Good Idea

When I started playing tennis I often played with a woman named Frankie. She was over 80 and had flowing long silver hair. She didn’t run, but her ball placement was impeccable. I tried to emulate her but the result was usually a disaster. After my failures she would look at me, smile and say, “Good idea”. She liked that I tried but clearly there was space for improvement.


I came up a “good idea” last October. We had been traveling a lot and found it stressful to be in different beds each night lugging our gear between destinations.  My idea was that we would rent a campervan (think Scooby-mobile) and travel through Southern Spain. With the camper our beds and belongings would move with us and we would avoid all the loading and unloading. I fantasized that we would explore country roads, stop for picnics, stroll though historic towns and spend our nights in camp grounds next to babbling brooks.

Good idea right???

So I booked it.

We flew to Southern Spain and picked up our campervan cheerily named “Pepa”. Pepa was cute, clean and well equipped. We were all impressed. After our technical orientation and cramming our stuff into the very limited storage we hit the road.

It was only a few miles outside of town that I started to wonder if my “good idea” might be a little ill-conceived. The backseat of the van, which cleverly turned into a bed, was uncomfortable for long drives. There was quite a bit of complaining and readjusting but finally it was OK. Pfhew…problem solved.


And then we arrived in our campground in Granada. It had not occurred to me that urban campgrounds are crowded, dirty, noisy and located where land is cheap…which is to say, not close to the quaint, historic center of town. My mood darkened when the teenagers next to us turned on their music and I glimpsed the dark-green, frothy swimming pool. We ventured out of our campground for dinner and ended up in an empty Chinese restaurant with gooey, bland food. We finally went to bed only to be awoken at 12:15am when then kids next to us were being noisy. Thankfully, a shrill “Chicos! Silencio por favor!” from me shut them up.

We did enjoy seeing Granada, the Alhambra, and the processions of penitents in celebration of Semana Santa (holy week) before Easter. I was optimistic that things would look up.

And then it was onto Cordoba.

The campground there was even grimmer. We were initially given a

Children that have given up.

site that looked like a converted animal pen so I complained and we were moved to a site with a lone eucalyptus tree. Again we were far from the city center but we hoofed it into town to have dinner and see more penitents. I decided to buy a pillow in hopes that my mood would improve with a better night’s sleep. It didn’t. The next morning I decided to brave the showers. There was a long row of showers stall and a line of hooks outside each one where each woman hung her towel and clothes. When I walked out of my stall I was confronted by the dirty, crusty thong underwear of some other camper.

I knew something had to CHANGE and fast.

So I cried.

Ditched our camper for a carriage in Seville.

And then I started looking into hotel options. Almost everything was booked since it was Holy Week and we need a room for four people. For the obscene price 385Euros ($531)/ night we would be could have a nice room in a nice place in the center of Seville. Mike was ambivalent (ok, a little opposed) but after mulling it over and doing more research he said, “Book it!!” I did and onto Seville we went.

We got to Seville, ditched the camper at the train station, took a cab to our hotel and checked in. It was spacious, clean, and quiet, and the dirty clothes were our own. After a few blissful days without Pepa we took a cab back to the train station and resumed our adventure on four wheels

We were headed to Arcos de la Frontera, one of the famed white hill towns. We knew camping here would be a problem so we had already booked a hotel room in an inn perched on the side of a steep slope. We tried to drive to our hotel but our beast of a vehicle couldn’t make it up and into the little streets. We had become the kind of tourists that people point and laugh at. After skidding and sliding on a steep hill we backed down and sheepishly ditched the van. We now had to walk about a mile uphill with our luggage to our hotel.

Bull running Easter morning

We finally got there and it was super cute BUT….the innkeeper told us that we had actually reserved our room for the previous night and there was “no space at the inn” and since the room was prepaid there was no refund. Amazingly our innkeeper was able to find us another place close by.

Arcos was beautiful and we did finally enjoy a picnic next to a stream. We also were there for the running of the bulls which was fun although over in about 20 seconds.

Our last day of exploring southern Spain was beautiful but very windy and blustery. Ronda and Grazalema were gorgeous little towns hanging from cliffs and definitely places we want to go back to.
We took the long route through the mountains and spent our last night happily in a cute campground with a beautiful swimming pool. The kids played with each other and we had a glass of wine along with our pasta dinner. We had gotten used to sleeping in close quarters and there was peace in the kingdom.

So what did we learn???

Mixing camping and seeing historic towns was a bad idea especially in high season. But each done separately is great. And, just like my angled shot at the net in tennis how we travel continues to be a work in progress.

Good idea but clearly there is space for improvement

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