Home or Away

The football press have been in raptures recently about Liverpool’s remarkable comeback in the Champions League semi-final overturning their European rivals Barcelona’s 3 away-goal lead to win 4-3 at home. Tottenham’s similar 3-3 win over the Dutch side Ajax, was also unexpected after being 1-0 down from the first leg at home.

So, what’s it like for us playing at home compared with being away in Charlie?  We’ve been back now for about 6 weeks, long enough to write a few observations, share a few statistics and reflect on life on the road.

Uk Customs – calais

Driving up through northern France the magnetic pull of home became stronger and stronger.

“This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,–This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.”

William Shakespeare

First impressions of blighty

As soon as we arrived back in the UK, we immediately noticed the sheer volume and intensity of the traffic. After the calm and absence of traffic on the motorways in northern France, the M20 was a wake-up call. The density of cars, vans, lorries of all shapes and sizes was a real shock. The M25 was worse and was compounded for us by a 90 min delay whilst they closed the M25 near the M11 after a serious accident only 20 or 30 vehicles in front of us, caused enormous tailbacks. The traffic on the big motorways around the large towns in France is, to be fair, probably comparable but wherever we’ve been since returning to the UK, there seems little respite from the congestion on this small island of ours.

Bluebell Woods Duddon Valley 22nd April

Being at home

Fortunately for us, life in the Lakes (except during major public holidays) is a lot calmer than our baptism of fire in the south east. Without doubt coming home was always going to be more comfortable than being on the road. One of our April commitments was to lead a walk for our local ramblers group and after a couple of recces around the natural beauty and relative peace of the Duddon valley, we both adjusted quickly to appreciate where we are very fortunate enough to now live.

Lesley has taken early retirement which raises a few important questions for the future. How do we want to spend our time when at home? Will ‘that‘ (whatever ‘that’ is?) be enough? Do we need to have a purpose? Conversely what is endlessly touring all about? Do I need ‘a project’? There are many questions we have still to answer but they’re interesting problems opportunities to have and thoughts to ponder on.

At home we can enjoy the comfort of our home and the company of our family and friends. However, whilst touring life is simple, your daily worries are usually about basic needs. Like: where to stop tonight, do we need water, where’s the bakery, what’s the weather like? At home things aren’t quite so relaxed. The ‘tyranny of the list‘ is ever present.

Our lists include:

Jobs to finish off on the house, things to fix on Charlie, maintenance on the car, garden plants to buy, landscaping & garden planning, doctors and dentist appointments, letters & cards to send, presents to buy, shopping list, bills to pay, accounts to finalise, packing for holiday…..what? yes we’re off again!

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Decision time

13 weeks has been a good long time to assess the good points and bad points sssssssh about Charlie. Is the Chausson 640 the right spec for us? On the face of it, it has so much going for it. It’s not too long but is Tardis-like inside. It has a big bed but it takes up no space and loads of other really good attributes. Where it falls short is in the heating department.

For example when skiing at minus 15 we weren’t able to reliably heat the water. Compared with the double skinned ‘European quality’ vans Charlie’s winter coat and heating system isn’t that great. It’s not possible to set timers for either the heating or hot water. The heating relies on full electric hook up or a good charge in the habitation battery.

Whilst it is possible to ‘manage’ and improvements could be made by insulating the waste water tank, adding a second leisure battery and solar panels and so on. These mods would make it more winterised and boost the electric capacity, but in the end there are options out there that we think will suit us better.

An upgrade to a better spec, even for a used vehicle isn’t going to be cheap. Therefore, we can’t complete the purchase of Charlie II until a new buyer is found for our faithful companion for 3 plus months. But we have found a van (an A class) we like and have put a deposit down so all will be revealed in due course.

  • Days away        95
  • Miles            6,462
  • Av per/day   68     Close to our 50 miles per day target
  • (excluding Cumbria/Tunnel/Cumbria)
  • Diesel         €1,513     Averaging 27.5 MPG including use of the
  • Webasto diesel heater
  • Supplies      €1,119    
  • Eating out   €1,923    This is all Lesley’s doing!
  • Overnight      €545     That’s €12 average for the 45 nights which weren’t ‘free’ or wild camping
  • Attractions    €918     Includes Ski passes which are big part of this cost
  • Tolls              €279     Tolls in the first week were €120! + €76 to go through the Frejus tunnel
  • LPG                €48      €3.50 per week is good as 6kg would last about 2 weeks and cost €15/€20
  • Medical            €55
  • Overnight           €8     Service point only
  • Ad Blue           €21     Equals to £2.80 per 1,000 miles
  • Clothes         €225     Lesley’s new skiing jacket after a chair lift oil dripped on her ‘white’ one.
  • Laundry          €96     GARY, we had seven paid trips to the Laundromat, plus two freebies 😉
  • Sundries         €97
  • Buses etc      €275     Includes 2 x Eurotunnel tickets @ €112
  • Total            €7,120     = £6,224 or £65 per day

And… the burning question how many beau villages in France did we visit? The truth is we’ve lost count! It is more than 20, but we’re going to have to read through all the posts to check for sure…

The lessons we learned are mainly to do with the motorhome as already mentioned. A few others are: We became better at budgeting the further we got into the trip so £50/day is a realistic target. However, we need to balance the cost saving of free Aires versus the sociability (perceived) of campsites. A season multi resort ski pass would make extended ski touring more affordable. We’d like to see more of Spain. Endlessly visiting tourist hot spots no matter how good they are, is not as spiritually rewarding as connecting with nature (walks/cycling) local people or fellow tourers.

Maybe it’s partly because our opportunities to explore more of Europe and beyond may be more difficult in the future… whether as a result of Brexit or changing attitudes to impact of flying. However for me the draw to travel is as strong as ever. We have a few ‘normal’ holidays planned then we have an outline plan to go away again in Charlie II in October for about 6 months, including the idea of flying back from somewhere for a couple of weeks at Christmas.

In the meantime we have decided to spend the summer focusing mainly on converting the wilderness at the back from a building site to something resembling a garden.

Weighing up the benefits of being at home against the unknown adventures of travel is a tough call.  Tottenham’s victory in Holland was a close-run contest, however under the Champions League rules, in the event of a draw, away goals count as double!

Toodle Pip till next time

D&L