April 10, 2023
After close to a year’s building of our campervan, going by the name North, we finally accomplished the transformation of what used to be a delivery van to what is now our home. About a year ago, from the time of writing, we had literally just picked up the van from the Netherlands and managed to transport it into Norway, our place of residence in most of 2022. Now, it was about to leave for our long-term travel…
The last few months, especially the last weeks up to April 10th had been rather hectic, as we had given ourselves a self-imposed deadline, in the form of a buswarming party inviting our friends and family to witness the final result of our 11-month project. It was a fantastic day, partly thanks to the sun shining, but mostly thanks to all the great friends and family that came to admire North! After celebrating and saying goodbye (for now), we spent our last few days in the Netherlands with some administrative chores, insurance arrangements, camper taxation and final technical check-ups, we left the Netherlands on the morning of April 10th, driving across the Belgian border, chasing the sun.
We were aware we had a bit of journey ahead as we were aiming for Spain and given the time of year, the weather in Belgium and even France didn’t live up to what we were aiming for, so the first few days mostly consisted of driving. A bit wary the whole van would stick together, as it was the first long-distance drive since North was fully packed and loaded, we did cross each other’s face a few times after hearing an unknown sound. Luckily there wasn’t any reason for panic, as we arrived in France in one piece in the early evening.
We started our search for a nice place to spend the first night abroad in our van and got our first reality check with our time of travel and with the fact we were driving without any detailed plan. Almost no campground in Northern France had opened for the season which let to driving up to multiple closed gates, a couple unanswered phone calls and an unfortunate roadkill (poor pheasant hit the front windshield on her evening flight). After numerous attempts, using our newest installed app, Park4Night, we found an open campground. Upon arrival we were met by a friendly French host we took his time showing Laura around the grounds (it literally took about 10-15 minutes before she returned) after we learned there was no possibility to pay by card. At least, that’s as far as our French got us to understanding. Rowan jumped in the car as the host suggested and they drove off to a local garage – which happened to be owned by the campground host’s son – to settle the transaction over there. After all, we got to bed around 10PM and were mostly happy we found a spot.
The next couple of days we traversed most of France. The rain followed us (actually it was kind of everywhere in France) and we had no intention sticking around in the muddy places, although the campgrounds we came by were quite decent.
On the 13th of April, we reached Northern Spain and … sunshine. After carefully considering the weather forecast, it appeared it had been a right decision to cross the Pyrenees and make it into Spain’s finest wine region, the Rioja valley. As we are both fond of Rioja wines – and our happy furry friend of sniffing them – we made our way to Logrono, the so-called capital of the Rioja. On the way we had a short pit-stop at Haro, to get Moose checked up by the local vet (thumbs up for their friendliness and availability) as his paw was hurt, which appeared to be a broken nail. Not ideal, but some spray treatment (probably high alcohol Rioja wine) was advised to be sprayed for the next weeks.
Whilst Laura spend here time in the vet clinic, Rowan avidly searched for a parking spot in the tiny town for North, who only measures about 7m… Crossing through town, taking a couple of right-hand turns, following the road around the corner and there it was, a 2.20m high bridge, right about 70cm lower than the van’s roof. Luckily spotted timely so no harm was done, but reverse driving in the narrow streets of Spanish towns isn’t a a fast manouvre business. Positive however, by the time North was free on the road again, the happy corgi was already standing outside the vet’s clinic, waiting for his pick-up (oh and we decided to take Laura too).
On to Logrono! For our experiences, best pinchos and vineyards to visit, please read part two of our travels to Spain and Portugal.