The last leg

Nine months ago, we bought a retired RAC van with a vision to turn it into a fully-fledged campervan – fondly known as Enid. Our recent holiday to Lake Como in Italy was our deadline for completing her conversion. Well that’s a big fat box we can now tick! We have just arrived back home from an epic holiday and Enid did us so proud. She drove me, Ed and Luna a whopping 1,664 miles.  

To get to and from Italy, she took us through England, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland (and a little bit of Germany for good measure). You can read all about our three-day journey to Lake Como here but our three-day journey home was somewhat different.

For starters, we knew we’d be stopping off overnight in Switzerland and France (twice), but we had made zero bookings. As someone who likes a plan and, more importantly, 24/7 toilets, this was a bit of a risk…or at least a bit scary as nobody wants to be woken up in their smalls and told to move on.

The first day saw Enid take us through hours of breathtaking scenery in the Swiss Alps (albeit in fog again, dammit!) before arriving at a small campsite in a village called Lauterbrunnen. Thankfully, there was a spot for us to park up, although it was by the skin of our teeth as the site was about to close, plus we had to rush back to the main village to get hard cash out so we could pay.

We didn’t have much time here, but it didn’t matter – we were surrounded by imposing mountains, there was very little light pollution and we had just enough time for a serious game of Carcassonne.

The next day, we strolled around the village in what is a decent base for mountain bikers, walkers and base jumpers. We then headed off to Beaune which is the wine capital of Burgundy. It would be rude not to sample the local wines so, while we had plans to wild camp near a lake, it wasn’t meant to be. We needed to park Enid somewhere that would be within stumbling distance from the centre.

We found a car park packed full of caravans (Enid therefore in a sea of white) – not the most exotic of destinations of our whole holiday but it served a purpose. Naturally, it meant we spent less time with Enid and more time drinking and eating in a lovely wine bar called Le Bistrot Bourguignon.

Keen to raise our standards of overnight camping, we found a vineyard-come-campsite in the champagne region of France. The journey to this site was amazing – rolling fields and quiet roads. It provided a much-needed change from the dull motorways we had previously endured. But trouble was ahead. This campsite – adorned with chilled out campers sipping on champagne (we’re not jealous, honest) – was full. Shit. And we were hungry and tired. Double shit. After much deliberating (and more swearing), we decided to drive further afield to another site.

We pulled up at another vineyard, called Champagne Jacques Copin, which really was our only hope otherwise we would have to drive a further 45 minutes on growling stomachs. I watched Ed talk to the owner and I prayed. I prayed there would be space for us, and I prayed there would be cold bubbles at the ready. My prayers were answered and then some. Hallelujah!

Not only could we park for the night, there were toilet and shower facilities. Winning! This came at a small price of 10 euros, or free if we bought some champagne. Obviously, we did the latter as we were in the champagne capital after all. We bought two bottles and it wasn’t long before we were soaking up in the sun with a glass (or three) of bubbly. It was the perfect final night of our holiday.

The last day of travelling saw us spend a few hours driving across France (and spend yet more euros for those darn French tolls) before eventually arriving at the channel tunnel in Calais. After a couple of hours waiting for our train’s departure, which gave us time to walk our panting/anxious/high maintenance (delete as appropriate) dog, we drove another few hours from Folkestone to home.

And now that’s it. Our first big road trip is over (SOB!!)… but it will be by no means our last. The great thing about travelling in Enid is that she enables us to travel through and stay in places we never would have chosen. Who knows where she will take us next, and we can’t bloody wait 😊

Road tripping to Italia!

Finally, we have arrived in Italy – after three days travelling through several countries in our beloved Enid!

We set off from home in the early evening to camp outside a lovely pub called The Doghouse and Vinyl Bar near Folkestone. It was the perfect pit stop for our first official holiday drink before leaving at 5.30am the next day for the channel tunnel. It was tempting to travel in our PJs but we thought that central Europeans might frown upon this behaviour…

Our next destination was Luxembourg but, as it is a four-hour drive from Calais, we stopped at Namur in Belgium to stretch our legs and let Luna have a taste of the local lake (she even found a tennis ball – winning!). We found a nice park to walk around and have a little picnic while taking in some rays. We also couldn’t resist a nearby (albeit dodgy) bar for a quick drink. Luna got free water and biscuits. Standard.

It wasn’t long before we were back on the road and travelling on motorways lined with enormous green trees. It was just beautiful. What’s more, the roads were pretty quiet, making it a really nice drive right up until we reached Camping Bissen – our campsite for the night. We parked Enid up in front of the river and put up the awning before having a few well-earned drinks under the sun. Luna of course couldn’t resist a paddle and had a close encounter with a brave (or stupid) duck!

It’s probably a good thing we got an early night because this is when the weather took a turn for the worse. It POURED with rain all night and, while we kept dry, our chairs sadly didn’t because we left them outside. Rookie mistake. We took down the awning during a short rain break before driving in more rain to Colmar in the south of France (or, as some call it, Little Venice). This journey was relatively short, and we were relieved to arrive at the campsite in the sunshine. We set up camp and walked along the adjoining river while Luna swam in it to fetch a French stick 😉

We had great intentions to stroll into the centre of Colmar but, just as we finished getting ‘glammed up’, the heavy rain returned. Bugger. Intent not to let it scupper our plans, we drove in and headed for a café for the holiday’s first (and very expensive) Aperol Spritz. Luna was somewhat of a celebrity with onlookers gazing at her beauty. She bloody knows it too. We then grabbed some food before getting another early night as our final leg before arriving in Italy would take six hours.

Note to self: don’t bother putting up the awning if there is any hint of rain. Putting the awning away was an absolute pain. It was drenched in rain, mud and grass – and took bloody ages to pack. We couldn’t wait for Enid to get us back on the road and leave the miserable weather behind.

We drove through a bit of Germany before arriving in Switzerland – and WOW. Every bit of this country is stunning. We were surrounded by mountains, waterfalls and windy roads. If there is any road trip you want to do in a campervan, it’s in this country. We left the rain to travel through fog and some snow, and it was still beautiful. It would be even more beautiful if we had bluebird sky! Maybe next time.

Many hours later and Enid made her descent towards the Italian border in Lugano where the weather was MUCH kinder to us. It had been a long day of travelling and, towards the end of the trip, we made a few wrong turns (my bad) so we were very happy to arrive at an apartment we booked just outside of Menaggio in Lake Como – our favourite place!

Enid now gets a break from driving hundreds of miles (and from us!) while Luna gets a break from Enid as she is a terrible passenger. Poor dog. She will be rewarded with her favourite thing though, and lots of it – which is water to paddle and swim in, but you might have guessed that already 😊

Ciao!

The camping bug

Oh dear, we’ve got the bug. No, not the common illness that has hideous consequences at both ends. We’ve got the camping bug! We just can’t get enough of Enid.

When Ed said he would be glad when he didn’t have to spend any more time doing up Enid, he definitely didn’t mean he would be glad when he didn’t have to spend time with her.

At every opportunity, he has been travelling in Enid to see family and friends, and even using her for trips to work. And then, of course, there have been our little holiday trips – with Rotterdam being the trip that broke Enid’s virginity. When we were there, we said we would go away once a month. We even put upcoming dates in the diary…. now that’s organisation!

So, for August, our trip was in Mablethorpe. It wouldn’t ordinarily be our first choice for a holiday destination, but we found a really nice pub with a thatched roof – The King’s Head – near the seaside which we were able to park (and camp) in for free. It was in the sticks and even had a hook-up.

But before we could even ‘check out’, we already decided to do it all over again the following weekend – but in a different location. So, the following Saturday, we drove down to Turweston which isn’t too far from Silverstone to camp (again, for free) at The Stratton Arms. We pretty much had a field to ourselves, meaning Luna could have the run of the place.

What we also had was a brand spanking new awning which gave us a lot more space. Fortunately for us, this came at the perfect time as it sheltered us from the very gusty winds!

Both of these pubs are random finds but that’s the beauty of it all. We are discovering new places in Britain and meeting people (including fellow campers!) with all sorts of backgrounds and stories.

We’d love to say that we are travelling again next weekend, but we are not. Well, Enid is – but she’s being taken for a spin by Ed’s mate. And then we’re on the countdown to THE trip we have been waiting for… ITALY! We have been conjuring up all sorts of plans for our drive that will take us across Europe. We will get to tick off some stunning places which we’ll no doubt share here and on Instagram.

Ciao!

Breaking Enid’s virginity

Getting up at 4.30am sucks. But it sucks less when it’s for holiday…even less when it’s for our first overseas trip in Enid. Rotterdam no less!

For many years, it has been Ed’s dream to go to the North Sea Jazz Festival. Well, it’s finally happened, as we travelled in Enid to Rotterdam where this renowned festival is held.

Our campervan – minus a few tweaks – is now complete and what a place to break Enid’s virginity! Ed drove us to a campsite just outside of Rotterdam called Recreatiepark de Oude Maas, taking us across England and into France (via le shuttle), Belgium and then finally the Netherlands.

We arrived in the early evening and parked up at a beautiful spot facing the river Oude Maas. The views were beautiful. We cracked open a couple of beers and sat in our camp chairs to take it all in. Oh, and we sneaked in a quick game of scatch (which Ed won, dammit) before the sun went down.

Sleeping in Enid was pleasantly comfortable, warm and quiet. In fact, we woke up after 9am which was pretty good going. After a lazy morning – making a cuppa and cooking up a bacon and sausage sarnie combo – it was time to explore Rotterdam. And there was no better way to explore than on two bikes (although I’d have enjoyed it more if my bike had tassles 😉). The cycle network in the Netherlands is bloody amazing. Cyclists essentially have their own roads – even roundabouts!

We spent a few hours sightseeing which included a trip to the market (vegan coconut balls anyone?!), a wander around the park and, of course, ice cream and beer. We found a really cool street called Witte de Withstraat which we’d recommend to anyone visiting Rotterdam.

We then cycled back to Enid, discovering I could cycle with no hands for quite a while…before falling off my bike. I had cut my hands, shoulder and knee as well as seriously hurt my pride.

The following day was the festival – although we snuck in a quick game of scatch which sadly did not end well after some aggressive ball throwing from Ed! We cycled to the festival (with hands mainly on bars) through very green suburbs and parks with a few streams thrown in. It was the perfect way to travel. Once inside the venue, we headed to the main stage where an ‘afrobeat pop’ band called Jungle by Night were performing. They were a lot of fun, so dancing/shuffling was in order.

Other performers we saw included Broken Brass Ensemble, Poppy Ajudha, Ady Suleiman (hailing from Nottingham like Ed!) and Young Gun Silver Fox.

We arrived back at camp at a fairly respectable time of around 11pm. It was our last night in Enid before heading home. Thankfully, we didn’t need to leave super early so we spent the morning with a cuppa and biscuits in bed – with tailgate open so we could look out onto the Oude Maas.

Our trip to Rotterdam was a success. Travelling and sleeping in Enid has been brilliant, turning our holiday into an adventure. We’ve already put a date in the diary for our next mini trip. It’ll be much closer to home and our pooch Luna will be with us. Maybe we’ll even try a bit of wild camping – an experience that will be breaking virginity territory for all of us…

Goodbye RAC, hello campervan!

It’s the end of RAC as we know it. Our orange van – Enid – is no longer the rescuer of broken-down vehicles on roads across Britain. She has bloomed into a bright and beautiful campervan.

OK, so she hasn’t fully bloomed just yet, but WE CAN SEE THE FINISH LINE. We are on the final leg and it’s so blimmin’ exciting! In the last four weeks, Ed has done an incredible amount of work.

We now have bubble gum stripe vinyl flooring (which looks ACE!) that has been stuck down with high temperature adhesive followed by a black plastic cover fitted to the rear tailgate threshold.

Ed has also spent many hours (and days) in our spare room van workshop constructing the EVO Design 4.2 kitchen units – consisting of a lower unit, higher storage unit, overhead locker and LED light shelf – which arrived like an IKEA flatpack on steroids. These were then fitted in the van to allow for the sink and hob to be added. (I can smell the bacon sarnies just thinking about it)

Next up was the second fix electrics. Ed wired up the switch panel to enable us to operate the lights in one place plus installed a switch on the driver’s side so the stereo can be used when the ignition is off. This means one thing – nights under the stars can be accompanied by Marvin Gaye…or, with a little bit of luck, MC Neat 😉

And, if you read our last blog post, the sleeping arrangements in Enid weren’t ideal but now we have had a rock and roll bed fitted (courtesy of JDS Metaltech). It means we have a back seat that turns into a bed, and it matches the driver and passenger seats no less. Knowing I need to contribute to the campervan conversion, I did my bit and purchased a couple of cushions. Hard work that!

Finally, Ed kindly stuck a mirror on my sun visor so I can obviously check my face! (Note: this has since fallen and landed on the screen of Ed’s laptop – scratching it in the process)

So, as you can tell, it’s been a bumper month. There is now stuff inside so it’s no longer an empty shell of a van. It’s more substantial. The best news? Ed is pretty damn pleased with it too. He did all the stuff you don’t necessarily see (like the hook-up) and has now also done work that people can see and therefore appreciate. Oh and, since writing this post, we have black curtains too so, when it’s time to say goodnight, Enid will just be ours to appreciate.

Be back soon with another update!

Testing, testing!

Ok, so this blog post is a bit overdue but, as the old saying goes, it’s better late than never.

A few weeks’ back, we took Enid for a test drive/camp in Hastings with some of our dog walking mates. It was an interesting trip to say the least.

For starters, Ed was on a course halfway down to Hastings anyway (with Enid) which meant Luna and I took three connecting trains to meet him. It was a LONG day but the fact it was National Doughnut Day made up for it. I mean – a free doughnut while waiting for a train. What’s not to like?!

After the doughnut eating, train hopping and walking as fast as I can to leave our final stop in a town which can only be described as a s*** hole, we met Ed and Enid. We drove a further two hours to Hastings to reach the rest of the crew. You’d think they’d be happy to see us arrive but unfortunately our arrival was badly timed with Storm Miguel. And the gale-force winds and rain continued through the evening (and until the next morning in fact).

Luckily for us though, ‘setting up camp’ inside Enid was quick and easy (no putting up tents – hurrah!). Although, there was some time wasted/embarrassment. As any avid Enid follower would know, Enid was still without a bed (or any curtains for that matter!) so we had to blow up two single beds…only to find that they wouldn’t fit side by side in a T5 campervan. Duh.

On the plus side, Enid didn’t explode. That was always a fear of mine. After all, Ed isn’t an electrician. But he had of course done his homework. Phill – our dog walking mate – who IS a professional electrician gave the electrics a once over and confirmed (while sipping on a beer of course) that we are indeed safe.

Yes! Forget the excitement of having working plugs to charge phones or put on the kettle, we were able to use an electric heater! And boy was it toasty warm. Like a sauna in fact. It made sleeping during the storm fine actually. We didn’t tell our fellow campers though. They had a really hard time in their tents. Let’s just say some were collecting their awnings and windbreakers from across the field in the early hours. Woops!

The weather, thankfully, improved for the rest of the weekend and nobody was blown off a cliff. We went on some nice walks (Luna was of course in her element) and visited some nice pubs. Perfect weekend really. So, Enid did good. Can you imagine what it’ll be like when she is actually finished though?!

Well, as you’ll find in our next post, she is nearly complete 😊

Whatcha lookin’ at?

Enid looks pretty different from the outside now. She looks less like an RAC van and more like a campervan excited for the adventures to come…or a passion wagon according to a neighbour.

Maybe it’s the bright orange beaming from our driveway that attracts attention from onlookers or the fact that Ed spends hours working hard outside. Maybe it’s just his crocks.

Seriously though, there isn’t a week that goes by when a neighbour or random person doesn’t stop to speak to Ed about his big project. One stranger even asked to have a look around in the van. So, when I had to reverse Enid onto our driveway for the first time, it’s safe to say I was probably being watched. Eek!

Now back to aesthetics. Enid has windows! Amazingly, using an angle grinder and a jigsaw, Ed managed to cut through metal panels down the sides and at the back of the van before fitting the heavy blacked out glass. It makes the inside of the van so much brighter and now we can see out of the back.

Enid has also been lowered by 40mm albeit this was done by a professional. They fitted new lowering springs as well as replaced the rubber cups and the mounts to improve handling and stop the squeaking. Apparently, both had completely worn through after a lot of RAC use.

But it’s not just the outside that has been given a makeover. Inside, Ed has fitted flooring using 9mm plywood. He has also cut out panels from 5mm plywood which were then carpeted with anthracite 4-way stretch material using extra long hidden clips for a seamless look. But we’re not just settling for any old carpet! Ed has cut out holes on the ceiling panels to fit LED lights. After a minor hiccup using “easy to fit” wire connectors, which created extra work for poor Ed (I won’t go into detail!), all of the lights now work.

The lights (among other things we’ll be fitting) need connecting to an AGM battery which Ed, prior to the carpet installation, fitted under the passenger seat along with a battery charger, split charge and an RCD unit. The latter is traced from a 230v hook up which Ed fitted from underneath the bonnet.

The hook up will be put to the test in just one month as we (including our pooch Luna) travel down south for a weekend camping trip with our fellow dog walking friends. Here’s hoping it works. And here’s hoping it’s going to be warm enough. There’ll obviously be no bed (that’ll come later) so we’ll be slumming it with a blow-up bed. It might not the most comfortable, but it beats a tent.

No doubt we’ll update you on our first mini adventure.