On The Road – Touring Adventures with SunHatFrance

Photo of the Gorges du Verdon, France
Words and photography by Liz of SunHatFrance

Sunhatfrance recently launched their Classic VW Camper van hire in the stunning location of Provence/Cote d’Azur in the South of France.

Now that Spring has arrived, sunny days and lighter evenings we thought it would be the ideal moment to experience a few days touring our favourite places locally in our newly refurbished VW camper van ‘Cassie’.  She is a beautifully restored 1978 Westfalia, T2 Bay Window.

This last year has been an eventful one for her, she was shipped over from Oregon, USA to the UK where she then underwent a total revamp before taking up her new residence with us here in the heart of Provence in France.

Photo of the Gorges du Verdon, France

Beautiful Gorges du Verdon in France

From our base in Cabasse we decided our first stop just had to be the absolutely breathtaking Gorges du Verdon, aptly known as the Grand Canyon of France.

When we originally had the idea of offering this style of holiday it was the image of Cassie or Joe camped under the stars alongside the lake at Ste Croix du Verdon that fired our imagination that this could create a very special travel experience and hold memories that would stay with you for a lifetime.

Preparations underway we began loading her up with all we’d need for a few days luxury camping, we’ve carefully planned to include everything a self-drive adventurer will need when they choose to rent a Retro VW Campervan from http://www.sunhatfrance.com/

Next morning we wake to an azure blue sky and brilliant sunshine, everything on board, oil level checked (a little ritual you must perform regularly when driving a Classic VW like Cassie) and we’re off!

We know the route will take us through some of the most picturesque villages in the South of France and plan to take our time and visit one of our favourite vineyards en route http://www.chateaucarpediem.com/  we are after all in the famous wine producing region of the Var.

Cassie at Cotignac Market in the South of France

Cassie at Cotignac Market in the South of France

So, the wine chilling in the fridge, next stop the picturesque village of Cotignac http://www.provenceweb.fr/e/var/cotignac/cotignac.htm  to get our provisions for the next couple of days from the colourful  market, a selection of wonderful fresh French produce, perfect.

The quiet meandering country roads seem to be designed in perfect harmony for one of these vintage VW Campers, that refuse to be rushed along, the slower pace being beneficial for the camper van and better for us too!!!

An hour or so later we find ourselves looking down on the sparkling blue/green waters of the Lac Ste. Croix and the spectacular entrance to the Gorges du Verdon, this view never fails to make you gasp with the sheer beauty of it.

We decide to pull up and picnic making the most of the fantastic views that surround us, so roof up, picnic table and chairs out and relax….

We can’t resist taking a few photos of our Classic VW Camper in this setting, she just looks so amazing, her pastel green and white paintwork is absolutely gleaming in the Provencal sunshine, and with her brand new bespoke interior  featuring Ivory upholstery and Walnut cabinets she is the perfect blend of classic design and contemporary styling and it’s no wonder that so many people notice her as we pass by, we get many smiles and friendly waves as we tootle along, everyone seems to have a soft spot for these Iconic Camper vans.

SunHatFrance having a picnic by their VW Campervan

Time for a relax and a spot of food!

We could quite easily stay here all day long just absorbing the breathtaking scenery and atmosphere of this very special place, however we are excited to arrive at our destination and set up camp so we pack everything back in the van and head for the camping http://lesrochesverdon.com/  this is a tranquil little spot close to the village and right on the lakeside.

This is the bit we’ve really been looking forward to, setting up home and actually living in our VW Kombi for a couple of days, we want to try everything out so we can ensure all goes to plan when we offer her for campervan rental.

We put the awning together without any hitches, it’s amazing how much extra living space this creates, we can now store the picnic table and chairs in here leaving the campervan  clear, there is even a zip up bedroom compartment in the awning which can sleep 2 people if required.

It hasn’t taken us long to ‘make a home’ and before we know it we’ve got the kettle on.

We could have then gone off touring further afield, leaving the drive away awning to mark our camping plot, but we are so pleased to be here that we

Lake at Gorges du Verdon

Stunning scenery

have decided to spend the next couple of days around the van, walking alongside the lake, dipping in for a swim and a laze on the beach.  When evening time comes around it’s the moment to open a bottle of wine, cook a meal chez Cassie and sit chatting under the stars before turning in for a good nights’ sleep in our lovely classic VW camper.

We’ve had a great weekend and enjoyed every part of being ‘on the road’ in Cassie, having experienced this road trip first hand we are now confident that anyone choosing to book a holiday with Sunhatfrance   http://www.sunhatfrance.com/camper-vans/campervan-cassie/ are going to have as great a time as we have had, we can’t wait to do it again and have already planned our next trip to the beach near St. Tropez!  

If you would like to book with SunhatFrance you can either go to the Classic Volks Hire Page for France or direct to their website

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for the next instalment.

Road Trip with 69 Campers – by Matt Tombs

Image shows the 69 campers advert

………….where to go? France was the choice and it had to be the South, sun atmosphere scenery and shopping were very high on the list!  St Tropez, Cannes, Juan-les-Pins, Antibes, Monte Carlo the choice was endless but not the mode of transport. It had to be the iconic VW Camper van in the shape of Margot 1978 and Amélie 1968 Bay window courtesy of 69 Campers, a company offering a range of vintage and T5 VW camping cars for touring in absolute style around the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France.

Four people, two Campervans and our road trip… cruising this stunning coastline from St-Tropez to Monte Carlo over 14 days. Let the fun begin…..

We flew into Nice, left-hand side of the plane was the place to be with magnificent views of the French Riviera which were to be our playground for the next two weeks.  With a transfer organised by 69 Campers we were whisked away to their headquarters in Seillans, the heart of Provence, in less than an hour. Paperwork and Campervan tutorial done we set off.

1- St-Tropez was our first point of call, a unanimous vote and a great opportunity to get the hang of the gears and brakes of our Campervans as it was downhill all the way!  A great ride meandering through the vineyards of backcountry Provence down to the coast, with a journey time into St-Tropez of 1hr 20mins and 67 km.

For our first night, we stayed at Les Tournels Camping Village 10km south of St-Tropez. Camper vans parked up it gave us our first opportunity to see them close up. Margot 1978 Californian Bay dressed in Yukon Yellow and Amélie 1968 Bay from Alabama in Pacific Blue both feature bespoke interiors comprising of fridge, sink, gas hob, 240V hook up, radio/cd and leisure battery.  The Campers can sleep 5 but the Rock ‘n’ Roll bed was all we needed. With the roof popped and bags unpacked we made full use of the luxury hamper we had pre-ordered with 69 Campers. Outside table and chairs prepped, we sat back and enjoyed our first evening under the star filled sky drinking chilled champagne and eating homemade brownies.

2/3-Awoke to blue skies and sun, a quick check on the vans in the morning, dipsticks at the ready, oil looking like golden syrup we headed back into St-Tropez.  With our windows down we cruised in convoy waving at our appreciating audience. Parking the vans at the Port, a 5-minute walk brings you instant chic as you enter the stunning harbour front that is St-Tropez.  Later that afternoon we headed to our next campsite, a short journey of 12km round the Bay of St-Tropez to Camping De La Plage, Grimaud.  This was to be a 2 night beach stop of pure chill and indulgence and to just absorb the atmosphere – the pink light, the fragrant air…. A simple campsite with a pitch on the beach gave us panoramic views of the bay morning, noon and night. The two Campervans parked up next to the beach really brought home to us the ethics of what this holiday was about. That evening chez Margot & Amélie, we served another fine meal and a night to remember with great friends….

4 -Managed to tear ourselves away from the Golfe de St Tropez and then headed 52km inland, to the boys choice, actually they had made a good choice, a wine tour and tasting chez Le Château des Demoiselles, La Motte.  Fantastic scenery, culture, history and wine

Armed with new liquid provisions and a sober driver our overnight stop was 40km down the N7 through the roman town of Frejus with it’s Amphitheatre, to St Raphael and Esterel Caravaning.  A 5* campsite with, get this, YOUR OWN private bathroom and jacuzzi on your pitch!! The private bathroom contained: a shower, toilet, washbasin, mirror, blow-dryer, and dishwasher, pure luxury!  All the basics of electric water and drainage as well.  An early evening swim and Wifi time provided a catch up on life.

5- One of the most stunning natural features of the Côte d’Azur is the Massif de l’Esterel, a coastal mountain range of red-ochre rock which forms the backdrop to some of the most iconic images of the South of France. The Massif de l’Esterel is located between St Raphaël and La Napoule, then onwards to Cannes. The N98 coastal road called the Corniche de l’Esterel is a must for driving, plus being in a Campervan brings that added height to enhance the experience through it’s numerous twists and turns. A 30km route to remember, striking red rock and azure-blue sea creates spectacular views.  Along the road we found numerous places to stop and take some holiday snaps plus a mid-morning swim. The road passes through such places as Agay with its sheltered bay and beach, Le Trayas and Théoule-sur-Mer with its scenic harbour and local cafes.

 

Specially organised by 69 Campers, we had an afternoon of water activities with Thierry at Jets’Cool. After thrills, spills and total exhaustion on these top of the range jet skis we drove to our campsite for the night Les Cigales in Mandelieu-la-Napoule. With the nights chef democratically elected we ate chez Margot with Amélie playing the summer tunes. This option was really growing on us – your own private space, eating what and when you like, dressing how you want and drinking as much as you wanted . It is so soothing just to be outdoors, listening to the sound of our neighbours the Cigales (grasshoppers).

6 – Day 6 and a tick in the box for Cannes, girls had a big smile and the boys conveniently forgot their wallets as we shopped in the chic boutiques of La Croisette.  Another must is the Forville market with its vast provençal larder where you can stock up the fridge. Residence that night was Camping Parc Bellevue, a 3 star campsite with all the necessities needed to accommodate our Campers as we headed off for a night in Cannes.

7 – Cannes in a day… no chance.  The girls had found the wallets and we split up. Shopping without the boys, and beach starring without the girls….

 

8 – Heading out of Cannes with the windows open, we spent the day driving in convoy up the coast through the elegant residences that occupy Juan-les-Pins and Cap d’Antibes. A real eye opener to wealth that the Côte d’Azur houses. One thing for sure every turn and twist on the coastal road brings a different shade of blue in the crystal clear sea. Margot and Amélie’s admiration over the week had been growing, two stunning vans in tandem presented another photo shoot at the Château Grimaldi in Antibes which houses the Picasso Museum.  You may be surrounded by wealth and beauty but driving a classic VW Camper beats a wide and loud Ferrari any day.

Two nights planned at camping Le Sourire in Villeneuve Loubet and we are loving this simple lifestyle.  Drive onto a pitch, pop the roof, put the tables and chairs out and in less than five minutes you are pouring your first drink…. silently sniggering at the other campers struggling with their tents.  This is definitely camping in style.

9 – Another day of blue sky and our activities were planned at Marineland and Aquasplash, conveniently placed side by side.  We watched a great sea life show followed by lunch back at the vans with few admirers popping their heads in, our French had improved immensely over the week!  Aquasplash that afternoon with swimwear intact, a great place for all families and ages.

 

10 – An early start and Amelie led the way into Nice (20km), four lanes of traffic and very little road markings provided the mornings entertainment!!  Followed by calming visit to the old town (Vieille Ville) with its narrow streets curving between old buildings with red-tile roofs, small restaurants and open markets.  Driving along the Promenade des Anglais with the windows down and the tunes pumping we were the epitome of cool!  In the afternoon, we headed up the coast – literally- into Villefranche Sur Mer.  The Camper made light work of the hills and we were greeted with a spectacular view of the coastline below.  We drove into the port, a test on the brakes….and managed to park alongside the beach giving easy access to chilled drinks and the picnic.  That evening we escaped the heat with a 20km drive inland to the foot of the beautiful perched village Peillon, which was our stop for the following two nights.

11 – Headed back to the coast in the morning to visit the medieval village of Eze (24km) and the ruins of its 12th-century fortified castle (torn down in 1706).   Amazing girl shopping and the opportunity to partake in the outdoor café culture that reigns throughout the region.  An enriching morning of history followed by an afternoon on a private beach in Eze-Sur-Mer with our very own man-servant providing the mojito’s.  Designated driver took us back to Peillon that evening, there is a lack of campsites in this area so be sure to book in peak season.

 

12 – A big day for the boys as we headed to to the furthest point of our trip – Monaco and Monte Carlo (30km).  They were desperate to drive the race course; another ambition fulfilled although not quite at warp speed.  Margot pipped Amélie by a tenth of a second!  A final drive through the beautiful principality of Monte Carlo to wave at the rich and famous before we headed back down the coast to Cagnes Sur Mer. (36km)  We thought we would brave the motorway and were pleasantly surprised at how well our Campers faired with the lorries.  We cruised along at 100km per hour, albeit on the inside lane, without causing too much trouble.

13 – Final day on our epic trip and we headed inland up the D2085 into Grasse (25km), the perfume capital of the world.  The old town is very interesting with tiny streets winding forever between the 17th and 18th century buildings, up and down ancient steps, passing through arched tunnels and sometimes opening out onto large squares.  We meandered to our final stop in Saint Paul en Forêt (31km), enjoying the country roads and beautiful views.  A evening in a secluded woodland setting drinking the remainder of our rosé…. it doesn’t matter that we have drank all that we intended to take home, summed up this VW Camper experience for us.  As the 69 Campers tagline states, we went our own way, saw many of the beautiful sites this region has to offer and truly experienced the joys of driving and living in a VW Camper van.

14 – A short drive back to 69 Campers head quarters in Seillans and the end of our VW Camper tour.  We handed the girls back, finalised the paperwork and with were whisked back to Nice airport with a camera full of photo’s and a head full of happy memories.

 

Distance total 500km (310 miles)

 

If you like the sound of this, get in touch with 69 Campers, you can find them on our France hire page

Dubfreeze 2012 Show Report

Some may say we’re totally crazy, others know and understand our obsession. Yes, it was the middle of February and extremely cold but that was not going to stop us heading down for a night of camping in order to be on site ready for the first Veedub show of the year.

We Met a couple of club members in York and set off just after 12:30 – all very excited and very much looking forward to this – marking the start of the 2012 VW events season. Our first stop was Woodall services just over an hours drive from York, here we met up with some of the Sheffield Owners club and some of the Doncaster club as well as some of the RULE (R U Low Enough) Club. From there we convoyed the rest of the way down to Staffordshire Showground.

We arrived at the Showground at around 4pm and found our York Classic VWs Club camping area – a couple of our members had arrived before us as they had been in the area the night before. We set up our tent in the freezing cold – although I have to say putting the tent up and the excitement must have kept us warm as we didn’t notice how cold it was after a while. Once the tent was up it was time for a coffee in the tent with the heater on. We then all had a bar-b-que and sat around and chatted dubs for a few hours, then decided it was getting a little cold so thought we should head of to the bar where it may be a little warmer. The walk over to the bar, although only a few minutes, was absolutely freezing so the warmth on arriveing was very welcome. We stayed in the bar and chatted to fellow Veedubbers for a few hours. We then headed back to the cold, cold tent. Heater on and coffee made it was time to try and get some sleep. We managed to stay warm enough to get some sleep which was great – with the help of a heater and a great big duvet! The next morning we were all up nice and early – part of this due to the cold and partly because we were all very excited about the show. Coffee and bacon on the bar-b and then ready to head over to the show – thankfully this show is an indoor one. We had woken in the morning to snow on the ground (it did disappear pretty quickly though as the sun was shining).

The show The show didn’t open til 9am so until then we decided we should have a wonder round and look at some of the lovely VWs around, and there were some real beauties. At about 9:30 we decided that the queue would have gone down enough so to the show we went. First stop was up to Dogs N Dubs up on the balcony to take them a much needed bacon butty.

The show was absolutely jam packed – obviously a very popular show, I think the majority of people drove to Stafford on the day (not too many people around mad enough to camp in this cold weather!). It was very difficult at first to get anywhere – so busy. We had a good wander around the show and shine area – some absolutely gorgeous dubs in there, I would have found it very difficult to pick a winner. If you are looking to buy anything VW related whether parts of accessories or clothing this is definitely a show to visit. We saw some fantastic cars and vans for sale – if only we’d had some cash on us (actually, probably a good thing we didn’t as there may have been a good few veedubs heading back to York with us! There was an amazing number of parts for sale including panels etc. All in all a very good show – although I do think they maybe need a bigger venue.
To get a real idea of the show please visit our facebook page: and have a good look through the photo album for Dubfreeze 2012, I have only added a small sample of the photos on here.