I'd taken my Elddis Avanté in for a service at the local mechanic's garage before my wife and I set off on our next sojourn to Europe. We'd driven across France many times before, first in our car, then in a rented motorhome. We'd both enjoyed it so much that we'd brought the Elddis a year after that trip. I still think it's the best way to journey in comfort and style. On top of that, the Elddis handled beautifully, and it meant you could take what you liked with you, within reason. No more struggling to stuff the travel kit in the boot for us!
I'd promised Sarah one last trip before Brexit could happen and make things a bit harder. We planned to drive into Spain this time, as we had contented ourselves with France alone for all our previous excursions. Brexit wouldn't stop us travelling of course, but going through multiple countries was likely to be complicated by needing one or more international driving permits. I knew we were going to at least need one to drive through France, if there was no deal and no transition period, but hadn't yet checked what you would need for Spain. I strongly suspected you had to get another permit to drive in Spain though. It was something to do with the permits having different dates. To save ourselves hassle, we agreed to take the trip before it could happen. It would also save us getting a green insurance card and a GB sticker for the vehicle, both of which the government said would be required whether or not a deal was done. We also didn't fancy having to apply for the green card a month in advance, or having to take our vehicle log book with us either, if it could be helped.
Thus, I found myself in the waiting area of the garage, tea in hand, feeling pleased with myself for managing to get so organised. I remembered a serious oversight I had almost made on my first trip abroad and smiled to myself. I hadn't known you had to do that the first time we went, until Sarah had mentioned something the night before we went. I laugh to think of the panic I felt then. How could I not have thought that by my headlamps would be dazzling oncoming drivers in France and Spain, since they both drive on the right side of the road? How dangerous was that?
Needless to say, that was how I discovered that my car had switchable projector headlights, thank goodness. I found the right lever and switched from left-hand drive to right-hand drive and was able to change the position of the beam, too. I always make sure I carry some spare beam adaptors with me now, just in case I ever couldn't adjust it for whatever reason. Sarah was always most amused by this habit, reminding me that the European Travel Kit we always took included those. She knew it eased my mind though, so made no objection.
I looked up from nursing my tea when I heard someone else come in, thinking they might have finished with the service. Instead, a member of the staff led another man in. He had the hood of his jacket raised against the light drizzle falling outside and looked thoroughly miserable. The excellent staff soon had him sat with a warm brew of his own, telling him the service to his car wouldn't take too long. Unable to resist it, as I watched him warm his hands on his mug, I spoke.
"Lovely weather, isn't it?" He glanced at me and smirked. "Too right it is. Thank God I'll be in Spain in couple of weeks. Hopefully find some better weather there." "How funny. I'm off there in a week myself. The wife and I are going to drive there. Thought we'd get in quick before Brexit happens."
He grinned and raised his mug in a sort of ironic salute. "Great minds think alike. Diane had a similar idea, though she says I agreed so quickly because I'd be able to save a few quid on the permits if we went beforehand. She's under the impression I'd do anything to save money." I laughed. "Nothing wrong with that. Got your driving kit for France sorted then?" "Yeah, breathalysers, first aid kit, warning triangles, beam converters and all!"
"Don't forget the hi-vis jacket, or your bulb kit, never know when that might come in handy. And the GB plate." I said. "Relax. I've even got a handbook, road map and canvass carry bag in mine." "Sorry, Sarah always says I'm obsessed."
He waved it off, and I went on. "So anyway, where are you planning to drive to, while you're there?". "Thought we'd take a drive up into the Andalusian Mountains. There's some smashing views on that route, especially if you drive along the coast up to Málaga. Really beautiful. And there's nothing like the rolling Andalusian hills. We might go to Picos de Europa as well, if we can manage it. That's gorgeous to drive through, what with all those twisting turns and gorges. Apart from that we're just going to go with the flow. What about you?"
The next half hour was spent in a very agreeable way, with me nattering on about how we planned to drive from the French border to Barcelona. A relatively short drive for our first trip there. I said we were planning to drive along the Gulf of Roses. He nodded at this. Then he recommended a drive to Valencia. This was, according to him, one of the most beautiful regions of Spain, boasting wonderful landscapes and was well worth the drive.
I was almost disappointed when, half an hour later, they came to tell me the service to the motorhome was finished. I paid up and shook the man's hand before I left, wishing him a great trip. I left there more excited than ever about our impeding drive across France and Spain, thoroughly enthused. I headed home, intending to double check my travel kit one more time, feeling cheerful despite the cold rain. Who knew the best place for a good gossip would turn out to be at a mechanic's garage?