Sunday, December 4, 2011

French Odyssey...part three the Final leg

As I write this it is early December and I've just got back from a nights camping high in the Pennines with Club 80-90 and it got me thinking of warmer trips back in the summer.
So back to France in August. After breaking camp in the Chateaus vineyard in the Loire valley, we headed south west from Tours down to Poitiers, Niort and across to Rochefort on the coast. From here we are driving through the flat coastal salt marsh's to the little town of Marenes. This is where we would cross the viaduct to the Island of Ile d' Oleron and our destination of La Cotinere. The only problem is that this is the only road onto and off the Island and it was chocker..
Once on the Island thing were more relaxed, though French "minor" road are not known for there smoothness, though the kids loved the evasive manoeuvres round the potholes and the roller-coaster rides over the undulations.
Our campsite though was perfect, nestling behind the sand dunes under the shade of trees. Once base camp was established we were immediately on the beach right next to the campsite.. The beach was stunning and quiet and for the next two weeks we spent the best holiday of our lives exploring the Island in our camper, eating great food and drinking great (cheap) wine...We didn't want to go home and the kids still talk of the holiday now all these months later.... Will we go back.?...You bet!!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

French Odyssey....part 2

After eating and drinking to our fill at our friends , it was time to hit the road heading southwest to the Loire Valley near Tours on the next leg of our journey. First we stopped for provisions at the largest Carrefour hypermarket in France (big mistake)..In a place the size of a small village they had car parking spaces for thousands of cars, but only four spaces for anything over 2.5m (thats us at 2.6m)..I must have driven round dozens of times whilst Laura went through the slowest checkout in Europe. Anyhow after our false start we were soon on our way on a mixture of main roads and toll motorways. Now toll booths are fun as most are automated and the calculate the cost based on the size of your vehicle (loads of sensors).. and they have two payment slots one at car level and one at truck level. You can guess which one it wanted us to use, this involved Laura leaning out of the window and contorting herself just to reach the payment slot (not good for your back). Despite these niggles we had a steady journey of about 180 miles to " Chateau Nitray" in the Loire valley.

The Chateau was part of the "France Passion" scheme, where each year you buy a book with thousands of farms/ vineyards ect listed, which allow campervans to stay overnight FREE. This Chateau had its own vineyard (where we camped) and of course sold their own label wine. Before long Laura was rustling up dinner whilst me and Joel checked out the "shop"....Some wine tasting ensued and I staggerd back to the van with a few bottles of their finest produce. A very mellow evening ensued as the sun set over the vineyard with some rather comical attempts of climbing into the hightop for some much needed zzz's. Part 3 .... the final Leg will follow.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

French Odyssey....Part 1

After many months planning and a mixture of excitement and trepidation the Campervan was loaded with all manner of paraphernalia to keep the four of us fed and entertained for the next three weeks as we began our French odyssey. Our destination was the island of I'll D' Olleron, just off the south west coast of France some 800 miles away.

So as not to make the journey to arduous for Erin and Joel (and us) we planed to take three or four days getting there, two weeks on the Island and three days getting back. The first leg of the journey was down to the Channel tunnel some 248 miles from home, which ain't a quick trip at 55mph. Why so slow I hear you ask?..Self preservation. A few weeks previous routine checks on the van showed that the gearbox was on its way out, but there was not enough time to book a rebuild in. So a steady 55mph didn't put to much strain on it since we were hauling 2.5 tons .

We did cheat the first night staying in a travel lodge (less hassle). But bright and early the next morning we boarded the Channel Tunnel train bound for Calais. If you've never been on the Chunnel , it's quite an experience whizzing at 120 mph whilst sitting in your van and in 30 mins we were in France.

Our destination for our second night was Chambourcy ,southwest of Paris where some family friends lived and where we had been invited to stop over. We opted to take the motorways ( which are mainly Toll) as it would get us there with minimum hassle. Now French motorways are great as compared to Britain they are so quiet even it dose cost about 1.5 euros per 10 miles to travel on them....Oh and a Sat Nav is a great asset, especially when going through towns, if you've not got one ...get one you won't regret it and it saves many arguments with your nearest and dearest.

Part 2 to follow................

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Camper Jam....

Just had a great family weekend at Camper Jam at Weston Park in Shropshire. After a week of dire weather, the sun shone from when we arrived until we left. So after pitching camp with the rest of the 80-90 club, the barbie was lit the wine opened and chilllll. Well I say chill, that was until Laura saw a "Cooking in a Campervan" competition, where you have an hour to cook a meal from scratch..To be honest it was great fun, even though we were all competing in front of an audience, I even drafted Erin in to help me. Our "meals" were then judged by Martin Dorey (real nice guy) of "One man and his Campervan" fame.....I'll admit I didn't win, but it was tremendous buzz and "I'll be back" next year this time fully prepared.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Being a Good Samaritan...

We all lead busy lives these days, with people trying to do a dozen things at the same time and always in a rush to get somewhere. This pace of life unfortunately can affect our willingness to help complete strangers when in need, because " We don't want to get involved"
A couple of days ago as I was dropping Joel of at school, I notice a Campervan with it's hazards flashing by the side of the road. I was in a rush( as always) but I said to myself " if that van is still there in 10 mins I'll stop to help". Sure enough when I was coming back it was still there, so I stopped to offer help. The lady driver ( Paula) said she'd run out of petrol due to a faulty gauge but had called the AA who would be there in the hour. Fair enough and I wished her well. As I dove off I thought I could o better. So I called home picked up an empty petrol can and went to fill it up . Then I went back to the stranded Campervan. The lady was gobsmacked that someone would put themselves out for a complete stranger. She thanked me saying that I had saved her from missing an important appointment .
So the moral of the story is if you can help do help , you never know when the shoe maybe on the other foot. So lets all be good feels good.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

To Oily Go....

Prevention is better than the cure should be the moto for all Campervan owners. And though many owners may regularly service there vans, one area no doubt easily gets overlooked is...your gearbox. Unlike engine oil gearbox oil doesn't need regularly changing, but it doesn't last forever. With age the oil breaks down or leaks away as seals start to age , ect, so it needs to be checked every few years. Now there's no easy dipstick for you to check the levels..that would be too easy. You have to undo the 17mm hexagonal filler plug on the side of the gearbox , then put you finger in the hole to see if you can feel the oil (very hi-tech) all whilst lying flat on you back under the van. Now to top it up you need three feet of hose ,a funnel and some gear oil. Feed the hose via the engine compartment in to the filler hole then top up with oil until it begins to dribble out of the hole. And if like me you're changing all the oil. then you'll need to drain the oil by the 17mm drain plug at the bottom of the gearbox.( but only after making sure the filler plug comes out first) This plug has a magnet on it which pulls all the steel bits out of the oil which wear off your gears over the years and in my case a bearing casing..eeek. This is how I found that my gearbox will need rebuilding in the not too distant future, but hey at least I can plan for that now. At least all my hard work payed off as the gears are easier with new oil however I did stink with smell of old gear oil for a couple of days. so until next time have fun.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spring Tidy Up

Looking after an older Campervan is a never ending job and after the last two hard winters some paint touching up was crying out to be done. Now two years ago I painted the lower half of the van using Rustoleum paint applied with a roller. The great advantage with this system is it's cheap and easy to touch up. At the same time I started on the top half of the Van which hasn't been done yet, particularly the high top roof which was looking very shabby. As usual with these jobs it hadn't rained in three weeks but when I started the weather broke, so that's only half done...Never mind, now where did I put that brolly?

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Campervan is..........

Loading the kids in the van , grabbing a bottle of wine then whisking Laura from work for an impromptu lunchtime picnic in the spring sunshine....what more do you need.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Rear Seat Belts

As with many older campervans, mine didn't have rear seatbelts. When I first converted the van the rear seat had one three point inertia belt and one lap belt( as the cupboards on one side blocked the upper belt mounting point). Now this was fine initially , but now with two growing children we needed to replace the lapbelt with a more secure three point inertia belt. After some head scratching, we decided the best route was to remove the rear cupboard so I could fit the belt behind to the the proper mounting points. Then carefully modifying the cupboard so the seat belt could pass through it. It works a treat and more importantly the kids are safe and secure.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Summer Holidays

Summer Holidays away in the campervan have given us some of the greatest memories any family could wish. This year will be our third summer with the Van and our furthest expedition to date. As with any older vehicle ,it takes a while to build your confidence that the van will make it beyond the end of the road. So our first camping expedition was to the intriguingly named "Strawberry Woods " Campsite a record breaking 12 miles away..ha ha. It was a great success and spurred us on to go farther a field that summer. Last year we did a grand tour of Wales, through some amazing countryside and up some steep mountains (slowly) followed later in the summer with a jaunt down to the Isle of Wight.

This year however we have set our sights further afield ....FRANCE.. Gulp. Now with such an expedition planning is the key to ensure a successful trip. So I employed the services of friendly travel specialist.....other wise know as the Mrs.... Laura just loves trawling the internet looking for the best deals, places to stay and visit and all that insurance malarkey.

All I have to do is ensure the Van is up to the trip and with that in mind I will be doing several jobs over the coming months in preparation for the "Grand Tour". So tune in next time to read about some of the jobs to be done on the van in readiness for "France 2011"

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Change of Priorities...

A few years ago before Erin and Joel were born our lives were totally different. Both of us worked full time and though we were never "Well off " life was comfortable. We were both involved in pastimes that took considerable time and commitment, but we had been doing them for so long we never realised how limiting they could be. However when you have children to begin to look at things in a new light and realise that things you thought were important , really aren't.

You tend to review your own childhood and analyse the decisions your parents made and how those choices 20 or 30 years ago are still effecting you today. So what has this self examination revealed?.... Well we won't live our lives through are children, but we will help them to make there own choices in life. Our priorities are now totally different to that of our own parents and this no doubts will cause some raised eyebrows and tutting but that's fine by us.. The most valuable gift you can give your children is .."Time"..which is also the one thing you can't buy....

So if you are a parent (or planning to be one ) spend as much time with your kids as you can , doing fun things. As when they grow older these will be the memories they cherish and hold dear to...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Enjoying the Simple Things of Life..

Part of the ethos of owning a Campervan , is getting back to a simpler way of life. All of us yearn in one way or another to escape the rat race , hence the popularity of Campervans. But you don't even need a van to enjoy many simple pleasures in life. Take today for instance. We live near the centre of town but are fortunate to live next to a beautiful park. This park has rolling hills (great for sledging )a small lake full of fish and birds as well as the formal gardens around the bandstand and kids playground...ect ect.

This morning was a glorious Spring day so I took my four year old for a stroll in the Park, which he loves to explore. I sat on a bench near the lake basking in the warm sun whilst Joel was trying to catch the Doves ( mission impossible) and all I could hear were the birds and the laughter of Joel. It was just one of those moments you want to put in a box and the best thing about it was that it was free!!!

Some times when I'm out shopping I'll drive into the Park instead of going home and park at the edge of the car park overlooking the lake and make myself a brew...and just kickback for half an hour.

So forget your I phones/laptops / 24 hour TV and get out there and enjoy the simple and free thing in life...........

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What is it about VW Campervans??

I often get asked this question, as many people can't get their heads around the attraction of an old slow Campervans. For some it's just the "in thing" and their fling with a VW will no doubt be short and turbulent and will have faded by the end of summer.;-) For me it's something different. My van isn't just a vehicle's part of the family, a feeling echoed by my six year old daughter.

Our van is used every day, from the school run to the "big" shop at the supermarket. It has it's own character and quirks and if you understand these, you'll find life is a lot easier with her. ( yes the van is a girl) In the morning when it's cold she prefers slow gentle gear changes until she's warmed up and after every long journey I give her a gentle tap on the dashboard and thank her for getting us home.

However don't think that's she's lives a pampered no she has to earn her keep. Many a time she's had to carry everything from cement mixers to sofa's and towed my trailer (loaded with fence panels and a garden shed)

She has fun too with camping by the beach and climbing over Welsh mountains and picnics in the forests. So if are thinking of buying a Campervan remember this.........

" A Campervan if for life , not just for Christmas"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dubfreeze 2011

I've just had an enjoyable weekend sitting in a field in the middle of Staffordshire,sleeping in an unheated campervan talking absolute twaddle. Am I mad??? Some may think so, but I'm just one of many tens of thousands who like getting away from the Stress of everyday life and getting together with like minded folk in their VW Campers.

Yes I just spent a weekend at "Dubfreeze" a VW festival for all things VW. Generally considered the Show season starter Dubfreeze has been running for many years now and I've been going ever since owing my first VW Beetle.

The Aim of this blog is to talk about things that affect me , my family and all those with a similar outlook in keeping reading .. ;-)