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.
Our motorhome life in statistics.
Days since leaving the UK: 479
Countries visited: 11
Miles travelled: 21,589
Miles Per Gallon (MPG): 21.3
Cost per mile: £0.27
Total fuel cost: £5,829
The weather yesterday: 59°F and sunny all day (Hooray!)
Yesterday was a ‘doing’ day. We try to group tasks so that I don’t have to drive every day. After twenty-one thousand miles on the road, I’m as comfortable as I’m ever going to be at the wheel of a twenty-five-foot steel and plastic box, but negotiating the narrow and unknown streets of an ever-changing number of towns and villages causes a certain amount of stress.
Cynthia and I like to wild camp as much as possible. The length of time we can stay away from civilisation is dictated by our water supply. Our potable water tank holds one hundred litres. In a bricks and mortar home where turning a tap produces an unlimited supply of the wet stuff, one hundred litres doesn’t go very far.
According to the This is Money website, a household tap delivers water at six litres a minute. At that rate, our tank would be empty in seventeen minutes. One hundred litres is roughly the amount you could fit in a bath, as long as you don’t want to climb into it.
Each morning follows the same pattern. I climb out of bed early, make a coffee, try very hard not to wake Cynthia, and try even harder not to wake ever-energetic Abbie. I need to focus on work. I need to find a way of generating more of an income. We rely on Cynthia’s pension too much. Cynthia doesn’t mind. I do. I’m supposed to be the hunter-gatherer, the provider. I’m not.
So I take my MacBook and my coffee, unfold my Lavolta bed table, climb onto the Hymer’s fixed rear double bed. I tether the laptop to my iPhone 7 Plus, sip my coffee and compose my thoughts. I’m focused and ready to work.
After two days watching our aire slowly submerge under a purple sky filled with endless rain, we drove south for half an hour to Leucate. We visited this area several times last year. There’s a well-equipped aire close to the beach, a few decent wild camping spots and, highest on Cynthia’s list of priorities, a decent laverie, a launderette, open daily until 10pm.
Cynthia wasn’t quite so keen on whipping out her dirty smalls when she noticed the laverie’s only other customer. A middle-aged homeless man, stinking of whiskey and urine, slouched at a table normally reserved for folding clean clothes. As laying out our freshly laundered bedding would mean moving his grimy radio, plastic pack of rolling tobacco and two full whiskey bottles, we decided not to bother.
On Friday 24 February at almost exactly 1200 (noon) we crossed the border from France to Switzerland. Wasn’t much of a crossing–there was no one at the border station to greet us! We had passports out and ready to go. Oh well, no worries! We parked just across from the border station, and walked to a gas station a short distance away to buy our CF (Swiss Francs) 40 highway vignette that allows us to drive on the Swiss motorways.
I have considered Switzerland one of my homes away from home for a number of years, as I flew there so frequently during my tenure as International Flight Attendant. I have always felt comfortable there. And now I find myself feeling even more comfortable in France after spending the last nearly four months there.
Have you missed us?
Please accept my apologies for not updating the blog in recent weeks. Thank you, if you are one of the many blog subscribers concerned enough about our wellbeing to email me. I am well. Cynthia is well too. We’re both alive and kicking and having a wonderful time.
We’re in Switzerland now, parked by a sunlit harbour in Saint-Aubin-Sages on the northern shore of forty kilometre long lake Neuchâtel. I should be writing, but I can’t help gazing out of my bedroom window five miles across the lake to the snow capped alps towering over the southern shore.