbed we needed to download and print an insurance form. The staff on reception printed it out for us, photocopied all the endless proofs needed to show that we were in fact in Spain and not in some tax haven somewhere trying to make a false claim. They gave us a large envelope to post it in and told us we could come back any time if we needed more help. They were exceptionally kind and sympathetic as well as genuinely concerned for our well being. It was exactly what we needed after that horrible experience and we were grateful that it had happened while we were staying there.

All the facilities were superb and included a few surprises. The motorhome service point doubled up as a car wash place. It also had something we have never seen before – an automated toilet cassette emptier and cleaner. As well as the usual chemical toilet cassette emptying points there was this space age looking machine where you popped your cassette in after turning the yellow knob that opens the top, put 2€ in and the machine does the rest. According to the instructions it completely cleans it and recharges it with chemical. We didn’t use it – we were too scared. I have this internal cartoon thing going on where I suddenly have mental images of the most ridiculous thing that could happen. In this case, because the instructions were a bit sketchy, I looked at it and imagined that we would do it wrong, leave something open that should have been closed or vice versa and the contents of our cassette starting flying out of the machine all over an innocent bystander who was washing his car. Given the nature of the contents, even though they smell more pleasant because of the blue chemical, the thought was too horrible to contemplate. Walking past the place after we decided to use the traditional method of cleaning ours, I saw a motorhome there with its cassette in the machine. There was a neat rolling door on the machine but this guy had left it open and put his money in. I ran for my life.

On the day we left Camping Aquarius we discovered that we had a serious problem. The electric hook up cable was stuck in the socket on the side of the van. Several of our German neighbours came across, each one obviously convinced that the problem was a lack of muscle power, and offered their help. It made no difference at all – even the biggest, strongest looking man couldn’t move it at all. Shirley went to reception and they sent one of site handymen who couldn’t shift it either. He spoke to us in impeccable English, consulted with the muscle bound German neighbours and translated their combined wisdom back to us. “It’s stuck!” Having made sure that we had unhooked the other end from the site electrics (Duh!) they took the plug apart so that we could drive without 30ft of cable trailing and advised us to go to the nearby camping shop for help. Here we found another German gentleman who had, very wisely in our opinion, set up a business selling camping accessories and doing repairs. He had us fixed up with a new socket on the van and a new plug on the cable in double quick time and charged us a very moderate price for doing so.

Getting the electric socket fixed.
Getting the electric socket fixed.

We left with a real sense of having been well looked after and feeling well rested after seven weeks on the road. Thank you Camping Aquarius.

Next stop was Pineda de Mar on the Costa Brava. A lovely site with a great pool – unfortunately it’s too cold to swim – even for Shirley.

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Lovely pool but no-one is brave enough to get in.

Togetherness

Sometimes people ask us what it’s like to share such a small space for weeks on end. What they really mean is ‘do you fight?’. The short answer is ‘no we don’t’. What we do find however is that living in close proximity highlights the things that might go unnoticed at home. One of these is the dawning realisation that neither our hearing nor our memories are as acute as they once were. We were eating a meal in the site café/bar at our latest stop off in Pineda de Mar on the Costa Brava. There was music playing and we were entertaining ourselves trying to remember the songs. One started up and I said, “That’s … you know … the one who writes good lyrics.” Shirley shrugged, “No, I can’t think who that is.” “You know. Her name begins with an M” and so it went on until I realised it wasn’t the one who writes good lyrics (Alanis Morrissette we remembered later) so I said “No it’s definitely not her!” to which Shirley replied “Who lives in her car?” Oh dear.

We have developed a routine and, as dogs are very good at learning patterns and routines, they almost always believe that they know what’s going to happen next. We play games a lot in the evenings and around 10 p.m. one of us takes the dogs out for their last pee before bed. This is fine except there are days when the game isn’t finished at 10 and we feel like staying up a bit later. This causes outrage in the canine department and Poppy barks at us to tell us it’s bed time. Similarly at 8.17 every morning – a time that for some strange reason is associated in their heads with walk time, the dogs wake us up. If we speak to them sternly and tell them to go back to bed, they do but they only stay there for ten minutes before they’re back. It’s like pressing the snooze button. We’re a bit worried about the clocks going back next week. We definitely don’t want to be woken at 7.17 a.m. If anyone knows how to re-programme a dog’s internal clock we would love to know.

A Quarter of the Way

We estimate that we are about a quarter of the way through our six month tour so we thought it would be a good time to reflect on a couple of things:

What we love about motorhome touring

  • Going to bed in the same comfy bed every night then waking up the next morning and not being able to remember where the hell we are
  • Sunday Bunday – the one day of the week when we eat a big cream bun without feeling guilty

 

  • Sunday Bun Day

      Sunday Bun Day
  • Living simply – only buying what we need for a couple of days and being aware of our use of water and power
  • Rolling out the awning, putting on the windblocker net sides and creating another room.
  • Dog walks that are different almost every day
  • Cooking outside
  • Sharing experiences with other travellers
  • Finding places we didn’t know existed

Things we have learned

  • One child in a neighbouring motorhome triples the noise pollution. Each additional child increases it by a factor of ten.
  • Germans speaking English can sound a bit gruff and grumpy but we have found them to be unfailingly helpful and friendly
  • Supermarket food creates an enormous amount of packaging waste
  • Making a simple meal of grilled fish or meat with salad or fresh vegetables often tastes better than restaurant food
  • Always make sure the electric step is out before stepping out of the van
  • Never underestimate water pressure from a campsite tap
  • It is possible to bang ones head off almost anything, including the toilet door handle
  • Never ever test a battery powered fly swatter by squeezing it with your fingers
  • Wear your glasses the first time you use an unfamiliar shower. One wrong turn can give you a hell of a cold shock.
  • Cockapoos seek out and enter mud and stagnant water at every opportunity. A warm soapy shower not so much.
Poppy in her dog drying bag. Not a happy girl.
Poppy in her dog drying bag. Not a happy girl.
  • Poodles do not believe that they are dogs. Walking surfaces must be suitable for a tall elegant person wearing high heels and tight trousers. All other surfaces are fiercely resisted. Anything that looks even remotely like a cattle grid brings on a panic attack
  • Always carry more dog poo bags with you than you think you could possibly need.

 

 

9 thoughts on “Seven Weeks In

  1. Glad you two are (mostly) enjoying yourself. Patricia mentioned the other day that we could pick up a camper when WE’RE in Europe. I can see the pluses and minuses from your experiences and I can also see a lot of “Jann work!” We have “Jann jobs” and “Patricia jobs” and basically what that means is that we go with our experience.
    Neither one of us is too mechanically oriented and all the bathroom/toilet/water hookups, cleaning, etc., would be problematic.

    What works best for us is that we stay in one place for 30 days before we move on and that could be an airbnb or a housesit. We’re starting to see a few housesits appear on our sites so, hopefully, something will pop up for southern Ireland, the border area and the continent next year for us.

    We’ve been rather “hanging out” here in our condo in Palm Springs we’re renting for October but tomorrow we pick up our keys to our new location. We’ll be able to unpack our boxes, park the van under a garage park and get some more of our stuff out of our storage area. We’ll be there until right before Easter, 2017. We have to be out by Easter as the family we’re renting it from has a family reunion then.

    We’ve been back to our normal, go, go, go since we’ve been back. Patricia is busy with Sanctuary Palm Springs and they finally got the last approval they needed from the county to start receiving the young adults coming out of the foster-care system.

    Time always goes fast over the holidays. We have Halloween, then Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and before you know it five months have slipped by. We’re both really excited about coming back to Europe next year.

    Two friends are coming on the cruise with us and we’ll probably rent a place together for at least one week somewhere in the south of England before they fly back home.

    I’m laying off of posting on fb lately because I just got a little tired of it. I’ll also be so glad when our election is over and all the political propaganda should slack off.

    Enjoy yourselves, be safe, no more robberies and plenty of hugs for Boo and Poppy.

    1. It would be a big learning curve to set off in a motorhome if you hadn’t been in one before. We find it’s quite physical work but we enjoy it. The month at a time in one place sounds like a great idea. Looking forward to seeing you next year. x x

  2. As always loving the blog, sorry to hear you were robbed, bar stewards!!
    Go on Shirley, jump in, I dare ya 😉
    I’m adopting Sunday bunday, fantastic principle
    Take care you lovely ladies & keep enjoying the adventure xx

    1. Hi Cheryl, That’s the first time I’ve known Shirley to refuse to get in a pool. The water must have been really cold. We’re heading south in a few days so we’re hoping for higher temperatures. It was about 24 c here this afternoon. 😉

  3. Great Blog Margaret…and when eventually I can get Martin to consider this type of adventure, your tips and advice will be well appreciated.

  4. Glad robbery only a few items and you all ok.
    Your summing up list sums it up! I would add:
    – that each day is different. In 18 months of full timing, I’ve had only two afternoons where I felt bored or restless
    – the ability to change plans: due to weather, liking or not liking a location and plain old mood.
    – housework takes all of 30 mins
    – we’ve also been asked if we’re still married after the confined space! You do get to know ‘everything’ about your other half. 🙄

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