Vignettes from a Lifetime of Travel

T is for Tent


It must be January – radio and TV commercials for holidays,  flights,  travel expos  – and camping.  There was an ad on the radio this morning promoting air tents that can be set up in minutes …..  Now that brought me back…..


I can still remember the excitement of heading off on our first real camping trip.  Barry,  I’ve just about forgiven you for pawning that horror of a tent off on your little brother all those years ago.

The canvas was all in one piece so the groundsheet was attached to the sides and roof.    That meant that the whole thing had to assembled from within.

In true boyscout style,   the poles had been colour coded with masking tape.   It was downhill from there.   Two of the original poles had vanished and been replaced with pipes that never quite fitted but still had to be wrestled into the frame.   There was a massive hole in one corner that had to be bandaged with plastic bags and tape every day.

We didn’t travel light – the Renault 18 was packed from floor to roof in both back seat and  boot.

It took at least 2 hours to unpack and erect the tent and about 90 minutes to pull camp.

That summer of 1986,  we went to Italy for 6 weeks.  Thinking back,  I reckon we pitched tent 14 times,  grappling with ill fitting poles inside the canvas in sweltering heat.   We got faster at packing the car but never mastered that tent!

Scan_20200120(En route to Italy,  July 1986)


I don’t know where we got the money to buy a new tent the following year but even back then,  we reckoned life was too short to face another summer with that monstrosity.  Over the next few years our camping skills evolved into quite a slick operation.  We bought a 2 man tent which meant we had something handy for the transit nights instead of putting up the big tent.  We bought a nice picnic table,  2 cool loungers,  matching ice boxes…. we had it mastered!

And then along came baby!!

Car seat,  buggy,  travel cot,  clothes,  toys ……

Time for a roof box!

Scan_20200120 (2)(France, 1991)


Our camping holidays were rejuvenated on several occasions over the following years – various tents,  caravan,  trailer tent,  RV…..

To this day,  my favourite trips are self drive and without a doubt that’s a throw back to the freedom of those wonderful camping holidays.

Its been a while but I don’t think our camping years are behind us – I look forward to heading back to Lazise on Lake Garda or maybe the northern Spanish coast.   Can I face pitching a tent again?   Well… maybe I’ll have a look at these poleless options before deciding!




Wow…. look how far we have come!!!


Scan_20200120 (3)(Glamping in Tanzania,  2006)


20181030_153153(Oman,  2018!)



14 thoughts on “Vignettes from a Lifetime of Travel

  1. I love how much tents have evolved over the past couple of decades. I grew up camping and it’s something that I’ve only done more of the older I get. The most important thing that I’ve learned is that investing in good gear really matters during inclement weather.

    1. Definitely – although I’d consider myself very much a fair weather camper!!! Never camped much here in Ireland – couldn’t bear waking up in the cold or rain! Give me Spain or Italy any time!

  2. I was a Scout in the 1950s, and remember me and my friends hauling our gear from the nearest railway station to the camp site in our ‘trek cart’. After putting up those antiquated monstrosities ( for some reason, they always smelled of stale cheese!) neither our family frame tent nor my expedition tent held any terrors.

    1. Tom was in the Scouts also and never lost that camping bug – it was he who introduced me to the scene. Mind you – scout camping in Ireland wasn’t quite the same as camping on the continent!

  3. I never had the pleasure of camping when I was young as my grandparents lied on a farm and we were all sent to them for our summer holidays – but we loved it. Looking at your photos I see the perfect evolution of a travelling life and a happy family life. Good for you.

    1. I was the same – spent all holidays with grandparents in County Donegal. Our first ‘holiday’ was to County Kerry when I was about 13 or 14 yrs old. Little did I think back then I’d see so much of the world!!

  4. Gosh Marie , you were so posh in your trailer tent when we met up with ye in Tuscany all those years ago!!!

  5. Awh Marie ! Those last two photos of your salubrious camping arrangements must surely be classed as glamping. Where’s the excitement and the joy of discovering that your problem solving skills haven’t deserted you and that perseverance prevails in the end.
    Brought back memories and had a good giggle into the bargain.

    1. That was in Jard sur Mer in August. All the campsites were full so we ended up here – brand new site so not an scrap of shade – we spent the time moving our one umbrella!

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