Our son, Joe, was born in summer 2009 and just a few months later he went on his first epic long-distance motorhome tour with me and my wife Anna.
We had agreed to meet our relatives in the Costa del Sol to celebrate New Year’s Eve, but I failed to book a ferry crossing to northern Spain in time. So we caught the Portsmouth-Le Havre ferry on 28 December, and then took the autoroutes all the way down France’s Atlantic coast.
We then joined the autopistas through central Spain, staying at aires so that we could arrive late and leave early, and made the New Year's Eve celebrations with just an hour to spare. Champagne had never tasted sweeter, and we sent Chinese lanterns floating off into the sky.
For many veteran sunbird motorcaravanners, such a trip south is an annual pilgrimage. If you're one of them, I know that you don’t treat it as a holiday: you come here to live in Spain for the winter instead of huddling indoors in chilly Britain. It’s a way of life, rather than the sightseeing tour that it is for many others.
We made the trip in an Elddis Autoquest 180, and with my parents along for the ride, it proved pretty crowded on board. But the experience felt like a glimpse of my future: with the Costa del Sol around 20°C warmer than the UK in the winter months, it certainly appealed. What’s more, I hadn’t factored in how beautiful much of it is.
We used Camping Cabopino as our base, and made day trips to Ronda and Mijas. Ronda is a stunning walled edifice, with a dramatic gorge separating the old and new towns, and cliffs plummet away into the valley on the western side. It’s easy to while away the hours here, emerging completely relaxed in the process.
Mijas is a perfect example of the gorgeous whitewashed towns that dot Andalucia in southern Spain. It was in full festival mode when we visited, preparing for the Feast of the Epiphany, which was marked by huge processions, as people spilled out of the churches and onto the streets. Every year on 6 January Catholics here remember the coming of the Magi, when the significance of the newborn baby Jesus was recognised. People dressed as the Three Kings process through the streets on floats and sweets are thrown to the children.
At the end of our holiday, we took the journey back home to Britain at a leisurely pace. We wound our way along the Mediterranean coast, visiting winter-sun campsites, more aires and rally fields, along the way.
Even now, years later, the promise of playing golf in January wearing jeans and a T-shirt, or drinking a glass of good rioja while sitting in the sunshine on site, remains a siren call to my ears. And after many more campervan holidays my son Joe is now a motorhome fanatic, as is his little sister. This is a great thing, as it means we’ll all be able to enjoy plenty more motorhome tours together in future.