I suppose this is cheating as I’m writing a blog post from our living room rather than from our motorhome but it seems appropriate somehow to mark the end of another year of adventures. It’s been another great year in our half-way world between long term touring in a motorhome and living in our cosy wee home in the Scottish Borders.
This year we have lived in the motorhome for eight months and four months in residence in our home. We have just had Christmas at home with family for the first time in three years and we find ourselves at the end of four years of wondering how we would find a way to balance our love of travel with our need to have a home. We knew we wanted a safe haven to return to each time our itchy feet stopped itching and when we started longing for a bit of comfort and the company of friends and family. At the start we thought we couldn’t have both but good fortune in finding buyers for our house that was too big for us and finding a lovely apartment in the beautiful Scottish Borders has given us the freedom we needed.
Things we learned in 2018
Travelling teaches you a lot and so does staying at home. Here are our top learning points from 2018:
France is still our favourite
France is the motorhomer’s dream with so many and varied places to park overnight for little or no cost and stacks of interesting things to see. People watcher’s delight, it is a land of such variety of characters and attitudes that just sitting in a pavement café and watching the world go by is enough to keep us happy for hours. The food, the wine and the generosity of the place calls us back year on year. Despite the horrific cost of diesel after Monsieur Macron hiked the tax it is still possible to live there for weeks or months and spend less than you do at home.
Portugal is so much more than the Algarve
The Algarve fills up with motorhomers in the coldest part of each year. If like us you enjoy a bit of peace and quiet this can be a bit trying. Our advice to you is to spend some time a little bit away from the coast and enjoy the truly lovely nature of the real Portugal then go back and join in the fun if you wish. You can dip in and out and find some lovely places to visit. I know I said France was our favourite but just writing this makes me want to go back to Portugal. Sigh …
Eating oranges in Spain & Portugal ruins you for ever
We eat lots of oranges when we’re in southern Europe. We don our oldest t-shirts, gather a heap of kitchen paper and settle in for a wonderful messy feast of nature’s finest. They are so sweet and juicy that we can’t resist them. Then we travel north and discover that oranges in northern France and the UK are a different breed altogether. It’s enough to bring tears to your eyes, so if you ever want to enjoy oranges in the UK again don’t even go there. You will be spoiled for life.
Take your time
If you’re touring Europe in a motorhome, our advice is to take your time. Go slowly, travel short distances and enjoy the moment. We like to live simply, to discover the local area and to enjoy whatever comes along. On our convoy tour in the autumn with our pal Mary we deliberately took a long route in a relatively short time so that we could show her the delights of the different parts of France and Northern Spain. It was a great trip and we all had fun but the bits we liked best were the slow times when we were parked up in a lovely place and we could be in the moment. Touring can all too easily become a series of stops when all you think about is where you’re going next. We’re learning to resist this urge and just let life happen around us.
If you’re thinking of getting an electric bike …
We bought two fine electric bikes this year. They are absolute beauties if a little on the heavy side. When we first got them we had a few practice rides around town. One Sunday evening we spun around Melrose, setting off downhill and then turning towards Newstead where we encountered a small incline. To my surprise I had to keep braking to avoid cycling in to Shirley’s back wheel. Overtaking her I distinctly heard her grunting and then, after losing sight of her, I decided to stop and wait. Thinking that I knew what had gone wrong I was ready with some helpful suggestions when she shot past me yelling “It wasn’t switched on…” before disappearing in a cloud of dust. Boy do those babies go, but only when they’re on. It took me several minutes to catch up with her.
So what’s next?
People ask us often what plans we have made for 2019 and the answer is simple. We haven’t. Not that we don’t intend to travel – of course we do – but one of the things we love most about motorhoming is the freedom to just get up and go. I don’t want to mention the B word but the uncertainty about our future relationship with Europe is on our minds a bit. There are particular issues about taking dogs to Europe in the future and these can’t be resolved at the moment. Trust me, I’m resisting the urge to say how I really feel about the whole thing and I won’t. I am trying to graciously acknowledge that opinions on this issue are varied and I want to keep this blog a happy place. We are seriously considering the house sitter option for the dogs and may well be looking for suitable candidates to develop a regular and longish term love affair with a pair of small pooches and a beautiful town in the Borders. We’ve had house sitters before and they’ve been great – if you’re wondering about how it works have a look here.
In the meantime we are thinking fondly of the many places we would like to visit in 2019. We know that the list will have to be trimmed but our current wish list contains the following – Shetland and Orkney and a return to the Hebrides, Eire, Italy, Germany and of course we must pass through France for our yearly fix.
Home is where more than half our heart is …
Scotland is our home and the place we feel we belong. This year, as in many others, we played with the idea of buying a home in France but in the end Scotland always calls us home. Shirley is a true Scot born and bred whereas I’m a Yorkshire lass, yet I’ve become an adopted Scot and every year that goes by I love it more. I read something the other day about a person who asked a Scottish person how you become Scottish. The answer was “You just turn up”. This is a place of welcome and I’m proud to be part of it. At a time when so many people are distrusting anyone who comes from a foreign land, Scotland has stepped up to the mark and announced it’s welcome to all. Take a look at this and if you want even more of a reason to come and visit you might enjoy this.
A Very Happy New Year to all our pals out there.