ON THE ROAD IN EUROPE
MELODIE SHAKESPEAR AND HER BOYFRIEND HARRY DE ROTH SWAPPED THEIR COSY HOME IN CORNWALL, FOR A FEW MONTHS OF FREEDOM.
Packing for our van adventure was so exciting. I hadn’t done anything like this since I was much younger. It’s so much easier taking a home on wheels than stuffing everything into a suitcase. With no return ticket or time schedule we could go wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted – and it felt so good.
Our adventure took us along the coastlines of France, Spain and Portugal, including Brittany, Hossegor, Biarritz and The Pyrenees; Zarautz, the Wavegarden Cove and Barcelona; then Peniche, Ericeira, Figueira da Foz and Lisbon.
One of the highs was hanging out in Hossegor. It will always be a special place for me, as it’s where Harry and I first met. The waves are also really fun – from perfect barrels to left and right walls. When the sun was shining and the surf was up we’d spend all day on the beach, but even on flat days there are things to do, from wandering around the cool town to finding skate parks indoors or eating moules frites at our favourite restaurant.
Another high was a spontaneous daytrip to Barcelona. We spent all day wandering through the palm-littered city, quirky little back streets and the beach, eyeing up the incredible Gaudi buildings and enjoying the foodie scene. We were also lucky enough to be invited to the Wavegarden Cove in Basque country. I caught 50 waves, which were all perfect right-handers; it blew my mind. “On the road in a van you’ s so many amazing sights, camp in incredible spots by the beach, experience sunsets that wi blow your mind and m t c l people along the way.”
On every van trip there will be lows: consecutive days of rain, rubbish waves, feeling homesick, wanting to rip Harry’s head off and no WiFi. But these moments only make the highs even sweeter. One of our lows was having our video camera stolen with all of our surf clips on it. So always make sure you keep your eye on your belongings at the beach.
Our biggest low was breaking down in the middle of the Pyrenees, when we decided to take the no-toll route back from Barcelona to Hossegor. It was the alternator that went, which is quite easy to fix, but unfortunately we broke down on a public holiday, up a mountain and two hours drive from any garage (which apparently meant we weren’t covered on our insurance – so make sure you always read the small print before going on a trip). We were stuck up that mountain for two days, freezing cold with very little food or water; it was a nightmare. €600 and three days later we were back on the road.
Before we left home we stocked up on condiments, pasta, sauces, tins of food, hot chocolate, tea bags, soups and all of the essentials needed to start your meals. All around Europe you’ll find Lidl supermarkets – the perfect pit stop to stock up and fill up from the epic bakery. Always carry your own bags with you, as they seem to love handing out a load of unnecessary plastic bags.
We also made sure that we checked into a campsite once a week to give the van a nice cleanout, have showers, get our laundry done and give our dishes a proper clean. Always carry something to make a washing line from, as there is nothing worse than having stinky wet wetsuits and towels hanging around in the van.
My biggest tip is don’t leave any valuables on display. Also try and pick up rubbish off the beach wherever you go; it will make you feel good and definitely make a difference. Finally, bring a pack of cards – they will definitely be needed.
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With no return ticket or time schedule we could go wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted – and it felt so g d.