The awning argument

Sitting outside Dora on the campsite in Betws-y-coed yesterday afternoon, I did wonder where I was. From over the hedge I heard some very strange things (bear in mind it was broad daylight and children were playing between the caravans and motorhomes). There were grunts, sounds of straining, and cries of ‘you guide it in and I’ll push’, ‘steady now, not too far, you’re round the back’ and finished off with a triumphant cry of ‘and roll!!!!!!’ accompanied by more grunts, puffs and pants.

Some of you may recognise this strange, wondrous ritual – yes, it’s the fight to dismantle and get the motorhome awning rolled up small enough to fit in its minuscule bag! Now, whilst it sounded X-rated, this couple were quite obviously seasoned professionals. Quick, slick and enviably competent.

Over the years we’ve had a variety of awnings and tents that we have grappled with. Most memorably in lashing rain and gale force winds atop the cliff edge on the East Coast, looking more like we were flying a huge Barnstormer kite instead of erecting a structure. What has remained constant for us is the inevitable ‘awning argument’. imagePoles connect in ways they should not. Pegs and straps, which were so carefully put away last time, frustratingly disappear. Tempers fray. Slaw snaps and Mrs Slaw sulks.

We have just bought a Thule Quickfit awning tent for Dora. A neat bit of kit that fixes underneath the Thule Omnistore canopy. Three clear sides with integral curtains and optional mosquito sides. According to YouTube, and the rather smug fella demonstrating, it is so-called because it only takes 15 minutes to erect. On the first outing, three hours and three bottles of beer later (each!) we finally had it erected and pegged. This weekend, we have shaved quite a bit off the time and got it down to 45 minutes. Probably because we left the beer until we had finished the job!

As I write this blog the sun is high in the sky; we are soaking up the sun through an open side, protected from the wind on two sides by the awning and Dora on the third. Slaw is gently snoring in his chair after our nine mile circular walk taking in the beautiful Swallow Falls and the obligatory pint at the pub. Life is good #workhardplayhard



To aire or not to aire.

This year will be our seventh motorhome tour of Europe and it’s five years since we bought our ‘All the Aires France’ book. Have we stayed in an aire yet? No.

Some of you may not know what an aire is, so I’ll try to explain. An aire used to be a cheaper option than a campsite, usually located in a quaint little village off the beaten track. A way of the local Maire attracting passing travellers to stop off in their village and spend money. The travellers, in return for a convenient place to stop overnight for free, would hopefully have an evening meal with a bottle of wine in the village restaurant and next morning buy fresh baguettes and croissants from the boulangerie before heading off on the road again. Sounds idyllic. French law does not permit you to wind out the canopy or put out tables and chairs, and you will be parked imagelike sardines if the aire is busy. But it’s an overnight stop not a campsite.

We’ve had the book for a number of years now, but Slaw hasn’t plucked up courage to try an aire yet. Four years ago he considered it. He fitted a gas sensor for if we were gassed in the night in the aire by ne’er do wells. He also bought an air horn for if someone broke in whilst we were sleeping. Needless to say, we didn’t stay in an aire that holiday. The gas sensor didn’t last long as it annoyed me so much I threw it out. Weirdly it went off every time my mobile phone picked up a signal!

I’m currently planning Dora’s 2016 Tour de France and enviously following on Facebook a friend’s trip in her motorhome through France and Spain. She posted a photo of her motorhome parked in an aire in the dunes with a sea view to die for. Out came the book again! Lots of research later and it doesn’t seem as though we’ll be staying an aire yet. Take for example our plan for night #1. Equihen Plage, just below Boulogne. The aire is essentially a car park on the cliff top. Some spaces may have a sea view if you are there early enough to bag one. For the pleasure of parking overnight it will cost 7 euros. The campsite in Equihen Plage, on the other hand, costs 17 euros for the night.

So, back to the question ‘to aire or not to aire?’

Aire – 7 euros. Parked like sardines, no awning, tables or chairs on the car park. If you want to top up your water 3 euros = 10 euros for the night. No showers or loos. No security. Slaw is now sweating, breathing heavily and searching eBay for air horns (the old ones are now out of date and sound like a sick budgie).

Campsite – 17 euros. Own pitch with space around you. Canopy, table and chairs out for the evening wine and the morning coffee (essential for feeling like you are on holiday). Electric hook up, showers and loos. Security barrier to stop the ne’er do wells searching out and attacking Slaw whilst he sleeps.

We may try an aire this time, but I think the small additional amount of 7 euros will sway Slaw to his comforts and his security peace of mind!