IN THE (VERY) cold light of the Belgian day, L’Hirondelle looked far less bleak than it had the night before, but with a ferry to catch, we didn’t have time for an in-depth look around. Instead, we returned a borrowed hook-up adaptor to the kindly loanee, packed ourselves up for last time on the trip and headed off to Calais.


[tl:gallery size=460×307]

Grim conditions as the outfit is packed up for the final time on this trip


The journey back to the channel ports was very simple and given the flat nature of the landscape, there was little to look at along the way. The Volvo did as it had done for the whole trip, plugging away without a murmur of protest as she serenely swept us, fairly slowly, towards our rendezvous. For the first time in a while, even the navigation was very simple, following Euro route E42 up to Dunkerque before turning left to Port de Calais. 



What made it great?

With so little to occupy our minds other than the faintly depressing thought of returning to the reality of real life, conversation in the car turned to what is really important when it comes to having a caravan holiday.


Certainly, an interior sprung mattresses, flat-screen TV and a fridge that worked on gas would have been lovely but plainly, were not essentials as, barring calamitous disaster yet to occur, this had been a great holiday.

[tl:gallery size=459×305]

Interior is not up to modern standards, but it copes


A sweet turbo-diesel towcar would have whipped over the Alps without noticing so it could be said that this would have improved things too, but in real terms, we couldn’t think how. Air-conditioning would have made a big difference for about three or four days in the middle, but other than that, the 850 was trouble-free, comfortable and utterly reliable. So we concluded that the providing the car and the caravan worked to a reasonable standard, they were essentially not a vital element in a great holiday. All of which begged the question, what is?


Pure pleasure of travel

As we joined the elevated motorway which funnelled us into the Calais ferry terminal, we’d worked out one of the obvious ones. You do need to be with someone you like. An average of six hours a day in a car with someone you don’t would be very hard work, but in fairness, it’s unlikely you’d embark on a holiday with someone you didn’t like. And this only left one thing to settle on. And that was the place. Or places in our case.


Old cars and old caravans soon get forgotten when you are looking forward to exploring the next big city, national park or incredible landscape. The pure pleasure of travel pushes the cost of the kit or the comfort of the bed to the back of your mind, something with generations of backpacker have discovered as they trudge through wilderness looking for life-changing experiences.


Our Sprite Alpine and our Volvo 850 estate had got us halfway to the equator. We’d visited three capital cities, numerous waterfalls, rivers and walking trails along the way and had some great meals, interesting drinks and met some topping folk en route.


That we’d done it on a budget was great, but that didn’t make it memorable. What made it memorable was the fact it was a fabulous holiday. Whether in a home made tent, or a six-star hotel, that is what matters.


[tl:gallery size=459×306]






Links – More Croatia on a shoestring info

>> Croatia on a shoestring in numbers

>> Download ‘Croatia on a shoestring’ Sept 2011 Practical Caravan magazine

>> Practical caravanning article in the Telegraph Motoring

<< Back to Day 1