That sinking feeling

A couple of nights in Denmark and already we were feeling really good about being in Scandinavia, a gorgeous family welcomed us onto their campsite…Neils, his wife and their son live in a lovely white thatched cottage with parking for around 6 motorhomes. It has easy access and great facilities, Jon and I were able to relax and boys were delighted to find the games room, chess and a pool table – how fabulous!

We took a day out in Mini to the coast to see The Men at Sea statues and returned through the town near to us of Haderslev which is home to The Skate Dome a huge skateboard/scooter/bike park.

Then we set off for Copenhagen which was around a 3 hours drive. We always knew Scandinavia was going to be an expensive part of our journey, we have read many blogs about traveling here in a motorhome and everyone says the same thing, it’s bloody expensive. First, you can’t get hold of LPG so we are running on petrol, which makes for a super expensive drive at no more than 8 mpg.

Second, literally everything is expensive, especially bridge tolls. We had tears in our eyes when we handed over our debit card to pay the £120 toll over the Storebælt bridge. Forgetting he was in Europe and not Asia, Jon tried to negotiate with the cashier and obviously failed ! Lucky we didn’t have to pay even more.

We felt like we were making some real progress when we arrived at our campsite for the night, another site at a family home only this time so much bigger, I was feeling silently smug, as I had chosen this site. Joe and I in our high viz jackets directed Jon into the parking bay, on one side gravel, the other side grass. I was watching Jon roll into the gravel and all was good until the other side rolls onto muddy ground and suddenly we grind to a halt. We are stuck, totally, completely, 100% stuck. I made a rookie error and hadn’t checked all 4 wheels were on hard ground. It was a horrible feeling seeing the massive tyres wedged in the ground and the RV tilting to one side. We tried for an hour with wood, carpet and tree branches to get it out, it was an impossible task, my biggest fear were the RV’s self levelling hydraulic jacks, they were about 2cm clear of the ground and sinking. We just got deeper and deeper into trouble, I wanted to cry, I felt hopeless and tried to think through all the possible ways we could get out. Would the AA rescue us? Probably not, who can you call when you are in such a large, heavy vehicle and need to be towed when you don’t even speak the language?

Jon and I realised the only way out was to ask for help so we took the walk of shame up the tree lined drive way to the family home and knocked on the door. We were greeted by Jes……….he is so friendly and not at all phased by the fact that stupid English tourists have driven their 11 metre, 10 ton RV onto his land and got it stuck.

“Are you stuck?” asks Jes

“Yes, we are so sorry” Jon and I feeling very stupid

“No problem, I’ll get my tractor”

And that was that…what are the chances of finding a campsite in the middle of Denmark where the owner, who by the way is not a farmer happens to have a tractor and massive towing chain in his garage?! We had struck it lucky again.

Within 10 minutes the kind Danish man had rescued us, he had towed us to hard ground and connected us to electric and the boys to WiFi.

I always say that things can change in a heartbeat, one minute everything is peachy and the next they can turn horribly wrong. This was another example of how vulnerable we are.

We are having the time of our lives and experiencing amazing things but there is always that feeling of how vulnerable we really are. It’s a feeling I’ve never felt before. When you travel in your home, you realise the one thing that can bring you so much comfort and security can so easily be damaged or destroyed.

After trying to put Jes’s field back together and stamp down the grass we’d destroyed we had a coffee and the boys hot chocolate and although we were feeling slightly stunned about what had happened.

The temperature had dropped to -5 and the wind was picking up, so no slide outs tonight. We just had to hunker down and stay warm.

Ironically it turned out really well, not only did Jes speak perfect English and have his own tractor but he also has a genuine interest in American vehicles with a huge US pick up truck and 2 American 5th Wheelers in his barn. Jon and his new best friend, Jes disappeared into the barn to talk RV talk. By dinner time we were feeling cosy and warm and the earlier off-road experience was long forgotten, it was time to enjoy a glass of red and a pork schnitzel.

The Netherlands, Rotterdam

Rotterdam

So Rotterdam wasn’t on our list either. Glad we made the stop though. We parked up the RV and headed straight to the city in Mini.

I had researched the Markthal, a huge indoor food market in the centre of Rotterdam, opened in 2014 and costing €178,000,000 this is a food lovers paradise. An afternoon very well spent. Every market stall offers samples which meant we had eaten a three course meal without spending a single cent !

Just across the road from the Markthal are the famous cube houses, these 100 square metre homes are really interesting use of space and look really quirky.

A short drive from our campsite in Alblasserdam is Kinderdijk a village full of windmills.

An early start tomorrow as we make our way to Amsterdam.

The Netherlands, Eindhoven

Eindhoven

Head straight for Amsterdam, that was the plan but what we have realised already is that it’s the diversions, detours and spontaneous stops which can be the most fun and this one was certainly no exception. Our Dutch friends invited us for lunch at their home which took us to Helmond, a town close to Eindhoven not on our original route but we are so glad we made the detour.

Caroline and Marco, former neighbours from Singapore had prepared a fabulous lunch for us and lunch led to dinner. With the snow settling and a perfect canal side campsite in Oirschot we decided to stay for a couple more days.

Oirschot is a picture perfect town, it’s small stores look like a Disney set. A super friendly place with a beautiful church in the centre and shops around the square.

Waking up to a blanket of snow was a first, the boys were so excited and so was Lester.

We decided to have a relaxing day and chill-out after the past couple of weeks, the snow was a good excuse to stay put.

Sunday afternoon we went to a local brewery recommended by the campsite owner as they were hosting a German Festival. The music was played by a band from the town.

The snow has melted and we are ready to move on, next stop Rotterdam.

When you are drowning just keep swimming

Coming back to Devon, the place I grew up was an eye opener. I had always envisaged returning to the beautiful tranquillity of Devon, the quiet and laidback lifestyle. The Devon-way. I surprised myself that it wasn’t all I had imagined it to be and that I must have changed somehow. Devon was of course glorious as ever, the beaches a real pleasure, the towns quintessentialy British and the weather was mild. Although there was a nagging in the back of my mind that this wasn’t all I had wanted it to be, we actually felt a little bit cut off , 14 years living in capital cities does this to you. The instant gratification of walking out of your house and grabbing a Starbucks, department stores on your doorstep and bars and restaurants minutes away, Devon now felt a bit remote. It has given us food for thought about where our long term home will be.

Anyway I digress, we had returned and were in the most part enjoying Devon life as a retired couple (boys at school) enjoying lesisurly walks with the dog and coffees whilst undertaking the mammoth task of renovating the RV.

It doesn’t sound like a massive task but trust me it was huge and even now we look at what we have achieved and still find things we would like to improve. The title sums up our feelings throughout the renovation process, when you are drowning you just have to keep swimming. That’s what 7 coats of paint on each cupboard door does to you. So after weeks of Jon getting up every morning at 6.30 and going to the RV to demolish, paint, build and beautify we got to a point of seeing this ‘thing’ as a reality. I have to say Jon is the real driving force behind everything we do, I am a dreamer and a proscrastanator, Jon is a doer. Without him none of this would have happened, he sees a problem or a challenge and turns it into a real thing, making it better as he goes and enlisting people along the way to have the same belief and passion he has. I am in awe of his passion and enthusiasm for a project. I look at a task and can’t even start because I see so many obstacles, Jon walks in and just says “lets go and don’t stop until the job is done”.

When I did come and help, it was cold and quite depressing without electricity I would whinge and whine about not having the right paintbrush, being hungry, not having enough paint, the paint not sticking and so on and so on. Jon just soldiered on, never complaining or giving up. That’s just one of the reasons I love him.