Spain to the UK

The 1st of September saw our departure from Spain back to the UK on the next stage of our ‘European Journey’.

Leaving the Costa del Sol coincided with the worst forest fire in the area for 100 years. It began just up the road to us and it was scary to smell and see all the smoke and watch the water planes and helicopters buzzing over head.

Luckily for us the wind was blowing in the opposite direction but this was taken just a few miles away from us. Sadly though people lost their lives, property and animals perished. It left us feeling very sad to leave the area at such a time when much help was needed and it was with heavy hearts that we drove away in the middle of the night to get up to Madrid whilst it was still relatively cool.

Once back on the road with the sadness of saying goodbye to friends and the worry of the fire behind us we fell right back into the routine of towing Bessie. We made the 350 mile trip up to Madrid and found the campsite with relative ease. Manevouring onto the pitch was a little tight as is most common with a lot of campsites. Too many pitches are squashed on and not enough thought given to the turning circles required of a rig 37ft in length.

However not to be disheartened we made camp, sorted the cats out and then headed into Madrid for the evening for some well deserved food and a little glass of beer!

Getting into the capital city required two buses and as is usual with buses in Spain the trip was a white knuckle ride with us being thrown around and left dazed by the time we got to our destination. Thankfully a lovely evening ensued as we wandered the streets taking in all the sights and atmosphere before finding a lovely, romantic bistro and enjoying a rare meal out.

Returning back to the campsite was an equally hell raising experience and this time in the dark and at speed we had little chance of locating our stop until the very last minute and then the driver wouldn’t stop for us. Not sure why he decided to not tell us we were coming up to our stop as he only had us and one other couple on board. The universe smiled on us though and the other couple came to our rescue and arranged for another bus to bring us back and this time we managed to alight the bus at the right stop.

It didn’t spoil our evening though and we had a good giggle about it before retiring to bed and repeating the process the following morning so that we could see Madrid in the daytime as well.

Madrid is a lovely city where they have managed to retain the old buildings, character and essence of the place unlike other capital cities we have been to where all the history seems to have been erased in place of new high tech buildings.

Perfect blue skies but a little cooling breeze accompanied us as we mooched around the streets taking in the sites and sounds.

Street artists were aplenty; although I’m not too sure what this last guy was all about, maybe Dougal aka The Magic Roundabout (sorry but only the English will get this one) just about to go to the local disco!!

Beautiful side streets – love the way this tree is just there in the middle of all the buildings 🙂

Lovely buildings……

And a square that reminded me very much of St Marks Square in Venice greeted us as we slowly meandered our way across the city to the botanical gardens for a picnic lunch.

After a lazy few hours in the sun it was time to walk back to the bus station.

More fancy buildings…..

A dubious looking museum……

And a fast food outlet that didn’t really think its name through too carefully and we were back on the bus for our relaxing (ahem) trip back to the campsite.

After our two day break in Madrid we started the serious business of driving back up to the channel tunnel and the first night saw us in Pamplona, Northern Spain. No photo’s of this rather non descript campsite I’m afraid but with its cold showers I wasn’t overly impressed!!

Setting off early the next morning we got our first glimpse of the Pyrenees and some rather nasty black looking clouds…..

Molly took to riding shotgun and as you can see there is lots for a little cat to look at…..

But eventually it all proved to much for her and she collapsed on my lap exhausted……

Next stop Angouleme and a campsite we had last stopped at 10 years ago.

The Lake was a gravel pit in the war where British troops used to land and be squirreled away by the resistance to fight the Nazi’s.

The nights grew cooler the further north we drove and Oscar needed a little extra warmth in the evenings.

Next stop was Brevident and another campsite with Lake. The early morning mist provided a lovely photo opportunity although I’m not sure this picture shows how lovely it looked – or cold lol

On leaving the following morning and traveling around Rouen I managed to mess the directions up – in style. Unfortunately it was about 100 miles before I realised that we were heading east towards Paris and not north towards Calais……an ‘oh shit’ moment if ever there was one.

Because we had already spent a lot of money on toll roads that morning we stopped and purchased a local map and found our way back to the toll road that we did need via all the D and N roads. It proved to be a false economy as 8 hours after we had set off we found ourselves back on route but only 80 miles further north than when we had started out that morning and with 120 miles still to go!!

6 beers – in about 30 minutes – that evening helped soften the blow and we went to bed to prepare for an early rise to get to the channel tunnel and our train back to Blighty.

The cats were checked in at the Pet passport control first and with their ‘checked and controlled’ sticker on the windscreen we proceeded to the main check in and boarded the earlier train. 25 minutes later we were heading out and onto the roads of Folkestone.

My mantra – ‘drive on the left, drive on the left’ helped me negotiate the first 10 minutes or so and then I fell back into the old habit of driving in the UK.

Several hours later we pulled up outside my parents house where we spent the night before heading up to Thetford the following day.

So far Norfolk has delivered warm, hazy sunshine (although I am sure it won’t last) and we will be at this campsite for about a week whilst we plan our next move!

A lovely English sunset marked our first night back in Bessy as we both breathed a sigh of relief that we had arrived back after 1500 miles safe and sound and ready for the next stage of our adventure…….an English winter!!

Big news…..

Our plans when we first set out in Bessie, almost 2 years ago now, was to head for the sun and enjoy a simpler way of life.

We have certainly achieved that and there is no way you would get me to give up caravan living now. But as with all things they grow and evolve as time goes on and we now find ourselves planning for the next stage in our journey.

This will see us return to the UK for 6 – 12 months. Partly this is to plan out where we want to go next – Spain and Portugal have been fun but we both want to go further afield and see some more of Europe but are not sure how this will work yet.

Also living in Bessie for 2 years has been great but there are some alterations that we want to do to her in order to make living in her even better and it will actually be easier (and cheaper) to do these back in Blighty.

Then of course I have my runs next year back home and so it seems that the UK is calling us to be the next stop off on our trip.

So, we head back at the start of September, winding our way back up through Spain and then France. A day trip to Madrid beckons on route and we hope to hit the channel tunnel (not literally) sometime in the second week of September.

Many people have asked if we are still going to be living in Bessie when we get back and the answer is a resounding YES. As I said I can’t imagine living anywhere else now which is a massive surprise to me I can tell you.

It will certainly be a daunting task surviving an English winter in a caravan but I am actually looking forward to it – I know too much Spanish sunshine has addled my brain.

Seriously though, living this way feels very authentic to me, having to survive with limited mod cons almost feels as if I am living the way my ancient ancestors would have.

When you take away all the trappings of material life, of which there are many, you are left with the real fabric of what it is to exist.

The last two years have been the most real of my life and I feel I have found the true essence of myself along the way. Stripping our lives back to the very minimum that we need has been one of the most therapeutic and liberating experiences I have ever had and I am not going to trade that in for anything……

Mind you….ask me that again in the middle of a Norfolk winter when there is snow outside!!

‘Senora Mop’

Well, it is finally official. What I have long suspected has been confirmed. I am lacking a very important gene……one that many other women around me seem to have but that definitely seems to have gone amiss with me……’the cleaning gene’.

When we arrived on site yesterday a plot a few down from ours was pointed out to us. Staying for three months the owners of the said plot had spared nothing to make it a home from home for their stay.

An awning with tables and chairs, astro turf covering the entire plot, an outside seating and eating area, an outside table with bbq, a tent that I can only assume contains their ‘tools’, light bulbs strung overhead, solar lights on the floor and about a dozen or so large pot plants…….you get the picture here don’t you. This is a serious set up and made us feel quite inadequate with our few meagre belongings lol.

The owners were at the pool but later in the day the wife returned. Sitting outside whilst summing up the energy to decide what to do next we suddenly heard a strange noise. A surreptitious glance confirmed what I thought – the lady of the ‘house’ was cleaning.

There she was sweeping down the outside of the awning with steely determination (an activity I had done two days previously when breaking camp that has left me with two massive blisters on each thumb!)

Next she attacked the leaves on the drive in front of their plot sweeping them all up and placing them in the bin.

Then out came the hoover and she got to work on the astro turf before she choked us out with a spray for goodness knows what all around the outside tool tent!

It made us chuckle and I asked hubby if he felt a little jealous that this wife was obviously fulfilling her domestic duties a lot better than his does!!

A slight pause…….before he of course denied that he felt that way lol.

Hmmmm……maybe I need to go and get some broom sweeping tips from Senora Mop – or maybe not!!

 

Munchkins, mutts and miquels……..

We have moved location, to a brand new campsite this time and even more amazing than that the journey went smoothly from start until finish – well nearly.

No massive rainstorms, or heavy winds that threatened to blow us over or punctures or directions that could best be described as part of a treasure map…….

We left the campsite in Portugal just before 8am on Tuesday morning, an early start but not quite as early as we had planned (we had been hoping to get away for 7am). It was actually better that we left a little late as it was thick fog first thing and I didn’t fancy towing a caravan in that given the impatience that the Portuguese seem to have for anyone on the road not going 100mph!

A quick 120 mile drive down to a stop off at a campsite in Monesterio. Directions were scarce but we managed to find it without too many deviations and as it was getting pretty hot in the car it was good to call it a day there and let the cats calm down a little.

Once released from the dreaded cat baskets they spent the day holed up together under the bed popping out only for water and the odd look out the window. The sounds of ‘munchkins’ enjoying their summer holidays in the pool and mutts wandering around outside the caravan ensured that they scurried back to the safety of their den!

The following morning we were off again by 8am and heading further south to our final destination and a trip of just under 200 miles. Thankfully a fair amount of cloud meant that it stayed cool in the car for much of the journey and we arrived on site at about 1pm.

Then the fun and games of trying to reverse the caravan into a plot began. Unfortunately there was not enough room to turn without hitting obstacles of trees, pillars and bins!

After 30 minutes or so of reversing up an incline and trying to shoehorn the caravan around a turn that wasn’t actually feasible the clutch on the car was smelling decidedly dodgey and a plan B was required. Thankfully another idea was suggested and we managed to maneuver into a plot opposite and with some careful reversing finally get on our plot…….phew!!!

By now the cats were very hot and stressed and there followed the routine of sitting under the bed, drinking lots of water and panting so much that I was forced to get the ice pack out the freezer and rub Molly up and down with it in an attempt to cool her down.

The panting went on most of the day and into the evening (I have a feeling that they were trying to make me feel bad!!) but at last we managed to persuade them to come out of the caravan and have a look around.

We snuck down to the bar on site for an hour as the sun finally went down and had two very welcome and refreshing pints of San Miquel. It has certainly been a few years since I sunk a pint of larger but I don’t seem to have lost my touch although I am wishing this morning that I stuck to halves. Two pints is more than my limit and I fear I am now a serious contender for ‘lightweight of the year’ award………actually I should have stuck to coconut water – lol

All that is left for us to do this morning is get the awning up, unpack the car, do some shopping…… and the list goes on 🙂

A few piccies of our latest travels…..

Last few bits to pack and we are ready to go….

Overnight stop off and some much needed shade under some trees (actually didn’t have much effect!)

Nothing to do but chill out in the sun!

Chillaxing……

Worried faces……

Journey’s end and chilling at last….

Sticking together……safety in numbers!

Best laid plans…..

I often thiink that it may be better to not announce anything to the world until you are actually there doing it as the universe often has an uncanny habit of stepping in and blowing the whole thing wide open.

Which is exactly what has just happened with our plans to return and work out of the retreat site I have been involved in for the last 7 months.

Sadly, and through no fault of our own or the family we were going to be working with that is no longer going to happen 😦

So, the last few days have been spent rehashing our plans and seeing what we can salvage from the situation. Luckily other contacts I have made may be able to step in and take over the role that was to be played by our finca family but time will tell and I need to be back and meeting people face to face in order to make that happen.

All of which means the campsite life is not over for us by a long shot and there is no guarantee that we will stay in Spain for long so technically I guess we will be ‘traveling’ again……

I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason and that when one door closes it usually means there is a bigger and better door for us is around the corner.

Hubby is celebrating his birthday tomorrow which means a lazy day and time for some chillaxing ahead of breaking camp and heading back out on the road early next week.

A new campsite awaits us and an exciting and busy few months lies ahead. New trails for me to run on, cheaper petrol and food (it is expensive here in Portugal and diesel has just gone up 8 cents in as many days????) and more life for us to enjoy.

Stay tuned as I think I may be back here again as we follow a new twist in our path!!

 

 

Hello world…..

Its been two months since we arrived back in Portugal and it has been a funny old time since we have been back.

Many years ago hubby and I decided that we wouldn’t return to the same place twice and yet this is exactly what we have done in coming back here and indeed what we did last winter with going back to Iznate.

Being back in Portugal in the same place has had a strange feel to it this time around. I can’t say as I have really settled in back here and to be honest I am looking forward to getting going. Which is exactly what we are going to be doing in a few weeks time.

When we left the UK back in October 2010 we had a grand idea of traveling and exploring and for me to pick up work teaching yoga as we went.

Other than that sketchy overview we really hadn’t put too much more thought into it as we rushed around like headless chickens trying to organise everything.

But of course things haven’t really gone to plan in the ‘traveling’ department and you can’t really say that we have been traveling for the last 21 months. Instead we have gone from one place to another and then stayed there for 6 months!!

Not that we haven’t been having fun whilst doing it. I love, love, love caravan living and the simplicity my life has now. I wouldn’t swap it for the world but we both realised we needed to find a way to make our choice more sustainable.

Last winter in Spain I was lucky enough through networking to meet a fantastic group of women who I could work with and create a vision for sharing good health through my passions for raw food, yoga and barefoot running.

As well as getting back into teaching (yoga) I dipped a toe into the retreat world and hosted a weekend raw food, yoga and EFT retreat in April.

When we go back to Spain we will be going back to the finca that we ran these retreats out of and working more closely with them to get regular retreats, bootcamps and classes of the ground.

It is something that I have wanted to do for a while and at this point in our lives it seems like the best solution all around. As you know we have two cats with us one of which is elderly and battling chronic kidney disease and although this decision hasn’t been made entirely around him, it would be cruel of us to drag him from place to place when he needs quiet and calm in which to live out his final days.

I have been umming and erring over what to do with this blog. It stopped feeling like my ‘European Journey’ some time ago and with two other blogs on the go (one for my business and one for my marathon challenge) I find it difficult both squeeze the time in to write it and also to find something to write about!

So, for now I am going to bow out of writing here and thank those of you who have been following over the last few years.

I am sure it will pop up again in the future as travel is something we still want to do.

If you want to keep up with me in other ways then you can follow my blog on my website www.barefootandraw.co.uk or follow my ultra marathon challenge 2013 here.

Thanks again,

Helen x

 

 

Back on the road…

Packing up and cleaning ground sheets in the awning. Thankfully the sun shone all day so everything dried out quickly

Packed to the gunnels, all we own in the world in one car!!

Molly checking out the car for the journey!!

Last morning in Iznate and clouds over our beloved Maroma

Daisy Duke the campsite cat that we feed waiting for breakfast….we were told that morning from another English camper that she had discovered his dog Vinny’s food bowl. Vinny is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Rhodesian Ridgeback cross who doesn’t like cats but nothing freaks Daisy out. She is such a cool cat 🙂

Ready to leave, hubby estimated we would be away by 8am, I estimated not before 10am. We finally left at just gone 11am!!

Not happy!!

I had to hold Molly’s paw for much of the journey

Stop off overnight just outside Seville. A quiet site meant we could just pull up and not have to ‘unhitch’ to save us time the following morning. It didn’t!!

Confined to barracks overnight meant having to ‘gawp’ from inside…

Molly has a good look too.

The caravan gets a bit ‘cluttered’ when we are actually traveling!!

We awoke to light rain which quickly turned torrential. By the time we had packed up the heavens were in full fury. We also woke to a flat tyre on the caravan. Luckily we are a twin axle so we made the decision to keep going on it until the weather improved enough to change it. We then had to get out of the site which; because of a bad layout, meant having to reverse out. Hubby did a sterling job despite not being able to see anything in the side mirrors (reversing in a caravan is no easy task) Helped by me on one corner and a very kind fellow Englishman on the other he slowly managed to inch back out to the entrance and turn around. By this time I was soaked to the skin and shivering but a change of clothes and blast of the car heater and we were on our way – time now 11.30am!!

We limped along stopping to pump the tyre up every hour until it was obvious we were losing the battle. So hubby had to change the tyre in the rain 😦

My hero!!

Oscar slept oblivious to the drama unfolding around him

Molly was a little more concerned about Daddy’s tyre changing abilities…..

Arrived at last….

The old fellow stretching his legs after the journey

And Molly checking out her surroundings

We caught a glimpse of the ‘super moon’ last night (probably what was responsible for yesterday’s freaky weather!) before we fell exhausted into bed.

The sun is shining this morning which bodes well for getting the awning up and the car unpacked. Hubby has his work cut out leveling the caravan as at the moment we are very definitely rolling on one side! Ok when you have had a beer or two but a bit perturbing otherwise.

But we are here, and it is good to be back. Looking forward to a long, hot summer and a relaxed pace of life for the next 6 months 🙂

Long overdue update…

Wow, a whole month has passed since I last did a post and life has been very busy.

Radio interviews, ultra-marathon training, yoga, a trip back to the UK, running my first retreat and now the last few days packing up to leave Spain for the heady plains of Portugal once again.

It is hard to believe that 6 months is up already and that we will be back on the road tomorrow heading up for Seville and an overnight stop before traveling into Portugal on Saturday.

But, we are ready to move on and get a change of scenery and a different pace over the summer. More time to spend on the online portion of my business together with more time for yoga and shifting up a gear with my ultra-marathon training.

I have to say that this time around has been the smoothest in terms of packing everything away which must been we are getting used to it – or maybe it means that I threw a lot more of our ‘stuff’ away in the time that we have been here!

Even the cats seem less phased by the idea that we are moving on again and are contentedly snoozing or sitting in the car trying it out for the off tomorrow – lol.

So, as we complete our third 6 month stint since leaving the UK I am happy to announce that this lifestyle is still as appealing as it was when we first got here. I love the fact that everything that we own can be fitted into the back of a car (albeit a rather large Ford Galaxy!) and that we are masters of our own destinies in terms of where we go and for how long. Life rocks!! 🙂

I’ll take some photo’s on route and promise to post again once we arrive.

 

The sun doesn’t always shine….

We have had a few days of less than perfect weather….cloudy skies and even some rain – I had to google what this wet stuff was that was falling from the skies it had been that long since we last had inclement weather 😉

Not to be beaten though we still ventured out for a walk yesterday but stayed close to home less a quick retreat was needed. It wasn’t and we had a lovely, little walk up into the hills just off our main road.

What is amazing once you get up into the hills is the multitude of little tracks that snake their way around linking each hill together and the amount of houses and small communities there are that you never even see from the main roads.

We walked past quite a few houses as we puffed our way up the steep climbs (these will come in useful further down the line for my marathon training 🙂 )

Almost all the houses had dogs either chained up or running along the perimeter fences barking for all their worth. I have not come across one yet that actually looks like it means any harm. Tails wagging they are more desperate for some attention and often come and stick ears and heads through the railings for a scrunge and tickle. I have even persuaded hubby (who has a childhood fear of dogs) that they are just bored and not a threat and he now tries talking to them instead of being scared.

Once at the top of the hills we got the blanket out and sat for a cuppa and some raw chocolate brownies that I had made earlier and took in the view whilst keeping an eye on the black clouds that were rolling in from the sea…..

It all worked out fine though and we made it down before it got too cold and rained again…..

Cloudy skies

Our campsite from a different angle (middle of picture)

This will make a good training run….

Grey skies but lovely spring flowers add a splash of colour still….

Flamingos and donkeys….

Another sunny Sunday saw us loading a picnic lunch into the car and heading out for the day. This time we traveled up to Antequera – a 120 mile round trip in search of flamingo’s.

‘Laguna Fuenta La Piedra’ is the largest natural lake in the Iberian Peninsula at 2.5km wide and 6.5km long and is well known for its flamingo population, the second largest colony of these birds in Europe after the French Camargue region and the only inland site on the continent where they breed. In spring flamingos flock here in their thousands to reproduce, attracted by the water’s high salt content and the fact that it is shallow.

There weren’t thousands of flamingo’s when we got here so we were not sure whether we had missed them or that we were too early and by the time we headed back to the information centre to ask they were closed for lunch – of course!!

Anyway, we did see some and managed to get some photo’s although the digital ones aren’t so great as the zoom lens couldn’t really cope. We took our old Canon camera with us too and so should have some great piccies on there but will have to wait to get the film developed to see them – how old fashioned!!

Once done at the Lake we headed back into town in search of ‘El Refugio del Burrito’ – the Donkey Sanctuary. We had picked the leaflet up in the visitors centre and the promise of 70 rescued donkeys to coo over was too much to resist. I have a real love for donkeys and these guys get a seriously rough deal here in Spain with many neglected and abused and then abandoned when they serve no more purpose.

El Refugio del Burrito is part of The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth, UK and is a lovely place for these donkeys to live out their lives in peace and calm away from any danger or misuse.

We spent ages wandering around scrunging ears that were poked through the railings for attention. Some of the donkeys were more than happy to be fussed whilst others hung back at first weighing us up before giving in and coming to say hello. Even hubby who normally only likes to pet our two cats couldn’t resist a silky ear or two and a look into a doleful eye.

I had to tear myself away in the end or I would probably still be there, sleeping in a stable with a few of my new friends 🙂 Have a look at our photo’s.

Laguna Fuenta La Piedra

Open plains with mountains in the background provide perfect photo opportunities.

A few of the flamingo’s

More flamingo’s – digital camera couldn’t really cope with the zoom lens

Ahhh…..Donkeys 🙂

Me and my new friend….

This little guy was so cute….

Just hanging around…

Vying for attention…..:)

El Refugio del Burrito is run soley through donations and so we left some money in one of the many donation boxes dotted around the site. We then headed back to the car for a reviving cuppa before setting off back home for tea with a warm and fuzzy feeling that there are places like this out there that help animals who through no fault of their own fall foul of man’s often cruel and abusive hand.