Lacking the tug to do so we have not been able to follow the sun to the east and are stuck here now until our return (depart 23/2, stop Caceres, stop Salamanca, three nights Santander and get the dog done and we sail March 1). Weather willing it now seems...
But here's the thing – we have learned something. Escaping the English winter so that I may escape an infection is a waste of effort. And with our luck it has proved an expensive lesson....
2006 - With a Big C victory in prospect but a temporarily ruined immune system the price, I had two winters in a row with major infections, hospitalisation and one very severe bout of pneumonia. So we set out to dodge the winter when all that happened.
2008 - We rented a house in Mojacar, Almeria but, not wishing to miss Christmas with the kids went out in early January via France. Where we both caught severe colds which lasted well into January and put us both on antibiotics. But it was otherwise fine, including the weather.
2009 - So we booked a little casita inland and went for four months starting end of November. We also returned to a larger Skoda Octavia as the little Fabia was a bit small. We again caught colds on the way down but more critically both did it all again for Christmas, which was spent downing antibiotics again. This time a visit to the local GP was needed for me for a second dose of antibiotics. Then we had a blow out on the front offside. Then the nearside started to whine and cost 170 euros for a new wheel bearing. Then the offside started to make similar noise so another 170 was spent. Only good news was that in the UK the bill would have been £50 higher!
And then the heavens opened and the casita was flooded. Two nights in a hotel, search for new accommodation and a nasty row with the landlords (which Visa solved by snatching our deposit back - after all they broke the contract in reality by drowning us!)
2010 - The following year, much fed up with it all and with being stuck in one place we went back to caravanning and moved our timing to the early spring,planning to go down through France, into Spain and Barcelona and then back up in late May/early June.
We had some English colds during the winter but basically I did OK which was good and we set off in March, meeting some friends en route. But in Chartres we were one of four units burgled and lost about £1000 worth of kit including my beloved cameras ( don't ask! Oh OK, we arrived too late to clear the vehicle!). They smashed the side passenger window to get in so the repair job was a bit of a nightmare – Skoda? Rear which window glass? Tsk tsk! In French of course.
Then, as we belatedly set off for stage three of our trip we found a flat tyre on the car. And when I fitted the spare (checked? Oh yes it was!) it turned out to be low on pressure. So a puncture on the one and, it turned out, a new valve on the spare! And then, as we found the sun and steamed up Le Gavaudin in the Massif Central the turbo apparently packed up. Limping into a campsite we started the search for help. We would drive it to Millau and have it diagnosed – its a VAG so nothing simple. Oh mon Dieu Monsieur, le turbo est hors de service - 1200 euros at least!
But you see in the morning, before driving to Millau it started fine and the turbo was running...? So I went online and lo and behold its a VAG fault and it comes and goes. And even if you want to stop it coming and going you start by changing this bit (£40) and then this bit (£80) and then this bit (£120). And then if you have to the turbo (£800) So we carried on, dumping the Spanish extension trip on the grounds of cowardice and having an absolutely fine time in France after all. And, beyond the turbo, no bugs...
2011 - A new and bigger tug did seem a good idea and if that was so then why not a bigger van with fixed single beds? Great idea. Do it. One Ssang Yong Kyron and an Adria Adora later (minus a few grand, natch) we decided to do Northern Spain in Spring. You know, Picos Europos, Cantabria, Galicia, Asturias, Compostela, A Coruna then down into Portugal before the long leg home. Long crossing each way so a bit dear but hey, its only money! We picked the wrong year. After a week of heat, forest fires and wonderful mountains it changed. From Foz to Ribera (go on, look 'em up) it rained and was unseasonally cold (they insisted). The camp sites were tiny and our van was HUGE! We ploughed on but gave up at Ribera and headed east. Wrong! We were already on the Alta Plana and that is consistently at 3,000 feet – one very long Monroe as our northern porridge eaters would tell us. Cold, wet and miserable we finally made it into Rioja. The weather picked up a bit and we had already decided to cut our losses and head up through France and use the shorter cheaper crossing. The weather was terrific, the camp sites minute and we ended with £400 worth of rear end van damage where I caught a tree. But the car was terrific.
2012 - So we planned to go down into Provence, then pass the Pyrenees to the east and reach Barcelona (at last). We ignored the small site/ large van issue and ploughed on. The motor mover would suffice. It packed up half way. We continued by being very pleased the car was automatic so the clutch damage of tickling it into tight spots was not a problem. One was, I admit, a bit too tight (another £350 repair bill!)
2013/14 – So a smaller van was good idea and that is what we have here in Spain right now. There are no fixed beds so it is unbuild the dinette and build a bed every night. And reverse every morning. But the van fits the pitches and we have a decent sized awning. All we needed was the weather - see archive!
Luck stays steady. Problem with caravan water pump meant spares from the UK. The car sheds a wheel, 30 days elapse before a repair, the hire car gets a puncture. The weather gets worse (you all know about that) but this means vomit comets from Santander to Portsmouth are being cancelled (due to shortage of sick bags?) and we have to pray it gets better enough for our march 1 sailing. And there is something sad about 'liking' a ferry company Twitter page as a way of keeping in touch with events...
2015 - Spring in France.OK? No Spain,no winter escape nonsense.I'll fight my infection at home, in the central heating and with my medical team down the road at the n and N! Then, recovered in march we will head for La France, Provence probably.