Who knows where in the south of France!

Since Andorra, we have definitely been taking it easy in the south of France. We drove to Toulouse from Andorra, not venturing too far as we’ve got friends visiting in a week or so and the van could definitely do with a break after being brutally pushed through the Pyrenees.

On a couple of occasions we’ve made the half hour trip into Toulouse city centre, parking at the university and taking peaceful strolls along the picturesque river, stopping for a crepe or two along the way.


 The city is so busy with students it’s ridiculous; the river bank is constantly heaving with people of all ages avoiding the expensive bars and cafes and having a drink on the grass. One thing we were surprised with is just how tolerated marijuana is over here. Walking through the park next to the river was just a surreal experience. The park is heaving and there are people of all ages and creed enjoying the sunshine and a joint or two, with families with young children not even batting an eyelid, and some parents even partaking in the passing of the spliff. Alongside this, and even more interesting to see, was that there were so many people practicing tight-rope walking as casually as we kick a ball back in England, and it would seem that everyone in France has a hobby of some variety, from practicing their technique for the circus, to the pensioners playing boules, to volleyball, football and god knows what else. 



Obviously we’re waiting for Hannah, John, Joe and Renée to come out and so for the past the couple of weeks, we’ve been floating around the country side, staying at different aires and a campsite every few days for a shower and some electricity. 

This place was called Maz d’azil and was essentially just caves with rivers and roads weaving through it, but it was good for a walk and we got the best crepes I’ve ever eaten in the village next door (goats cheese, burger wheat, spinach, egg, aubergine and tomato, washed down with home brewed mulled cider that apparently paired with the crepe, how fancy!)

Both the campsites we’ve stayed at have these cute little rivers running next to it (queue the dogs getting filthy!)

We spent one night at a local lake, and here’s some pictures of the dogs looking like they’re about to drop their first album next to it…


We stayed at a farm one of the nights, in a field next to about 50 chickens. All was well until about half 5 the following morning when every single bird began their cockle-doodle-doing, of course waking us all up and meaning the day started unwelcomely early. As a result of this, plus the lack of food we had and the boredom that was beginning to set in after being in such a rural area for a while, the farm became setting to a lovely morning row, ahhhh perfect. Although we’ve met some people along the way, majority of the time it’s just Rod and I to fulfil each other’s social needs, which obviously no matter how hard we try isn’t going to work all the time. Funnily enough, friends and family are important and we can’t rely solely upon each other for everything. Needless to say we’re both really looking forward to seeing our friends and partaking in conversations in which there are more than just us two or in which we don’t need to take guesses at what is actually being said. Just good old easy English comfortable conversation! 

We got speaking to a guy in the park the other day and he recommended that we go to a place called St Girons a bit further back down south; there’s a big market there on Saturdays and a lot of travelling folk attend which will give us a chance to satisfy some of our social needs! And so we went, and it was everything we were told it would be. 

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​I treated myself to a beautiful journal and Rod invested in a gay little head band for his now out of control locks. Being able to put it in little plaits means it’s time…

 He now looks like he’s just rolled straight out of the 70’s and is most definitely rocking the ‘happy camper/peace and love’ vibes.

 

We got ourselves some food from a stand and got chatting to some guys who spoke decent English. He asks us if we want to go back to his house with his friends in the mountains and of course we accept! We head off, following them in their campervan to first, his friends house, collecting a massive speaker and some mixing decks, and then 20 minutes up the most meandery and narrow dirt track roads along the mountain, the van struggling of course, having to get into 1st to make the incline. But it was worth it, by an absolute mile. The view was literally jaw dropping. A whole panoramic line of snow capped mountains with a tiny village lying in the valley below. This picture does not do it justice but it gives you an idea. 


Manu lived in a little house on a lot of near vertical land, which held little ledges for various little buildings; a toilet and shower ledge, a green house and a sort of communal living room building ledge, a few allotments, a chicken coop at the bottom and last but not least, a ledge with a bathtub built in so they can have a bath with one of the best views I’ve ever seen (sort of amazing but sort of weird too). After getting chatting more we found out that he’d paid about €15000 for all the land and the property’s built on it were included in that ridiculously small price and for a split second, we’re considering abandoning ship and moving to the mountains. He lives off his own land, growing and selling his crops, eating the eggs from his chickens every morning and chilling pretty much every day. Even his friend, Jeremy, only works 3 days a week clearing the roads of fallen trees on the mountains, and yet lives in a sweet little cottagey house in the valley of the mountain we were on. The neighbours from a different patch of land about a ten minute walk away join us and they have an even more surreal life. They have 3 horses, 1 of which is their 8 year old sons. He doesn’t go to school because he doesn’t like it and they home school him, teaching him the ways of the mountain world; he rides into town on his horse, catches his food out hunting or fishing with his mom and dad and basically lives the simple life out in the wild. The woman, (can’t remember the names, shocking I know, apologies), only worked on rainy days (seriously mental) and made her own cool beautiful leather bags of all kinds, and on sunny days she would help with the crops, the animals and their food. They had only lived there for a year or so and had literally travelled there by horse and full on carriage, the latter of which was now in the garden ready to use for shopping days or long distance journeys. The guy was basically a cowboy/Indiana jones man, sporting a knife on his belt and rope on his shoulder, which later became incredibly useful when he had to help us get the van off the ledge of a mountain.

We’d needed to turn the van around to be able to leave the following day, and when we had to move it so Manu could get his car out to go and collect petrol from the garage (the solar panel doesn’t cover the massive speakers) we figured we may aswell turn it around while we’re still sober. Unfortunately we misjudged it and ended up facing down a mountain with just a tree preventing us from falling down to our probable deaths. Every time we would try to reverse, the wheels and in turn, the van, would spin and sink us further and further into a problem, and we ended up being sort of held back from falling by the roots of the tree. To be fair to us, we were incredibly calm and I didn’t screech with nervousness even once, most likely because we were rather drunk and instead chose to see the funny side of this particular nightmare! It took a lot of rope, chains, trees, a weird wire device and man power to get us back up, nearly getting to the point of bribing the local farmer to help us with his tractor. 


But we had a lovely evening drinking rum and playing darts on a ledge of a mountain, stupidly we barely took any pictures as a result of our intoxication. Manu is planning to move to Indonesia next year, after the arrival of his baby due at the end of the year, going out there to set up a diving school and renting out his land here in France – basically just continue to live the sweet simple life somewhere else, alright for some eh?! If we manage to get our shit together quick enough when we get home, we’re thinking of maybe popping out to Indonesia for a couple of weeks for a different kind of adventure; obviously there are other priorities but we can still hope!

We’ve just dropped our friends back off at the airport and are now feeling quite sorry for ourselves without them! I’ll post about our endeavours together in a couple of days, I needed to get this one out the way first! We’re gonna start heading out of France tomorrow but unfortunately with this disgusting hangover I’m currently nursing, we’re not moving far today, instead choosing to eat heaps and watch films, drowning our sorrows and hangover in wonderful complex carbohydrates and Coca Cola.

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24 hours in Andorra.

We spent a couple more nights in the valley, flitting inbetween our first location and one a bit further downstream. Big thanks to my mom who called on Thursday to remind us about Easter, which meant that shops would be closed over the weekend and so we needed to stock up, something we never think of doing which, as a result, has left us hungry most Sunday’s, or eating a concoction of various grim foods we’ve impulse bought and swiftly avoided. 

On our last day in the Pyrenees, we mooched around a cool little medieval fort thing that we were staying next to. The fort itself was so deceiving, I expected a tourist shop and some bare stone rooms but we were to be pleasantly surprised! There was a highstreet housing all sorts of weird and wonderful shops including a witch doll making shop – really creepy and eerie, a cafe, a couple of restaurants and most importantly an ice-cream shop. Calippos and cornettos in hand, new surroundings and pooches in tow – we were chuffed.



The next day we wake up to a fairly grim looking day and so with that, we decided to head off. We decided to make the couple of hour journey into Andorra; a tiny city-sized country, 1500m above sea level and smack bang in the middle of Spain and France. We figured we could tick off another country and also get the chance to go to a country we wouldn’t normally give the time of day – you can’t even get there by plane, the nearest airports being Toulouse, France, or Barcelona, Spain. If we thought the Pyrenees were a nightmare in Verena, the climb to Andorra was an absolute joke. We missed a turning, driving only ten minutes out of our way, but it was enough to make us sit for half hour and re-evaluate our potentially dim decision to come to Andorra. Concluding that there will have been no point to putting Verena through the mountainous hell if we don’t end up in Andorra, we turn around and do the last leg of the ridiculously steep journey. 

We arrive and it looks like a post card of a ski resort; a quaint little tax-free town, ski lodges and just snow everywhere! We were completely enclosed by the snow covered mountains and yet it was still hot enough for shorts and a t-shirt? Weird! We set off for a coffee somewhere and a little mooch around. Now obviously travelling with the dogs can be limiting; doing the typical youthful travelling of going out a lot and getting drunk isn’t really the sort of thing that’s within our reach and so we were over the moon to discover an outdoor dog-friendly club, surrounded by snow and mountains. Determined not to miss such a perfect opportunity, we power walked back to the van, fed and watered the canine ladies, layered up and set off back out – the first time we’ve probably rushed for anything. But we had such a wicked time; dancing and drinking with yours dogs in your trackie bottoms and thermals next to people still in their ski boots isn’t something of the everyday. And anyone that knows us, knows we love to dance. And so there we were, throwing the dodecahedrons of shapes across the dance floor, dancing the night away with our four-legged faves in tow. We barely even drank, but obviously we barely do anyway and so paired with the altitude and the excitement, it’s safe to say we both definitely felt pissed. In fact I spent the next day lying on the grass in the south of France, hungover and unable to move without being sick, whilst Rod obviously laughed and took pictures from the comfort of the sofa. But the night had been by far worth it; we had so much fun together and actually got to talk to and have a laugh with people our own age. We would’ve stayed longer but there wasn’t much to do in the day except ski and spend money, the latter of which were lacking in as it is.

 


The next morning arrives and we have to start off early due to a: it was freezing, and b: we had to miss the miles of queues out of the tiny country as there’s no chance the van could take that pressure.  It was hard enough as it was going back down those stupidly steep mountain roads; so hard that just as we cross the border and line up for random vehicle searches, the van starts blowing out black smoke from the front breaks after having constantly held so much pressure on the way down. The police laughed at us and ushered into their little car park and with a quick phone call to my dad and our fabulous VW man Rob to check we haven’t cocked up again, we sit and chill at the border for a good give Verena a rest. 

To summarise, Andorra was hot, freezing cold and unexpectedly wonderful all at once. If it wasn’t so hard to access, we would definitely go again but with our van being as old as she is, I reckon this may have been her first and only venture to Andorra.

Apologies for the lack of blog posts as of late, my plans to go back to uni are in motion and so I’ve been busy writing my personal statement for my application – it better be bloody worth it! Currently in the outskirts of Toulouse, lounging around rivers and eating crepes – so not much to report. Give it a couple of days and there’ll be another post added, thanks for reading if you’ve gotten this far!

Adios to Bonjour!

Last time I posted we were waiting in Figueres for news about our window getting fixed after the Barcelona break-in fiasco. News came and the VW garage can’t fix it because Verena is too old (29 years young!), but the helpful señore pulls up Google Earth and shows me how to get to a classics specialist, perfect! All starts well and another lovely señore tells us he’ll order it in and will fit it Friday, at 4oclock – sweeeet! However Friday, 4oclock arrives and the  mechanic man says ‘unfortuadamente es no possiblé’, g-reat! But another guy tells us he’ll take us to the people who can really fix it, so we jump in the van and follow this kind fellow, through the chaos of cars our kind/maniac fellow is creating to get us through, with him even pulling a roundabout to a halt so we could catch up with his typically Spanish crackers driving, and we arrive five minutes later at what turns out to be the Spanish version of ‘autoglass’. The next man we encounter tells us to come back the following day at 12, and even fits a temporary perspex one for in the meantime, something we really could’ve done with two weeks ago to be honest, maybe then we wouldn’t have had to pile things up against the window every night so that Luna didn’t try to escape.


But nevertheless, it’s booked in to get fixed the next day so we’re chuffed. Might have took us a little while to get motivated enough to get it done, but two weeks later and we have success! We enjoy our last day at what has surprisingly turned out to be one of our favourite places to have stayed, with a quaint little village next to us and loads of meadows and mountains surrounding us, it was a lovely and relaxing good few days spent there. We even decided to sit and have a good drink one of the days, which actually just resulted in a few games of black jack, two drinks each and us both falling over after we both had to down our drinks and get spun around 20 times. Not quite the drinking experiment we were originally going for but funny nonetheless!



Window day dawns and it’s fixed by 1oclock, huzzah! Sod’s law that our insurance policy would cover any cost after the first €90 and it would come to €90.68. But on the bright side it’s fixed which means we’re happier to start wild camping again after a good week and a bit of constantly paying for sites. But not just yet, as we both wanted showers so one more night in the luxury of toilets and showers would have to be had. Oh sod it, two nights! We go to a site a little bit further towards the border. We arrive and the site is just a large field of grass the middle of some more meadows, beautiful! We were unfortunately and naively sold on the location and so paid for two nights. Foolish. The facilities were… less than poor shall we say. Or no, that doesn’t cut it. They were fucking foul! Ooh yes, a more fitting summary. As advertised in the book, there were, in fairness, both a toilet and a shower. However both in the same dingy shed-like room, that’s covered in what look and definitely smell like mouse/rat shit. And don’t get me wrong, I’m no snob. After the nightmare of having to shit in the woods, I thought I was ready for anything toilet-related. Apparently not. Rodney on the other hand, the absolute manly-geez/savage that he is, held his breath and did what he had to do. A modern day hero right there! We even tried to finally get the awning out seeing as we had so much space, but an hour in and it’s still not up and we’re both getting pretty annoyed; Rod decides to give up and play with the pooches instead while I persevere. I shouldn’t have wasted my time, who was I kidding?! All those years of camping as a kid were not paying off and so I too, gave up. After looking online the next day, it turns out I had the bloody thing the wrong way round. Dad, we’re gonna wait until you come out and then you can help us!


Three days have now passed, and I am happy to announce that I only gingerly used the toilet once, hovering of course. On a less pleasant note, I am, as a result, constipated as fuck and feeling as bloated as Rudy looks in this picture:
But, less of that. We are in France! We finally, after two months, have made it out of the first country we travelled to! A month later than anticipated, but were here. We travelled yesterday from Figueres, across the border and into Perpignan. We spent a couple of hours chilling at the beach, lapping up the sun and getting familiar with another language. I did pretty well in Spain and managed to help us muddle through with my basic knowledge. Now however, it’s like the blind leading the blind. I can just about count to ten over here but neither of our linguistic tekkers stretch to even asking for a coffee. And so far, the French aren’t having any of our polite ignorance. There have been A LOT of English words spoken in a French accent, and funnily enough, that doesn’t work. 

After a couple of hours, we decided to head a bit more inwards and have now landed in the Pyrenees mountains. I couldn’t be happier with our decision to give the coast a rest as we are now currently situated in a tiny petít village in between two mountains, with a beautiful river flowing right next to us. It’s absolutely boiling down in the valley, and yet the top of the mountains are covered in snow. We’re at a free camperstop filled with loads old campers, belonging to circus performers! The circus is in town and is literally just over the river from us, with the performers in the same car park area as us, practising and relaxing before and inbetween shows.



Apologies that some pictures are sideways; truth be told I couldn’t be arsed to edit them!

Also here’s a lovely picture of me showing how much I just love being decked and rolled into a river…


Slow motion video of Rudy shaking after coming out of the river!

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One downside though, is how expensive France is so far! We thought Spain had been quite steep, but it pales in comparison to the joke of these prices! Petrol is about 20c per litre more expensive and food is just as bad. My normal €10-15 shop is now €25-30.  Fingers crossed it gets cheaper when we’re more city based in the next few weeks. Hannah, John, Joe & Reneé are coming out to a lovely house we’ve rented in the countryside of Toulouse in 3 weeks so prices shouldn’t be as ridiculous there, well hopefully.

We spent the last two days walking up into the mountains, strolling along rivers, trying to get the dogs to have a swim and enjoying being in such stunning surroundings! The views are just breathtaking and the camera just doesn’t do it justice at all. The town we’re bordering at the moment is just so quaint and adorable. It lives up to every French stereotype you can imagine; only one tiny supermarket, a couple of restaurants, a couple of patisseries and of course a winery. 
We’re planning to stay around here for about a week or so. It’s just so beautiful and peaceful, it’s worth sticking around for! Plus there’s a tiny chance we can run away with the circus so I’ve got to see how that one pans out…

And relax….

After last weeks drama, all we were after was a quiet week with no drama and no unforeseen bills coming our way. We started well in Vilanova; lounging around on the beach, getting buried in the sand, playing with the pooches and just general pissing about. We needed to get back to the dreaded Barcelona to collect some bank cards we’d managed to lose a few weeks back. It was going to be a long day as we had no intention of hanging around in the city this time and would drive straight out again once receiving the cards and gone to the police station. First things first, go to the supermarket and stock up, who knows what time we’ll have finished running errands.

All starts swimmingly. I go in and grab the stuff we need while rod waits outside and walks the dogs. We all pile back in the van, put the key in the ignition and… Nothing. Jesus clucking Christ. With both of us convinced this can’t be happening to us yet again, we go and get a coffee in the hope that when we return it will miraculously start and we can just pretend it never happened. Ahh wishful thinking.

 

An hour later and we’re being towed to the nearest VW garage. We arrive and without even looking in the engine bay, he, in typical mechanic fashion, tells us that ‘ooh Es muy expensiva’. Determined not to get mugged off like we did with the breaks in Valencia, we tell the rac not to bother with the supposedly ‘comes with your package’ courtesy car and hotel and instead opt to sleep outside the garage in Verena. Morning arrives and we try to get the van started just one last time for good luck before the mechanics take over. SHE’S ALIVE! I feel like Joey and his miracle healing chair, Rosita, except Verena really has come back to life! Absolutely positively buzzing that we don’t have to fork out again, we get on the road.

We didn’t plan where we were going to get off the motorway once we’d gotten out of Barcelona; as long as we were heading north, it didn’t matter! Half an hour passes and we still haven’t thought about getting off and all of a sudden Spain becomes so much greener! For once, grass everywhere and trees! Actual trees, like we have at home! Feeling a little homesick, we get off the motorway so we can find somewhere pretty to stay the night and wake up to in the morning! 

We arrive at what turns out to be just a secure car park in between two blocks of flats – not the beautiful scenery we were after. By this point both of us are getting pretty fed up, the day has lasted more than long enough and we both are in desperate need of a cup of tea. Another our later and we arrive at a camperstop out in the sticks with mountains and meadows surrounding us – finally a light at the end of today’s long shitty tunnel! We walk the ladies, get the kettle on, make a quick and poorly assembled dinner and chill out.

We’ve got a week to kill before Luna is good to go with her passport, which means there’s a perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy the scenery without having to think about where we’re going next. The only thing on the to-do list is getting the broken window fixed, so there’s no pressure. Oh and we need to get some washing done; we’ve only done two washes since coming away and I hate to say it, but I am sick to death of wearing crocs for everything. It’s not even that I think they’re too ugly anymore; it’s the dirtiness. Wearing plastic shoes 24/7 is not good in sweltering heats, my feet get gross and sweaty and more than anything, I miss my trainers and socks combo; the sweat is so much more bearable when there’s a pair of socks on your feet rather than just sliding around in my crocs. But yes, we need clean clothes, desperately.

Also, I finally got myself a little earner (hopefully). I list and manage the bookings of a stunning villa in Dubai for some millionaire type fellow and then when the place gets booked, I get a cut of the takings. So please, do me a favour and go to Dubai. I have to admit, that although the villa is indeed incredible, it’s also super steep at €660 per night. However with enough beds for 10 people to stay, the huge price quickly becomes more affordable at €66 per person, per night. And it’s on that big famous Palm Jumeirah which is pretty cool too. Please, go and have a look for me and if you really want to help us travel for longer, book it and go to Dubai. 

Anywho, we spent the next few days lounging around and walking the pooches in pretty places, which is surely all anyone wants in life these days? Just look how beautiful they are!

Today we’re on a mission to get this god forsaken window repaired, but obviously we’re stupid and drove an hour into girona, went around 3 different garages and when we finally get to the right place, it’s siesta and it’s shut for four hours. So we’re currently waiting in the van in a car park, having just had a little tapas to kill some time, and we now only have an hour and a half left to wait! Honestly don’t understand how these spaniards get anything done with this bloody siesta!

Also, during this boredom we’re momentarily sat in, I have just tried a cigarette. Mom, Dad, you’ll be happy to know I have nicotine rush, a foul taste in my mouth and I feel like I’m about to throw up. I am not cut out to be a smoker what so ever. Fair play to all those that put themselves through this torture on a daily basis, voluntarily, and don’t feel like crying, I salute you. 

Fingers crossed the next time I post, we’ll have a window and Rudy will no longer be able to do this!

Barcelona, the bitch.

After leaving the chaos of Valencia and all that particular adventure had to offer behind us, we continue our trip up north.Final thoughts on Valencia: a beautiful city with so much to offer, similar to Barcelona in that there is plenty of clean golden sand, heaps of history and incredibly busy. The latter of course wasn’t helped by us being there for Las Fallas, but at least we had the sort of bonus of driving a courtesy car as opposed to Verena through the city centre and all the one way streets and dead ends we encountered. I loved driving a car for a while; Verena is a wonder of course but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t massively appreciate the power steering, the nifty speed-allowing engine and the air conditioning that both the Vauxhall Mocca and the Citroen C4 had to offer. Not to mention how easy both cars were to park in comparison, I only had to jump out and let Rod complete my manoeuvre (I reluctantly have to admit he’s good at parking… still shit at everything else driving related though…) on two occasions. Don’t get me wrong though, I missed Verena. I missed her right hand drive and in turn, her gearstick on the left hand side of me. Driving on the wrong side of the road is one thing I feel as though I’ve grown accustomed to as the adventure has gone on, but driving on the wrong side of the car is another level of stress for me to overcome. I also missed the GB registration plate of Verena that normally gives me some sort of leeway with my questionable driving; being in a Spanish car means I’m expected to drive like a Spaniard too, and unfortunately, I’m not that much of an arsehole.
But anywho, Rod has missed driving this last week; having been in Valencia in a courtesy car in my name, he’s barely gotten behind a wheel and so when we picked the van up on Thursday, Rodney was understandably keen to be the designated driver. Using our handy camperstop book, we found a free place to stay in Amposta. Arriving after an hour or so, we were met with field after field of farms, all surrounded by surreal flat planes of water and mountains. Another beautiful find! 


Once again, more evidence of the small world in which we live was presented when we pull up next to a guy we’d briefly met in El Campello when he’d stayed at Achim’s place for a night. Weird! Writing this, we’ve just realised how useless we are; I can’t even tell you this guys name, despite having now spoken to him in two different cities. But he was nice, travelling alone for a couple of months, as he does most years, in his very own Verena. He was now heading north to make the journey back to England, and talking to him about going home just made us all the more aware of just how lucky we are to have another few months in our travel pot.

After , we made our way to Tarragona, a surprisingly beautiful town we had no idea existed. We got there, found a place to wild camp and settled down to chill out for the night. Morning arrived and we wandered into the stunning town for a coffee or two before heading off. Whilst at the cafe, Rod needs a wee; fair enough. This means, however, that I have to control both the bitches. Lunas not so bad, she mostly sleeps in my lap inbetween brief running around and chasing our ankles. Rudy however, supposedly the older and wiser dog, can occasionally be a little hard to handle. I was keeping my eyes peeled for other dogs she might take a fancy to, but all was calm and quiet so I sat back, took a sip of coffee and foolishly averted my eyes from the street. Next thing I knew I was lying on the floor, skirt over my head, knickers on display, looking up at this random man Rudy thought looked like a good fuss-giver-outer. He didn’t even have a bloody dog! She had pulled me backwards off my chair, and because I’d been holding Luna, I had rolled like a hedgehog in distress across the narrow street, towards the poor unsuspecting man that Rudy was now smugly rubbing herself up. Thank god he had a sense of humour and was such a gent; he helped me up with Luna, looked away while I adjusted my skirt and even hung around to give Rudy the loving she had originally been after. Rod came out, bladder emptied, completely unaware of the crisis I had just been lying in.

The mountain drive was beyond stunning inbetween tarragona and Barcelona! This time lapse doesn’t really do it justice as the roads are just so bendy!


We had every intention of working for a month or so in Barcelona; we both love the city and everything it has to offer, but unfortunately to our dismay, Barcelona does not feel the same way about us. We arrived in Barcelona on Sunday night, and parked up for the night in a free car park inbetween Camp Nou and the Barcelona University. With several other campers around us and another blog saying it was a safe place to stay, we thought we were onto a winner. All the camper stops and campsites in Barcelona are extortionate, averaging out at about €30 per night plus electricity, wifi and shower costs. We slept through the night just fine, with Rudy only barking once at people passing by, and so we had no reason to think anything but good thoughts about this car park. Monday arrives and I had an interview set up in one of the bars in the city so all on the days agenda was getting to La Rambla, just a couple of miles walk and a good few hours to do it in, easy! 
We complete the trek, stopping for a couple of coffees on the way, and then stopping every five minutes so that every Tom, Dick and Harry and all of their sisters could give Luna a smooch. Big thanks to all the nice ones who took the time to give Rudy a love too – big dogs love cuddles too! But we made it, and as soon as we arrive on La Rambla were approached by a lovely Italian fellow, Alejandro, selling the dreams of cannibis clubs, just like in Amsterdam, where pooches are allowed in too! How are we meant to turn down propositions like that?! Growing cannibis was made legal for residents in Barcelona a couple of years ago, allowing each household to grow up to 7 plants right there smack bang in the middle of in your living room (or balcony or wherever you wanna put it). With this change in the law, came the coffee shops we know and love! They’re meant for residents but you can pay for a year round membership card; giving you access to the finest ganj around whilst relaxing in games rooms, mini cinemas and bareee sofas. The beauty of buying your weed from a nice lady behind a counter, just like in the sweet shop in Charlie and the chocolate factory, is a beauty not many appreciate, or get the honour of beholding. We were lucky woo!
Chuffed with the day so far, I go into the bar for my interview and after a couple of minutes, I’ve got the job and I’m starting tomorrow. We have a celebratory pint before beginning the mission back to the van. Roaming around cities and stumbling upon what they offer is how we like this travelling malarkey best. We pass through the skate parks, where there are people having dance offs in the street; we stay and watch for a minute until Rudy decides that she too would like a skateboard and so proceeds to chase the alarmed teenage spaniards across the square – joy! 
Anyway we get back to the van after a few wrong turns and a few misinterpreted directions (my Spanish skills seem to have deteriorated rather than improved since being away), but we make it and we’re excited to get dinner on and settle down with a film. This is not what Barcelona had planned for us. Instead, we are met with an unlocked slidey door. Peculiar as I definitely remember us locking up. As we slide open the door we are met with an absolute bombsite and it obviously dawns on us that some little creature has been inside our home! There is mess and glass everywhere, all of our belongings having been ransacked and thrown on the floor. First things first, passports. I keep all of them together in a little bag at the back of the storage bit up top, but as everything is now on the floor, we know they’re not in the safe place I left them. I find the bag but only find mine and Rods passports inside. Both Rudys and Lunas are missing, and needless to say, both Rodney and I are shitting ourselves. We call the police and as advised by them, head to the station. I go inside and talk to them and rod stays outside with the van and the babies. He tidies up while I’m gone and finds the pooch’s passports, but discovers my camera and phone have been taken; a sort of relief that no one wants to kidnap Rudy or Luna, but obviously annoying that they managed to take something, especially as I can’t replace those photographs! The police station is heaving with victims but seriously lacking in people to do anything about it and so they ask if I can return on a different day this week to give my statement. 



Quite understandably, neither of us are keen on the idea of staying in the city now and so at nearly midnight on Monday night, we get on the road. The camperstop book has a place half hour of the city in and so with our trusty sat nav, we head off into the night. Now one thing we didn’t do before we came away was update the sat nav. And as a result, over an hour after leaving Barcelona, were still only twenty minutes away and driving in circles on the new road the sat nav doesn’t recognise. With us both frustrated and it now being past 1am, we stop at a familiar friends for some double cheeseburger lovin’, McDonalds drive thru. Too tired to keep driving, we park in the car park next to the staff cars and settle in for a bit of the film we’d promised ourselves before bed. We figured it was safe enough with people working inside all through the night, and to be quite honest, with what had started as a great day but was now a disastrous one, we couldn’t wait to be able to call it a day and get some sleep.
We woke up Tuesday morning to the sound of people coming to do toheir shopping, Rudy barking at them and Luna crying to go out. We grabbed a coffee, found a camperstop an hour and a half back down south and made our way there. We arrive at a lovely site just north of Tarragona, the place we were at before the whole Barcelona ordeal. But we’re safe, can have a hot shower, and definitely don’t have to worry about thieves in the comfort of a proper site. We stay for two nights, and do nothing but play on the beach, sleep, eat and relax. A well deserved break from the chaos of city life.

We’re now heading into Barcelona to deal with the police report and pick up some bank cards (thank you Ann and Laura!) and head straight back out of the city, ain’t nobody got time for getting robbed! We’re nearly ready to head into France, as of the 11th Luna is good to get out of the country and so we’ll be taking full advantage of that and heading into France that day! I can’t tell you how excited I am for the pastries, the bread and obviously the cheese! Only problem being that we’ve only just about scraped through in Spain with my Spanish, but as my French only extends to ‘merci’, we’re definitely going to struggle! 

A new introduction…

So if there’s one thing we’re really good at, it’s dealing with expensive boring problems by spending more money but on something that makes us happy! 

That’s exactly what we did, unintentionally this time, when Verena broke down in Valencia last Thursday. We hadn’t intended to blow a bit of our budget but the opportunity presented itself and nobody in their right mind could pass it up.

This particular adventure began at a basic carrefore supermarket. We went in for dog food for Rudy, and stopped to have a wee while we were there. Now in this carrefore, there were loads of other little shops within the supermarket; a pharmacy, a travel agents, a car rental place and most importantly for us, a pet shop. We wandered past on our way to the toilet and were both drawn like magnets to the shabby shops window. Like in pets at home in England, there were rabbits, hamsters and the usual array of small household animals displayed in cages in the window. Along with these, in the same small cages displayed in the window, were puppies. Mostly chiwawuahs and terriers, two per cage, with no bedding or toys, and just a dog bowl for food. In the last cage, was what was to become our Luna. She was sharing a cage with a chiwawuah, sleeping with her cage buddy and covered in scabs all over her tiny little face and legs. We spoke to the shop assistant, and discovered Luna had been taken from her mother, sold to the shop and had been living in her tiny window display for nearly a month. It was pretty obvious we were going to take her, but we tried to do the adult thing and go away and discuss the idea like proper grown ups. During the ten minutes we ‘adulted’, two different sets of people took her out of her cage, cuddled her and took pictures with her, and then cruelly returned her to the window. We learnt that this happens at least 5 times a day, and I don’t know about you, but we couldn’t be just another person to pick her up and put her back. She was way too precious! She cost us €400, after we managed to whittle down the price due to the fact her scabs would need antibiotics and creams from a vet. She’s full pedigree, has had her puppy injections and is absolutely beautiful, scabs and all. 

Now I know that, to our parents (my mom in particular) and maybe to some others too, this may seem completely irresponsible given that we’re currently travelling around Europe, and we already have a Rottweiler. And you might be right, it might be stupid. But we’re yet to see that. All we can see is that this beautiful pooch was in need of a home and some love! The fact that we’re travelling is insignificant, and as far as we’re concerned, is only a bonus for having Luna. She limits us no further than having Rudy does, and if anything, because of how drop dead gorgeous she is, only gets us chatting to more people (naturally everyone wants a munch!). Training her is proving relatively easy, because we’re in the van she can go out as much as she wants and we’re with her 24/7 too, as a result she’s only had one accident all week! 


And of course not forgetting the original home girl, Rudy. She has behaved impeccably throughout the arrival of Luna, and although she’s had to put Luna in her place a couple of times when she’s having her legs being attacked and bitten, they’re now officially firm friends and are more than happy to sleep with each other and play lots! 



We’re currently making our way to Barcelona for interviews on Monday; both of our pooch babies are sleeping soundly as Rod drives at the moment, one on my lap and one at my feet. This is the life!

Valencia, Las Fallas, and a breakdown…

Well, where to begin?! We have had an interesting couple of days, to say the least. We left El Campello on Thursday morning, a day later than we planned, due to nothing but shear laziness. Gaz & Margy took us for a full English at the ex-pat place and it was so incredible we couldn’t move all day afterwards. A real slice of home with proper bacon and sausages and all the extra trimmings us Brits know and love. A massive gigantic thanks to both Gaz & Margy for everything they’ve done for us during our time at Achim’s place; from donating endless useful gadgets to our adventure, to treating us to breakfasts, letting us borrow their cooker when we ran out of gas and even telling us how to use the boiler – we couldn’t have asked for better camping neighbours, it was a pleasure to meet you both!

The next day we actually managed to gain the motivation to stop slacking and get on the road, I’d found somewhere in the camperstop book that was two hours away and in the province of Valencia. I hadn’t done my research and didn’t realise it was actually still an hour out of the city centre and so we rocked up at this adorable village with only one shop and one cafe. We got there and after deliberating for a good hour, we decided to finish the last leg of the journey to Valencia.

Now the breaks of the car were one of the many things we had replaced before the trip, but as the adventure has wore on, so has something mechanical and confusing to do with the breaks and the wheels (something to do with shoes…). Every time we were doing long journeys, after a while the break would seem quite lax, and you’d have to press it a couple of times in order to build up any tension. But they worked and with the amount of vehicle knowledge we have, we thought it wasn’t normal.

Anyway, Rod drove the second leg of the trip to Valencia and when he said the breaks felt too loose, I thought he just meant the same old regular loose, and so I was all ‘ah just give it a good few presses in prep for slowing down’. But with this drive a new weird sound had arrived, like we were dragging something metal along the floor. But it still wasn’t until we couldn’t break coming onto a roundabout and nearly hit a police car that I thought ‘woah there might be something wrong with the breaks’. We pull over on a little side road, after making it the majority of the way into the city before becoming aware of the situation, and for the first time since being out here, give our cost-a-small-arm-and-a-small-leg RAC breakdown cover a go.

The process of recovery begins swimmingly. The lovely lady on the phone locates us within a few questions and a couple of minutes and the tow truck arrives within the hour. An excellent first impression of their ‘onit’ness; we only wish the fuckers at RAC could have upheld the same good standard of service throughout the rest of the drama…

As the tow truck arrived, so did a parade…

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We arrive at the garage and as it’s closing soon, we are advised to hand over the keys so that the mechanics have them first thing Monday morning when they re-open after Las Fallas. They tell us the taxi is on its way and the hotel is booked. Two hours later I call to ask where this supposedly booked taxi is and they inform me that’s no hotel has in actual fact been booked and so there is no taxi coming for us. We then end up waiting another 2 hours for someone to come and let us into the garage so we can get the van out. The day ends with us sleeping at the side of a road of a seedy industrial estate with no electricity, no running water, and both of us in worn out foul moods, wonderful.

Morning arrives and I’m picked up in a taxi to be taken to go and pick up a courtesy car. A better start to the day leaving me with a little more confidence in the RAC’s breakdown services and their ability to find us a hotel for the night. The señorita calls me again and tells me there’s a hotel booked and we can go there anytime, woohoo! We arrive and are rudely barked at in front of a lobby full of guests by the high almighty bitch at the check in desk. You would think, from the amount of pride she took in telling us that they didn’t infact accept pets and that we couldn’t stay there, that the witch actually owned the hotel and wasn’t just a receptionist (not that I have anything at all against them, this one was just an absolute twat). And so obviously a little miffed (to put it lightly), we leave the hotel and call the RAC back to see why on earth they booked us a hotel we couldn’t stay at, despite knowing our pooch situation.

A walk along the beach and a few hours of limbo later and someone calls us back to tell us finally, after over 24 hours since the breakdown, we now have somewhere to stay.

This standard of terrible communication has continued throughout the entire process, let alone the fact that we discovered the policy we were sold last year, was not actually the policy we received. Instead of the promised £5000 worth of garage repairs, and the £10000 worth of accommodation costs, and the long list of countries we’re actually covered in, dementor Emma takes complete satisfaction in telling me that they only cover the labour costs of any repairs, and only if the labour amount spent to less than 7 hours, so we’re now forking out 800 euros once the van is fixed. Their policies have changed since we bought ours and we are also now only covered in a handful of countries we’re venturing to.

Basically, RAC are full of bollocks. I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone, and if you do go with them, double, triple and quadruple check the terms and conditions. As with most insurance companies, there are so many loopholes in their favour hidden in those boring T’s&C’s we all love to accept without actually looking. I’d love to say that I’ll always read through them as a result of the ass-fucking that the RAC have dealt us, but they’re filled with so much jargon and confusion that I’d be lying if I said I’d never neglect them again.

But onto better topics! The unfortunate breakdown had a small silver lining and it meant that we got to spend Las Fallas in a hotel. As mentioned in my last post, Las Fallas is a huge Valencian festival in honour of the Patron Saint of carpentry, San José. All throughout the year, huge statues called niñots are made out of wood, papermaché and all sorts, most of them representing and mocking politicians or celebrities. Each community within Valencia organise and fund the building and displaying of the niñots within the streets of their town. Throughout the month of March, at 2pm from the 1st to the 19th, fireworks and mini explosions are set off in the city centre, with children everywhere as little as 2 year old Toni throwing those little banger things we all used to play at the seaside with!

The niñots are everywhere, and as a result, traffic is a joke and the amount of dead ends we turned down is phenomenal!


On the 19th, we made our way into the city centre and we’re amazed to see literally everyone out in the street, drinking, eating, taking part in the parades which start at 8am daily and continue all throughout the day, competing in paella competitions, the list goes on! Because of the pooches, we had to sit at a cafe just outside of the madness, but still in sight, and enjoy a cold or beer or two as we looked on, mostly bewildered, at the festivals ongoings.Evening came and with that, the burning. At midnight, all the niñots are set alight, making for a spectacular show! All of them are stuffed with fireworks and doused in petrol, and so as soon as the first firework is set alight, they all go off and within seconds the whole thing some poor artist spent a whole year making, is burnt to the ground. Ambulances can be seen and heard all over the city, with paramedics rushing to casualties of niñots and fireworks. There is absolutely no chance this could happen in England, what with all of our health and safety for bloody everything. Absolute madness. At 1am, an even bigger show is out on in the main squares with more fireworks, more fires and more people. We chose not to see the finale for the sake of the dogs, and instead, bought a good old kebab and made our way back to the hotel, where we get to see all the local community we’re based in flock for the final niñot burning by the hotel we happen to be staying at.

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And so the weekend comes to a close, the shops reopen on the ​Monday and the van can finally be looked at. Las Fallas was definitely one to remember, one of the most surreal festivals either of us have ever seen and definitely one to recommend. It’s quite family based, which was really refreshing to see and be a part of! At home, day time festivals and parades like Paddys day, are normally filled with groups of friends getting pissed (which is nothing to complain about of course, we all love it) rather than your entire family including your nan, grandad and all the kids. But it genuinely was quite heartwarming to see families spending so much time together in good spirits, this can normally only be guaranteed in England at weddings and funerals, but here they are in Spain, spending the whole festival together and actually seemingly enjoying one another’s company too, who’d have thought it?! 

We’ve now collected the van and with overall costs of this breakdown coming to €1100, and so without hanging around in Valencia any longer, we get straight on the road because, despite getting the priviledge of witnessing Las Fallas, needless to say, we’ve had enough of the city. 

Valencia, it’s been emotional. Exciting news coming to the next post!

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The adventures of Romarna, Rodney & Rudy, in a VW across Europe.

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