Road Trip Home

Following the cancellation and early termination of the Regent World Cruise in Fremantle Australia we thought we were left with a few choices…or none at all as it happened! Spain had closed its borders, but with our daughter in Perth we were able to stay a few days to sort our next step. Being on about the last plane out of Perth we made it to a locked down England (with little in the way of advice or information about what to do). We hired a car and went via a supermarket to our small flat in Rochester Kent to await developments.
The next few months consisted of limited walks by the riverside, once a day shopping expeditions, home food deliveries and greeting our other daughter and family from the balcony. And so we considered how to get back to Spain when it became possible. Flying and airports did not appeal. So we bought a motor home (RV) to create our own ‘bubble’. We tested the vehicle by visiting Julie’s 92 year old father in the beautiful Peak district of Derbyshire to settle him into his new bungalow, to unpack numerous boxes, fix unfinished things and create shelves and other things where he desired them to be. I did a quick trip to see Cruise Director Ray in the Lake District of Cumbria. Trips that showed us the need to renew bits of the clutch system and replace all the tyres! (And thanks to the Polish truck driver who drew my attention to the front off side tyre shredding before his very eyes as he passed me.)
Returning to Rochester we set off to ‘bubble’ our way to beautiful Canillas de Aceituno in Andalucia….we had planned to do it in four nights but realised that we needed to keep to under 250 miles a day to make it enjoyable. So 4 became 6.
Having packed up food and necessities, we left Rochester very early in the mroning. 40 miles and an hour or so later we were on ‘Le Shuttle’ and heading under the Channel to Calais. The trip takes about 30 minutes and you stay in your ‘bubble’ drinking tea and eating cheese rolls!
From Calais we headed toward Boulogne and on down to navigate the less than clear route through Rouen in Normandy, forever conscious that our 3 mtrs high vehicle will not go under bridges marked as 2.70 mtrs. Our first stop was at a small town called Orbec, close to Bernay in a good campsite by the sports complex at the top of the town allowing a walk down to the main street for a Calvados at a street bar! Orbec has many interesting buildings that did not show the ravages of those June days in 1944 when this area was the epicentre of the liberation of France from German occupation. The walk back to the campsite, uphill, was not particularly welcome. The campsite had everything we needed, and most importantly – tranquility.
And on via Alençon towards Le Mans – no racing cars to be seen – and over the beautiful river Loire at Tours. The countryside in the July sunshine was alluring and the chateaux looked appealing. Our second night was just south of Poitiers close to a river park and ancient train viaduct. Very nice, but a little noisy, occasionally, as the trains headed to the city. St. Benoit was the name and a brief walk into the town showed it to be popular with tourists and visitors despite the obvious restriction of social distancing. Alongside the road was a park area dedicated to traditional games – mostly comprising wooden tables, sticks and balls it showed what can be done without an i-phone, i-pad, tablet or whatever. The kids playing seemed to find it all so exciting and novel.
On again via Angouleme to Bordeaux through the seemingly endless fields of vines and small wineries, deserted villages and open views. The campsite to the south of the city at Beausoleil seemed surprised by our arrival, despite a reservation. But they found a slot for us. We settled in for the afternoon, a gin and tonic, and to study the map ready for our crossing the border into Spain. We headed to the Spanish border via the miles of pine forest and lower parts of the Pyrenees towards the city of Vitoria Gasteiz, an area we had passed through several times before on our trips to and from the homeland. We found our reservation place at the campsite. A location with a mixture of chalets, bungalows and caravans. We were entertained by a group of young men who spent most of the afternoon and early evening trying to erect a small tent!
We avoid motorways and toll roads where we can, and from Vitoria on a lovely quiet N1 road almost devoid of trucks on the Saturday we went toward Burgos and then turned south across the central plain of Spain towards Madrid. Our fifth night was about 30 miles north of this great city in a large holiday complex that tolerated motorhomes and caravans!
Pico de la Miel had looked good on the internet and on their own promotional video and we had really looked forward to this site. But…it was a ghetto of closely packed cabins and caravans where it seemed most of Madrid had come to spend the weekend. The area for Campers like us could have been pleasant and was a little removed from the main ‘residential’ area but despite the stated curfew times we were kept awake by the antics and noise of a group of young Spanish youths. It was apparent that the on-site supermarket had sold out of Ritalin. (I use the word ‘super’ in relation to the ‘market’ advisedly. If a dozen tins of mushrooms and a few ice creams can define the word ‘super’ then it must be true.) It is always a daunting task to navigate around Madrid. The M50 is often cited as the best way, but this time we hit the M40 and did the trip in reasonable time without any deviations or mistakes. The road south passes the junction leading to the beautiful city of Aranjuez (Rodrigo’s guitar concierto was playing loudly on the sound system as headed towards Andalucia)
From here the road goes almost due south toward Jaen and Granada.
We had booked a site at a small town called Santa Elena close to the larger town of La Carolina in the park of Despenaperros. This was set in a lovely pine forest. Few people were there, with ample space between the various campers, caravans and motorhomes. The peace was shattering.
The last stint took us from Granada towards Motril on the coast and a right turn to follow the seashore along to Velez Malaga for the stop for provisions at our usual supermarket. Masked and careful to avoid social contact we completed the re-provisioning ready for our self imposed isolation in our mountain refuge. We made a right turn up into the hills and 80+ bends later we were in the village of Canillas de Aceituno and the narrow twisting road that took us home!.
About 1400 miles… skies, golden sunflowers and awesome mountains…quite a trip. And now some peace and quiet.

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