First leg motorhoming with a baby: Leaving Portsmouth for Santander

It was a pretty smooth sailing, the receptionist told us as we picked up a movie for Ethan to watch in the ‘Kids Corner’ on the 204 metre ‘’MV Cap Finistere’’ cruise to Santander. ‘‘As smooth as they come’’, she said, not realising I’d just spent the night throwing up! Ethan and Terry on the other hand slept through like babies (well, one has an excuse for that), but little old me, in true Jen-sea-sickness-style, spent the night on the toilet floor swaying and praying for port.

The ferry itself wasn’t what either of us imagined. We expected this small boat, with room for a few cars and caravans. However, to our amazement we turned up to ahuge wannabe  cruise ship! I say ‘wannabe’ as I would have been pretty disappointed if I was sold this to be cruise-like (read the Brittany Ferries Portsmouth to Santander review for more).

We found our cabin, room number 9233 along a corridor of identical rooms on the ninth floor of 11! It was a good size for an indoor bunk bed style cabin, with room to put up the travel cot and still a little space around the sides to move about.

We decided to take some time to explore the cruise liner. It took all of 10 minutes to see each of the 2 ‘entertainment’ floors and outside on the balcony. It was at quite low capacity so not very many people around, and no other babies or children from what we saw. We sat Ethan down for some dinner (a not so yummy tuna pasta bake from a jar, sorry bubs!), and watched the subtitled TV present to the world President Trump’s inauguration. What a fascinating time it has been so far trying to follow the world’s reaction to this in Spanish. I’m taking it from the video footage, it hasn’t gone down too well.

Looking around, we found ourselves surrounded by either fellow Motorhomers, aged 60+ and either Spanish or Moroccan drivers. So we felt obliged to take our little munchkin away from their relative peace and confine ourselves to the less populated areas. Having said that, each and every person who walked by loved seeing Ethan and stopped to say hi or give him a wave. He’s such a happy chap. Actually, scratch that, he’s either super happy or super grumpy (when he’s hungry). He can eat, boy oh boy he can eat!

The view from outside was pretty amazing as we set sail.

After a good night’s sleep for the boys, we took to exploring the ship and finding the ‘play area’ as we still had around 10 hours to kill. I was promised there was one by the booking lady on the phone and was expecting a ball pit, toys and perhaps the odd rocking horse, but I was quite disappointed. The only area designated for play was ‘kids corner’ of which there was a hand drawn sign and a TV. There were even adults sat in this area when we arrived so hardly shaped for children.

We asked the cabin crew (is that what you call them on board a ferry?) for some toys and we were given something resembling a toy a 5 year old would appreciate. Never mind! Our faults for not taking toys on board! There was an outdoor play park with a slide and an empty swimming pool, great for summer time.

After I managed to grab a few short stints of shut eye and Terry walked Ethan up and down the ship, including exploring the outside children’s playground and the dog walking area (yes, they had a dog walking area! All the mod cons), it was time to disembark. We’d arrived in Spain!

After we’d all been given the go ahead to get ready to leave, we sat anxiously in the motorhome CiCi, hoping the GPS signal would arrive so our sat nav could give us directions to our first home for the night. We are using the ‘Aires’ guide books from the publisher Vicarious, which are thoroughly recommended for anyone travelling through France, Spain and Portugal with a camper or motorhome. They basically highlight everywhere you can stay for free (or cheaply) with your motorhome, so perfect for saving some pennies and finding motorhome friendly sites.

As we watched the motorhomes leave the ferry in different directions, our plan to just follow them to the closest Aires site failed before it started, and we knew we’d need the sat nav to guide us (called Novatec (£30), good so far!) Luckily after a short while our location showed up and we were on the road! Eek, on the opposite side of the road don’t forget!

I must say, Terry is a great and confident driver (have I said it now?). He arrived into Spain in a big arse motorhome, and still managed to drive as if he was driving a small mini in Central London. He took to driving on the right hand side perfectly and we weaved our way through Santander onto the motorway and into the countryside. As night drew in, we followed the last few directions from the Aires and arrived in the small village, with a huge car park just for motorhomes! Amazing, so we parked up and set about creating our bedroom for the night. Its worth saying now that upon reflection, we’d chosen to sell our house and move into a motorhome, a tiny space in comparison!

The campervan next to us moved once he heard Ethan cry for his milk. We didn’t blame him for that, we actually thought he just left the site, but when we woke up this morning, he had actually just parked the other side! I’d have done the same to be honest. We weren’t sure how Ethan would cope sleeping in this new environment but he did just fine and woke up his usual happy chappy self!

His quarters are in the overcab of the motorhome. We padded out the mattress up there with extra blankets and sheets and Terry made a fantastic safety barrier out of an old cot. It slides along perfectly and will keep him safe whilst sleeping. We drew the curtains over and he slept soundly. He did wake around midnight so we put him in with us just to be sure he was warm as the air did feel a little on the cool side!

Today, we walked around the local area and went to take a look at the national park here. It was 30 euros each to get into the park, which looked pretty fantastic, but we didn’t go in, just appreciated from a distance. There was a cable car that took you around the park to see all of the animals. We walked around the edge and watched the elephants and buffalo (we think). They roamed along a little watering hole, and it was a cool sight to see, if a little random for our first day in Spain!

Now one of the best tips we received was to bring our travel cot with us. Not only for Ethan to sleep in should we not sleep in the van one night, but also as a play pen. As I did some googling on the next place to visit and Terry did some DIY bits on the van, we popped Ethan into the travel cot, with a load of balls and toys and he loved it. It kept him entertained for at least an hour! Result!

Dinner in the motorhome seems to be working out great. I cooked up some new potatoes, veggie sausages and broccoli tonight, and a lovely pasta dish last night so we are definitely not going hungry!

Wifi on the other hand has not proved successful. We were told we could use our current sims using the ‘feel at home’ package abroad with Three. Basically 2 months of the same phone contract in Europe. However, as much as that is fine on the phone, we planned to hotspot our internet to our laptop so we could blog and keep up with the world.

Unfortunately, you cannot hotspot on the ‘feel at home’ package, so we are now left with a mission to find a local phone shop so we can purchase a Spanish sim or a mifi device to help us get properly back into cyberspace!

All in all, a great start to a long, long learning curve. There is so much to learn when living in a motorhome and we’ve taken up quite a lot of lessons already. Tolerance is the main one, and being patient with each other too. With a wriggling, want to be independent, one year old and a lot of logistically moving about in the van to get things set up for breakfast, driving, sleeping etc, it’s hard to always be smiling! But either painted on or from barrels of laughter (at each other), we are smiling, and loving the adventure already!


  1. Great to read the first instalment on the blog! Keep smiling as you say, it’ll all be a doddle by the time I arrive lol!! Love u all, stay safe, take care. Mum xxx

  2. An amazing start to your incredible journey. Stay safe guys, have fun. Can’t quite believe little Ethan is growing so quickly!
    Take great care of each other.

  3. Awe Ethan looks so happy and content! Great blogging and great photography – the camera is paying off! Love you all xoxox
    Sar and Brad xoxoxo

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