This post is not for those who are wedded to cruises, villas, flights and hotels. It isn’t for anyone who is horrified by spider webs, unable or unwilling to step out on to grass, horrified by fresh air and/or traumatised by seeing others in public facilities such as lavatory blocks. It won’t suit anyone who doesn’t enjoy visiting new places, exploring or undertaking an occasional bit of research or problem solving. If your preferred trip is to sit on a boat or a coach and have sights pointed out to you from a window, then be stuffed with food and drink before enduring cabaret style entertainment, read no further.
There may be those, however who are wavering on the edge of independent travel and have not tried tents, vans or motorhomes but might be persuaded by the freedom it represents, the opportunity to be spontaneous, change your mind on a whim or the weather, stay as long or as little as you wish, eat when and where you want, discover things, meet all manner of people.
Using tents, vans and motorhomes these days is all blanketed under ‘camping’, although it isn’t- at least not camping as it was when I was a child, when we put up ex-army tents in a corner of a farm field. Nowadays everything is far easier, and campsites have become comfortable, user-friendly villages. broadly speaking their services are much the same; clean, warm shower blocks with laundry facilities and dishwashing areas and often a grocery shop. Many offer restaurants and bars or are within walking distance of them [we prefer these to sites in the back of beyond].
We’ve developed tricks to make life on a site even easier. While some campers are happy to wander across to the shower in PJs or a onesie, carrying a towel, I find that a supermarket ‘bag-for-life’ is my best friend, so that when space is at a premium or there is little more than a hook, my change of clothes/towel/anything else is kept dry in the event of an over-exuberant spray. In aires [see https://gracelessageing.com/2018/09/02/aires-and-graces-guide/ ] we have perfected the art of showering in our tiny but adequate van shower, where often the water is hotter than many site showers.
Campsites are commonly situated with beautiful views that you would be hard pushed to get from any hotel, such as next to Loch Ness [Scotland], the wonderful Belt Bridge [Denmark] or by the gorgeous Geiranger Fjord in Norway. Sometimes you cannot fault their location; we camped up against the walls of ancient Pompei on an Italian trip. Where they are not so close, a bus stop or station is usually near the site entrance. Many, like the ones along the Nantes-Brest canal are placed by cycle tracks.
Sometimes we stumble upon a site so luxurious it has to be seen to be believed, such as the one at Seelbach in Germany’s Black Forest, which has children’s showers like an undersea cavern and Innsbruck, where the bathrooms would rival a 5* hotel and have stunning views of the snow-topped mountains surrounding the site.
By the time you read this we’ll have started off once more- away down to SW France and some of our favourite old haunts as well as some new ones!
Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook