Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Monday, 18 April 2016

The Journey Home From Spain.

Our Winter in Spain came to an end on Saturday 2nd April when we packed up and left the site at Cabo de Gata where we had been staying since our arrival at the end of September last year, albeit with a short Christmas interlude.

We drove for the whole day, some 700km, up to Camping Riaza north of Madrid for a weekend stay, leaving Sunday free just in case any issues arose during our long road trip, before driving the last 3 hours from there to Santander on Monday morning. The driving in Spain is so easy - far from the constant traffic congestion we have to endure on a daily basis here in England. Spanish roads are more or less completely devoid of traffic, and the roads themselves are in generally excellent condition with a good smooth surface and none of those stupid "smart motorway" constantly changing gantry mounted illuminated speed limit signs, all with a conveniently placed speed camera behind them. We were able to complete the long journey easily, and other than when we passed by Madrid, these are the driving conditions shown below - easy. I know we have more population per square mile here, but why are our roads in such poor condition? Easy - lack of funding!

Once in Santander we checked in and joined the queue awaiting our boarding time for the overnight sailing to Portsmouth. We had booked onto the Brittany Ferries Pont Aven, which had been in dry dock since January having work done to her engines so she would comply with the latest EU emissions regulations, having "exhaust scrubbers" fitted to the funnel, which can be seen below. In my own opinion, ruining the lines of the ship at the same time.

This was to be only the ship's second voyage since she returned to service, having been delayed for a week in dry dock at Gdansk, and we were delayed by 2 hours, possibly due to teething problems, although you can never get the true cause of these things out of the shipping lines, and as usual we were only told the reason was due to "circumstances beyond their control".

We arrived in Portsmouth at 5pm the following afternoon, and after clearing the UK's strict border controls, (we just drove straight out into Spain last September without any checks at all), we were finally on the road to Reading to visit Margaret's sister. The 80 mile journey, although in "rush hour"  only took just over an hour and it wasn't long before we were there and had opened one of the 15 litre boxes of red wine we had brought with us to enjoy a relaxing evening in, going on to undertake our own "antique Bargain Hunt" during a day out in Hungerford the next day.

Our daughter had been away on her own adventure holiday in New Zealand, and was due to arrive back at Heathrow on Friday afternoon. Together we all picked her up from there, and once back at her home in Wimbledon, we stayed there for a few days. This is the kind of activity she got up to.

On Monday we decided to fulfil another destination from our wish list by visiting Bletchley Park for the day, the secret wartime location that has in recent years become well known for the important part it and its staff played in cracking coded transmissions sent between enemy positions over 70 years ago.

Then on Tuesday we had tickets booked at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London for the musical "Sunny Afternoon" - the story of Ray Davies and The Kinks. That was a fantastic experience, and if you get the chance to see that show it is not to be missed. The actors are all accomplished musicians and singers, and the music from the live band portraying the Kinks as they developed through the 1960's was phenomenal. Before the theatre we enjoyed a fabulous banquet at one of the many restaurants within London's China Town, and afterwards drove home to Reading with Margaret's sister, where we had left the motorhome so we could begin the journey back north, and home the day after - Wednesday.

We left Reading at 9.30am on Wednesday after topping up the tank with diesel (£1.05 / litre instead of the 90 cents [around 70p] a litre we had been paying through Spain). Another shock to the wallet now we are back in the UK came when I replaced the empty 6kg Calor light propane bottle that we had used in Spain prior to transferring to an 11kg Spanish propane bottle. The Spanish bottle cost us €11 for the exchange bottle directly from the depot. Back here in England I paid £24.75 to exchange the 6kg Calor Light bottle. I have to ask why there is such a difference? TAX!

The journey home along the M4, M5 and M6 was uneventful, and we are now back to the normality of being home. The motorhome is booked in for a comprehensive mechanical service which will include a new stainless steel exhaust system - something I have intended to have made since we bought the van, as it is intended to be a "keeper". Then, before we start to use the van in the UK over the Summer, the final work booked is a "habitation service", which will ensure all the gas connections and equipment remain in good safe and sound condition to ensure reliable use in the coming months.

Once home, I completed an eBay purchase I had been watching, and as a result I can now use my large collection of vinyl records once again, using high quality equipment which is contemporary with the albums I have - a Hacker Centurion Hi-Fi record player from 1971, and in perfect working order. Listening to Emerson Lake & Palmer's "Works" on Sunday afternoon took me right back to 1977.

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