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Aaannnnd… home

December 4, 2021

So, the last week didn’t go quite as planned. The intention was to blitz up the motorways through Spain and France, stopping merely to taste and stock up on delicious wines, champagnes, sherries, and erm FOODSTUFFS and roll into Calais in time to le shuttle home.

Fate had other ideas. For a start, it bloody snowed. Snow! In Spain! Are you having a laugh?? We set off in the morning in sunshine and an admittedly chill wind, and within an hour the plains were blanketed in three inches of white fluffy precipitation. What the actual? It’s not even snowing a thousand miles north of here! We were paddling on a beach five days ago! We are… confused.

Nevertheless, the van ploughed on. Until we pulled off for fuel and, all of a sudden, a weird rattling noise emerged from under the bonnet and great plumes of inky black smoke billowed out of the exhaust. Oh, bloomin ‘eck. 

A couple of hours later (and a weird menu del dia from the hotel opposite – of which, more below) and we’re in the cab of a (too short) low loader, on our way to a garage where, for all we know, the van still resides. Poor old Oma has a booboo, no one knows what it is, and the plan emerges that we have to fly home with the van following at some point in the next two weeks.

Tears flow. Many strong words are uttered. Many, many phone calls to the insurance company are made. And a couple of days later we find ourselves in a hire car on our way to Bilbao, having spent two nights in a one-star hotel (that turns its heating off at 11am and serves an identical menu del dia each day, for lunch and dinner, which strongly features tinned green beans and unidentifiable battered meat) with six “bags for life” containing all our worldly possessions. 

Not the glorious return to the UK that we’d anticipated. Still, rolling with the punches we decided to make the best of our remaining time in Bilbao, where we ate over four nights our body weight and beyond the local pintxos – apparently “bite-sized” delicacies on bread that ranged from sardines and cheese to ragu to chorizo to minty bacalau to a million other flavour combinations. Ridiculously cheap, they and the local txakoli wine helped us fight off the incessant rain and stress and heartbreak of leaving the van behind.

A day of culture was to be had at the Guggenheim museum where our souls were soothed with a beautiful and vibrant Rothko, an amazing steel labyrinth and more delicious food.

We eventually said our goodbyes to this lovely city and amazing country on a beautifully sunny day, traversing what would have been a solid five days of driving in a mere 90 minutes. We’re home now on a cosy boat with the kittens, looking at a phone full of photos and a fridge full of magnets, remembering how lucky we are to have had such an experience. Oma will soon be back on the road again and our adventures will continue.

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