Sounio, Attica, Greece, October 29, 2008
We've been on the road now for 6 months, so we're about halfway through our trip. Some of you may be wondering how we manage to cook, clean, do our laundry etc in such a small space, so here's a brief summary.
COOKING. With 3 gas burners and a very small grill/oven our culinary efforts are a bit limited, and there's not a lot of room for food preparation or storage, but despite that we manage to eat well. Whenever we've gone on self-catering holidays in the past John has done most of the cooking, and the same is true on this trip, though I am the risotto queen! We have a lot of pasta of course, and sausage and mash - we could write a book on The Sausages of Europe. But we sometimes have casseroles and even the occasional very small roast. Lunch is often bread and cheese, both of which are invariably delicious, no matter which country we're in, or ham sandwiches, or salad. Sometimes we use our small gas barbecue, although a lot of places don't allow this because of the risk of fire.
FOOD SHOPPING. The ideal would be to buy delicious fresh local produce at markets, but that isn't so easy in reality and we mostly use supermarkets. We've come across a great variety, including some excellent ones in unexpected places - an Albert Hypermarket in a village on the outskirts of Prague, a brand-new Billa in Veliko Tarnovo, and an absolutely massive Tesco in Poprad, Slovakia. Local butchers can be a bit scary, with huge bloody slabs of meat, whole carcases on hooks, or pigs' heads looking at you with milky eyes. I suppose English butchers were like that at one time! In a market in Alexandroupoli we saw cages of live chickens for sale - take one home, wring its neck and pluck it!! So we tend to use convenience foods quite a lot. Getting fresh milk has sometimes been a problem as most Europeans seem to use the longlife sort. We brought a huge amount of English teabags with us but they eventually ran out and we had to buy the weak, weedy stuff that passes for tea over here. John is struggling to find decent marmalade - it tends to be a sort of orange-flavoured jelly which is a pale shadow of the English type!
WASHING UP. If it's only a small amount, we do it in the caravan. Otherwise we use the site facilities. All campsites have washing-up sinks, often in the open air except for an overhanging roof. It can be quite a sociable occasion in a busy site! Top tip - take your own washing-up bowl over, as there are rarely any plugs in the sinks.
LAUNDRY. On a 2-week holiday, this isn't a problem, as you just take it home afterwards and bung it in the machine! But we have to keep on top of our washing as we travel, including of course towels and bedding. Many sites have washing machines which cost anything from 2 to 5 euros a go. A few also have tumble driers. If not, getting it dry when the weather's poor is a problem! There have been times when the caravan has been festooned with damp clothes. When there is no washing machine I try and do a bit of hand-washing every day to keep on top of things, bearing in mind we didn't have enough room to bring a lot of clothes with us. To be honest, we're wearing things for longer before washing them than if we were at home! As for ironing, I have a travel iron and manage very well on our table, using a towel as padding. Again, I'm not bothering to iron a lot of things that I would do if at home. Whoops, standards are slipping!
CLEANING. The great thing about living in a caravan is that you can clean it from top to bottom in about 20 minutes! A quick dust and wipe round, brush the floor, clean the bathroom - it takes no time at all. The only problem is you have to use special cleaning products, as the plumbing is plastic and strong stuff like Cif would damage it. Milton baby-bottle sterilising fluid is a godsend for cleaning stained sinks.
It's amazing how easily we've adapted to the travelling life. There's so much freedom - no phone calls, no post, no social obligations, no lawn to mow or hoovering or decorating. I wonder how we'll cope when we get back to "normal" life!