July 27, 2010

California Dreamin' in England: Vacation in a VW Van

We are back! We packed a lot into our trip which means I am still sorting through photos, laundry, and stories. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have someone waiting at your house when you return from a trip...a house elf who does the unpacking AND organizes all of your photos into an amazing photobook of your trip? I have such good intentions of making photobooks from each of our trips but somehow that just hasn't happened yet...


The trip was great. Our first week was spent living and exploring southern England in a fabulous VW California Camper Van, a seriously well-designed vehicle. I wish I could say we had beautiful weather the whole week, but we didn't, which actually made me appreciate the van even more. We rented the van from One Life. I had a hunch they would be good folks to work with because their e-mails were prompt, helpful, and full of good suggestions, but I have to admit I was still a bit nervous about this whole part of the trip. I shouldn't have worried. When David and Kate met us at the train station with the van, we were blown away by their attention to details. The van was fully stocked with every kitchen item we could possibly need including a few breakfast basics to get us started, very nice bed linens (down comforters which made the whole camping thing feel so luxourious!), and they even bought towels before our arrival because we had such limited space in our suitcases. My favorite items in the van were the complete set of VW van dishes.

The van itself was perfect for our family of four. Easy to drive and set up each night. It was great to have access to a kitchen any time of the day (I am now thinking all cars should have coolers/refrigerators!). When everyone was hungry, we would find a nice stopping place, pull over, turn the seats around and have lunch...very convenient and left us dreaming about owning one of our own. Sleeping was also pretty comfortable, except for the last night when we had extreme winds and driving rains. We started the evening just as every night before but when the weather continued to worsen and rain started to blow in through the tent walls, we decided to put down the upper compartment. That wasn't too much fun at midnight. It meant we had to turn the car on (which was against campground rules), wake up and transfer two sleeping children and then spend the rest of night with four people sleeping on a bed intended for two. I am very glad that happened on our last night and not our first...but I was even happier to be in a camper van that night and not in a tent like some of our camping neighbors.


We hit three different campsites during our week:

Home Farm: This was the smallest campground we stayed in during the week and it was also my favorite with it's beautiful views of the Chilterns, the amazing Red Kites, fresh eggs, walking paths, kids playing cricket, the delicious and friendly pub down the road, and access to lots of walking trails.

River Dart: This was the kids' favorite campsite. It really is a kid's wonderland and we could easily have spent our whole week there (Noah is begging us to go back next summer). Fabulous adventure playgrounds with huge slides, tree houses, zip lines, woods and creeks for exploring. Lots of kids and lots of spontaneous soccer games (and a very emotional place to watch the final World Cup game since many of our camping neighbors were Dutch). It is a very well maintained site with beautiful grounds. Great for a family vacation with easy access to Dartmoor National Park.

Green Hills Leisure Farm: This campsite is actually on the grounds of a working farm with lots of interesting animals and chickens laying eggs right outside the van. Adam's favorite part of this campsite was the soccer field right behind our pitch. Close to Oxford, the Cotswolds and Blenheim Palace. Clean facilities, including a game room and a fishing pond.

So that's the report on our first experience with a VW camper van. Stay tuned for lots more travel pics and British posts. Hope you are all having some amazing summer adventures.

20 comments:

GBK Gwyneth said...

I LOVE those plates. It's enough for me to want to go and rent one of those vans next summer! :) I can't wait to read more about your trip. Hadrian's Wall is creeping further and further towards the top of my list...the girls and I drove down to it from Edinburgh one year and ever since I've been wanting to walk the wall. But I'd also like to combine that with some English countryside touring...

BTW, I think I ended up here when I was in search of ideas for Turkey -- we are back from our three week stay there and had a wonderful time.

Bec said...

Sounds like heaps of fun, we have plans to do similar this summer.

Cami said...

That sounds SO great! I DO think all vans should have a little kitchen. That would be helpful. And a bed. That's fun too.

Lorraine said...

You just made my day. I didn't know they made these anymore - it looks fantastic! We rented an RV for a week earlier in the summer and the kids absolutely loved it. Thanks for this post and am eager to hear about the rest of the trip.

Dim Sum, Bagels, and Crawfish said...

Gwyneth, you should seriously consider doing the campervan thing in England. It really is a great family adventure not to mention a very convenient way to travel/sleep/eat, etc. And I am with you on the plates, too. They were just so darn cute. Glad you had fun in Turkey. It is still one of our all-time favorite family trips. Where did you go?

Bec, it was heaps of fun! (I love that phrase!)

Cami, I never really thought of how convenient the kitchen would be until had one. I guess that's why conversion vans were so popular when we were kids?

Lorraine, the California vans are predominantly in Europe...not sure if they are being sold in the States yet...but they are amazing. I grew up with VW vans, but I don't remember them being nearly as cool as this new version. Full of ingenious design, nifty storage, and great for family travel. I'll have to catch up on your blog to find out more about your RV trip. Sounds like fun.

Dim Sum, Bagels, and Crawfish said...

Gwyneth, you should seriously consider doing the campervan thing in England. It really is a great family adventure not to mention a very convenient way to travel/sleep/eat, etc. And I am with you on the plates, too. They were just so darn cute. Glad you had fun in Turkey. It is still one of our all-time favorite family trips. Where did you go?

Bec, it was heaps of fun! (I love that phrase!)

Cami, I never really thought of how convenient the kitchen would be until had one. I guess that's why conversion vans were so popular when we were kids?

Lorraine, the California vans are predominantly in Europe...not sure if they are being sold in the States yet...but they are amazing. I grew up with VW vans, but I don't remember them being nearly as cool as this new version. Full of ingenious design, nifty storage, and great for family travel. I'll have to catch up on your blog to find out more about your RV trip. Sounds like fun.

likeschocolate said...

Yeah! I am glad you are back. Missed reading you. Looks fantastic! If you are thinking of making a photobook, use blurb. They are the best! I just made a book and loved how it turned out. It gives you a ton of options and you do not have to stick to the layout that is on your blog if you load up directly from your blog. I love the van plates!

Jeannette said...

That looks a perfect way to travel with a family! I can't wait to hear more about your trip!! On photobooks...do you have a Mac? I made a photo book right from the iPhoto software that stores my pictures and I couldn't be more pleased with how easy it was to create (no additional uploading to another software, etc.) and how professional it turned out. The packaging was also 'so Apple' so it made quite an impression as a gift.

GBK Gwyneth said...

Yes, those plates are adorable -- we had a VW van when I was a kid, and I always, always wanted us to upgrade to a "pop top"! :)

I hadn't considered the possibility of a VW for camping -- and having driven in Scotland and Ireland, there's no way I would drive anything bigger, so I had always ruled out an RV. Thanks for the links and review!

In Turkey - we went to Istanbul, took the ferry then overnight train to Ankara, a two day trip to Cappadocia (so glad we opted for the hot air balloon ride@), and a week in a villa Selcuk (Ephesus). From Selcuk, we took a day trip to Pamukkale/Hierapolis (amazing place).

We all loved it and really would love to go back again!

http://gwyneth.butera.org/tag/turkey/

Eren said...

I *love* those plates!

Glad to hear you all had a wonderful time.

Just popping in to say hello and that I promise to visit you here more often.

Much love!

E

Amy @ The Q Family said...

OH!! This is a great way to vacation. I really love this. My hubby is a big VW fan so that will make it easier to convince him to do it.

Are there any campground close to London? Would it be possible to do it while visiting London or it's more recommended when we want to travel around England?

Thanks for your British Prepping posts. I look forward to reading more about your vacation in England.

jessiev said...

what a great way to travel!! i love hearing of this adventure - makes me want to try it.

DeliciousBaby said...

What a fun idea! I forwarded a link along to my husband, so who knows, maybe we'll take a page from your book and try this too!

Thanks so much for joining in Photo Friday.

WanderMom said...

OMG Those dishes are too cute!
We used to own that model of a VW Camper (it's called a EuroVan here) + used it for car-camping around a lot of the West Coast of the UW (WA, CA + OR). It was awesome to have. We recently traded down to a smaller car, but I still have fond memories of our camper.

Sharlene said...

I want a Camper Van so bad!!!!!!! Oh my gosh I would just be in heaven! I hope they actually make it to California because I would be in line to buy one.

PS- I would love for you to do a guest post for Trekaroo if you are ever interested. We just started letterboxing and I would love to have an expert tell our readers more about it. :) If you are interesting please email me at searnshaw@trekaroo.com

Tisra said...

this is SO exciting to me!!!! Of course, we'd have to rent TWO to fit our family of 6, but it still might be worth it for the experience and savings in rental car + hotel. It rains a lot in England; are you saying the pop up part is less than water-proof? I, really, really want to do this on our next trip!

ajayan said...

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Nancy said...

Too cool!! I can see us doing this one day. What great memories you must have of that trip.

GBK Gwyneth said...

Ummm ... I loved those plates so much, I went and bought a PopTop Eurovan. Thank you midlife crisis. I sure hope that the companies that sell those plates can ship to the US....

http://www.travelgoon.org/2011/02/17/roadtrip-a-new-phase-in-our-travels/

Leisa Dreps said...

I want to go on a vacation that's just like that. My favorite campsite is the Home Farm. The Chilliterns have unique and yet classical architectural structures. The houses look so beautiful. Another thing are the red kites. It's just so amazing to watch these birds, especially when they're flying together.