As mentioned in the ‘About me’ section of this blog, Tony and I have spent time talking about the sort of childhood we want our children to have. The general theme was fun, adventure and time spent together.
We love to camp but find that the season in which we are prepared to brave the British weather is limited and as it takes us some time to set up our tent, we are reluctant to go for less than three nights. I have for some years admired campers with alternative set ups including campervans, small caravans (eg. Teardrop caravans) and at the more luxurious end: caravans and motor homes. With this all in mind, we have recently put, what was once a pipe dream, into motion and bought a VW campervan- my husband pointblank refused to tow a teardrop!
We originally looked at the VW California Ocean and whilst there were lots of aspects we liked, we just weren’t excited about it. Then last summer, on a rather drizzly day, we visited the South West Motorhome Show and were really impressed with some of the conversions we saw. A quick trip to the VW showroom on our way home and we had decided that we 100% wanted to get a converted van.
But that was just the start; who knew how complicated it could be? With two small children and not much time on our hands paired with very high expectations, converting a van ourselves was never really an option. We were left considering whether it was better to buy a used van that had already been converted, get ourselves a van and have it converted or purchase a conversion from one of the main players such as Nomad, Denby or Hillside.
Whilst the used camper was clearly the cheapest option, we couldn’t find something we liked or fitted out criteria (particularly the high expectations bit!). After a short time looking a various options, our wish list was already extensive! A quick look around some of the big conversion companies at a couple of shows, confirmed what we had thought: they lacked personality, just like the California Ocean. We then turned our attention to the internet where I found three companies whose style was a good fit with our own. All three companies had a standard layout similar to the California Ocean, but each were happy to add personal touches. I quickly realised that comissioning a custom conversion was not a budget option!
It was at the NEC Caravan, Camping and Motorhome show that we met Neil of Volksleisure campervans. Having already seen the vans online, I had high expectations of what to expect and I wasn’t disapointed. Far from it. In fact we were so impressed with what we saw we put our deposit down on the spot.
So that was in February and I would have to say the wait was agony but well worth it (we picked up the van at the beginning of July). We have had Ernest for little over a month and already he has well and truely become part of the ‘family’. We had already booked our main summer break prior to ordering the van so haven’t got any big trips planned this summer Instead we hope to take him out little and often. Just in the month of May we had a night in Croyde, a night Near Pultons Park, a weekend in Chepstow and a night just outside Bruges. We have some longer trips planned for future months and are now beginning to question when we can fit it all in!
*So why Ernest Van Kampen?
The conversation of what to call ‘the van’ started long before we ordered one. Our son originally wanted to call it sunshine, a name which Tony and I strongly objected to. But if you say no to a 4 year old, you just make them more determined so we explained that we wouldn’t be able to name the van until we met it thus buying us some time!
At some point along the way, Dougie decided the van should be called Ernie as this matched our car whose name is Bernie (it’s red and in the eyes of our fire engine loving son, looks like a fire officer’s vehicle). Tony wasn’t keen on this preferring Stan. For a couple of weeks after the van arrived, the van went by the name Ernie when spoken about by Dougie and Stan when Tony was talking about it. I knew it was more ‘sensible’ to stick with the 4 year old so generally refered to it as Ernie. Eventually negotiation between the men in the house began: “How about Ernie Stan The Van?” “No”. We finally agreed on Ernest Van Kampen and everyone’s happy….Except Heidi who just Calls it Campervan (sensible girl).