Campervan adventures in Spain with Rick Stein
It was a mistake to use my beloved campervan on the new series of Rick Stein’s Spain. It will never be the same again. We were thinking of getting a little SEAT 600, the type of car used in the film of Graham Greene’s novel Monsignor Quixote starring Alec Guinness, but it was far too small to carry Rick and the crew, plus all the equipment. In the end it was the man who composes all of our lovely music, Malcolm Ironton, who suggested my campervan would be the perfect vehicle for such a journey.
Rick regarded the VW camper as his Rocinante after the tired old nag that Don Quixote rode on his famous adventures in La Mancha. He got very excited about the prospect of cooking in it. We were at the start of our journey near Cap Finisterre in Galica when he discovered numerous tins of beans, stewing steak and corned beef in the camper’s larder. “We won’t be needing these,” he said in a slightly superior way, “No, I’m planning to go to markets and cook real Spanish food… not tins of beans.” In fact, as it turned out cooking would be the easy bit – it was driving that proved to be a bit of a nightmare.
The brave Don Quixote had more chance of discovering the Holy Grail than Rick did of finding first gear in the campervan’s forgiving gearbox. “Crunch! Scrawnch! Kerrang!” would be the sounds that greeted us after breakfast as we set off for a new leg of the journey. My spirits plummeted – how could I let this happen? After all, I’ve had this lovely old vehicle for over fifteen years. Memories of happy holidays, a sense of freedom and delicious meals are all wrapped up in the persona of this very special campervan.
“This ***ing gearbox is crap!” Rick would shout fairly often as he shifted gears, taking pot luck on which one to choose. This amused the film crew no end and sometimes they’d clap when he found the right one. I’d give them my ‘stare of a thousand deaths’, but they still continued to giggle like naughty children. In the end I decided not to travel in the camper, it was more than my nerves could take and instead I chose to go in the crew car. Please don’t think Rick and I fell out about this, he’s still my second best friend and I really do think he’s the best cook on television by a very long way – but driving the campervan or ‘Campy’ as she’s affectionately known, caused us a few headaches.
Sometimes we in the crew car would go ahead and find a vantage point to film Campy. I remember seeing the camper as a little white speck in a vast valley in the Picos mountains in Asturias. The warm air would be full of birdsong and bees going about their business until Campy got closer to the camera. “Scrawnch! Kerrang! Kerrunch!” could clearly be heard as she bravely huffed and puffed up steep mountain passes. Sometimes Rick would surprise us and leave the handbrake on, leaving pretty trails of white smoke as Campy did her best to speed through the landscape of Rioja. If that wasn’t bad enough finding reverse proved to be the impossible dream. Another nail in Campy’s coffin but that’s another story...