Thursday, 12 May 2016

The freedom bug.....Part 2

In the previous post I wrote about how I was bitten by the freedom bug of the outdoors, the fresh air and camping at the tender age of 5. The saga continues here in Part 2.....

Our search for the right motorcaravan began in earnest. We both liked the AutoSleeper Duetto, but it was too long for our drive. So we chose a short wheel-based option, the AutoSleeper Harmony. The time being right, we could also afford a new one. We did consider smaller vans, but Harmony, a van conversion, had a washroom and it was mighty appealing to have an on-board shower and loo. Our daughter, having survived the tent holidays, urged us to get a van with a loo. “And don’t even think about a porta potty, you’re getting older(!)” she said, “ and you deserve a few luxuries”. She’s always right too.

Camped wild on the Island of Harris, Outer Hebrides
We took proud possession of our Harmony in 1999. Kitting it out I was again transported back to those childhood caravan holidays, where my mum ensured everything was tidy, organised and fitted easily into small spaces. I was able to put to good use what I’d seen and remembered as a child. This helped, but we were still novices and we learned a lot on our maiden voyage to France. We visited the Loire, Provence, the Alps and came back via Chartres. We named the van Francine (France seen) and I revelled in the butterflies, birds and other wildlife I saw, including a huge toad and a praying mantis. The only thing I’d forgotten to pack was the “I-Spy” books.

We had 5 years in Francine, taking her to Scotland, Spain, Luxembourg, Switzerland and often back to France. Our son, who survived his early camping holiday, got engaged to a French woman (was it anything to do with that trip?) and we visited her family for the first time on our way home from holiday in France. Parking Francine in a quiet layby we changed out of our shorts into something more respectable in which to meet the parents, grandparents and other members of the family, just like we would have done at home. Who’d be without a home on wheels?

This is where we got stuck in the Highlands - what a view!
We wanted more living space so bade Francine a fond farewell and moved on to a new two berth coachbuilt AutoSleeper Nuevo (pictured above) which served us well for 8 years. Starting out this time we felt we knew the ropes. No longer complete novices, we actually felt like seasoned motor caravanners. But we managed to get stuck twice with this van – once in mud in Shropshire and once on very wet grass in the Highlands. We struggled with gripper tracks for a while but were rescued by a Dutchman who towed us to dry ground, “Because our fathers fought together in the war, I help you” he said. We’ve loved this van too, relishing the freedom of holidays on the Western Isles, camping wild in fantastic scenery. Using the van as a base enabled me to do some volunteering for the RSPB taking husband and dog with me. I spent a week at the Mull of Galloway reserve while they stayed at a nearby campsite. Coming back to the van at the end of the day was like coming home every evening, with the added bonus of sitting outside watching hares playing in the next field.

We bade another fond farewell to our Nuevo (you can get attached to these vans) and for the past 3 years we've owned a Murvi Morello which has taken us on a Grand Tour of Europe and to Vienna, close to the centre of Europe. The freedom bug is still biting but is being regularly fed.

This article was first published in MMM magazine, November 2013
Photos are mine

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