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Family Travel

Campervanning around Spain with two kids, a surfboard and a caterpillar

25 November, 2013

A Spanish señora, as bronze as she is old, as rotund as she is wrinkly, wearing nothing but the very clothes she was born in raises her ams in the air and claps, everything jiggling. This was not the start of a rude flamenco though, but the middle of a series of star jumps, half submerged in the Mediterranean sea. Superbly, gloriously uninhibited.

Only in Spain.

We are in a desolate, sheltered cove just beneath an old castle built by the Moors. I’m sat here with Juno, poking plump pink jewels from a pomegranate in to our mouths. Tim and Ramona are building the castle in miniature form out of sand and there in the sea just behind them was this buxom old lady, butt naked, tanned deep in every crease. Doing aqua aerobics.

The only other people in sight are a Wedding Cake Top couple perched on the rocks next to the castle having their photos taken. They preen into every classic pose, her glistening white dress billowing, his waistcoat stiff.

It’s as surreal as a Dali, who hails from just around the corner. The sheer peculiarity of the scene strikes my heart with the wand of joy and my brain with the wonder of how we get to be here now, doing this.

These funny little moments happen a lot on the road. I feel tender; easily surprised, amused, unbound and unburdened.

It is obviously the basic awesomeness of having very little to do but sit around in the sun having bizarre things take place around us while the alternative was simply slogging away in the grimey depths of winter in South London.

And perhaps this general, elated sense of feeling is simply just an extension of that; the sense of alternatives. After getting totally lost amongst a tangle of tiny, dodgy streets in the middle of a massive city, coming across a huge square in the shadow of a beautiful basilica where it seems a micro fiesta is taking place just feels completely exhilarating. Because the alternative was getting mugged and stranded and still lost. Waking up next to a roaring ocean, the sun bouncing into the window, is a moment filled with relief that we didn’t get turfed out of the free parking spot by the Guardia over night.

(Or maybe aqua aerobics in the nick, grand basilicas and sunrises on a beach are simply enough in themselves.)

I think I could travel like this forever. This lazy, wild, seize-every-moment or just-sit-around-if-we-want kind of living.

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Back on the beach, the lady wades out of the water, pubes dripping, and two enormous Alsatians have bounded onto the castle tower and are barking aggressively at the Just Marrieds. Juno has cast the pomegranate aside in favour of a gob full of sand. Ramona has begun to cry and I realise it is way past lunch and all we have is a gritty pomegranate and half a packet of rice cakes we opened when we first hit the road 4 months ago.

When we first left England our Campervan was jam packed. But new things have been added everyday. There is a Julia Donaldson book, A Squash and a Squeeze, where a wise old man advises a woman who feel her house is too small to take in collection of farm animals. (Mansplaining, I think it is called these days.) At the end of the book she gets rid of the animals and realises her house is perfect for one.

We have acquired a double buggy, for rampaging over dunes. And a secondhand surfboard, which we couldn’t resist but takes up a lot of space. And a pet caterpillar which doesn’t take up much physical space but rather a lot of mental space, trying to keep him alive amidst the mayhem. (We shouldn’t have let him in. It will only end in heartache. His name is, predictably, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.) I concentrate on the principle of A Squash and a Squeeze; this is great preparation for whatever new home we end up in eventually – anything will feel like a mansion compared to this. But mostly I swear as my foot gets stuck in a potty as I’m rummaging in the dirty laundry for the least stinky tee shirt and I bump my head on a bunk. (We are still bumping our heads.) It is a tiny, tiny space but we’ve somehow managed to misplace our two knives so I’m crouching next to the surfboard cutting an onion with a pocket knife.

Calm descends on the beach again. The Guard Dogs have disappeared, the bride and groom have gone to their banquet somewhere and the bare naked lady has gone. We caper around the beach as uninhibited as her, the need for lunch suspended. We are roaring lions, we are diggers, we are splashers, we are laughing baboons.

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We are on the same team the four of us. It’s my favourite thing about this trip. With no agenda there are very few power struggles, with all the day to accomplish very few tasks there is no stress bleeding into the adult-child communication, making a gory mess. We all go to bed at 10pm and sleep until the delectable hour of 8am.

We’ve crawled slowly down the southern coast of Spain, coasting from cove to cove, and have landed in the barren, rocky beauty of the Cabo De Gata. We are climbing hills and collecting shells. Foraging pomegranates and oranges. We saw Africa on the horizon, it was pretty epic.

We are unfettered. Free as birds. Each one of us as wild and excitable as toddlers.

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We pack up our beach things, now covered in pomegranate, sand and rice cakes gone mushy with sea water. We need to find a shop not having a siesta so we can buy lunch stuff. As we scramble up the hill we pass another old soul, kindred of the Señora, a man this time, himself completely starkers. We obviously missed the NUDISTA sign posts (again!) You know the Nudist Beach signs here are simply stick figures? Two stick figures, one with with two breasts and one with a penis almost as long as his leg. I imagine that for this beach they were probably naked male and female stick figures doing star jumps. An Official Aqua Aerobics in the Altogether beach.

Only in Spain.

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Family Travel

Hello new VERY TINY home!

28 July, 2013

*brave face* YEP! Here she is; Betty! Our VW campervan in which we are going to be ACTUALLY LIVING for the next quarter of a year.20130727-121630.jpg

When I was a wee lass we used to spend the summer holidays travelling around Europe in a campervan. Whenever we had parked up and walked to a high point, up a hill or castle or something we’d always look down and pin point our little white van and coo “Ooh, look at that LOVELY camper! Wouldn’t it just be the bee’s knees to have one like that?” It was a little (pretty unfunny) family joke but served to remind us how lucky we were, owning such a beauty. We’ve done this since forever.

I’ve spent the morning trying to brighten up our own campervan a little, to make it feel a bit more like home. It has all the original features, which is fabulous, except that they are all grey. Grey, gun metal, with a splash of pale charcoal.

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We bought the van with my folks so haven’t been able to spray paint all the cupboards as I might normally but I did want to add some colour to make it a bit cosier and more fun.

Here’s the After Betty:

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The thrifty old folk at Money Supermarket gave me a sweet 50 squids to make this campervan our Home Sweet Home as part of their Home Improvement Hero competition. I wouldn’t say we transformed it but we have added our folksy, vintage fingerprint!
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Of course, everything here is thrifted or boshed up at home as is our style, which meant that for £50 we could get a fair bit. You’d not normally be able to get bespoke fitted curtains for under £20, that’s Fo Sho.

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Handmade Bunting from Etsy from £12
Crochet Blankets from a car boot sale for £5 but they can also be snapped up on Ebay averaging around £15
Melamine bits and bobs from antique shops from £5 (You may get lucky with something cheaper but we searched high and low for YONKS)
Curtains- hand sewn from Cath Kidston Fabric from an outlet £20
Stripey cushion from a charity shop £5

20130727-121020.jpgI wanted Betty to feel like a riot of patterns and colour, to put a cheery old smile on everyone’s faces when we glance her way.

We had our first night in it with all four of us yesterday as we drove to the countryside to visit my sister and her family. It went swimmingly which was an enormous relief, considering we have 90 more nights to come! Ramona and her cousins have been playing “campervans” in it all morning (they could have been a bit more imaginative, eh?) so I think the makeover is making more than just me a happy bunny.

And hopefully, we’ll still be cheerful 3 months and 10 ten countries down the line, me very hilariously admiring it from a distance wishing it was ours (Oh! It IS! Aren’t we lucky! *groan*)… watch this space!

PS I’m going to try and blog a bit as we travel in Betty across Europe so if you don’t want to miss a thing follow through Facebook or Bloglovin or even just enter your email to get them pinged into your inbox. I won’t be spamalot, promise!