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.

Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Words and images by Martin Bellamy

Spring 2011: I’m chatting with my friend and business partner whilst out on a cycle ride and he says, “Did you know that you can buy new VW campervans?” “Really?”, says I, “I thought they were all old ones, that break down all the time” “No”, he says, “I saw an advert in the paper yesterday – they’ve got an offer on with £500 discount*”

 A month later and Mrs B and I are on our way to Yate, near Bristol, to visit the Danbury showroom. We’ve got an appointment for 2pm (you can’t just turn up) but we’re an hour early. The receptionist (sitting behind a desk made of a VW T2 body) isn’t sure there’ll be anyone to see us yet but she’ll ring upstairs to try and find someone. After a short while, Dan comes down and so starts the bewildering process of buying a new Brazilian made VW T2 Kombi.

I suppose driving down to “look” at a Kombi is a bit like going to “view” a litter of puppies. Apart from timewasters and those who can’t stretch themselves that far financially (and, believe me, it’s a stretch of gymnastic proportions) both outcomes are liable to produce a sure fire sale.

We’d thought about buying a classic 60s or 70s Campervan, but I don’t have the mechanical skills to keep one on the road. If it’s a pen you want pushing then I’m your man – but the thought of being stranded by the roadside with my limited skill set fills me with dread. What we wanted was something reliable that we could use at weekends and for summer holidays.

“Why not get a modern T5 then? They have power steering, modern interiors and much more powerful engines” That’s my head talking, of course, whilst meanwhile, my heart is doing cartwheels at the sight of the iconic T2 shape and suddenly I’m the hippie, free-spirit that I dreamed of being back in the 70s.  In reality, I’m MD of a commercial insurance broker in Wigan but, hey, we can all have our dreams.

So, it had to be a T2, and we got down to the process of choosing the options available. I’m 6’5”, so sleeping room was essential and we opted for the full size double bed option. Ker-ching! This meant the spare wheel had to go on the back and we’d need the locking wheel cover, of course. Ker-ching!  Do we want all leather on the seats? – you betcha, we do! Ker-ching! How about having her lowered? Oh, yes and BRM alloys please. Ker-ching!

What about colour? Now, we knew we wanted green over white, but weren’t’ prepared for the option of having ANY green we wanted. We’d expected a small choice like you have with modern cars but Danbury have swatches and swatches of colours. Eventually, we chose Spice Green (“Metallic?” “Yes, please” Ker-ching!)

With the addition of a retro wooden steering wheel and classic bowed roof rack we were done and the order was placed. As we drove away we looked at each other and thought, “What have we done?”

Collection was to be in August so we had 3 months to wait – time we spent worrying about the cost and thinking of where we could go in the new van. I found a Forum specifically aimed at the Brazilian Bay which proved to be a brilliant resource for information and which was so friendly we’ve made scores of new friends in the real world as well as cyberland.

We were so excited by delivery day and the train journey from Preston to Yate seemed to take forever. It was all worth it – our first sight of Absinthe (yes, of course, she’s got a name) was fantastic and we couldn’t wait to drive her home. Paperwork done, Mrs B took the wheel and we set off.

What was immediately obvious after years of driving modern automatic cars was that this one was going to need to be driven. The gearbox and gear stick seemed to have minds of their own and the steering was eccentric to say the least. That didn’t stop us from grinning from ear to ear though (what we now recognise as the permagrin of the VW enthusiast) and being thrilled by the waves from other VW owners.

 

It’s the last bit that has been the real thrill of ownership for us. The VW world is a small one with lots of interconnections and in the main we’ve been welcomed wherever we’ve gone. Sure, there are one or two die-hards who consider anything without an air-cooled engine as less than authentic but, in the main, Absinthe brings a smile to most peoples faces.

The recent ending of production in Brazil has brought the T2 into the limelight again and in 30 years time I’m sure the current incarnation will be as revered as the originals are now. For us Brazilian owners, the attraction is the freedom to use the van as often as we want.

Many of the Forum members use their vans as their everyday vehicles and many have now added power steering to make day to day use even easier. We use Absinthe almost every weekend from Spring until late Autumn and the pleasure we’ve had from her has been immense.

We’ve had 3 week runs through France and Spain and weekends away throughout the UK. We’ve done our first ever Festival (Larmer Tree in Dorset) and have used her as overspill family accommodation at our Static Caravan in the Dales. She’s shifted furniture and been to the tip. We’ve had afternoon teas overlooking the coast and icy mornings in the Cotswolds. She’s even part of our Xmas decorations over the holiday break.

Would we swap her? No! Are we glad we found Danbury? You bet we are.

* a bit like DFS, Danbury nearly always have a £500 offer running

 

 

 

 

 

Go your own way…. Classic VW Camper van hire in the South of France

Image shows the 69 campers advert

It’s the fanatics, the curious, maybe the first timers that continue this story… from the initial “plattenwagen” design that the restorers piece together, the cabinet maker that mixes modern with iconic or the feel and smell of an era gone by.

69 Campers launch their very own and unique way of holidaying in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.

A vintage vehicle comes back to life in an area steeped in natural history and beauty; 69 Campers have married the classic VW Camper van to this esteemed region.

A premium range of VW Split screen and Bay windows from the 1960’s and 70’s have been sympathetically restored to realise today’s customers requirements without harming the integrity of the vehicle.

All the Campers hail from the sunny climates of the USA and France, enabling a professional bare-metal restoration and mechanical overhaul. They have new 1600cc twin port engines, re-conditioned gearboxes and new electrical wiring looms.  Bespoke fitted kitchens with two gas burners, sink, fridge and storage give a touch of luxury in a retro classic. Thoughtfully equipped with iPod connection, solar shower, 220v leisure battery, sun canopy and outdoor furniture to name a few… a truly fine product with beautiful toning hand-made interiors complimented by matching linens and tableware.

The Camper vans have all been named to reflect their personalities so a relationship can flourish from the moment you turn that key.  Margot a  1978 VW Bay window is our shimmering light from California, oozing beach and sun in her soft yellow and pearl body work.  Amélie is a 1968 VW early Bay, our sweetie from Alabama dressed in pacific blue and pearl.  Estée is our little star, a 1968 VW Bay window in velvet green and pastel white originally from gay Paris. Finally Gigi, our fabulous 1964 VW Split screen Sundial Camper, an Arizona belle shining in two tone beige and alpine white paintwork.

Margot, Amélie, Estée and Gigi are available for rental all year round, or why not consider hiring one for a wedding or another special event.

Collecting your VW Camper van could not be easier, fly to Nice, Marseille or Toulon, take the TGV or drive direct.  Your self styled adventure starts in Seillans, one of the medieval perched villages in Provence, the home of 69 Campers.  From collecting your beautiful vintage Camper the choice is yours, explore the vineyards, take a culture tour or head for the chic resorts of the Cote d’Azur and Monaco.  Discover Provence and the French Riviera with 69 Campers.

For all enquiries please contact Matt Tombs of 69 Campers

Tel: 0033 483 11 17 75 Mobile: 0033 675 85 25 76

Email: matt@69campers.com

Visit: http://www.69campers.com

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