Lesson 1: Don't underestimate how much crap you need to take with you in a caravan especially for a 6 month trip in a variety of climates. Also don't underestimate how long it takes to decant all said crap into caravan on the first day of your trip.
Our first stop was Birmingham, a 3 hour trip down mainly motorways which was a relief given that we had neither towed a caravan before or pitched at a campsite.
We arrived at Chapel Lane caravan site around 5.30 so it was pitch black, luckily being January the UK sites are generally very quiet for winter. In fact the real challenge is finding camping sites that are still open in the winter months. Chapel Lane was a lovely site and one I would re-visit in the future, it was very clean, the toilet/shower block was warm and the pitches were easy to navigate (all things we have come to appreciate on our tour de campsite).
|First view of Chapel Lane through our window|
Here's an interesting tip for newbie caravanners - reversing a caravan into a pitch in the dark is neither easy nor fun, I don't recommend it!
Once done though, the real pleasure of the caravan is getting it all snug and cosy. The kids had a fixed bunk bed each complete with microwaveable bed warmer and loved having their own sectioned off 'room' with their toy boxes rammed into the under seat storage. The hubby and I actually enjoyed having a relax on the sofas before making up the double bed and making tea in the caravan, although challenging, isn't quite so bad with oven pizzas!
|Bella certainly found it cosy|
The worst bit about caravanning? The cold hop over to the shower block in the morning and the taking down of all the bits and pieces
- unhook electric
- empty waste water
- empty bins
- empty aquaroll
- empty toilet (obviously hubby's job)
- hook back up to the car#
Our next stop was Wareham Forest, a much bigger setup than Birmingham, Wareham Forest has a lovely setting with lots of trees and a big play park for the kids, it also has a pool for the summer. The shower blocks were reasonable although not quite as well kept as the Birmingham ones which had provided quite a high bar for the other sites to reach.
As we were leaving before 7am the next morning (barriers tend to be locked between certain hours to maintain security and noise levels) we had to stay in the late arrivals pitch but it was a great spot with plenty of room to reverse the caravan in. Again we made the mistake of arriving in the dark having being delayed taking a ridiculous route suggested by Google maps over a single lane narrow toll bridge and then up an incline of stupid proportions for a car towing a 6 berth caravan; so that elevated the stress levels slightly for both myself and the car's clutch.
An early start the next morning meant no one fancied showers so we just headed the 30 min drive to the port.
As we had dogs we had to be at Portsmouth port an hour before departure rather than the usual 30 mins but I was pleasantly surprised at how easy and laid back way it is to travel. I enjoyed it so much more than I anticipated and would certainly recommend it as a good way to get across to the continent (unless you are a terrible sea sickness sufferer of course!).
Dogs all settled in the car for the trip (4.5 hours) we got to the important task of breakfast and it was lovely sat watching the dock slip away with the sun shimmering on the sea. Yes I'm painting a romantic image and I'm sure I'd be less complimentary had we not been so lucky with such a sunny and still day but we certainly got a good deal for our trip.
|Enjoying breakfast with the sun rising|
Lesson 2: If suffering from nausea at sea don't stay on the edges of the boat head for the middle. Even better if it's a sunny day go and lie in the foetal position with your kids rucksack as a pillow on the sun deck, preferably next to the warm air vents, with every piece of warm clothing you have on you. Try and sleep until you basically are so numb from the cold hard ground that the nausea goes away, (well it was either that or I just found my sea legs at last! )
Sea sickness aside though the journey on the ferry was very relaxed, the kids got to watch Trolls in the children's play room with some lunch and again being low season it was very quiet.
Disembarking on the other side in the sunshine was lovely, a good few degrees warmer and there we had it welcome to France, or Caen to be exact. Let the driving begin!