So you reach that stage in your late-20s when you’ve got married, you have a stable job and a bit of a financial cushion, and you’re ready for the next step in life. What do you do? Buy a 23-year-old Talbot Express motorhome with 10 previous owners, of course, and travel around Europe in it for a year with no fixed destination!
After a few modifications to the motorhome during our first summer of ownership (including the fitting of a solar panel, re-upholstering everything, ripping up the damp floor and replacing the water pump), we hit the road at the end of October. We were a little nervous at first, but once we got our first friendly wave from a fellow motorcaravanner we settled into a new season of our lives.
The original plan we came up with was to take a leisurely tour of southern Europe over the autumn and winter, but this turned into a race to get across the Alps before the snow came. And then disaster struck. A week into our year-long adventure, Bertha started smoking and drinking. Her poison of choice was oil, which she belched out in thick plumes of blue smoke at the most inopportune moments. Swiss mechanics don’t particularly like working on old vehicles, but after a little arm twisting, Bertha was fixed.
The kilometres sped by beneath her winter tyres as we passed through Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and into Serbia. It was there that the snow finally caught up with us. One morning we woke to temperatures of -7C outside and discovered that it was a relatively tropical -2C inside! That cold shock was enough of a prod for us to escape to sunny Greece, where we stopped alongside different beaches most nights.
Italy was just a ferry ride away, so we couldn't resist. We took in all of the sights including Bussana Vecchia, a semi-abandoned medieval village near San Remo, before sidling our way around southern France and into sunny Spain.
We circumnavigated Spain and Portugal, enthralled by the massive waves on the western coast as well as the quality of the wine and port. We ended the first part of our pilgrimage admiring the beautifully preserved old town of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, in northern Spain. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site and we admired the famous shrine to Saint James and magnificent cathedral.
After that first expedition we had covered 8000 miles in four months and we were not finished yet! After making a quick pit-stop back in Blighty, then we were off again to tackle northern Europe.
Since our first tour in Bertha, we have visited many more countries. We've been to Germany and Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Liechtenstein, The Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, Belgium, France, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland, Croatia, Italy, Macedonia, Portugal and Slovenia. We've clocked up too many miles to count and written plenty of notes about the places we've visited, where we camped, fuel stations and other handy information for fellow motorcaravanners, which you can see on the Kiri and Steve road trip website.