First we hired a motorhome, then we took the plunge and bought a Sundance Lifestyle – and set off through France and Spain, recalls Anne Dean

In 1999, my husband David and I had the opportunity to venture into motorhome touring. We had a trial run for a few days in a hired ’van conversion and were hooked. After reading motorhome buying advice in relevant magazines and visiting motorhome dealers, we decided to buy a Swift Sundance Lifestyle that offered the space and versatility for our needs within our price range.

We took delivery in May and spent the summer having short breaks between David’s bowls fixtures. As our confidence grew, we planned a six-week trip touring through France to Spain’s Costa Dorada and Costa Bravo. 

Our two adult sons were amused, particularly because my navigational skills and sense of direction leave a lot to be desired. In fact my navigation was perfectly fine when we lived in North Wales, but that was because I always knew which side the sea was on. Still, they gave us road atlases, language CDs and phrase books and we set off to the South-East of England

From the moment we reached Dover, it was all new experiences: boarding the ferry, driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and making ourselves understood on campsites and in restaurants and shops.

The trip didn’t start too well; our ferry docked at Dunkirk and we disembarked, then realised that we had forgotten to allow for the hour time difference. This meant that it was really dark before we reached our first destination. We decided to park up for the night and located a suitable free camping spot.

Desperate for a cuppa, we then found that one of our gas cylinders was empty. It was now pouring down, but we had our very traditional English cup of tea and settled down for an early night. It was a restless one, as we were rocked frequently by passing lorries. Surely things would get better?

At 5am, we were woken by cars and lively chatter. In the dark we hadn't noticed that we'd parked our ’van in a factory entrance. So we dressed quickly and continued on our way. 

We loved the new experiences we had in the motorhome as we travelled along our route to the south, pausing to potter in towns and villages en route. We dined on delicious French cuisine and lounged comfortably as we sipped wine on site. 

Views of the Pyrenees stunned us as we crossed into Spain and the 'van coped with mountain roads faultlessly. Then we relaxed completely in the sun on the sandy beaches of L’Escala and the other seaside resort of L’Estartit in the Costa Brava, where we took herb-scented walks, swam and went on boat trips, as well as taking time out to do cultural excursions when we could. 

Our return to England was via a different route, but that first trip across the Channel and then touring south through France was a great success. It encouraged us to cross the water more often, and since our maiden voyage we have managed to explore at least 11 countries. Motorhome touring allows us to avoid tourist traps, meet locals and find lesser-known gems.

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