It was March 2012 when I finished working in banking after almost 36 years. Having done the sums, I reckoned that we’d be able to survive on our pensions, which we could take early. My wife, Anne, finished her own job with one of the banks a few weeks later.
My leaving present from work was a sat-nav, which my colleagues had bought because I’d indicated that we’d always fancied buying a motorhome and taking off. But, since neither of us had ever experienced motorcaravanning before, we followed the sound advice of ‘try before you buy’.
We took a five-day motorhome hire in May and choose to head to Clippesby Hall in Norfolk, where a music festival was taking place. We spent our first night at Highfield Farm Touring Park near Cambridge and that first motorhome trip went well, despite some dreadful bank holiday weather.
We could still see ourselves owning a motorhome!
Our hire vehicle had a fixed island bed, and we decided that we wanted one in our own ’van; but we couldn’t find any suitable motorhomes with fixed beds for sale within our budget. We were now getting fed up with the onset of winter and I suppose I must have been moping around a bit, because one day Anne said: “Either go back to work or find a motorhome to buy.”
The motorhome rental company had a sister vehicle to the one we’d hired for sale – and it was within budget. So that's how, at the end of January 2013, we bought our Rimor Europeo 69, which is based on a Fiat Ducato.
By mid-February we had made it through the Channel Tunnel, and were on our way heading south through France in search of some sun. We had named the motorhome ‘Maison du Vin’, and introduced her to the Champagne, Burgundy and Côte du Rhône regions on our way to our first major stop: the beautiful city of Avignon.
After enjoying Avignon, we pushed on and headed into Spain. We stayed for a week at Vilanova, which gave us great access via bus to the beautiful city of Barcelona. During the next six weeks we gradually travelled further south, with our favourite site in Spain being Bonterra Park at Benicassim. It's near a wonderful sandy beach and a national park in the Castellón region.
At Isla Plana in Murcia we met up with two of Practical Motorhome's reader team members Donna and Phil Garner in their Monty the Motorhome. We almost felt that we knew them already, because we had read Donna's travel features in the magazine and spotted Monty on the Practical Motorhome Facebook page. The jewel in the crown on our way back north had to be San Sebastián, a beautiful coastal city in the Basque region, close to the French border and the Bay of Biscay.
We have had so many wonderful experiences in the past 15 months, and are now on our third trip to Spain. There is so much of Europe still to see – and I'm delighted that there's not a single desk in sight!