Family returns from 25,000 mile motorhome holiday
The Hurst family embarked upon an epic 25,000 mile journey across 12 countries
Wednesday, 29, Jun 2016 11:57
by Joe Jeffrey
12 countries and 25,000 miles later, the Hurst family return to weigh up their favourite destinations
For most of us, getting away from it all consists of hitting the road to travel to our favourite holiday park in our motorhomes or with our caravans in tow, anticipating what the weekend has in store - even more of a bonus if our time spent away falls on a bank holiday. One family, however, took the notion of a family holiday to the extreme, hitting the road to take in 12 countries on an epic 12-month, 25,000 mile motorhome journey.
David Hurst and his wife, Debs, their two young boys, Daniel, six, and Darley, four, and the family pet, Mr Colin dog, decided to explore the world in their Swift Escape 696 motorhome after falling in love with the freedom a motorhome offered them during their first family trip to Spain in a hired Swift Escape 686 in 2014. After returning from their holiday they took the decision to downsize their family home and purchase a Swift Escape 696, in what was the start of a new chapter in their lives, seeing them embark upon their Face2Facebook project - a move which saw them travel the UK and Europe to visit their Facebook friends and family.
Fast forward to 2015, and the motorhome bug saw the Hursts embark upon an even more exciting adventure they labelled 'Education by Astonishment,' which saw David and Debs take the decision to remove their eldest son from school for a while to enhance his learning in exciting and new environments, whilst sticking to a home schooling regime that followed the British National Curriculum subjects.
Over the course of the 12 months that followed, the Hursts travelled across 12 countries, covering 25,000 miles and, now, upon his family's return to the UK, David Hurst has spoken to the Daily Mail to give his verdict on the places he and his family enjoyed the most. Read on below to find out.
South of France
France offers the warmest welcome to motorhomers due to its amazing network of 'aires' - special motorhome overnight parking areas that are usually provided by local authorities, or sometimes by enterprising locals.
Complete with services to empty waste and fill up with fresh water, most are free or cost just a few euros for water and electricity (however, unlike campsites, most don't provide showers).
Throughout Europe - though not in Britain - aires are often in wonderful settings beside pretty lakes or rivers, or near mountains, as we discovered in the stunning Parc National des Cevennes.
This protected landscape full of rivers and ravines is just an hour from the cool city of Montpellier, where students make up a third of the population.
Beware hairpin bends and narrow ledges on the mountain roads, but the views are worth it.
From all our travels, the most motorhome parking places were found in the South of France.
The aire by the 16th Century Notre-Dame chapel at Bagnols-en-Foret, close to Saint Tropez, was magnificent - and cost the princely sum of £4.60 a night.
The green north of Spain is definitely worth a visit. We took the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Santander and visited the cities of Bilbao, Gijon and Santiago de Compostela, which are all splendid. There are miles of unspoilt beaches to explore, much like those in our West Country - and the area is just as verdant, thanks to its rainfall.
We spent an enchanting evening at O Vicedo, facing a fishing harbour with a restaurant serving catch just hauled from the boats.
Close by was one of the most beautiful, sparkling white-sanded coves, which we had all to ourselves. The next night we stayed by the stunning Playa de Frexulje beach, next to a eucalyptus forest.
As well as aires and excellent campsites, Spain also has a growing number of 'camperstops', a cross between an aire and a campsite. These cost about £7.80 a night.
We had no idea how pretty Belgium can be. One of the best aires of our travels was at Bouillon, a town sitting on a U-shaped bend of the River Semois.
The aire, reached by crossing a medieval bridge, is in a forested area close to the centre of town, with great views of the commanding castle. There are lovely riverside restaurants, and a playground received majestic approval from our boys - Daniel, six, and Darley, four. And the peaceful riverside walks were popular with my wife Debs and our collie, Colin. Me? I enjoyed both walks and playground in equal measure.
Although Morocco is in Africa, most travel insurance covers Morocco under 'Europe' - yet there still seems to be a reluctance among many of the huge British motorhome community that makes southern Spain their base every winter to take the hour-long ferry from Algeciras to Tangier.
At times we had to pinch ourselves to check we hadn't been transported to somewhere 2,000 years ago as we repeatedly drove past shepherds dressed in hooded djellabas walking their small flocks.
The roads were generally fine -from what we saw on our return trip to Fez, they were comparable to those in Britain.
Our favourite place was the mystical mountain town of Chefchaouen in the Rif mountains.
Here, every building, street and even trees are painted blue, something started in the 1930s by Jewish dwellers who thought it would keep mosquitoes away as the pesky insects don't like running water.
We stayed at Camping Azilan campsite (it cost about £10 a night) that was a pleasant spot, although hot water is a luxury not found on too many Moroccan campsites.
A word of warning: when entering the country, ensure you have the correct documents, including a temporary importation of vehicle form.
The sun-baked southernmost region of Spain is rich in culture, history and scenery.
With windows open and a warm breeze drifting in, every mile was a joy to drive, the roads usually as smooth as the Mediterranean in the morning. The cities of Granada, Malaga and Cordoba have ample free parking.
The N-340 coast road between Malaga and Estepona is busy - but anywhere inland or east of Malaga is pretty quiet.
Don't miss the charming town and beaches of Nerja, and Torrox is another fantastic beachside town, with the original pretty white pueblo (village) a mile inland.
At the friendly El Pino campsite, you can stay under the shade of its avocado trees.
Weather experts say that it has the best climate in Europe - wonderful when you park your home on wheels and open the door to know that your 'garden' outside can go on for ever, with views of North Africa across the Alboran Sea.