Hurrah! It is our one-week anniversary!
We have survived the first seven days – but not without a few glitches…
Both our first aid kit and our medicine box have been put to good use already. First Chris chopped off the top of his thumb trying to demonstrate how sharp our new kitchen knife is, and then I came down ill with (excruciatingly painful) tongue ulcers. But other than that, life has been fairly relaxed.
We have just arrived at a four star campsite in Guerande (paying just 14 Euro’s a night using our ACSI Card) – a few days later than expected as we detoured en-route to experience ‘free’ camping at Aires de Camping Cars.
Our first experience of free camping was a car park in the charming Centre Ville of Carnac and the second, a very nice Aire on the rugged coast of Quiberon.
Whilst French Aires are a fantastic way to travel through Europe for free, they are little more than glorified car parks for Motorhomes. It is just that some come with a fantastic view, or are situated on a beach (like Quiberon), whereas others are literally at the back of a Super U car park.
Our budget means that at least 50% of our time will be spent on Aires throughout our trip. I quite like the spontaneity of them, to be honest. They provide us with the opportunity to change our mind whenever we like. That suits us as we have never been a family for ‘routine’.
The only downside is that few Aires provide any electrical hook-up or toilet facilities. Even if toilet facilities are provided, you would need the gut of a sewer man to be able to use them.
Now, although it is not ladylike to talk of such things, the whole issue of ‘sanitation’ is a curious one for full-time Motorhomers. Before we left the UK, we spoke to a man who had travelled Europe for 2 years with his family. He asked us if we had fitted a ‘SOG’ to our Motorhome. As we had never heard of a SOG we replied ‘No’. He then proceeded to tell us to be careful of ‘blow back’ when opening our toilet lid and pulling across the seal to our tank.
Whooaaa! Hold on a moment – What is ‘Blow Back’ I asked?
He chuckled to himself and explained how Motorhome units have a pressurised tank – the moment air enters the tank (say from a user opening the seal) it creates a sucking motion; splashing the contents of the toilet over the said user.
Immediately a call was made to fit a ‘SOG’ to Colin at a cost of £200.
Our aptly named Mr. SOG now provides Colin with an external fan meaning that the pressure– and smells – are sucked outwards when the toilet lid is opened. This, we told ourselves, was an essential upgrade!
So, does Mr. SOG work? Yes. I am very relieved to say that he is excellent. Bearing in mind that our toilet area is just 70cm by 70cm, it is important that it remains fresh smelling, otherwise it would consume our whole home!
Despite having Mr. SOG fitted, as a family, we staunchly declared that he would only ever be used for ‘fluids’. Definitely NO SOLIDS.
But with no toilet facilities for the past two days and a husband with no gall bladder you can imagine the red faces. Eventually Mr. SOG had to be put to the ultimate test. And unbelievably he was brilliant – better than a domestic toilet I have to say. Though I had to smile when the culprit also had to empty the tank. Bless him. I have no idea how he does it!
Manoeuvring in a 70cm x 70cm space is also an art form. I have learnt that it is easier to walk in and shuffle 90 degrees than it is to reverse over a 4 inch threshold. I have also learnt to make sure the toilet blind is down before one starts! Danish neighbours do not take kindly to viewing ones toilet escapades. Interestingly, when on Aires this whole rigmarole has to be completed in the pitch black as there is no electricity.
Also, I have observed that French Campsites do not provide toilet roll. This is something you have to take with you. I can assure you there is nothing more off-putting over breakfast than the sight of a partially clad man with a newspaper and bog roll!
The service/wash areas are also mixed in France. This too has an amazing ability to put you off your washing or showering – Yesterday I had to listen to grunts whilst hand washing our smalls. I felt rather sick by the end of it.
The showers are pleasingly large and hot – but on a motion-sensor. Poor Jonah is too short to activate the motion sensor so he spends his showers hap-hazardously jumping up and down. The French flushes are also activated by motion sensors – Chris and I have both fallen victim to bending down to pick up our personal toilet rolls, only to find that the flush acts as a bidet!
We have each become well-versed at the art of hopping on one foot whilst dressing. The aim is to get one clean foot in a flip-flop whilst trying to prevent everything else from touching the dirty floor. Doing this with a camping towel that acts like a Chamois cloth, clinging to your skin, is especially difficult!
I’m glad to say that washing clothes has been slightly easier. Our magnificent ‘Wonder Washer’ is a lot of fun; even if it does raise a few eyebrows. My 1980’s EBay contraption holds a huge 1kg wash and requires 200 spins for 2 minutes using a manual handle. I may look like a crazy woman with my ‘Wonder Washer’ but our laundry is fresh and clean.
Our homemade washing line is a line of rope tied from the ladder of Colin to any nearby tree. It is perfect for drying clothes and provides privacy to our alfresco dining area – even if it does look like a scene from Shameless.
It is fair to say that we kissed goodbye to our creature comforts when we embarked on this journey. I will need to adjust very quickly to these new standards of sanitation if I do not wish to expand like Rosanne Barr.
Whoever said that life on the road was all about Sea and Sunshine…was lying!
I’m off now to wash our dishes in the service area because our plates are bigger than our sink!
Auviour for now,