Although the title of this piece may sound as if some disaster may have befallen us, I’m pleased and delighted to impart that no such thing has occurred. In fact, having sensibly acquired a motor-home- specific Satnav (in the form of the thoroughly recommendable Garmin Camper 770 with extra SD card so we can take ALL of Europe with us) this piece has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Jeopardy-Free Zone, so if it’s a swashbuckling tale of adventure you’ve tuned in for, you’d be better off switching channels now, OK?
The lessons learnt are simply those observations we’ve been making as our trusty Knumptywagen has so far rattled us a healthy 977 miles across Europe to pit-stop in Bergamo, Italy in just the 4 days since we left the UK.
Lesson 1: Abroad, there are many motorcyclists. If one overtakes you, there are more. Always a minimum of two, and more often than not a whole shoal of them, weaving past you and then exercising a slightly unnerving stretching-their-legs-exercise (which we’re assuming may be some sort of secret sign, shared and known only amongst themselves, possibly to mean: “You stupid Brits and your stupid Brexit and that stupid Oaf Cameron who started it all and why don’t you just all eff-off out of it and leave us to our own foreign-ness, eh?”)
Lesson 2: If a motorcyclist is travelling solo, it’s odds-on that he’s on a moped and may therefore be safely overtaken. Optional “eff-off” hand signals may be used (in retribution for his fellow-motorcyclists’ Brexit foot-waggling) but bear in mind that the size of your motorhome may well have obscured his view of your hand-signals anyway, rendering them a complete waste of time, effort and nationalistic bravado.
Lesson 3: When motorcyclists have gathered en-masse for a rest-stop and removed their helmets, they are ALL hairy blokes who are ALL older than you.
Lesson 4: Or, exceptionally, when some other motorcyclists remove their helmets at rest-stops, they are women. These are ALL always younger than you.
Lesson 5: Where have all the Brits gone? (Well, strictly speaking, not actually a lesson, but last year touring the West Coast of France, we were bloody everywhere.) Now, there are very few of our fellow Brits on the road at this time of year. In any form of vehicle whatsoever. In fact in terms of number-plates spotted and waved madly at, we’re still in single figures. (Good job then, that we weren’t playing Number-plate Cricket – or any other travelling road game designed to keep us distracted on long journeys. No matter how old we are.)
Lesson 5: If you visit a Champagne house in Epernay at 11-o-clock in the morning and indulge in a tasting, even though it was the budget single-glass option and not the full five, you WILL accidentally buy an entire case, then remember you’ve parked the van on the opposite side of town and will have to carry the heavy box all the way back to it.
Lesson 6: The one-way traffic system in Epernay prevents you bringing the van to the Champagne house and your shoulders will therefore subsequently ache for 24-48 hours as a salutary reminder to curb your impulsive nature, even though it was classed as discretionary holiday expenditure at the time.
Lesson 7: You can get away with overnight ‘wild’ camping almost anywhere, as long as you’re discreet about your intentions until everyone else has left the car-park you’ve barged your oversized bulk into. Only then should you put your levelling ramps out. Leave no litter, empty no waste-water and draw all your blinds before you put your flash new LED interior lights on. And don’t forget to close the black-out blinds behind your drawn net curtains, otherwise those local residents peering suspiciously at you after nightfall are going to think they’re watching a home-grown and silent version of the opening credits from 1995’s James Bond film, ‘Goldeneye’ as you prepare for bed. (Younger Millennials: please see https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qGPBFvDz_HM)
Lesson 8: As you progress higher and higher into the Alps, your ears ‘pop’ from the difference in pressure. Swallow hard to clear it and do not – under any circumstances – release the built-up pressure in your toilet-cassette until you’re back at sea-level again. Disastrous consequences will befall you if you do not heed this cautionary advice.
Lesson 9: Italians on campsites enjoy standing around in groups and speaking very loudly to each other. I tell you, you won’t find this sort of antisocial behaviour in Keswick, oh no.
Lesson 10: Future blogs – when nothing particularly exciting has happened to us – may well utilise this thinly-disguised and allegedly knowledge-imparting device as a recurring theme, for which – under UNESCO guidelines – the author makes no apologies.