Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A crisis at the harvest festival

Last weekend I went over to Ireland to do a couple of demos at Waterford Harvest, one of the country's biggest street and food fairs. I even had time to make a quick appearance on Irish breakfast telly to talk about the festival on the Friday morning before my Friday night demo. All was good. The demo was fun - as it was outside the beer tent. Once the washing up was done I was escorted to Waterford's best bar, Geoff's, for a few pints. I spent the day on Saturday with Sally McKenna, who writes and publishes the Bridgestone Guide to Ireland. She took me kayaking to look for seaweed on a gorgeous loch not far from Skibereen. It was a wonderful day and I felt like a young apprentice in the presence of such great experience and knowledge.

However things started to worry me when I woke up on Sunday morning.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Fantasy Campsite. In search of the perfect pitch.

La Bergerie. Small, friendly, level pitches, great location and very clean.

Do you ever dream of owning your own campsite? What would you do with it? After our trip this summer I have been having fantasies about owning and running a campsite (before you say it isn’t easy, I don’t think for a minute it would be). This has resulted in a game we call “fantasy campsite”. It’s a very simple game whereby we go through and list all the places we have stayed and add their best qualities to our list of wants and needs from a truly brilliant place to pitch up. It changes all the time and can sometimes depend upon the place we have been staying, whether good or bad.
Sometimes “fantasy campsite” sounds like whinging. But it isn’t. It’s about casting an eye over what we’ve seen, taking the best ideas, cutting out the worst elements and putting them all together to remake a campsite that’s just perfect. From that we can then work out where, of all the many places we’ve stayed over the years, is the one place we’d hanker after most. The thing is that, unlike other kinds of accommodation, we take our beds with us in the van so the bedroom never changes. It’s the surroundings that make all the difference.

First, the most basic of basics.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Aires de camping car. Are we missing something?

Contis Plage: free showers, washing up facilities, toilets and just 11 Euros per night.
I can’t help but think, having just returned from 64 nights in Europe in our van, that we are missing a trick here in the UK. Or, more specifically, local councils are missing out on an opportunity that would improve our lives (as campervanners and motorhomers) and bring them much needed revenue at the same time.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Surprises from the deep.

Just as I thought the excitement was over, our ferry trip back to the UK gave us one more final and incredible surprise. My friend Cath, who had arrived in Spain a few weeks earlier by the same route as we were due to take home (Bilbao – Portsmouth), had told us to look out for the guys from Orca, a leading whale and dolphin conservation charity. She explained how they have officers on all Biscay ferries and that they do talks for anyone interested in whale spotting whilst on board. On Cath’s crossing they had seen both whales and dolphins so she urged us to go along. She also told us how, excitable as she is, she had spotted a whale’s blow some way offshore and had so wanted anyone to share the experience that she had run in to the restaurant shouting “I have just seen a whale! Come and see!” to an uninterested breakfast queue. She ran back out again expecting hundreds to follow. None did.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Guggenheim. The final stop.

Bilbao. It was always going to be our last stop as our schedule was to see us leaving from Bilbao port on 4th September, to arrive in Portsmouth on the 5th. This would give us just enough time to drive to Bristol where we would drop the van and jump on a plane to Dublin for my sister in law’s wedding on the 6th. I have been to Bilbao before but had yet to visit the Guggenheim museum. It’s not for want of trying though.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Into the valley: swimming, hiking and camping at the Cirque de Gavarnie

Sometimes you can get a bit too much beach. I know it might seem like an odd concept but after our time in Galicia and a few days ‘a la plage’ back in the Basque Country with friends, we were ready to shake the sand out of our shoes and take to the hills. We unloaded all we could from the van – bikes, boards, wetsuits, swim togs and unnecessary baggage – and set off for the Haute Pyrenees. Without the extra weight to slow us down the van skipped along the motorway to the foot hills and purred up steep sided ravines, along giddying gorges and round tight hairpins until we arrived at the small village of Gavarnie.

Making dreams come true: another slow road adventure.

When did you last make time to dawdle? Can you remember what it was like to do nothing more than meander, pootle or bumble along? A...