Home again, what a year!

Well, we arrived home early evening to find that Charlie had been a great caretaker.  He made us a wonderful meal and we chilled out with a beer and a couple of glasses of wine and some Rockband.  Tomorrow and real life starts in earnest again.

Motorhome life by the numbers might be interesting for anyone thinking of doing the same.  We were not frugal but we also were not afraid to splash out for special days.  

We spent €20K in our year away  A simple breakdown is diesel was €2.5K, groceries: €5K, site fees: €3.5K, road tolls: €1K, days out €4K, meals out €3K, LPG and Misc stuff: €1K.  That doesn’t include road fund license, insurance, storage fees for when the MS2 is in her stable and other continued household expenses back home.  

Our biggest expense was clearly nosh.  We always ate well and bought local produce wherever we could.  We ate locally when we were out and about during the day (rather than packed lunches from MS2), but mostly in the Mothership in the evenings. We definitely could have reduced this a lot – perhaps by eating out less, perhaps by having meat less often or buying less local produce in favour of supermarkets. Groceries also includes drinks and we do like a tipple *hic*.  Luckily we don’t have a breakdown of liquid refreshments.

Money summary: We could certainly have done this trip much cheaper – we could have used aires more often.  We could have saved a lot in both Rome and Lisbon by using cheaper camp sites (nearly €1000 just for those six weeks of camp site fees).  If you do the same, you may be in a smaller or lower van with much better fuel economy. We could have saved a lot on groceries. But we actually budgeted more that €20K, so we are pretty chuffed to have come home not *quite* skint!

Diesel: well, it is what it is.  MS2 is heavy and tall. We get roughly 25mpg (in weird quirky British units) or 8.8km/l in SI units. We knew what were in for as far as diesel was concerned and although 25mpg sounds bad, it’s better than either our Defender or Saab so it’s a win for us.  It’s not too much worse than MS1 which was half the weight.

Environment: There is not really any way around this.  That 1700 litres of diesel plus 160 litres of LPG have created nearly 5 tons of CO2 .  Ouch. Using online calculators, this is the same as two return trips (each) to Cyprus or both of us taking a return flight to Florida.  So it’s not really as bad as it sounds. We may offset that once we are working again!

As we type this, the motorhome is slowly being emptied, cleaned and going back to the compound for a little while.  There are a few things to fix too. Minor problems and issues to fix. We are grabbing the Saab and getting the Defender out of mothballs.  Job Serve alerts have been set up and various household tasks are being scheduled.

We’ll continue to update the blog.  You may see some weird posts for old events turning up: primarily we want the blog to be useful to us as a reminder of what we did, so we have decided to put some of our old trips on here: it is a great searching tool for those times when we argue about whether that amazing walled town in the Sierra Nevadas was Namur or Samur!

We did this as a 50th birthday present to each other.  Our advice to anyone else is ‘jump in, don’t wait until you are too old/weak/unwell to enjoy it’.  A (nearly) grey gap year is a great experience. Brexit brings uncertainty for UK citizens doing long term trips abroad.  Our advice is ‘don’t let it stop you’. There will always be many reasons not to do it. Don’t let language be a barrier: we have apps on the phone to help us and pretty much everywhere we could get by.  Most countries speak better English than we do.

But stick to the UK if you feel more comfortable. There are many wonderful things to do and see and you could fill up a lifetime without ever leaving the UK. Equally, don’t feel tethered to Western Europe, many grey gappers get to Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and beyond.  And as for us? We are already thinking about ‘what next?’ For every place we visited on the ‘things to do’ list that we ticked off, there are two places that we didn’t get to see. As we follow other gapper and van-life bloggers, we are constantly adding new places to the list for lap two.  Of the EU27 we visited only a few countries. Between Holidays and longer tours we have so much we still want to do and see!

Bon Voyage!

Selina and Toby.

Castle Howard, Yorkshire

We visited Castle Howard a few years ago in a rental motorhome – way back before mothership I. At the time we were on a very tight schedule to get the rental beast back to the south coast, so we only did the gardens at Castle Howard and not the house.  This visit is intended to remedy that injustice.

We had a nightmare finding the place.  We knew exactly where we were and we knew exactly where the campsite was, but joining the two together was a bastard. Sally supposedly knows the motorhome dimensions but as you get close to the Castle Howard estate, there are quite a few narrow gateways and low arches.  We ended up face to face with a stone archway that – on paper – we could fit though – *just* with one inch / 10cm clearance. What? Yes, we know. We have exactly translated the height into real units and old english fuckery, but the actual arch had two wildly different numbers. With mirrors in, we should have been fine on the width, but the height looked too close and it was clear that the arch has been hit *a lot*.

Not only that but it was a dead straight roman road and we could see another arch 500 meters further on.

So even though we were less than 1km from the campsite, we embarked on a 30 km detour.  If you fancy a chuckle check out the map near Castle Howard. It’s a laugh watching the track run around and around like a rat in a maze trying to get to the campsite.  Whats driving us nuts is that we came here in the rental beast which is longer, wider and just as tall as Mothership 2, so we don’t know why there were no problems last time.

Anyway, the campsite is fab.  Mainly statics, but they have a touring field and a number of hard standing pitches.  IT ended up great value as the camping gets a two for one entry to the House and Gardens so that was a £20 saving.

After the detour, it was too late in the day to go into the Castle, so we put that off till Monday and instead went for a walk around the Great Lake. About twenty swans and ducks plus two or three hundred Greylag and Canada Geese.

Those geese were noisy buggers – the campsite is only a few meters from the lakes edge and the geese keep up the racket all night – very noisy neighbours!

Monday and the castle was brilliant.  It’s not really a castle of course – it’s a stately home.  The interior decoration is brilliant. 

Lunch was Castle produced Sausage Roll.  And this sausage roll was huge and scrummy – so good that we bought more in the farm shop for the next day!

Time is getting on, so no second night. Instead we head off down the A1 to Rutland Water.

London

You may be surprised at the title of this post.  London! London? Well, When we finished in Geneva, we knew we were heading north without really doing any more France at the moment, and we put in a couple of hundred km before stopping in a lovely motorway aire (yes, we were even on the motorway). We got up the next morning – it was a Sunday and had the ‘aha’ moment that the lorries were staying put, so we sprinted for Calais and did the longest single drive we’ve done in seven months.

To say that our son was surprised to see us would be a bit of an understatement.  After a couple of days back at home, It was still very strange being back in a house.  It felt so very odd having so much space (and so much stuff).

We have had a great ‘holiday’ back in blighty catching up with family and friends.  We had a few issues to sort out that meant a trip home was the easiest route. It worked out well anyway – the weather is warming up so we can start the part of the tour beginning with a couple of French towns, then Belgium, the Netherlands and moving into Germany.

We still call this part of the gap year tour so maybe you want to know we fitted in a 70th birthday party, a pub crawl, we managed to get the boat out on the river, we spent a day at The Tower and visited the Isabella plantation.  And we had time for a brief trip to Norfolk. Mowed the lawn three times, fitted in some project work with Charlie and played a lot of Rock Band.

We live just outside London, so it was unique for us to visit London in ‘tourist’ mode and remind ourselves just what a wonderful city we have right on our doorstep.

We also did some Brexit mitigation work picking up a green card and getting international driving permits and trying to mitigate the hundred and one other things that Brexit may affect.