It was a long way to Santander………via Tipperary


We head off on our next adventure one bright, blustery spring morning in our motor home, affectionately known as Cassy. We plan to tour Europe for the next 7 months and on the first leg of our journey we drive south to the ferry port of Cairnryan, near Stranraer. John and I always compare this stretch of road to our honeymoon trip along the Big Sur in California. Perhaps it’s not quite as spectacular, but the small cliffs known as ‘the heads of Ayr’ rise above the deep green sea and the Islands of Arran and Ailsa Craig are a dramatic backdrop to this south Ayrshire coastline. The sun is shining, and the frothy waves crash spectacularly along the rocky shores, as we drive pass Girvan, Lendalfoot and Ballantrae. At Cairnryan we board the Stena line ferry to Belfast and enjoy the trip across the Irish sea. There’s a small cinema on board and even a spa……if only I’d known, I would have brought my cossie on board. We arrive in Belfast harbour mid afternoon and make our way to a campsite on the outskirts of Dublin. Johns been gasping for a Guinness all day and at the Green Isle hotel, a 5-minute walk away from the campsite his wish is granted. We spend the next morning braving the Baltic shower block and then go for a walk around Corkagh Park which is right on our doorstep…… lovely park, shame about the showers!

As we make our way to the next campsite near Tipperary, an engine warning light comes on……’top up your adBlue now, or you may not be able to restart your engine’ our dashboard announces. What’s adBlue we say and why do we need to top it up? We’ve just had a service, so why wasn’t it topped up then! Thanks to google we locate the nearest Peugeot garage which is in Kilkenny, much further west than we planned to be. We make our way there along winding single-track roads, where tractors pull in to let us pass and a small bridge over a stream looks dangerously close to collapse. We arrive at the garage 20 minutes before closing time and by the time our adBlue is topped up and we make to the campsite, it’s dark and absolutely chucking it down! As in the title of a well-known songs ‘it certainly was a long way to Tipperary!’, but then as I remind John, these ‘off piste’ moments are the ones we’ll remember and the making of true adventures.

The next day the rain is still heavy. We make our way to Cork to board the 26-hour ferry to Santander but leave 2 hours later than planned. Our Captain informs us that he had some ‘stowaways’ to deal with. I’m puzzled why anyone from Ireland would want to smuggle themselves to Spain…. mind you, perhaps it’s for the weather! After the Captain announces that the crossing will be ‘moderately rough’ I take my seasickness tablets, but John waits till we are about an hour out of port…. a fatal mistake. He spends the next 20 hours of the crossing in the cabin. As the boat heaves to the left and to the right and spirals over the grey expanse of water known as the Bay of Biscay, John was also doing some heaving in the cabin toilet. I try to while away the time and managed to get to the restaurant, but only by doing a full on ‘Monkeys’ ( that’s the band from the 60’s not the animal) funny walk’. Defeated by the rolling sea I climb into my cabin bed and I’m lulled to sleep by the rocking ship.

By the next morning the swell has settled, and we manage to stomach some breakfast. As we meet the Northern coast of Spain in the late afternoon, it feels like the longest 26 hours of my life and we are both glad to get off the boat and drive to our first Spanish Campsite, which thankfully is only 45 minutes away. The scenery is unexpectedly beautiful. There are snow-capped mountains in the distance and lush green meadows rolling onto wide windswept golden beaches, it feels alpine, rather than Spanish.  We arrive at our campsite in time for a lovely walk to the beach and try out some Spanish cuisine at the campsite restaurant. ‘Bonjour’, I say…pleased that I’m attempting the local lingo. The waitress smiles and its only later that I realise that we are in Spain, not France! I think all that sailing has frazzled my brain…. that’s my excuse anyway!


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