October 29, 2004

Living in a Caravan

After a long half-term, I needed a change of scenery. Fortunately, we had planned ahead for this possibility and booked a holiday in Scotland. Admittedly, most people do not book holidays for late October in Scotland, particularly if they are hoping to spend some time in the sun. However, Mrs H had never been north of the border and I hadn't been there for 12 years, so it seemed like a good opportunity.

We had been made aware of a special offer in the Daily Express with British Holidays, who run caravan parks across the country. As this is not a common mode of vacation in the States, perhaps I should explain. In this country, there is a proliferation of holiday parks. They consist of a huge expanse of trailer houses ("static caravans" in the local parlance) which are rented on a weekly basis (or in cases of short breaks such as ours, four nights). It is a good thing that tornados are a rarity in the UK. The park also includes various amenties, such as children's areas and nightly live entertainment.

According to the offer in the Express, we could get four nights for 38. Wow! What a deal! We had to specify four choices of location in order of preference. We collected our coupons from the newspaper and sent off our cheque. We got all the information back about our allocated park, including all of the additional charges. There was the 4 per night for gas and electric. There was the 20 each for the entertainment passes, which apparently were required even if we didn't want to be entertained. We had to pay a deposit for linen. If we wanted heat in the bedrooms it would be an additional 60! We declined. We discovered that our promotional deal was the same as the regular off-season rate for the park to which we were allocated.

Eventually our 38 holiday became a 80 holiday and they kept trying to sell us more extras. 80 would only get us an old caravan. If we wanted a newer model that didn't have dog hair everywhere, it would be an additional 20. We declined. We were repeatedly assured however, that we would be given a handicap-equipped trailer.

The park office closes promptly at 5:00, so we were told that if we would be late, we needed to ring ahead to arrange to pick up the keys. We did and eventually tracked down the person with the keys and found the trailer. It was an interesting first night.

Despite our 4, there was no gas. The fire in the living room would light but not emit any heat. The gas stove wouldn't even light. Thus there was no means of cooking dinner. Not that you could really see to cook, because the light in the kitchen was out. The temperature in the lowlands of Scotland that night was in the low single digits Celsius. Not only was there no heat in the bedrooms - the covers were light summer duvets.

Then there was the bathroom. It included a shower with the deep lip on the door and no means of support. Not exactly designed with a cripple in mind.

They replaced the gas bottle early in the morning before we got up. When Mrs H went to complain about the situation, the woman was not particularly sympathetic to our plight. Despite representations on the telephone to contrary, handicap facilities are not available on promotional offers. Never mind that we were, in fact, paying the full rate. When Mrs H insisted that I at least needed a stool on which to sit and balance, they delivered an apholstered stool which must have come from the bar in the entertainment "complex".

I have to say that my first experience of a British caravan holiday (as opposed to camping with a motor home or travel trailer in the States) was enlightening. I'll have more to say about other aspects of our time up north.

Posted by david at October 29, 2004 11:51 PM | TrackBack
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