We are abroad and the joy on Theo’s face as we boarded the ferry was truly wonderful. Really there is no price you can put on the clear eyed wonder of two small boys. I saw it today as Theo sipped a hot chocolate on the boat and later found out how wetsuits let you run and play shiver free in the cold windy May weather. Then there was that light again as Finley sat in the cab of the Motorhome watching the world reverse by as we parked up on site in Duggee.
Duggee the Motorhome seems to have taken on a special persona in their minds. A protector, a giver of joy and supplier of endless snacks, games and cuddles. They already love travelling and that is a gift we are happy and privileged to give them. Today “abroad” is the Isle of Wight and hopefully it sets the scene for more adventures to come.
Our break continued and it was wet and it was windy but being away was brilliant. All those childhood holidays in Wales I had prepared us for a fleece or waterproof for every occasion. The Mediterranean now seems like a dream and we tried not to be obsessed with peering at the sky to see if “there was enough blue sky to make a sailor’s pair of trousers”.
We had a great morning out in the Dinosaur Museum at Sandown and then stroked the donkeys at the Donkey Sanctuary in the afternoon. The donkeys were as keen to be in their barns that day as us because it was blowing a gale. Compton Bay was beautiful and we found the Dinosaur footprints in the sand and met two geologists.
Our site at Southlands Caravan and Motorhome Club Site had plentiful rabbits to watch and a brilliant children’s playground. It was a site which necessitated a trip out in Duggee everyday but that gave us plenty of opportunities to explore the island. We will definitely go “abroad” again.
A little girl has given some red carnations to a man in a black hoodie with a skeleton on it. The contrast with the bright blue sky in the background is vivid. That is how it feels being out again, vivid. The man seemed surprised, the families are not together.
Seeing people living their lives in real time, smelling the sea and feeling the stony sand in my hands seems fresh and new. Lockdown and release seems to have put the day trippers in a fine mood. “Say cheese” people shout as they try to capture the moment. Most people are in coats, some brave bikinis. The cruise ships tethered offshore are still waiting for their liberation.
Someone earlier has scattered those flowers and now the little children on the beach make patterns and presents and decorate castles with them. A group of yellow hatted students peer earnestly at the rocks. Memories all around.
Then suddenly out of nowhere three ducks pecking and quacking and trying to eat hoola hoops out of our hands. It must have been a quiet few months on the snack front. Not so seemingly for the Basset Hound who is about to start the steep assent to the car park. His stomach scrapes the steps as he slowly makes his way up.
A good way to spend the day at Durdle Door surrounded by so many people speaking different languages and looking glad to be here in this moment.
It would be difficult to sum up the past year of lockdowns, hand washing and shopping wiping punctuated by the seemingly increasingly alarming overture of the BBC news music. We have had to switch to ITV for some light relief. I wonder now and again how historians will view these times and one day if I am asked to describe them where would I begin?
I suppose I would start by remembering being at home and how fortunate we were to be there. We had some trips away when we were allowed out in the new Motorhome and days out down the beach where I opened “Cath’s Caf” and served bacon rolls and hot chocolate to anyone who could cope with being in our bubble at that point in time.
Now we are camping at Durdle Door in Dorset, the sunset is flooding through the window and I can hear Zoe reading Sleeping Beauty to the boys complete with music. We are cocooned in the Motorhome and just taking it all one step at a time. As for the walk down to Man of War Cove; three adults, two toddlers and a trug of toys it was long, it was steep but the views were stunning and the water so clear.
We have had close encounters with cows at Lulworth Cove which Theo imperiously waved on their way and a drive of epic proportions to Corfe Castle. The military exercises on Purbeck seemed to necessitate closing every road we went down and I got the feeling the castle may have been newly built when we left the site.
So glad to be out again though and the weather is bright although the wind is cold. I am dreaming of a new fleece, some drysuits for the boys to stop their teeth chattering and various other paraphernalia for British summer holidays which transports me right back to a thousand childhood summers in Gower where we shivered in the sand but the sea and our hearts always sparkled.
The time has passed and we are slowly emerging again into the new landscape clutching at our semi freedom. Everyday vocabulary almost unheard of a few months ago is becoming our new normal. We have moved away from “shielding” to respecting “social distance” and are becoming almost ourselves again. So now with some wonderful memories of summer days and sticky fingers and an overwhelming sense of gratitude we are lucky enough to have left home to collect our new Motorhome.
Tonight I am sitting here listening again to the sounds of campsite life. People murmuring in the gloom and children playing. We are not in Europe where we would usually be but near Birmingham, an obvious mini break destination. We spent night one in a car park in Newark where I watched Paul cast of the panic of the last few months and are now at Chapel Lane, Wythall safely constrained by the rules of the Camping and Motorhome Club. Somehow it seems the right thing to do to have the safety net of this rather bureaucratic institution for our first proper night in “Duggee” as Theo has called the Motorhome. Two weeks later it could have been called “Cat Boy”, toddler logic is great.
It is actually rather wonderful to concentrate on whether we have parked the correct distance from the red marker rather than obsessing about who is standing where and whether they have a mask on. We are going to focus on one day at a time and share our good luck at being able to travel again with Zoe and Gareth.
Today we should be in Spain but we are not. It was going to be a six week tour but we are here completely locked down trying to help keep Theo safe.
Theo is our grandson, he is nearly three and was born with many difficulties and in a way Covid-19 has been an extension of the uncertainties that have walked with us for a long time. Sometimes these times are fine and other times they are not.
It is hard to know from one day to another how the landscape of the day will look. We are stuffing happiness into this time as fast as we can. Our days have been filled with baking, watching caterpillars turn into butterflies, befriending the local fox and cleaning and more cleaning. Changing dressings followed by stories and songs and meals where Paul and I sit in bed eating our share of the dinner I have prepared for everyone whilst Zoe and Gareth try to have private family time together as Gareth sits at one end of the table. He then goes back to his part of the house with the dog and Zoe and the boys stay with us.
Gareth has not hugged them now for two months. Zoe and Gareth have already spent months apart with Theo in one ward or another in hospital. As a family we are no stranger to ventilators and the suspended world of machines with their beeping heartbeats and sudden alarms so to try and avoid this is worth every day we feel trapped.
Anyway as traps go being here, in our home in the forest is as good as these times can be. Hopefully one day we will again drive, drive, drive, see the sea, feel the wind on our faces and breath in the cold air of the mountains, smell the orange blossom and just embrace being a tiny part of the lives of others.
In the meantime we will wait and I will use my planning skills to organise our week around the shopping delivery, the Thursday clap, the chemist deliveries and checking my dad is managing. Zoe will illuminate the spaces in between these benchmarks with the magic she weaves for her boys and Paul and I will follow behind with a dustpan and brush and concentrate on now and being here together.
A. Lisieux – Camping Le Colombier (1)
B. Cheverny- Camping Les Saules (1)
C. Creysse – camping du port (4)
D. Saintes Maries de la mer – Camping Le Clos Du Rhône (5)
The South of France
A. Cucuron – Camping Lou Badereu (4)
B. La Couronne – Camping Marius (2)
C. La Couronne, Martigues – Camping de L’Arquet (5)
D. St Mitre – Camping Felix de la bastide (2)
E. Salin-de-Giraud – Camping Les Bois Flottes (3)
F. Frontignan Plage – Camping Les Tamaris (2)
A. Sant Pere Pescador – Camping La Gaviota (3)
B. Taradell – Camping La Vall (2)
C. Sant Llorenc de Montgai – Camping La Noguera (2)
D. Alquézar – Camping Alquezar (2)
E. Biescas – Camping Gavin (2)
The West of France
A. Biscarrose Plage – Camping Campiole Plage Sud (2)
B. Tharon Plage – Camping Du Vieux Chateau (2)
Tharon-Plage and the adjacent village of St Michel Chef-Chef seem to have grown up unobtrusively in the environment like the mushrooms on our pitch. The buildings and little shops seem to be everything a seaside town should be and there is enough here to suggest it is a thriving community but also much loved by people that come here to nurture their souls. House are named things like “Welcome” and “Le Weekend” and here it doesn’t seem trite but true.
When we were at Biscarrosse-Plage we walked along the promenade and there were various inscriptions set in the walkway and this one particularly caught my eye.
My interpretation of that is that looking after “your calm” is just as important as caring for the rest of your body. We have tried to do both with variable success at different points of this holiday. All in all I think we are at least partially rejuvenated and ready to return. Obviously if the inscription means something different in translation I apologise to Jacques Pradel. Sadly, we have got quite good at apologising to our European friends this holiday.
In the end it turned out that red squirrels lived in the trees above our pitch and sitting in bed and watching one out of the back window cheered the whole place up immeasurably as did a trip to Leclerc hyper market for some very welcome food.
We spent two nights at Campeole Plage Sud and the beach is long and sandy and particularly good for surfers as there were some brilliant waves. We watched these from the shore this time. Paul did manage a swim in the pool.
Our next drive is a long one to Camping du Vieux Chateau, Tharon-Plage, near Pornic.
We are now one day’s drive from Cherbourg but although we are back in the north again we have had enough sun for an evening walk.
Butter coloured cows and sheep clinging to the hillside bordered by depressed grey stone walls and a creeping dampness. No more flamingos arrogantly twirling but in their place crows greasily hanging their heads. Yes we are back in France and going north and it even rains a little to cheer us along.
Paul has carefully selected Campeole Plage Sud at Biscarrosse-Plage. The rationale went like this; proximity to beach, tick. Heated outdoor pool another tick. Supermarket next door for those with no food left another massive tick. He spends hours on the planning for his appreciative travelling companion.
The site though seems depressed itself that it is still open. The resort is a cross between
Eastbourne and a surfers’ shack where
hopeful hoovers compete with the wind as they prepare bars for an exciting Sunday night in October. Smells of stale crepe fat mingle with perplexed people who walk aimlessly past “the attractions” and I use this phrase very loosely.
There are towns out of season and then there is Biscarrosse-Plage. Incredibly though people still seem to like the place. It must be the beach.
I know I sound spoilt and that is because we have been incredibly privileged to see the wonderful things we have seen. It was hard to leave and now it seems it is hard to go back.
I feel my new career working for the Biscarrosse-Plage tourist board may have ended before it ever began. Maybe it is a great place in June.
Oh well we have a nice view out of the caravan window and there are some interesting things growing on the trees.
We drive further into the Pyrenees past a shepherd who looks almost biblical as he walks alone herding his mixed flock of sheep and goats. The site of the “Mon Repos” Service Station and similarly named tunnels jolt us back into the 21st Century and a little laugh. Our next stop is Camping Gavin.
Both Gavin and nearby Biescas look to me like they are mainly skiing centres in that there are a lot of dead looking apartments. However, we do see quite a few people out with walking poles or mountain bikes. Paul gets out his Lidl poles to show willing and swaps his trusty shopping bag for a small rucksack.
The highlights of the short walk to Gavin are the eagles which this time are so close we get a full picture of their immense wing span and also a long talk with a couple who have sold or rented everything back in the UK and come out for three years in their old VW. The man does two thousand press ups outside his van before they begin the day’s excursions. He has also had a double knee replacement.
We waited a while at the market at Biescas to buy some fruit and vegetables until the stall holder pointed out we needed a ticket. So straight to the back of the queue for us. We watched as our shopping list was slowly sold in front of our eyes. Goodbye to the radishes and then the beautiful yellow peppers. In fairness the stall holder was busy and I don’t think he had noticed our ticketless state. He fed us with juicy muscatel grapes now and then to keep our spirits up. When it was our turn to try and point our way through the rest of our list we had a bizarre conversation. He told us he was from Romania and that Prince Charles and the royal family are related to Count Dracula and have several holiday homes in the mountains of Transylvania.
The peaches we bought were fresh and sweet and had a bite to them which made a welcome change to some of the floury supermarket fruit we have had. We ate the whole bag on the walk back to the site with Kites swooping down over the fields and the freezing mountain water making a good place to wash the juice off our hands. Tomorrow we leave Spain and travel north to France. Autumn has caught up with us.