The extra keen blog followers out there might have noticed that we’ve been offline for a couple of days. Adrian, middle son and web designer extraordinaire, has been working on it in the background while we’ve been sitting in an overfed, slightly wine dazed state of suspended animation over the Christmas period. We’re back now – I was going to say and raring to go but it would be a lie – the lethargy brought on by good food and wine hasn’t left us yet.
What more repairs?
In the last post we mentioned the problem with the vehicle battery. After we had the new one fitted we decided that our time in the Algarve might be a good opportunity to get the 12v systems in the van upgraded. Our van is ten years old. This isn’t old in motorhome terms as they generally do relatively few miles and most people only use them for a few weeks each year. Ours has been working hard in the last two years so we’ve had to have a bit of work done. Last year we had a new solar system fitted for instance and the new one gives us the freedom to live off grid for much longer periods of time, especially when we’re far enough south to get sunshine in the winter. Discovering that the solar system doesn’t charge the vehicle battery was a bit of an unpleasant surprise, especially as we had been using a 12v socket that was attached to that battery instead of the two big leisure batteries. After a bit of discussion, we decided to approach Camperserve, the place where we had our fresh water tank leak fixed last year. They have a great reputation for efficient repairs and their hourly rate is reasonable. The only problem is that in order to get anything done you have to run the gauntlet of the man on reception. He is an amazing person who speaks many different languages and shifts seamlessly between them as he deals with the people of various nationalities coming in to ask for help or to buy accessories. We learned last year that sending emails to ask for an appointment is pointless and that phoning up almost never gets a reply. We also learned that turning up in the motorhome without an appointment brings on the wrath of Mr Multilingual and should be avoided if at all possible. These limitations make the process of booking an appointment a very real challenge. We decided to go over in the car and as Shirley drove along I prepared my approach carefully. My training in social psychology finally made itself useful that day. I stood in the long queue, listening to him complaining about all the people who turn up on Monday mornings. He informed the whole queue that if they had come on Monday afternoon or even better on a different day altogether they would have got quicker service. I watched several people capitulate and walk off, obviously choosing to come back at a better time – I think they might have been disappointed. Mr Multilingual’s stress levels don’t look to me like they are better on other days. I stood my ground and waited patiently for my turn. At the desk, I looked him in the eye and said that I would like an appointment to bring our motorhome in for repair. Before he could say anything else I produced my piece of paper with the list of things required neatly written on it and waited. He harumphed and then, like a bull faced with the matador he lifted his head and snorted. “We have nothing available until January 18th” and glared at me, daring me to ask for an appointment earlier than that. “That would be absolutely great!” I said, smiling at him. “Thank you so much.” He was totally non-plussed by this, its obvious that much of his stress is caused by fighting off the massive influx of motorhomers looking for quick service. I do believe he almost allowed himself to smile but managed to resist the urge. He took a quick note of our phone number and booked us in, using a scrap of paper that he pinned to a notice board. Here’s hoping that the poor guy had a few quiet moments to put us on the system. We’ll report back after the 18th on Holly’s latest improvements.
The Festive Season on a Campsite in the Algarve
Turiscampo was filled to capacity over the festive season and the place was filled with the gentle buzz of people sharing meals, strolling in the sun and having fun together. Christmas in Portugal is much more low key than in the UK. Shops have festive treats on offer and Christmas music playing but for a much shorter time and far less intrusively than at home. We didn’t miss the Christmas craziness and frantic shoppers but we definitely missed our family and friends. Approaching the holiday we felt homesick and a bit glum. Fortunately, we had our friends Mo and Ken to share the day with and their company cheered us up enormously. We shared the cooking and the eating on both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. We laughed a lot and played some games and as always happens, the holiday passed quickly by leaving nothing but happy memories and a pile of washing up. We are reminded frequently that the most important thing in life is the people in it.
Speaking of special people, in the week between Christmas and New Year, we drove along the coast to Alvor to meet up with our friends Ian and Melanie for lunch. We met them first in Peso de Regua in the daily meet up in the bar that became a ritual there. We bumped into them again in Porto Covo as we drove south and enjoyed an evening together and we were delighted to discover that they were just up the coast from us in Alvor. Our lunch lasted almost four hours, proving that old expression that time flies when you’re enjoying yourself. It really is the simple stuff that makes us happy. Friends, as someone once said to me, are worth their weight in rubies and if that’s true we’re getting richer by the day.
The New Year brings on a reflective mood
When we left Scotland we were very unsure what the future would bring. We had sold our house and put the money into easy access savings accounts because we didn’t know when and where we would buy our next home. We were playing with the idea of being full-time motorhomers for a couple of years but felt unsure whether this was what we really wanted. We love to travel but we also love the thought that we have a place to go back to when we’re travel weary.
We felt sure, as we drove away from Scotland at the end of September, that the answer to our uncertainty would come clear as we meandered through Europe. So far this hasn’t happened. We are no clearer about the when and where of our next home than we were when we left but we have learned something important. Now and then we get a bit unsettled because we don’t know the answer to the ‘what’s next?’ question. When that happens we start looking at houses and plots of land on the internet, we have long discussions about the options we’ve got, we start the ‘should we buy a bigger motorhome?’ discussion again and when we’ve finally talked and thought ourselves back to the place we started we realise that we’ve missed enjoying the moment. Thinking and wondering about the future takes away the very real pleasure of living in the now. We miss the beautiful views, we walk heads down looking at the sand while we discuss the options instead of looking up at the ocean, the blue sky and our happily playful canine companions who know a thing or two about enjoying the present moment.
We don’t do New Year resolutions anymore but we have agreed this one thing – to remind one another to try, as best we can, to be fully present every day. We dreamed for years about doing what we’re doing – to travel in the motorhome and go where the mood takes us, to see new places, to experience new things and meet new people. As we enter 2018 we are reminded that we are literally Living the Dream and we don’t want to miss it by trying to work out the future.
So there, I did mention that we were feeling reflective.
The Fun Stuff
Having a hire car and staying on a campsite with all things practical provided has given us the opportunity to get out and about and enjoy the beaches of the western Algarve.
We’ve also made friends with Catherine, who moved here a number of years ago and enjoyed some great walks with her over the cliff tops, exploring walking routes that we wouldn’t have had the confidence to try without her encouragement and local knowledge. Yesterday we clambered up a steep cliff path and walked along the high cliffs to the beach at Porto de Mos, enjoyed coffee and cake beside the ocean and then returned. The Map my Walk app on my iPhone told us that we had walked 8.3 miles.
There were a lot of people on the cliffs and even more on the beach enjoying the sunshine and warmth and we had to remind ourselves of the date. January 2nd! It’s hard for us Northern Europeans to believe that this is midwinter, many of the locals are wearing big coats and scarves and we are in summer clothes. A long walk gives lots of opportunity for chatting, sharing our stories and finding the things we have in common. We find ourselves making connections and creating new friendships as we meander along on our travels and we’re reminded that it’s important not to rush too quickly on to the next thing.