I love that Paulo Nutini song. “I’ve got food in my belly, a licence for my telly and nothing’s gonna get me down.” In a way, it is a theme song for motorhoming. You’re on the road, you’ve got food in the fridge (and/or in your belly), you’ve got plenty of simple things to occupy you, not least a different view every day if that’s what you want and, as long as you keep reminding yourself of all the things you’ve got to be grateful for, nothing needs to get you down. I was reminded of that this morning. We’re parked up on a motorhome parking in the Ebro Delta in the south of Catalonia and everything was perfect except for two things. One was that the service point is only available in the mornings and we arrived in the afternoon yesterday and the other was that it is cold, windy and damp outside. We had managed overnight with a quarter tank of water and the toilet cassette was nearly full. This could have been a disaster, except we carry a spare cassette with us, so all I had to do this morning was brave the storm to get it from the underbelly storage and swap the cassettes while Shirley – even braver than me – took the dogs for their morning trot. By the time she got back, the services were open and we could empty and fill up the water tanks and the first toilet cassette and return to our space where we brewed a pot of coffee, put some music on and had breakfast. I can’t describe the satisfaction a motorhomer feels when all the tanks are dealt with, the van is warm and there’s a smell of fresh coffee brewing.
I don’t know if we’ll ever take basic services for granted again but I hope not. In a house you turn on taps, plug in numerous devices, flush toilets and run baths and showers with hardly another thought. Some people ask us if the daily business of keeping the motorhome services filled up and drained isn’t a bit of a bind. It’s not – it’s all part of the adventure and it reminds us that we’re constantly dependent on the world’s resources and we’re thankful for all the places in Europe that provide the necessary facilities to keep us on the road.
Ups and Downs
Of course, not every day has us in a state of blissful gratitude. Some of them are bog ordinary, some truly memorable and then there are the others – the aggravating, frustrating and just plain horrible ones. We have very few of the latter. Thank goodness.
When we left Marjal we headed to a little place called Simat de Valldigna just south of Valencia. This little town has a very interesting monastery, a small supermarket and several café bars. There is a free motorhome parking place with services and it is monitored by the local police so that no-one stays longer than 72 hours. This is an increasing necessity in Spain and Portugal, as the place is literally heaving with motorhomes and some of them take the hospitality of local towns too far, parking up in one place for months on end.
Nearly all our travel necessities were in place as we parked up and it was only when we heard from Melanie and Biz that we realised that there had been one thing missing – the company of good friends. The next day they rolled up to join us and, after finding them a corner to tuck into in their lovely little motorhome, we headed out to have a Menu del Dia in a local bar. Other than the fine company this bar’s claim to fame is the unusual signs on the toilet doors.
We sat in that little bar for hours, eating an “interesting” selection of traditional Spanish food, drinking beer and chatting and laughing. Biz and Melanie speak Spanish so they took over the translation of the menu for us, much to the relief of the delightful and delighted waiter. it is impossible to describe a few hours in their company except to say that we were helpless with laughter most of the time. Biz and Melanie are well travelled and their travel tales are legendary. Even knowing this did not prepare us for Biz’s very convincing imitation of a constipated man in a Chinese public toilet. I will leave the rest to your imagination but bear in mind that Chinese public loos don’t have full-sized walls between the holes in the ground. The mental image is just too awful to contemplate but his imitation had us in stitches. If it were possible to prescribe friendship and laughter on the NHS I’m sure most people would feel better. it might even cure constipation.
The next morning we decided to head for the same spot at Castellon de la Plana but travel separately as we all had some practical tasks to do on the way. Our tasks were to find a supermarket and then find somewhere to fill up with LPG. Spain isn’t as well served with LPG stations as France and Portugal so we had to use the FindLPG app and then set it to get us there using Google Maps. We’ve not had a great deal of success with Google Maps in the past so we shouldn’t have been surprised at what happened next. The supermarket run was no problem at all. We drove along, saw a Dia Maxi, pulled in and shopped. Easy. Then we set Google Maps and headed for the LPG station. We had failed to register that the little place named on the app was, in fact, a close suburb of Valencia city. We’ve found that Google maps isn’t great in cities. It suggests routes that are one-way going the other way and doesn’t recognise when two roads are running in close parallel with one another. Arriving close to our destination it said, “Turn left. Turn right. Turn left” without any gap in the instructions and appearing to be completely confused. We were too. We ended up driving out into the countryside with the voice saying, “Turn round, turn right, turn left.” repeatedly. It also, presumably in a desperate attempt to be helpful, tries to name roads – as if that would help when we’re complete strangers to the place. It does this without any attempt to pronounce things as the Spanish would. So, out in the country along with the turn right, turn left instructions we were suddenly hearing “Go to Calle Santa Maria de Googldibllopollenti” We stopped in a layby and got on the internet to get the coordinates and put them into our satnav. Within five minutes we were pulling into the service station, turning the van around because our LPG filler is on the wrong side for Europe and trying to connect using our Spanish adapter. Could I get the pump attached? You’ve probably guessed the answer.
Shirley went into the shop to ask for help while a friendly trucker came over to look at it. I thought he was going to help but he was just amazed that we had LPG. A man came out of the shop, said the Spanish equivalent of “Get back in the wagon woman” and tried to connect. He couldn’t do it either. From my position well away from the action, I could see what was wrong but he was in no mood to let a mere woman explain… and anyway I can’t speak Spanish. From the position we had both been standing to connect, we were pushing the filler on at a wonky angle so it couldn’t clip on. Eventually, he moved over a few inches, got it hooked up and left me to fill up. By now we were getting messages from Biz and Melanie to say that they were at the motorhome parking and there weren’t many places left. Our satnav told us that we were an hour and a half away. I won’t bore you with any more satnav stories but suffice to say that for the second time in our lifetime the thing took us right through the city of Valencia and there was a massive festival going on, complete with explosions that for just a moment sounded like a terrorist attack. In the meantime, the planned motorhome stop filled up to capacity so Melanie and Biz very kindly moved off their hard-won place and found another place to park where we could join them. We arrived, frazzled and hungry and pulled up alongside them, overlooking the beach where we breathed a long sigh of relief. Biz offered to cook dinner, and we walked the dogs on the beach. Within an hour we were relaxed and happy, having a glass of wine and watching Biz work his magic in the kitchen.
I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. Friendship is the absolute cherry on the cake of our adventures.