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MOTORHOMING. OUR STORY

  • Motorhoming

    Our Journey 

     

    Motorhoming

     ·  Posted: 14.07.2020  ·  #1
    Over the years we have had some wonderful trips away in our Motorhome and have visited some fantastic places. Along with this we have had some great and not so great experiences. With our modern campers it’s all luxury and electronic gizmos so I thought I would relate our Motorhoming journey. I don’t necessarily want to go on about where we went but rather how we got there and how motorhoming has evolved over the years

    My love of travel started when I was at school and in the Scouts. We never did badges but we travelled. When other troops were going to campsites around Northern Ireland we went further afield. During my time I went to Belgium, France, Holland, Switzerland and even saw Dame Mary Peters receive her medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics. When Anne and I got married we toured around Europe with another couple in a Polski Fiat 125 and slept in the smallest tent you could imagine.

    When our daughter was one we visited relatives in Alberta. They had an 8 berth RV and we toured around the Rockies in it. It was unusual as it had a drop down double bed at the rear over seating/bed.
     

    Ok I’m not holding my daughter very well but I was a new young dad

    We got the bug and when we came home we went to Tinsleys at Temple And bought an orange and white 1600cc air cooled T2 Volkswagen.. it was a bit rough but we loved it, there was pullman seating with a table in the middle. The forward seat of the pullman could face forward for travel making it into a 6 seater or to the rear to sit at the table. At that time there were no seatbelts in the back. There was a 2 burner hob and a small sink with a foot pump that pumped the water from a 5 gallon container in the cupboard. There was a small wardrobe to the right offside with storage over the rear engine. There were 2 stretcher bunks above when the roof popped up.
     

    We took a few trips out and about to make sure everything worked, replacing some heater cowling and giving it a good service.

    I had a chat with my bestest mate and his wife and we decided we could take a trip to mainland Europe, my mate and his wife sleeping in a tent. By this stage we had acquired another member of the family, our son, so it would be a tight squeeze.

    I ll continue at a further date with our exploits on our first trip
     
     
     
     
     
    Posted: 19.07.2020  ·  #5
    Part 2

    After lots of planning we decided to just wing it. We really did not have a plan but thought we would go via Paris then down towards Monte Carlo. Our map book covered all of Europe and had major cities at the back, a compass on the dash would help to keep us on track We loaded the van up with what we thought was essential food, packets of soup, tinned ham and a couple of tins of Marvel. We only had a cool box and were not sure if we could get ice packs for it. Our clothes were in the wardrobe and in cases over the engine at the rear. We had a compact bucket/basin that contained the knives forks, plates bowls etc,. The saucepans stored inside each other, anything to reduce size as space was at a premium. We had one of those Formica coffee tables that the legs screwed on so we could eat outside. Any spare space was stuffed with disposable nappies as our son was still wearing them. We had previously been to Bulgaria when he was a few months old and had run out of them so lesson learned, his buggy took up quite a bit of room It was agreed that my mate David and his wife Sandra would bring a small tent and when on site would sleep in that.

    Big day arrived, David and Sandra came to our house and we did the final packing. Space was tight but we got everything in or so we thought. Rosslare to Cherburg was the route we had chosen so we headed south. The 1600 cc engine was low in power but everything seemed ok, you have to drive an air cooled VW to appreciate the noise. I just loved everything about it. At Newry David suddenly announced that he had forgotten to pack their tent so it was a mad dash back to Lisburn to retrieve it. We got on our way again with a bit more urgency as we had wasted a bit of time. It then started to rain and as luck would have it the wipers stopped working. While driving we traced it to wires under the dash and took it in turns to work at it. Neither of us could work long as we both got sick with the our heads down. We eventually got it fixed and continued through Dublin and on to Rosslare.

    On arrival in France we headed towards the D Day beaches where we promptly got stuck in the sand. A local came over to us and helped pile stones under the wheels to get us out. Having got stuck once I was scared to go near the soft sand. I decided to drive parallel with the sea on the hard sand and turn quickly on to the soft sand hoping the momentum would let me clear it. I did this and there was a small lip in the sand. When I hit this the van raised up and the suitcases and anything loose came flying from the back up to the front of the van, at least I wasn’t stuck again.
    We continued on towards Paris intending to go to camping de Paris in the Bois de Bologne. We came into Paris in the early hours but could not find the campsite. I stopped with a police officer and asked him. He told me that it was ok to park anywhere as long as we moved off early before the traffic started. As we drove around we saw a crowd of caravans parked so thought it would be ok to park with them. As we started to set up for the night Anne pointed out that there were a lot of people sleeping outside the vans on a grass bank. It turned out that we had parked with travellers. Not wanting to overstay our welcome we moved off and found another quiet place only to realise that there were men in the surrounding woods who were taking an interest in the van. David and I got the table legs out just in case. After a few minutes a Ford Fiesta drove in to where we were and a *person*. who to this day we are not sure was male or female told us to go away as this was their spot. It was only later when we came to a boulevard within the forest that was lit up and hiving with people that we realised we were in a red light district. The ladies and gents of the night were playing their trade with cars full of people cruising. We sat for a while and watched the antics. The next morning we found the campsite with Anne checking that the toilets were clean before we checked in. It was her one condition that if they didn’t pass muster we wouldn’t stay. We did all the sights in Paris before heading towards Monte Carlo.

     
    Posted: 25.07.2020  ·  #6
    The drive from Paris was pretty uneventful with David and I taking it in turns to drive. We drove a lot at night as the roads were clear and we could get in the miles. Although I had the beam benders on the lights the French drivers flashed us quite a lot at night as they approached us. At that time the French had yellow headlights and I can only assume my white lights were blinding them. Surprisingly the wives were able to keep the kids amused and we had frequent play stops. If my daughter saw a park she wanted to stop. We found a good campsite close to Monaco and visited the sights. We had real French coffee and freshly baked croissants at the campsite and thought it was so sophisticated. Although the Dutch guy who put butter in his coffee had us thinking. The worst thing happened there was we were told off by police for changing into our speedos and having a picnic on the beach, apparently the part we were on forbade it. Our VW hippy bus really did not fit in with all the other fancy cars. Having soaked up the sun, sand and sea we crossed the border at Menton passing through customs and headed for Venice. Once in Italy we had to change our money into Lira. As Travellers cheques were the preferred option for carrying money you pre bought them and exchanged them at Banks or Post Offices. It was a pain as we didn’t speak any Italian and the exchange places were always in the centre of towns. We took it in turns to change money as there was a fee and as the money for travel was pooled it worked well. We hammered on towards Lido di Jesolo and as we were passing on the outskirts of Venice came to a cross roads. The signs to the left, straight on and to the right all pointed to Venice. At Lido di Jesolo we found a campsite close to the beach whereI took a pain in my back and couldn’t get out of the van. I spent an uncomfortable and hot day in the van while the rest went to the beach. We visited Venice and did the sights. We had been before and since but have always make the same mistake when photographing in Saint Mark’s Square. Trying to get the Basilica in the background when photographing the family I stand in the cloisters and get a photograph of 3 shadows in front if it. While on the campsite site we decided to check one of the back brakes that was sticking a bit. I had my tool box so we got it jacked up and tried to get the drum off. We both took a blank and couldn’t figure it out. By this stage we had a crowd of people around us pointing and offering advice. One German guy came over with a 6 foot bar thinking we would have to take the big nut off. Eventually another German showed us the screw that released it.and we got them sorted. We then made a decision, basically come on and we’ll go to Athens. On checking the map book it was about 1000 miles so we figured a couple of days drive.

    At the border with Yugoslavia we had an unusual incident where the first guards we came to searched the van, one of them paying particular attention to the rear and under the passengers seat. He called another guard over and started pointing and laughing. As we had to go through another part of the border we stopped and had a look ourselves just in case something had been planted. We didn’t know what we were looking for but didn’t want to be pulled going into a strange country. We searched and searched but found nothing. On hindsight it might have been a bit of a game they played with foreigners. Our journey was just about to begin.

    The coast and the scenery was beautiful, really unspoilt but stepping back in time. The roads weren’t great and in places very bad but we thumped on. We didn’t use campsites here as we couldn’t find any. It was back to basics. We bought food in cafes and gave ourselves a bit of a wash in the toilets (Anne was not happy). At night time we would find a safe place to park and David and I would climb into the stretcher bunks in the roof. They were tapered and I just fitted into one of them. I am claustrophobic and it was hard for me. Through the night I would stick my head out the top vent. The plus to this was waking up to a fantastic view of the Dalmatian Coast.

    We were driving through a town late at night and saw a Pizza place open. As food was cheap we stopped and went in. A girl was sleeping at a table and a guy served us. Turned out she was English and married to him . The guy served us and asked if we had any foreign coins as he collected them. We had some English, Irish, French and Italian coins on us so we gave him some. He then started to ply us with shots from the bar for free and before we left gave us cake and 2 buns covered in chocolate chips.
    We put them into our cool box to eat later as we were doing an overnight drive. One thing we had figured was if we were eating at a restaurant we asked them if we could put our cool packs in their freezer while we were there. Most were accommodating. We left with loads of hugs and handshakes having made a new friend. The girl slept through all this and we never got speaking with her. We continued our drive into the night. After a few hours David and I decided to have the buns but it turned out they weren’t buns. They were ice cream covered on chocolate and had melted all over our food. Everything had to be thrown out.

    Another incident when we had driven overnight we saw a cafe down a bit of a lane. The food was always very good in the cafes, home made, traditional and plenty of it. As I slowed down to turn into the lane I saw a small boy about 8/10 years standing at the entrance. He promptly jumped into my front bumper, held into the wipers and started to wash the windscreen. I’m driving down the lane trying to shoo him off but he was persistent. While we had breakfast he washed and cleaned the windows for a few Dinar.

     
    Posted: 27.07.2020  ·  #7
    Yugoslavia seemed to be the place where it all happened. While driving through a small village we decided to call at a small shop to get eggs to make omelettes. There was a queue so I dutifully joined it. The shop was really basic with very little in it. As I didn’t speak the local language I pointed at the eggs and held up my fingers to indicate how many I wanted. The lady behind the counter shook her head and said something. I pointed again and held up my fingers to receive the same response. I guy in the queue asked if I spoke English and informed me that she wouldn’t sell me them because they were for the locals. Seeing how little produce was in the shop I understood and left. He followed me out and asked me how many I wanted. I told him and he told me to follow him down a short lane to a hen house. He went in and came out with the required amount. I gave him a few Dinar and went on my way. Still not sure if they were his eggs to sell and I received stolen goods

    Still soaking in the scenery we continued south. The vehicles on the road were 10 to 20 years behind us and we came across people on horse and carts. Most people were friendly and keen to help. David was driving one day and flying around a corner we drove into a landslide. Rocks were all over the road and he didn’t have a chance to stop. He hit a large rock and burst a tyre. We changed the tyre and drove on looking for a replacement. Driving through a small town we spotted a large sign at a garage that showed a tyre. Assuming it was a tyre place we stopped and hauled the wheel out of the van. The guy was very friendly and I pointed at the tyre on the ground that was obviously burst. He looked at it and nodded, I pointed, he nodded. This went on for a while until he eventually lifted the tyre into the van grabbed me and put me into the driving seat, he jumped into the passenger seat and started pointing. We realised he didn’t sell the tyres but just fitted them. He took us to a local supermarket and bought a tyre, getting some discount. Back at his garage he fitted it and we were on our way. I gave him a tip of a couple of pounds and he was over the moon. More hugs and handshakes.

    We skirted around Albania and on towards Athens. I don’t remember if we were not allowed in or had to have visas. There were places where we came to a river mouth and had to go inland quite a bit to find the bridge to get to the other side. This took up quite a lot of our time. Driving over some mountains one night we came across a couple of teenagers who had broken down in a Fiat128. They spoke good English and told us they were going to a party. The wives and kids slept while we worked and and eventually got it going. We declined their offer to go to the party with them or partake of the drink they had in the car.

    Once in Greece we hadn’t a clue half time where we were as we couldn’t make head nor tail of the road signs. The map book had a city map of Athens but the scale made it impossible to read. We knew there was a campsite in the a City but not exactly sure. We stopped with a couple of police officers in a jeep and asked them where it was. I think we were a bit of a novelty to them so they told us to follow them and they took us to the campsite. We waved them off and Anne went in to check. She came out almost in tears as it wasn’t up to her standard so we wouldn’t be going in. We camped outside hoping we could find something in the morning. Morning came and so did the two officers who had escorted us the night before. We think they must have been working late, went home and back in the next morning We told them we couldn’t stay and they agreed to escort us again to another campsite. So you have 4 adults, 2 kids in a VW hippy bus following a police jeep with its blue lights flashing flying around Athens. They took us to a campsite on the outskirts of Athens where they again left us. The campsite was approved by Anne so we stayed
     
    Posted: 30.07.2020  ·  #8
     


    Our time at the campsite was spent soaking up the sun, swimming in the sea and sampling the local food. We crammed in all the sites in Athens getting the bus into the City as we didn’t want the stress of driving there again and risk getting lost. Time to leave and we didn’t want to waste time driving the Dalmatian Coast again so we headed to Belgrade. The roads were quite a bit better and we were able to make good time. We took in Vienna and called at the Olympic Stadium in Munich. Vaduz in Lichtenstein was our next stop before heading to the campsite in Lucerne. After that we headed to Manor Farm in Interlaken, I had stayed here with the scouts so knew my way about. We went to the Ballenburg Swiss Open Air Museum, a similar set up as the Ulster Folk Museum with houses from different eras

    With all the excitement over we headed back to the coast and got the Irish ferries ship home. The ship had a theatre at the rear and there were some good shows. On return to Ireland I called in to a garage to fill up with petrol. On exiting I pulled onto the right hand side of the road automatically. A few screams and curses got me back onto the left hand side.

    We were away for over three and a half weeks and did over 5000 miles. We made decisions where we would go on the spur of the moment. The VW just purred on and apart from the wipers and sticking brakes carried us all those miles. People thought we were mad but we were young and adventurous. Yes it was a bit rough but you could not buy the experiences and the sights we saw. At that stage I didn’t consider it motorhoming but rather camping in a vehicle. We spent most of our time outside, eating and cooking only using the van for travel and sleeping in. We were definitely hooked and couldn’t wait to get away again. Our kids were good travellers and we tried to keep it as interesting for them as possible. By today’s standards the rear seat safety was non existent but that’s the way it was. It was fussy changing money in each country and the more countries you visited you lost a little more in the exchange. Contacting home by telephone was hard and postcards were sent home from each country to let the family know where we were. The countries we visited were unspoilt especially Yugoslavia, it was such a pity that a few years later it went through a terrible war. Everyone we met there was so friendly and made us feel so humble.

    Along came 1984 And I bought a new Ford Escort. It was an import from the South and as well as being quite a bit cheaper It had better spec than the ones here. It was nice to drive and I had always wanted a new car. BUT...........
     
    Posted: 03.08.2020  ·  #9
    I really liked my shiny new Escort but looked at the VW sitting on the drive and thought I would get more enjoyment out of a camper. So off again I went to Tinsleys in my 3 month old Escort to see what he had. At that time he was really the only game in town and I called on a regular basis. There were few on the road and at some time I had probably looked in most of them. I think Hursts had some but they were always overpriced. After a bit of wheeling and dealing I traded the Escort and VW for a 1979 Transit Autosleeper and a Citroen.
     

    The Transit was 2 lt petrol, quite a bit more powerful than the VW and was in good condition. Behind the driver there were 2 side facing bench seats, the usual cooker and grill and a fridge. The drivers and passengers seats slid forward and folded flat to make 2 single beds with the rear bench. The roof had solid sides when it popped up and the roll out stretcher bunks were hidden behind fold down boxes. There was a cupboard on each rear door. It had a built in water tank but no hot water. Still no seat belts in the rear.

    We had a few outings to get accustomed to it and started planning for our next road trip. We had really enjoyed our Athens trip but thought we would try somewhere different. We decided to go down the west coast of France, into Spain, Portugal Spain and the Costas then home. As seasoned travellers we knew what to pack, packets of soup and tinned ham. There was a bit more room this time as David and Sandra weren’t coming. We set off and got lost in Dublin. I stopped with a Garda on a motorcycle and asked him the way. He told me that he was on his way to court but agreed to show me the way out. So now we have a Transit following police around Dublin to the southern outskirts. The crossing to Francewas horrendous and we had to stay in the cabin, my son asking was he going to die.

    We stopped at Bordeaux and Biarritz and crossed into Spain. I remember it being very industrial as we crossed the border and the roads very twisty. We continued on towards northern Portugal. At one point the lights in the van started getting dim and the charge light came on. Realising it was something to do with the alternator I stopped and got out the trusty toolbox. The only thing I could think of was the brushes in the alternator so I took it off, took the brushes out, filed them and put them back in. We were soon on our way, stopping at a campsite in Salamanca which was to the rear of a hotel and you had use of their pool. The Cathedral was beautiful and we spent a few hours walking around. We headed towards Coimbra and down the West coast of Portugal. One place we found here was Nazare, a beautiful fishing village where we saw old ladies in black helping to haul in fishing nets the fish restaurants had some good fare. We made a point to visited it every time we came to Portugal. We did the sights, Lagos,Albuferia, Faro and headed to the Spanish border. Just short of the border at a small village. Vila Nova de Cacela we pulled into a campsite. Calico for the night. And stayed 30 days. The campsite was what we wanted, away from tourist traps, full of locals, a few Dutch, a family from Coleraine and a couple from Newtownardsi it had a swimming pool, small cafe very basic but the kids loved it. There were almond trees on site and the kids helped pick them, the locals knocked them off with long poles and they gathered them up. For helping they got a big bag of almonds.

    The couple from Newtownards were retired and had been touring for a couple of years. They toured for about 11 months of the year and in the winter rented a flat in Spain where they sorted the van out and repaired/mended clothes. They has seating to seat 15 people and the lady had her sewing machine with her. Every morning she got up and swam about 40 lengths of the pool while her husband who had fair skin sat below tarpaulins that he had strung between the trees. Listening to their exploits fuelled our wanderlust. In our early tours we always came across loads of Dutch travellers in their tiny caravans. We used the camp site as a base and as the transit was small we could use it for trips out. One day as we had just left the campsite we met a couple on bicycles flying down a hill towards us. The lady had a child on a seat in front of her and as the guy passed I thought I saw a small head poking out of a wicker basket that was upright on the rear pannier. Turned out later when we returned it was a Dutch couple touring with their two children and it was a very young child in the basket. Every morning a man came around in a van selling bread and doughnuts etc. The kids loved going over to buy them.

    We came back to Portugal, but that’s a different story
     
    Posted: 07.08.2020  ·  #10
    We found the perfect campsite so when we went home we decided to plan for the next year. We mentioned to David and Sandra and it was decided they would come on holidays with us again. This time we would bring their tent and they would fly to Faro where would pick them up. We bought a small porta potti as it would be easier for the kids. There was no place except public toilets to empty it.then. We set off again going via Rosslare to Cherburg. At Salamanca we took advantage of the swimming pool at the hotel again. A slightly different route to the Algarve coming down through the centre of Portugal and then east towards Vila Nova de Cacela. We settled for a few days before picking David And Sandra up. David came off the plane on crutches and a leg in plaster. He had done something to ligaments but didn’t want to miss the holiday.

    Our days were spent taking the van out to explore the country, the kids helped to pick nuts and spent time in the pool. One thing we liked doing was trying out the local food. The campsite owner recommended a restaurant in the village so David and I went down to book. We went at lunchtime and had a glass of wine each while we waited to book. At 16p a glass it was great. The guy didn’t speak any English but with a mixture of hand signs and drawing stick men to show 4 adults and 2 kids plus drawing a clock to show the time we got it booked. I asked for a menu but they didn’t have any. He took us around the tables and pointed at the food the people were eating. In the kitchen he opened up the ovens and the walk in fridge and pointed at the food. We came down that night and along with the locals had a great meal. A few days later we went back, having a glass of wine and drawing the clock again to get it booked. We arrived down at the allotted time and were greeted by a look of surprise and panic. He had forgotten. It then turned into a scene from Faulty Towere where he ran around the restaurant and eventually came to a table with a couple eating their meal. He said something to them and just grabbed their plates and moved them to another table. David and Sandra stayed for 2 weeks and we took them back to the airport. At that time we were very sophisticated and drank Mateus Rose so we filled the van up with boxes of it and a Mateus White. There was a limit on how many you could bring back home but we ‘stretched ‘ it a bit.
     


    While we were on the site we met a couple from Gibraltar touring in a rented Autosleeper who invited us to call with them at Gibraltar on our way past. I think their van was on a Leyland. Our plan was to go via the Costa’s so we headed east then south to Gibraltar. Our newly made friends showed us around the Rock and then we took an escorted trip to Tangier. Did the usual stuff, ride on a camel, had a local meal and a walk around the market. A police officer had been hired to escort the party. The traders followed us around trying to sell us stuff but were shoved away by the officer. Our 2 kids had really blonde hair and locals came over and felt their hair.. It was quite unnerving and I held on tightly to them. The officer left us close to the boat and they were on us like flies trying to sell us stuff, the price getting lower as we approached the boat. I resisted the temptation to buy a Fez.

    Our journey continued around the coast and then inland to Ronda, I had read an article about the Puente Nuevo bridge there where it was alleged people were tossed off during the Spanish Civil war. The bridge links two sides of the town and is quite high. It was a Sunday we went there and had no cash and little food. It took us ages to find a restaurant that took a credit card. I decided to drive into the early hours to make up a few miles. I found a Parking place in the square of a town after driving for a while and stopped for the night. In the morning I headed off to find a bank leaving Anne to start breakfast. When I came back Anne was in tears, sitting with her arms covered in Sudocream and my son with no eyebrows. Turned out that Anne had tried to light the grill but it hadn’t lit on first try. The gas was still turned on when she struck the second match. Alan had been interested in what his mum was doing and was looking into the grill as she tried to light it and it exploded. He had no eyebrows for a while and Anne didn’t need to shave her legs for days. There was a distinct smell of burnt hair in the van. Both were very lucky.

    We continued without further incident putting on our poker faces when we arrived back in Rosslare and approached by customs.

    At one point a guy I worked with asked me if I would rent out the Transit for a week. As my pride and joy I wasn’t keen but I knew him well and he was fussy about things and I knew he kept his. His car immaculate. A deal was done and he got short time insurance on it showing me the certificate. When he left it back it was better looking than when he got it. He had even polished it

    Another time we decided to take the kids to Scotland for a surprise and booked the boat from Larne. We told them we were going to Portrush and Alan started to cry when he heard he wasn’t going to Portrush. On that trip I went around a corner a bit too fast and dumped Anne and Alan onto the floor. The side facing seats were not so good to travel in. The kids weren’t keen on the stretcher bunks as they were made of nylon and made them sweat. The single beds were uncomfortable as they were made up of the drivers and passengers seats folded flat. When flat there were ridges that dug into you. Since then we always make up the bed and test it before buying. The porta potti was a godsend and gave us that bit of flexibility. It was great to have a fridge that worked off gas and electric. We used camping Gas 907 bottles that were available in supermarkets and garages.. They held 2.5 kilos and were quite expensive to refill.
    I was always looking at vans and took a test drive in a VW LT. it was a good conversion but was dead slow and stop. Because of the distances we went I always hammered on and it just wasn’t fast enough. Money dictated that we couldn’t afford a larger coach built so we kept looking
     
     
    Posted: 11.08.2020  ·  #12
    After having a good look around we came across a high top VW Leisuredrive within our budget. We got it from a guy at Omagh and it had only been converted recently. You could buy a kit from Leisuredrive and build it yourself. We had the Transit valeted and another guy in Newtownards sold it for us. Once valeted it looked like new and we were sorry to see it go.

    The new van had a high roof with a bed that slid out for the kids, it had the typical VW side layout with cooker and sink and a seat that made into another bed. It didn’t have a fridge but I had paid a good price and allowed for fitting one. It had a built in water tank, the porta potti fitted into a seat box behind the passenger seat. There was a bit at the rear on the roof to fit a rack for storage so one was ordered from Leisuredrive. It had a tow bar fitted so I ordered a bike rack that fitted on that. I also ordered the fridge and an electrical kit so we could plug into the mains. To top it all off I got an awning that attached to the van when parked and could be left on site when we went out.

    The roof rack was easily fitted as there were pieces of wood under the area where it was to be fitted. Loads of silicone and stainless steel screws made it an easy fit. The bike rack was made out of box metal and bolted onto the tow bar when the ball was removed. I fitted the electrics following the instructions to the letter, we were now able to plug in on site and Anne could use her hair dryer. There was a space for the fridge and it fitted in exactly. The electrics and gas were easily fitted but the worst was cutting the hole for the flue I had to get a specially angled bit to fit on the top of the flue where it went through the van. I measured and measured loads of times before cutting the hole. I was never completely satisfied with the cut but it worked.
    Suited and booted we were now ready to go. We really enjoyed Switzerland so set off for Interlaken. again. We had 3 bikes on the rack at the rear and Alan’s bike on top of the awning on the roof rack. The awning wasn’t the lightest so we must have been heavy. Table and chairs were carried inside at the rear over the engine.The 1600 diesel wasn’t the fastest but once wound up was able to keep a good pace. I just drove it foot to the board all the time. It had all of 50 horses but could hammer on
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    It climbed the Alps but the one thing that really amazed was the noise it made. The water temperature would rise and I pulled in. The engine banged gurgled and made the weirdest noises sounding if it was about to explode.but settled after a few minutes. Like the air cooled VW I loved driving it, it was slightly bouncy but comfortable. The bed in the roof was a hit with the kids as it had a proper mattress and more comfortable than the stretcher bunks. It was handy having the fridge and electric for Anne’s hair dryer. We carried a camping electric kettle. At that time we didn’t wild camp much and went to campsites. We never booked but never had problems getting in. We were starting to see loads of motorhomes and campers on the roads and were waved at all the time by them. The awning was great as we could use it for storage and the kids slept in it while it was attached. It was hard to get into position to get it attached when we returned to the campsite after a day out. I hammered 2 tent pegs into the ground on the drivers side at the wheels. It was just a matter of aligning the wheels up with the pegs..

    We completed our Swiss trip and returned home to plan another
     
     
    Posted: 12.08.2020  ·  #13
     
    We did another couple of runs to Portugal visiting the northern part of the country. We noted that it was much greener and less dusty. Our new found tipple was port so we went to Porto where there are literally hundreds of types to try. Instead of Mateus we now loaded up with port taking a selection rather than cases. The seafood in the fishing villages was great and fresh from the sea. The awning was good as it helped keep the sun off it also kept the van cooler. A lot of the campsites didn’t have hot water for washing dishes so we left out full containers in the sun, by evening they were well heated up. Another thing I picked up from reading MMM was a way to wash clothes on the move. Few campsites had washing machines but had a sink with a scrubbing board in it. I hated using it and the clothes were washed in cold water. The magazine advised stuffing clothes into a waste water container with a little washing powder and leaving it in the floor while you drive. This worked well as we went for drives daily and all you had to do was rinse them when you returned. The waste tank was kept just for this purpose. Another thing if we left it out in the sun the water heated up. When we first went to Portugal it was unspoilt but in the latter years we could see the hotels being built. We hadn’t been there for about 20 plus years and visited last year staying in a hotel hiring a car to go to the old haunts.

    I loved the VW but I was starting to look around again. The vans up to that point had been bought with my head looking at the practical side as the family grew. I slipped up and bought the next with my heart instead. I went to Bangor one day to look at a van and straight away fell for it. I was on my own and left a deposit. When I got home Anne wasn’t too impressed but I talked her into it. It was a Tandy Sports bus on a 2500 litre diesel Citroen. This was built by Tandy on the Isle of Wight I can’t find any photos I took of it but found a stock one on the internet
     

    It was a 4 berth with the front seats folding flat to make 2 singles, there was a bed in the roof that had to be built at night with metal poles going side to side and mattress bases sitting on them. It had the usual fridge, grill and hob plus a low wattage microwave. There was an instantaneous water heater so hot water at last. What drew me was a built in video and tv. To power all this there was a 2500 inverter under the seat linked to a separate battery. I knew that the tv would help when travelling as the kids could watch videos. The two front seats were grey leather and had been bought as a job lot from DeLorean by Tandy. The side windows were tinted blue. I thought it was the dogs whatsits. They made 2 versions of it, the other having a toilet and shower but this was the one on offer

    We sold the VW along with the awning privately and made money on it. I threw in the Haynes Manual as I always bought one for any vehicle I had.

    Our first outing was to Kelly’s at Portrush where I drove over a tent peg and burst a tyre. I wasn’t impressed as the tyres were brand new. Like the Transit we didn’t like the the beds so my dad made an infill to make a double bed downstairs. The kids complained that they didn’t like the upstairs bed as it was claustrophobic. Family circumstances dictated that we couldn’t take a long holiday so we went to England. We got our eyes opened with the selection of Motorhomes and over the years visited most of the dealers at some point, our favourite being Madisons who sold Hymers outside Blackpool. We did a couple of tours going to the continent via Stranraer then Dover to Calais or from Portsmouth to Le Havre. The video player came in handy keeping the kids amused and if I adjusted the mirror I could take the odd peek as well. The inverter could boil a kettle and run the microwave. It stopped working and as it was quite a new thing in vans no one in NI could fix it. It took me ages to find a place in England and called in en route to have it fixed during a holiday.

    On route back to Stranraer we always called at Blackpool and Madisons to have a look at the Hymers so:
     
     
    Posted: 19.08.2020  ·  #15
    We called at Madisons ‘just to have a look’. They were a main Hymer dealer and I had always fancied a Hymer Jet. It was a sort of mixture between an A class and a low profile coachbuilt. I spoke with the sales person and asked her if she had any offers on. She came up with a new Chausson Bora A Class at a really good discount. It looked a bit like a Hymer and was bigger than the Jet I fancied. I had seen loads of Chaussons in France so thought it couldn’t be too bad. I weighed up the pros and pros and put a deposit on it. We agreed a deal without trade in as I was getting better discount and I knew I could get more than she offered for the Sports Bus back home.

    Once home we advertised the Sports Bus and it sold very quickly to a retired couple from Newtownards. (We subsequently met them months later and they said that they had removed the Sports Bus decals as they got so much stick about it at their age)

    We flew to Blackpool in the smallest plane imaginable and picked up the Bora. We stuffed basics into a suitcase and had a mini holiday on the way back. We were now Motorhoming
     

    This van was a lot bigger than our last vans, it was longer and wider. Inside it had Pullman seating with a table in between that made into a large double bed, there was a pull down bed at the front over the cab seats. There was tons of storage along the near side with large cupboards and a space for a microwave. Although it was made in France the habitation door was on the near side with a fold out step operated by a handle on the floor. There was nothing to remind you about the step being out and I clipped a kerb once, luckily I didn’t do any damage. It had a roof rack with aluminium on part of the roof and a ladder at the back to gain access. The sides were made of dimpled aluminium which I found collected dirt and made it harder to wash. There was a boot across the back that gave good storage There was tons of room in it compared to our camper type vans. We added a bike rack on our first trip out calling at Todd’s Leisure in England en route to have it fitted.
    When we used the ferry to get to mainland Europe we got a free return trip from Northern Ireland to Scotland to be used later in the year. This was when we went to our first Motorcaravan Show. Reading the magazines, mostly MMM we decided to go to Shepton Mallet below Bristol, We subsequently went there every year for ages spending our time in and out of vans for about 3 days.
    The Double Skillett was one of our purchases at this show. The lady that sold it had her patter off to a T describing what it could do. This was a set of 2 saucepans that could be linked together to create a mini oven. You could put the meat, potatoes and vegetables in and leave it in a slow heat to create a nice dinner. We used to go to to her stall just to hear the patter (sad). Another item purchased at the show was a portable barbecue, and we thought we were great. While on a site at Scarborough we had a barbecue and left it under the van after extinguishing it. The next morning I retrieved it and walked around to the back of the van and set it up onto the bike rack where we carried it. I walked away and back again realising that there was too much room on the rack. Some s*** had stolen 2 of our bicycles snipping the locks we had on them. The other 2 bikes had beeen on the roof rack The insurance eventually paid out for them.
     

    Once we were coming up the M1 after a few days at Enniskillen. We were close to Lurgan and about to go under a bridge over the motorway. I saw a couple of kids on the bridge and one if them had what looked like a half brick in both his hands that were raised over his head. Realising that he was going to chuck it at the last minute I changed lanes quickly. I wasn’t quick enough and there was an almighty thump on the roof and I saw the brick bounce off in he side mirror. I pulled in to inspect the roof and luckily it had hit the checkered plate aluminium on the roof causing no damage. I knew the area and pulled off at the next junction as I had seen both of them ride off on bicycles. I never found them.
    The kids were growing up and at an age where they didn’t want to share a double bed so it was time to start looking:
     
     
     

    Posted: 24.08.2020  ·  #18

    As I said the kids wanted their own beds so we were going Larne to Stranraer and driving through England en route to France so we could visit the dealers. The show at Shelton Mallet had opened our eyes to the different vans and layouts.

    We had crossed from Le Harve to Portsmouth so one of the main dealers was Marquis at Lower Upham. They had a good name and they did specials, they would take a van from a known make and add things to it putting their spin on it. Having looked at vans on the way down through England the family weren’t too happy that I was at it again. I spotted a Swift KonTiki sitting and straight away knew it was a contender. It was badged as a 650/7 denoting it was a 7 berth. I didn’t even know they were made. There was an over cab double with 2 bunks at the rear near side, a bench seat with an L shaped settee opposite made a double and a single. It had the usual fridge, cooker,oven and microwave.There was a safe, roof air conditioning, top box, with a ladder to the roof, awning, tow bar and one of those things that you push a button, makes lots of noise <img class = "> but produces electricity, a 3kw Onan gas generator. It was 2 years old, immaculate and I noted it had 12,000 miles. I was hooked and knew it would be good for the kids with separate bunks.

    As they were closing we left.I talked it over with Anne and agreed to think about it. As we drive off Anne said that she liked it and It was in like new condition with the 1200 miles on the clock. I had misread the mileage and that cemented it, I wanted that van. We returned as they were opening and started to deal. It turned out that the previous owner had bought it to to go shows to sell something and had hardly slept in it. Those were the days where the bank manager knew you so I rang him and he agreed to put funds into my account and do a bank transfer for the payment. The salesperson pointed out that there was a sign of damp under one of the windows of the Bora but it wasn’t bad and only needed the window resealed. We transferred all our belongings putting the bicycles on the roof.
     

    I really liked the van, far more room than previous vans and the kids had their own space with the bunks. The 2.5 diesel Fiat Ducato drove well and did good miles per gallon. I purchased a bike rack that fitted on the rear bumper to hold the bicycles, my son had a scrambler that could be carried on it as well.

    We kept this one for quite a few years and it took us to loads of places. It was very reliable and we only had a couple of problems. Driving on a French motorway we had a blow out on the rear drivers side. There were a few anxious moments as the van swayed back and forth across the lanes until I could bring it to a stop. The verge was soft so no place to put the jack. I called the motorway police and they blocked off the inside lane allowing me to change the tyre on the inside lane. Another time in Antibes in southern France I noted oil coming from a bearing onto a rear wheel. I called the breakdown service and the van was taken to a garage for repair. It turned out that it was a bearing/seal and they couldn’t get one for 4 days and that was only coming from Paris. I contacted my insurance company and they arranged a car and put us up in an hotel as the van was off the road. They also agreed to send the part from England in 3 days if I could pick it up from Nice Airport. They gave us a Metro without air con and it was sweltering. I contacted them again and they changed it to a Tipo. I think that insurance was Red Pennant.
    We did a tour of the Scandinavian countries, travelling Larne to Stranraer, Harwich to Hook of Holland, Frederikshavn to Gothenburg then Oslo back to Denmark. In Oslo we went to the KonTiki Museum where we saw the Ra ll built with reeds which Thor Heyerdahl sailed from Morocco to Barbados in 57 days. When we loaded onto the boat at Oslo to go Denmark it was like a race track. I have never seen cars being loaded so fast. Another thing of note, the fares were very competitive compared to the UK boats.

    To be continued
     
     
     
    Posted: 30.08.2020  ·  #19
    On a trip in Donegal we were driving along one of the normal bumpy, twisty roads when I heard a bang. I looked in the mirror and saw our table and a couple of fold up chairs depart from the roof and bounce along the road. A few cars were playing dodge them and luckily none were hit. A catch on the roof box had opened and it turned out the hinges had been ripped from their sockets. I fibreglassed the damage but from then on always had a strap on the box. We carried a Honda 90 on the rack that was attached to the tow bar. The scooter was fairly light and I didn’t notice it on the back. It was really handy when parked up, we could just potter about. It wasn’t very fast but we wobbled and bounced our way around some wonderful places. 50mph on the flat, 50 mph around corners and 50 mph up our drive. I even rode it back to the van once with a flat tyre.

    We took a trip to Hungary staying around Lake Balaton. Again it was like stepping back in time. There was a train that ran along side the lake and you had to climb up a ladder to get on to it. We took the bicycles out one day and rode for hours. The kids were tired so we decided to get the train back to the village we were staying. Trouble is there are 22 towns and villages around the lake all starting with Balaton and we had forgotten which one it was. It took us a couple of try’s before we got it. Things were very cheap and it was buttons to eat out. One thing of interest was Lake Heviz, the largest thermal lake in the world. We spent time here swimming in the warm waters. We sampled the local wine Egri Bikaver (bulls blood) and bought a couple of cases. We also bought a couple of bottles of the Tokaji sweet desert wine. While on the campsite we woke up one morning to find someone had snipped some the chains of our bicycles that were on the rack. They didn’t get the bicycles this time as I had chained them on with my motorcycle chain as well. The so and so’s had snipped through a chain link fence behind us to get to the bicycles.

    Our return journey took us through Slovakia where we sat at an outdoor cafe having lunch and watched some wee s***s trying the chains on the bicycles. I went over and they moved away only to return when I went back to the cafe. We ate up and left. Lucerne was our next stop at campingInternational which is an easy walk in to the town. There are covered bridges over the river with interesting paintings on them.

    Another journey took us to Berlin, en route to Poland.We did all the sights, Check Point Charlie and the museum that detailed how people got out of the East. As we entered Poland there was a hail storm. I have a photo of a hailstone just under the size of a golf ball. We took refuge under a bridge until it passed I was glad I didn’t have the Bora as I saw loads of caravans destroyed.. It did clean the bugs off the Luton
     
    Posted: 02.09.2020  ·  #20
    I was now paranoid about the bicycles. Every time I heard a noise I was up looking out. We were camped for the night in a lay by with the intention of going into Andorra the next day. About 5 am I heard a noise and a car pulled into the lay by. Peeking through the curtains I saw a guy to go the boot of the car and take out what I thought were a set of bolt cutters. To this day I can’t figure out why someone would take bolt cutters fishing. Andorra was good for cheap booze but the customs took the van apart when we left. I had been prewarned not to exceed the limit so had my quota.

    We dabbled with Satellite TV taking the Sky box with us and hooking it up to a portable satellite dish I made a bracket that let me bolt a pole onto the rear ladder to hold the dish. I used a compass and a satellite finder to locate the satellite. I don’t remember but I think I had to have a dodgy card that fitted the sky box so I could pick up the channels abroad. Gave it up as a bad job as it was too fiddly

    Our kids went through the terrible twos and also the terrible 16s. When our daughter was 16 we decided to go to Italy and visit Rome. We crossed from France at Menton and drove down the coast keeping as close to the sea as we could. The views were fantastic and our daughter was in a strop. She spent the whole day in her bunk and only came out to eat. We called at Piza and got the tourist photographs of us holding up the tower.The campsite was on the outskirts of Rome and the day we decided to visit there was a transport strike. The owner of the campsite agreed to take us to the outskirts and we could walk the rest. We spent a great day taking in the sights and in the afternoon the strike was over so we got public transport back to the site. When our son was 16 he didn’t want to come with us but we valued our house and contents so we made him come on the agreement that we would stay in Northern France and come back to England and take him to the Amusement Parks. He whinged and gurned the whole time so we came back into England. He continued his bad behaviour so I drove him to Bristol, put him on a bus and sent him home. I arranged for his Granny to come to the house to supervise. When our daughter picked him up at Belfast he was still whinging but it was about the amount of bottles of drink that had broken on his journey in his bag.

    The Fiat was very reliable, the only thing of note was one of the driveshafts dropped out going around a roundabout. Turned out it was a small circlip had broken allowing it to come out of the housing. Once I hit a pheasant that flew out from the hedge, killed the bird and cracked the piece of plastic that is just behind the passengers door. It was hard to find someone who would repair the damage but got a guy from Moira to do it. The same guy fixed the shower tray when Anne put her foot through it. The shower would sometimes block and I would put water in the tray and force it through the waste using my foot as a plunger. Anne didn’t really understand the plunger bit and thought I was kicking the tray. Needless to say she went through it.

    We were still going to the show at Shepton Mallet and my eyes began to wander
     
    Posted: 06.09.2020  ·  #21
    Over the years we had looked at so many Motorhomes our heads were turned. We felt we knew what we wanted and needed but choosing was a different matter. I made a few tentative enquiries about trade in price for the KonTiki and thought it would be better to sell here and go with cash to a show. I left it with Hagans to sell for me and agreed a price I wanted. He sold it for slightly under but still a good price. I was sad to see it go as it fitted our requirements, but I wanted a garage and one that was winterised.
    We hopped on the motorbike and went to Shepton Mallet. We got a B&B beside the show but when Anne saw the room it didn’t pass muster and we went to another. Even I had to agree with her this time, there was dust everywhere and not so clean.

    We had a good look trying to decide to go for a new van or a second hand one. I was drawn to EuraMobil as I had read great reports about the build quality. We had looked at them the previous year and were impressed.There were two on the shortlist, one a tag Axle on a Fiat the other a Twin wheel on a Mercedes. The Fiat just pipped it with a slightly better layout and we went for a 770HB the HB denoting a high bed over a garage. There was Burnster with a similar layout and a few thousand cheaper but the rear bed was claustrophobic. By this stage we realised that we needed to check the bed before we bought. We put the deposit down agreeing to wait for one with cream interior as opposed to the demonstrator with blue interior. Having had the generator on the previous van we asked for one to be fitted along with a reversing camera. We asked for an oven to be fitted as the German vans did not have them as standard. We went home pleased as punch waiting for the call that our new van had arrived from Germany. About a month later the company called us and we flew to Birmingham and picked the van up at Wolverhampton. I was shown how everything worked and we set off home. I was so careful driving it as there was a large overhang that swung out when you turned a corner. It was most noticeable when we were in the queue to get onto the boat home. We were at the front of a line with cars parked either side and the guy directing told me to go onto the boat. I didn’t have enough room to go forward to clear the swing and told the guy. He was insistent that I moved and I held my ground, until I said ok watch and learn. I moved forward and turned the wheel, straight away the rear end went out towards the car beside me. I pretended to not hear or see him as he was screaming at me to stop.

    The van we picked suited our needs, there is a large payload of 790kg but take the generator at 50 kg and the fuel tank of 15 kg full we have just over 700kg. The oven ate into the payload as well. The large bed over the garage is comfortable and has good headroom. The seating is Pullman with a bench opposite. It has the usual toilet with separate shower. There is a double floor the length of the van adding to the storage and the waste and water tank are in this to prevent freezing. One odd thing is a 3 position switch that when switched on sucks air from below the van and circulates it from vents above the cupboards in the living area and the bed. The theory is that the air under the van is cooler and I must say that in sunnier climes it does work. It’s not air conditioning but helps. It would be ideal to tap a Sapphire Air conditioner into the tubing in the double floor. There is a heater that heats the living accommodation while you drive. I bought a 125 scooter to fit into the garage to give us more flexibility when on site.
     


    We couldn’t wait to get away on our first trip
     
    Posted: 14.09.2020  ·  #22
    We got the van in October and couldn’t wait until the summer to get out. We are avid skiers so thought we would try out Scotland as we had never skied there. The weather wasn’t great for skiing and when we arrived at Glencoe there were only a few runs open. As some of the lifts were closed the ski company took us up to the slopes on an Argo 8 wheeler now that was an experience, holding onto the skis and poles while trying to stop ourselves from being thrown out of it. Although there wasn’t much snow it was freezing and we were able to test the winterising of the van. We kept cosy and the water did not freeze as we camped in the car park of the ski area. Silver Screens also helped to keep out the cold. The generator kept the batteries topped up and we were able to use the microwave. We called in at a local campsite and saw some hardy types in tents, it made us glad we were in the van. Our first proving run over we started to plan for the Summer.

    Our daughter was now married and expecting. When we told her we were going to do a bit of a tour in Europe she declared that her, her husband and our unborn grandchild were coming as well. This was quite a change from her strop when she was 16. We agreed as the van was big enough for us all. It would be different as we were used to being on our own and having space. Not to be outdone our son now decided that he liked motorhoming again and invited himself and his fiancée along. It was arranged that the 4 of them would fly to Paris, we would pick them up and continue with the tour.

    We took the boat Rosslare to Cherbourg and picked them up at Paris. After they arrived our first stop was Euro Disney where we stayed in the Aire overnight. After taking my kids to Disneyland I went to the service area to dump water and toilet. I was waiting for the a French van in front to finish when I saw the guy dump the toilet and then go over to the fresh water tap to rinse it. I ran over shouting in my best schoolboy French to stop as it was drinking water only. I almost had to take the cassette off him until his wife came over. She spoke fluent English and I was able to relate to him that he should use the tap provided. He just shrugged but desisted. We found this common in France so carried a disenfectant spray and sprayed every tap we took fresh water from.

    We decided to head to Interlaken in Switzerland as it was one of our favourite places. We stopped over in a campsite in France and I did it again, I ran over a tent peg and punctured a tyre. I thought it would be best to patch it and keep it as a spare as there was hardly any miles on it. At the garage I took it to the owner told me he was on an extended lunch hour, shrugged his shoulders and said he would fix it when he could. I was at his mercy so left it while we took a dander. When we came back he had it fixed and charged the equivalent of £32.00, funny how you remember certain things.

    We went to our favourite campsite, Manor Farm and used it as a base for a few days then headed to the Black Forest in Germany. We stayed at Lake Titisee which is supposed to be the cleanest lake in Europe. Looking at it it is pitch black. My future daughter in law got bitten by a tick here and we had to take her to the chemist. It turned out that we had removed the tick correctly but was advised to keep an eye on her. Although the van is berthed for seven it was a squeeze with six on board. We soon got into a routine so everyone wasn’t on top of each other. We only really used the van for travelling and sleeping, barbecuing when we could. I drove the ‘kids’ back to the Airport at Amsterdam and dropped them off, bliss as we had another week on our own and the van seemed palatial compared to the previous 2 weeks.

    Our next journey would take us to cooler climes
     
     
    Posted: 20.09.2020  ·  #23
    As stated we are avid skiers and the van was bought so we could combine our two passions, skiing and motorhoming. It I well insulated and the water tanks are in the double floor to avoid freezing.I ll not relate our first trip but roll it all in one. We have skied for years so had a good idea where we wanted to go. The French call the winter campsites Caravaneige. They have heated toilets and showers , a drying room and a place to store your skis and boots. The 3 Valleys in the Savoie is our favourite spot and is the biggest ski area in the world. We had seen the motorhomes parked at various Aires over the years, some were proper Aires and some were just carparks but never thought the other vans we had would be suitable. Preparing for a ski trip is different to the summer. We loaded snow shovel, normal spade 2 EHU leads, snow chains and sturdy gloves, stepladder that turns into a ladder, stiff yard brush, 5 litre petrol tank for the generator water containers for fresh water and grey and a watering can. I carry Silver Screens and a heavy blanket to cover the dashboard as cool air comes in here.

    Getting to the resort is easy enough, we use the autoroutes from Cherbourg and head towards Lyon. The mountains only really start when you are about 20/25 miles from our destination. One thing that amazes is the roads are clear but you could have 6 ft of snow either side. I think they use grit rather than salt. The last few miles of roads are peppered with hairpin bends and a hard climbs. The van is chipped and it would be a slow slog without it because of the weight we are carrying. If I get a line of vehicles behind me I’ll pull in at a lay-by and let them past and then pull out again. New regulations state that you mush have winter tyres in the Alps from 1st November and there are areas where it’s compulsory to carry and use snow chains when directed. I have Michelin Agilis camping,tyres and they are rated MS (mud and snow) I find them better than the old Michelin and they seem to give more grip on the snow and ice. I had a problem once when moving from one resort to the other and the sat nav brought us up a small road. I had to put on the snow chains and then came to a sign that said the road was closed and there were no turning areas.There were a few nervous moments when I had to turn around in the road with the rear overhang hanging over the edge and Anne giving directions

    Over the years we stayed in different sites and Aires. Our favourite Aires is at Les Menuires, one of the villages in the centre of the 3 Valleys at 1800metres. This is very close to the village and right beside the ski slopes, you can ski and out. It has a barrier system and there is a bourne for the water and waste. One bit if etiquette here is for the water. You have to put a token in to get a set amount of water but when you have had your fill others will take the surplus. I service the van on a regular basis as you have to carry the water and waste
     
     
     
    Posted: 22.09.2020  ·  #24
    We tend to go at the same time each year and meet the same people and we have made some good friends. These are the people to ask if you need something. The long term ones get French gas delivered to their van from the local village. There is a large contingent of older people, mainly Dutch and Germans who stay for a couple of months at a time. It’s not uncommon to see ones in their 70s skiing and they also know how to party. We were invited to a neighbours 75Th birthday party where beer and Schnapps flowed. I had a bottle if a Black Bush with me and introduced them to Irish Whiskeys, which went down well. The party culminated with these 70 plus year olds marching up and down the Aire singing following the Birthday boy playing his accordion. Anne and I watched on, slightly inebriated but not lit enough to join in. The French just looked on in amazement.
    [vimeo][vimeo][/vimeo][/vimeo]
     

    The above is a view of the Aire in relation to the village. See if you can pick my van.

    When we come back from skiing I brush the skis and poles and leave them outside to dry as they have to go into the garage in the van and we dont want moisture in. When I put them in I set them on old towels to catch any melted ice. I have a 300 watt tube heater in the garage to keep it warm. We use the other heaters depending on weather etc. When we leave the van we use the 800 watt oil filled one to keep it above the temperature that the water dumps. When we come back from skiing we leave the habitation door and garage door open for a while to air the van and get rid of moisture. If it’s very cold we use the 3000 watt heater to bring it up to heat and then the 2000watt convection to maintain heat. Overnight we use the oil filled again. Sounds a bit of faff but works for us. We need to dry the ski clothes daily so use the blow heater in the bathroom with the top vent open to let out moisture. The boots go into the garage or bathroom depending on how wet they are. They are easier
    to get on if slightly warm. When not on electric we just use gas for everything. There is quite a draught comes in from the dash so I use a heavy blanket over the dash and down to the floor as well as taping up the vents on the door. Someone told me that if I move the heating levers to recirculating it shuts off the air from outside. The Silver Screens help keep in the heat.
    Once when I didn’t get an electric point I ran the generator after we came back from skiing. A German came over and asked me to switch it off. I explained that it was the only way I could charge the batteries but switched it off anyway. He came back later and offered to share his electric and we took it in turns to feed the meter. He obviously had never been on a German Stell Platz beside a power hungry behemoth with its generator running.

    The main Caravaneige in the 3 Valleys is at Raffort just below Meribel in the grounds of Le Margagon restaurant. If we can’t get into the Aire we go here. It is beside the bubble that takes you up to Meribel and there is a large car park outside that is used as an Aire by some people. The restaurant is typically French.That and the Caravaneige are ran by Madame who runs a tight ship.
     

    I have a routine if it snows as I don’t want to get blocked in. I clear a path around the van and dig tracks for the wheels to get out. This is easy with a snow shovel while it’s still soft, the space deals with any ice. You can get a foot of snow on the roof so I clear that before it turns to ice and is harder to get off. It’s against the law to drive with a pile of ice and snow on the roof. I have had to put on the snow chains to get out of the Parking spot. I try and keep the electric lead up,and off the ground as if it gets embedded in the ice it’s hard to get out. I still put the skis in the van here as I don’t trust the shed they are kept in. A couple of years ago a few sets of skis disappeared from it.
     
     

    Posted: 30.09.2020  ·  #25

    I could bore you to death about the skiing so I’ll move on. When we first got the van we had a few problems with it and had to get it sorted in England as there were no EuraMobil dealers here. There was a guy in Dublin I had to take it to for habitation check to keep the warranty up but he wasn't able to deal with the problems. We had the habitation door and sink replaced. I just waited until we were going on holidays and called in on the way past. One problem appeared which was more concerning. A gap appeared above the wall of the toilet compartment that you could put your finger in. I contacted the dealers in England who sent me to a guy over here. He thought that the floor was sagging and with the agreement of EuraMobil jacked it up. This was ok for a while but the gap appeared again. We were skiing as usual that year so I decided when we had finished we would drive to the EuraMobil factory at Sprendlingen near Frankfurt and see what they thought. When we arrived it took us a while to get to speak with a manager but I persisted and eventually had an audience. He agreed to have a look at it and eventually found that there was something wrong with the roof and it was raising rather than the floor. It was 4 years old then and out of its warranty but after a bit of hard negotiations he agreed to replace the roof but I would have to cover costs to get it there. I wasn’t that happy but agreed as the roof covering is in one piece and by the time it goes around the overcab is about 9m long. The repair would take about 10 days. When we got home I booked Larne to Stranraer and Newcastle to IJmuiden in Holland. I found cheap flights through Ryanair, one way was €19.99 and the other was €0.01. When I arrived at Sprendlingen I was given a tour of the factory and they showed me how the roof was going to be repaired. I was then dropped off at Frankfurt Hahn and got the flight home. After 10 days I returned and picked up the van I went home via the Birmingham show. They also had repaired a bit of damp that had got in. The roof has been fine since.
    We continued our tours attending the shows when we could. Our favourite show is the Caravan Salon at Dusseldorff. It’s usually on at the start of September and the motorhomes are housed in large halls. It’s the biggest in Europe and is great for seeing the new vans and innovations There is a good selection from all the makers and it takes about 3 days to have a good look around. The Parking is well organised and busses ferry you from the campsite to the halls. We broke down here a few years ago when water got into the plug in chip. We were towed to a local garage and again the insurance paid for a hotel while we waited to get it fixed. I suspected it was the plugin but one of the mechanics said computer was saying no. I visited the garage each day on the scooter and eventually got talking to another mechanic who agreed with me and got it sorted. Once it was sorted we were on our way again having spent a couple of pleasant days in Dusseldorff. There is an Aire at Dusseldorff beside the Rhine but it’s inside the emissions zone and we are not allowed on it now. It’s only a few minutes to the city from it.
    During the summer we don’t use the French motorways much as the van is charged Class 4 which is the equivalent of an HGV and double the price of a car. In the winter we tend to bomb to the ski resorts to give us as much time as possible so use the motorways. As the majority of the tolls are automated the ticket always comes up as a Class 4. I push the button for assistance and in perfect French tell them that I am driving a camping Car. About 95% of the time they will change to Class2. The odd time they will change to Class3 and once on a long run from Lyon to Paris Madame was insistent I paid my €90. Most of the times at manned booths the operators have charge me for a car.
     
    Posted: 10.10.2020  ·  #26
    Over the years we have used loads of Aires for overnighting. We used to stop at the basic Parkingplaces on motorways that didn’t have petrol etc but decided against it as some times we were alone. We use Aires in towns and villages and stop at motorway service stations. Once en route to Italy we were stopped at a rest area in Switzerland. There were loads of lorries, caravans and motorhomes parked so we felt safe. I had driven over 400 miles so closed the blinds and jumped into bed. About 3am something woke me and I looked forward. I noticed that the front blinds were open and told Anne that someone had been in the van. She told me that I was being silly but when I reached to where my trousers were hanging and found that they were not there she changed her mind. I checked around the van and found my trousers and Anne’s handbag beside the passenger door on the ground. My wallet was still in them but all the money had been taken, leaving the credit cards. In total they took about £700. On inspection the passenger door lock had been broken. I reported the incident to the police and they called but could do nothing. My first thought was that we had been gassed as we had heard stories. We do not believe we had been gassed as both of us were clear as a bell, no drowsiness, headache etc. We were parked beside a lorry with a refrigeration unit and as lorry’s passed the van would rock. I think they would have waited until a lorry passed and broken the lock, then as subsequent lorries passed moved further inside until they reached the rear of the van where we were sleeping and my trousers were hanging. We have an alarm that covers the doors and lockers but had been so tired had forgotten to switch it on. Lesson learned.
    A few months later we got a letter from the Swiss police stating they had found the culprits. Turned out it was a couple of twins from Milan who had broken into approximately 50 vehicles on the motorways. They had added details of the others and we were the only ones from the UK. Funny thing they included their addresses in Milan. I used to daydream about knocking on their door.

    During the writing there were a few bits that I forgot to include so here they are;

    Once in a Portugal I got stuck in sand. I saw a 4x4 in the distance and went over to see if he would tow me out. When I came back a load of nudists were helping Anne dig and push the van out of the sand. She said she didn’t know where to look. I’m sure she didn’t

    When I had the high top Volkswagen Anne used it as her car but never put diesel in it. She once got a couple of gallons of diesel into the fresh water tank before realising her mistake. I had to take the water tank off and it took ages to get it flushed out. I had to wash it loads of times before I could get the smell out. I eventually left a hose in it overnight to rinse it.

    Another time we came across a massive American RV who had broken down. I stoped to see if I could help. He couldn’t understand why I couldn’t give him a tow to a garage with my 2 L FordTransit.

    When I had the Chausson Bora A-Class it had a massive holding tank for the toilet waste. You had to find a drain that you could drive over to dump it. One time it was full and the campsite didn’t have a drain I could get close enough to so I decided I could do with a bucket. Trust me you can’t do it with a bucket. You have to pull a lever to open the tank but it’s not easy to get closed while the waste is coming out. From then on I made sure not to let it get too full.
     
    Veni Vidi Amavi
    Tommy
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