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.