A high chainlink fence surrounds us. We’ve voluntarily incarcerated our Hymer home for the night. The only way to escape is by parting with cash, or plastic in this case. On a nearby roundabout, two stone Roman columns point towards a grey sky. We’re at a Narbonne aire to give our batteries a little tender loving care.
We needed to connect to a mains supply. Constant recent cloud denied our single solar panel the opportunity to provide us with free electricity. Constant rain and strong winds have made using our Honda suitcase generator a challenge.
Heavy rain imprisons us. We have been locked in our little box for thirty-six hours now, trying to judge gaps between downpours to take the dogs for essential toilet breaks. The one saving grace is our sea view, which is revealed to us when the rain briefly eases off to a steady downpour.
We lay last night in the drop-down bed above the driver and passenger seats listening to windblown rain bouncing off our thin plastic roof like handfuls of thrown gravel. Thunder crashed and lightning flashed, but we were warm and dry in our duvet cocoon. Getting out of bed this morning was less pleasant.
Gruissan’s Quatre Vents aire was pleasant enough. It had a fully equipped service point with two motorhome bays, potable water, a grey water drain and a couple of chemical toilet disposal points. We had an open view of the Étang du Grazel on one side and a harbour filled with sailing boats on the other. A big plus was the surprising lack of motorhomes. It’s a big site which can hold two hundred and fifty vehicles if they’re packed in like sardines. We shared the space with one hundred and fifty of them last Christmas. We counted just thirty this time.
It’s 6:30 a.m. The thermometer is registering 45°F (7°C). If we’re lucky, it will claw its way up to 52°F (11°C) by mid-afternoon. The mid-January days we enjoyed basking in the sun from the comfort of our lightweight sun loungers are a distant memory. We’re at Gruissan’s Le Quatre Vents aire parked with a view of hundreds of bare masted sailing boats.
Even though we can’t wear tee shirts and shorts, we’re still happy to be here. We’ve seen one light frost this winter in France. The weather isn’t as benign in Leiden where Julisa, our Super Favorite mahogany and steel Dutch cruiser, is stored open to the elements in a steel cradle.
We often eat out during the summer months when we are on our boat in the Netherlands. Dutch pavement cafes are popular in tourist destinations such as Leiden where we moor our cruiser. A meal out is an opportunity to use the restaurant’s free WiFi to update our phones, tablets and laptops, watch one of the happiest nations on Earth at play, and gain a few pounds. As well as being among the most cheerful races on the planet, the Dutch are physically one of the biggest. They eat BIG portions.
We have two dogs; Tasha and Abbie, twelve and three years old. They are basset hounds. Bassets are not the intellectuals of the dog world. They have a learning disability, they are developmentally challenged. To be quite frank and politically incorrect, bassets are a bit thick.
The intelligence of eighty breeds is listed in descending order on this site. The English border collie is number one. Bassets claw their way onto the bottom of the list at seventy-one. The breed needs 100-500 repetitions of a new commend. Even then, they’ll only obey any command which they’re supposed to know 20% of the time. Bassets won’t do as they’re told often or even at all, and they look ridiculous. Built like the trailer of an articulated lorry, and with too large paws supporting too short legs, their stomachs often brush the ground as they walk. So do their ears. The easiest way for Cynthia to sweep the Hymer’s floor area is to ask big eared Abbie to plod from the bathroom to the driver’s seat a few times. Not that she does as she’s told when asked.
We live in our tiny home full time during the winter months, far away from the constant grey skies and biting cold of northern Europe. The climate here is far from tropical, but the slightly higher average temperature makes a BIG difference. Ours is an idyllic life, as long as we can cope with a living space smaller than an average UK single car garage, but how much does it cost?
Here’s our motorhome expenditure for January 2018. I’ve left out the personal stuff. Everyone spends differently. Good quality organic food is usually our highest monthly purchase. Cynthia needs to follow a strict diet to stay healthy. There’s a plentiful supply of well-stocked organic food stores here on France’s Mediterranean coast. Sometimes we have to drive twenty or thirty miles to the nearest store, or to an alternative store which stocks Cynthia’s specific products. Because of that, our diesel consumption is slightly higher than for those happy to use the otherwise excellent supermarket chains such as Carrefour and Intermarche.