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.
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.
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
- 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.
- 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.