At least for us it has been a record with 165 nights spent in the motorhome, well over our previous total of 119 in 2014. Gosh, that’s five and a half months!
It was a very different year for us as our lovely aeroplane, Vulcan XH558, stopped flying at the end of October 2015. That meant an end to our regular airshow attendance as part of the Vulcan to the Sky Events Team which had taken up a chunk of our summers since we started volunteering in 2008. There was no doubt that we were going to miss the airshows and the company of the excellent team of volunteers plus engineers and air crew.
However, that door closing meant fewer commitments and left another door wide open – more travel in Celine, our one year old Carthago.
Before we could go too far there was the first annual check over and some warranty jobs to be carried out on Celine by our dealer in Staffordshire. Once they were done in February we had a couple of nights at Kingsbury Water Park C&CC site, just to make sure there were no problems or work not done.
Back home we had a new central heating boiler fitted but the dark, dank days of winter were getting to us. After less than two weeks at home we were back in Celine and heading south on our first winter sun holiday.
A slow drive through France in decent weather took us to the Spanish border close to Biarritz and heavy rain and warnings of snow. It was amazing to see Spanish snow ploughs on every motorway slip road with engines running and lights flashing, just waiting for the snow to arrive. Puts the UK snow preparation to shame!
The Portuguese hill towns near the border with Spain fairly ‘blew us away’. Marvão and Monsaraz were just stunning and the few days we spent ‘wilding’ beside a huge man made lake were just beautiful.
Moving further south to the Algarve we were disappointed to find the amount that it had been built up since we were regular visitors there, probably more that 20 years previously. Keeping a little inland we had fun and laughs when we stayed at ‘Pedro’s’ aka Motorhome Friends.
Making our way slowly east we spent a couple more nights in Portugal before crossing back into Spain again and then heading north and back across France.
Our first proper winter trip was a great success. Six weeks and 3000 miles and we will definitely be doing something similar again.
We were only home for about 10 days before we were off again, this time just a few days in Lincolnshire to get some much needed jet noise at RAF Coningsby.
After 10 more days at home it was back to France again in May for a month. This time the weather and the French unions tried to spoil our fun and although we had to change plans a little, they didn’t succeed in wrecking the trip. Shortages of fuel were being reported in many ares and heavy rain caused a lot of flooding but we managed to keep away from both. A planned meet up with friends had to be put on hold but we will get together soon I’m sure. Having spent a lot of time in the south we came home via the Champagne region to avoid floods and found a wonderful aire at Mutigny, surrounded by vineyards and with lovely views.
Home from France and there were loads of jobs to catch up with in the house and garden and we actually stayed around for nearly a month.
July meant more jet noise as we went to the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford in Gloucestershire. We were booked into the Caravan Club’s rally field just across the road from the airfield and instead of working our socks off at the Vulcan stand, we spent a week sitting in the sun and watching the aircraft fly above us. Another brilliant week which we intend to repeat.
We had intended to take a trip to Scotland after RIAT but household matters had to take priority as we had decorators booked to paint the house exterior.
Another month at home and we were off again, this time to Sussex and our niece’s 18th birthday celebrations. After a weekend at Fairlight Woods CC site we headed once again towards Folkestone and the tunnel.
As it was the middle of August the weather was brilliant, sun and high temperatures for day after day. We chose places to stop that were close to water and had grass to sit out on to help with the cooling. Using mostly aires as usual we did spend a few days on campsites including Camping Champ de La Chapelle, that had recently been taken over by a English chap who was very good company.
Moving south we eventually reached the Pyrenees and a memorable few days wild camping high in the mountains. It was our second time at Lac d’Estaing and it was as lovely as ever.
After driving east and some time beside the Mediterranean we started to head north and found a stunning new aire beside a huge lake, high in the hills. Lac de Pareloup was just heaven for us. Quiet, peaceful and uncrowded ,it had wonderful views and good walks. Another favourite to add to the list of places that we must return to.
After six weeks we returned home at the end of September to another list of jobs that needed sorting but soon the itchy feet were raring to go again.
After only 10 days at home it was off for a few days in Lincolnshire for more jet noise, followed by nearly a month at home.
The jobs list was getting longer but with a concentrated effort quite a lot got done outside. A new timber log store was ordered, assembled and put in place to get rid of the scruffy heaps of assorted wood that were scattered around. Much sawing and chopping was done as we amazed ourselves at the amount of wood we had accumulated. The wood burner will be much used this winter I think.
Internet forums are dangerous places, particularly motorhome forums!
A thread on Motorhome Fun spoke of campsites in northern Spain and folk wearing shorts and tee shirts, walking beside the sea, while we were cold and wet with mid November weather in the UK. Kate said that with Christmas soon upon us there was far too much to do to even think about going all that way.
Another wet, cold November day and minds were slowly beginning to change. By Tuesday evening the decision was made. Bugger it, why not! Let’s just do it!
Celine was packed, fridge switched on, tanks filled and a trip to Ipswich to stock up with food. On Friday morning in mid November we were off down the A12 again towards Folkestone.
Another slow-ish drive through France on wonderfully empty roads and free aires at night. The weather wasn’t kind at first as we managed to coincide our trip with an ‘Arctic Plunge’ and storms in the Mediterranean. We arrived in Spain to sunshine though and got settled in to Camping Les Medes just outside the small town of L’Estartit on the Costa Brava.
The mixed weather eventually settled down to cool nights and sunny days, just about warm enough for those tee shirts.
After a little over two weeks in Spain it was time to drive back home. What a drive it was. Every day was sunny and with the low winter sun behind us the scenery was lit to perfection. Houses and villages with their mellow stone glowed in the sunlight. Almost every town and village we passed through or stopped at was dressed for Christmas with trees, lights and silver and gold wrapped parcels strung along the streets. We have had many memorable drives through France but that one must be top of the list.
We have done around 12,000 miles in Celine this year and she has done 25.7mpg from new, not bad for a 4.5 tonne truck.
I’m still loving the auto gear box and the expensive levelling jacks we had fitted have been brilliant. Celine has been a real pleasure to drive.
Mechanically she has performed perfectly with the only problem being a split windscreen, caused by a stone chip. The windscreen was eventually replaced after we had driven over 3500 miles with the crack slowly getting longer.
There have been a couple of internal problems that have to be sorted under the warranty when she goes in for service but nothing to stop us using the van.
Plans for 2017?
So far we are booked in for a Carthago Owners rally in the Dordogne in September and we will book a place on the rally field for RIAT at RAF Fairford for July.
Other than those we have nothing firm planned. We would like to go back to Scotland in early summer and the hill villages of Portugal plus more time in Spain seem attractive on a dark winter’s night as I write this.
Watch this space.
A Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year to you all.