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We’ve all seen the stickers, t-shirts and various other paraphernalia with the words ‘home is where you park it’ emblazoned on them, words, I must admit, I’ve previously never given much credence to, passing them off for a handy little marketing slogan. That was until about a month into our trip, The Big European Odyssey, they suddenly took on a new meaning.
It was at this time that, as a family, we had a shift in the way we saw not just our motorhome, but also being on the road. In the past our trips had always been extended holidays, and no matter how long they were the motorhome remained as just that, a motorhome that enabled us to get away from home, to have a break from the routine of everyday life. Now, after several weeks on the road, we have come to see our motorhome for what it really is, our little rolling home, a haven of safety and familiarity as we travel through ever-changing landscapes and cultures.
The fact that both children simply refer to the motorhome as ‘home’ now is a sign of how much we have adjusted, our previous life in Wales now little more than a distant memory. Often they will say ‘there’s our little home in the woods’ or ‘by the beach’ as we walk back after another adventure to explore our surroundings. So yes, home really is where you park it, and we have been fortunate enough to park it in some pretty wonderful places over the previous weeks as we have slowly made our way down the west coast of France, through the Pyrenees and up towards the Alps.
In order to maintain an element of unpredictability to life, we planned only a handful of sites before setting off, all seamlessly booked through the Caravan and Motorhome Club website, allowing us to meander between these pre-determined points. Although, on more than one occasion, we have been left wishing we had more time at some of these, but thanks to Brexit we have had to keep moving, conscious that we need to be in Croatia before the end of July to adhere to the ninety in a hundred and eighty day rule.
There have been two sites that have stuck out above the rest as places we would have happily spent any number of days. First was Huttopia Noirmoutier, one of the best idyllic sites we have stayed at anywhere in the world. Set amongst a tranquil pine forest on the edge of the ocean, with direct access to a long sandy beach, there is a sense of stepping into a slower rhythm of life here, where whatever doesn’t happen today can wait until tomorrow. That is apart from market day in Noirmoutier itself, which is a must-visit for those staying whilst it’s on, just make sure your fridge is empty before you venture into the market.
The other site that captured our hearts, albeit in an entirely different location and manner, was Camping Natura Pyrenees, where towering snow-capped peaks and the omnipresent Pyrenean cows provided a picture-perfect backdrop for a week-long stay. This corner of the Pyrenees captivated us, every bike ride, walk and swim further cementing our love for its rugged and raw beauty. Luck would also have it that we were at the site while a major event was taking place in the valley, the local Transhumance, where local farmers take their sheep up into the high mountains for summer grazing, but not before they are blessed by a local minister and the community gathers for a feast.
In the interest of being honest it’s not all been plain sailing, there have been days when we have craved a little familiarity beyond the confines of our front door. Moments such as these usually come at the end of long days, when we are all tired, and suddenly the excitement of a continually changing horizons and new environments leaves us feeling alone, outsiders in someone else’s world, seeing the same as them but with a sense of being disconnected. Fortunately there’s an easy remedy to this: a decent meal and a good night’s sleep, which thanks to always being in our home is never far away.
Now, as we prepare to leave France behind, we do so eager to expand our horizons in Switzerland and Italy, countries that we have previously only spent fleeting weekends in. Up until this point the Caravan and Motorhome Club’s network of European sites has served us tremendously well, each unique in its own right, and matching the high standards we have come to expect of their sites in the UK. Looking at the sites we have booked for the next two countries on our travels we are anticipating some more excellent locations from which to base our activities, and the highlights include lake visits and e-mountain biking in Switzerland and trips to Venice and the Dolomites in Italy.
We don’t know exactly what adventures await, only that we will feel right at home wherever we end up, because, after all, home really is where you park it.
Until our next update from the road you can follow our adventures on Instagram through @marcusleachglobal and @our.roaming.odyssey as well as on Twitter via @MarcusGLeach