I absolutely love VW Campervans. I grew up with one – it was our family vehicle and holiday destination all in one fabulous package. Then, when I was 20 years old, I was lucky enough to have one of my own when I was at uni – which was awesome as me and my friends could drive off to exciting new places for the weekend and sleep for free in a car park!
Sadly for me the van of my childhood (we called her Nettie) was sold when our family outgrew it (it is a squeeze for a family of five) and the van of my student days (by then I thought I was too cool to name a vehicle…) died… Having looked after me throughout my student days she (well I might not have named her but she most certainly wasn’t simply an ‘it’) managed to drive me and all my worldly possessions to my fab first London flat in Kensal Green, only to have her engine seize on arrival never to work again.
All in all VW Campervans are very dear to my heart and when I become rich I will own one as a second vehicle. But until that day I’ll settle with renting one for the weekend to show my kids just how much fun they are!
As a seasoned VW van driver I was determined to be THE driver for the weekend – it was my thing… hmmm hindsight is a wonderful thing, and if I had my time again for my first VW van outing in 20 years I would certainly have let the boyf drive it instead – or at least as well as me – as it was actually much trickier than I remember. I guess as we get older we get more fearful and less fit – not a great combination, especially when you have two over-excited kids in the back without seat belts to restrain them. Anyway after a pretty eventful and very stressful journey down to Devon we picked up our Camper and were on our way – and I couldn’t wait to experience the campervan camping experience again!
As the owner of a pretty modern Mini, I found the contrast in driveability really difficult at first, and started off on the country lanes averaging around 10 miles per hour. The gear stick was too long, too tricky to slot into place, and too unpredictable. The breaks didn’t really stop the vehicle. The rear seat belts were non-existent, and the diameter of the steering wheel was quite frankly enormous – have I shrunk over the last 20 years??? However, I persevered and before too long we were winding up and down the stunning Devon country lanes at 60 miles an hour – the lady at the van rental company assured me that this was the van’s top speed… It wasn’t – once my confidence kicked in I got her to do 70 (the van, not the lady…)!
We headed straight to Woolacombe and spent a fab day on the sunniest of English winter’s beaches, eating fish and chips, riding on old fashion pully swings and watching a motor scooter rally – then it was up the cliff tops to the campsite for the night. Once we had been directed to our pitch we cooked pasta, played cards and listened to the radio – classic childhood Saturday night entertainment, which was such a novelty in this day and age that it certainly impressed my wi-fi generation kids.
The next morning we were up (literally) with the larks. The kids – who were sleeping in the roof – were rather damp… some kind of condensation issue, but even that didn’t “dampen” their spirits! And following our breakfast of Nutella pancakes we packed up our things, put down the roof and headed off to Ilfracombe.
I must confess to a couple of small driving meltdowns (van too big, lane too small kind of thing…) but all in all the half hour drive to Ilfracombe was most enjoyable – we even managed a family singsong! And one of the best things about driving a VW Camper is that everyone loves you – and yes I mean everyone. Obviously all fellow van drivers wave at you, but so do other people. People smile at you at traffic lights and wave as you drive by. In fact driving a VW Camper makes England a much friendlier place – and once my kids realised that I wasn’t being a total weirdo by waving at people – they joined in and waved and smiled along with me.
Parking up in Ilfracombe was easy-peasy and the town was at its sunniest best. We walked up to the cliff tops and down through the tunnels to the stunning Tunnel Beaches – and finished off with a roast dinner at a charming family pub. Then it was time to take the van back to its owners.
This was a slightly sadder journey as our adventure was coming to an end and our earlier excitement and buoyancy was now definitely rather dampened, and our waving at passers a little less enthusiastic. However it was still fun, we did still sing, and joke and laugh – I particularly loved my high all-seeing position on the road. We didn’t want to drop her back. But drop her back we did. And then it was back in the Mini and back up to London in time for bed.