Le Beach

After a few days at Lac Du Parloup it was time to pack up and head south. Before we came out here I fitted a bike rack so we could bring out bikes and a trailer for Arielle, the idea being that when we got down near the beach we could use the bikes to venture out if we wanted to. Clearly I am not used to how long this additional item makes the van and I managed to snag my rear wheel on a tree.

I’m not going to lie, I did swear and was really annoyed at myself. It transpires that 26” MTB wheels are extremely difficult to come by so that was my bike and the trailer out of action for the rest of the trip.

The drive to where we were staying next, Dunes Et Soleil Marseillan plage took a couple of hours, the kids were well behaved even when we stopped at Lidl, the temperature was noticeably warmer.

Check in was easy and we’d initially booked for a few nights, within no time at all we were setup.

The beach here is lovely, entry to the sea is a very gentle slope and you can wander out a long way and still be only up to your waist which is great for the kids, finally they got an ice cream from the man who walks along the beach with an ice cream trolley, Stella remembered this from the last time we came to France and she was dead set on getting one!

We ended up extending our stay here for another 4 nights at a cost of 70 Euros which is great value. There is an onsite bar that does amazing burgers and Pizzas plus the main drag is well within walking distance as is the local fairground I suppose is the best way to describe it.

There were plenty of rides for the kids and at around 22.00 they’d spent all their tokens and we headed home to be greeted by our first storm.

I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been, the water wasn’t an issue but the wind whipped up pretty quickly, luckily Lolly saw what was going on and came out and held on to the awning while I put some straps in to stop it blowing away, that did the trick and next day everything’s was as it should be, still attached to the van!

We had a great time here and probably would have ended up staying till we went home, we had lovely neighbours from Germany, Belgium and the UK and I even found a working three way fridge someone had chucked which came in well handy for keeping my beer cold!

What we didn’t have was a pool. I don’t mind hanging at the beach but the pool is a nice thing to mix it up for the kids so after seven nights we packed up again and headed to Vias Plage.

Le Trip to The Lake

After a good few days in Argentat we set off to Lac De Parloup via a friend who we hadn’t seen for a few years. We mentioned we wouldn’t mind a stopover and he said he knew just the place for a picnic and a sleepover and that it was beautiful, he wasn’t wrong.

After meeting up we took a short drive to Najac and followed a dusty track and parked up next to the river.

It was absolutely stunning, we had a lovely picnic and there was a little beach with calm water so the girls could splash about, they loved it.

We were the only people there and had an undisturbed night, the Maxxair fan I put in the van kept us all cool as in the evening it was about 25 degrees.

The following morning I stripped off and a had a wash in the river, something I haven’t done in years! Shortly after 4 canoes came past and had they been a bit earlier they’d have had an unexpected sight!

Before we left we took the opportunity to take a family photo.

Lauren notice fairly quickly that Arielle doll she was holding looked like she’d popped out of her dress!

We hit the road again and in a few hours arrived in Lac De Parloup and setup our pitch.

The site is mainly French and Dutch, a mixture of static caravans and pitches for motor homes and tents. There is a huge play area for the kids which they love, particularly the bouncy castle.

Also there is a nice pool with a restaurant adjacent.

The following day we headed to the beach by the lake, it’s a man made beach and a bit rough but the kids enjoyed it, the temperature of the lake is bearable and as it’s proper hot a nice way to cool down.

Lind and Ian joined us for three nights and secured a pitch right next door which Stella is very happy about.

Day two was spent in the pool.

At the time of writing we are back at the van about to have lunch, we have one more night here and then we’re off to Cap D’Agde for the remainder of our holiday, the beach there is the best we’ve come across on our travels in France and I’m assured none of the sites we’re staying at are naked which is a huge relief for me!

Le Tourondel

Since arriving in France we’ve been staying at Lindi and Ian’s place in Le Tourondel. We haven’t got up to loads as it’s nice to just chill.

A few of Lindi and Ian’s friends have stopped by including the owner of a tractor which Arielle enjoyed.

We’ve gone for a few wanders, in the local woods and down to Argentat to check out the market and dip our feet in the river, it’s a really beautiful spot.

There is so much wildlife on your doorstep here, so far we have seen massive hornets who continually try to break into the house of an evening, an Owl, birds of prey, a dead snake, edible door mice, field mice and loads of lizards,

Today (Saturday) we visited Tour De Merle which is a settlement from about the 1300’s if memory serves me right, it looks like a castle but is in fact a load of individual dwellings.

Accidentally I found a really good spot to park the van, you could see it from literally every part of Tour De Merle

We also came across a live snake hanging about at the entrance, I chucked it over a hedge so it didn’t bite anyone.

The kids had a great time at the castle, especially when we saw some bats and one of them pooed on Lauren, Stella is sitting here in the room just before we saw the bats.

It’s a load of walking up and down and by the end of the day the kids were ruined!

Tomorrow is Ian’s birthday, we’re taking the kids to the pool, getting some supplies from Aldi and then doing something in the evening to mark Ian’s birthday. Monday we are on the road starting our journey down to Cap D’Agde and hopefully some proper sun.

Le start

After a couple of years of lock downs, travel bans and any travel made so laborious it would put you off the world has opened up again and for us that means a long overdue trip to France.

I’m driving the van and lolly and the kids leave a day later catching a flight from stanstead to Brive. As always we head to Lolly’s parents which is about 10 hours drive including stops for fuel which would be no fun for the kids, planes are much more fun.

Once I hit Calais my overnight was in a place called Chatres, there is a nice cathedral to visit however by the time I got there all I wanted was some food, a beer and to chill out. Our Aires book is well out of date and according to them there are no aires in Chatres. I have an app called park4night which lists places you can stop that’s added by its community members, it came up trumps, a nice little spot by a quiet road and free for the night, rue de launay for anyone interested.

Just round the corner is a car park with a supermarket, washing machines, car wash, gym and a pizza kiosk.

There was a slight bit of confusion with my order but ended up with two free beers, the pizza I ordered and 10 euros in cash, the universe had my back. It was pretty quiet and I got a decent nights sleep.

The following morning I was up at 6am to drive do Brive to pick up Lolly and the kids, it’s about a 4 hour drive so I left at 7am and with a few stops arrived at midday.

Once they arrive it’s an hour to Lauren’s parents place and our holiday together begins 🙂

Outwell Fallcrest Side Panel Set

Camping in the UK means at some point you will encounter rain, especially if you choose to holiday in Wales which we did for a weekend recently. Elsewhere in the UK sunshine was abundant but in Wales it chucked it down for pretty much the whole weekend, sun came out as we were leaving, standard.

The only plus point of this scenario was that I got to use the side panel set I bought. They are made specifically for wind out awnings, each side zips round the awning arms and then you tether the panel to the ground using supplied pegs and you end up with something like this.

The Fiamma equivalent is about £170.00 per side whereas this was £110.00 for both sides. They were easy to deploy and held the rain off admirably, the only downside is that they aren’t so good if one end of the awning is lower than the other to allow rain to run off and not pool in the awning fabric, you have to repel the lower end. There is also a bit of a gap between the panel and the van so a bit of rain does come through.

Once dry the pack down nicely into their own little bag along with the pegs.

They are a good alternative to the Fiamma sides and will do the job for the odd occasion I take the family camping and it rains which hopefully isn’t too often…

Fiamma 200 DJ bike rack

After initially buying the incorrect one second hand and finding the bits that would make it fit my van would cost almost as much as buying a new one and watching eBay for almost a year for a secondhand one i’ve bitten the bullet and bought one new.

Just Kampers had a deal on their eBay shop which meant I picked it up for £345.00 instead of £405.00, a considerable saving but still lumpy!

There are only a few options on the cycle rack front for Sprinters so the manufacturers can charge what they like, that being said the Fiamma ones are very well made, we had one on our T4 and was very pleased with it.

The rack arrived next day and there is a small amount of assembly before you try and get the rack attached to your van, instructions that come with it are very easy to follow. If you don’t want to scratch your rear door i would suggest two of you fit it, my door has a few bangs and marks on it so I wasn’t that worried and fitted it on my own.

Fiamma recommend you drill through your door and fit some anti theft bolts, I took the panelling off my rear door and forgot there was more panelling underneath!

You have to remove (if you have it) the lower grey panel as when you drill through that’s where the holes are!

All in all on my own the job took about 90 mins and now I can take either my bikes or electric scooters away without shoving them in the back of the van

I’ve left some bits off rack as where I live some people thing it’s OK to help themselves to your stuff, the joy of living in London!

Fixing the 3 way fridge

After the first fridge set the van on fire I had to replace it. I swore blind I was not going to buy another Thetford so I found a well priced and not too old Dometic RM7400 3 way fridge on eBay. When I first installed it everything worked as it should but as time went on it became increasingly difficult to keep the pilot light on. After a bit of research and deduction I concluded (hoped) the issue lay with the thermocouple.

First things first, inspect the thermocouple, this means taking the fridge out of the nice space it’s in under the worktop as you can’t get to the right bits with ease from the vents.

The thermocouple sits in the burner at the bottom of the fridge chimney and looks like this once it’s been removed.

It’s the black bit to the right and should be well within the pilot light which comes from the jet you can see just below it, the white thing to the right is the Piezo ignition.

The thermocouple was covered in crud so I scraped all that off, cleaned up the jet area, refitted the whole thing and gave it a blast, hey presto it worked first time..

A couple of trips later and the fridge again failed to light so at the earliest opportunity I took everything apart again and found I had not tightened the torx bolt tight enough so the thermocouple had moved out of place.

I realigned the thermocouple and tightened up the torx bolt so now it shouldn’t go anywhere, next time we were out I tried the fridge again and it fired first time. I’ve also learnt that when we stop to park up, switch the fridge to gas, leave it for about 10 mins and then light it, works first time every time. Don’t know why but if I try to light it any sooner than the 10 mins I give it the thing is a pain to light

Volksweald 2022

After a couple of years absence due to a pesky global pandemic we were back at Volksweald this weekend.

It’s literally just down the road from us and not expensive either, 30 quid an adult for the weekend camping and kids up to 16 are free. As readers of this blog know we no longer actually have a veedub but that doesn’t stop us visiting the veedub festivals, especially this one as it’s so nice.

The weather was proper hot so i spent most of the weekend hanging out under this tree and didn’t visit the festival bit till Sunday, well actually I did go out on the Friday night but i was a bit worse for the wear alcohol wise so I have no recollection of it.

There is loads of cool stuff going on like a show and shine, live music, clothes, food and car jumble stalls but i was literally stuck under a shady tree till the Sunday!

It was lovely to hang out with good friends and of course as a family, on the Sunday we ventured out and had a wander round the festival, bought a couple of pints from the inflatable pub and visited the grounds of Penshurst place.

We were literally the last people to leave from the field we were in and nobody chased us out, just leave when you are ready which is nice.

One the way out I got a photo of the van by Penshurst place, i feel the van needs some campervan graphics of some description!

Church Farm Ardeley

For the Easter weekend we headed to Church Farm which is about 90mins drive from Croydon assuming you leave at 06.30 in the morning which we did. If you don’t then the M25 will ruin your day, especially on a bank holiday Friday.

We met up with our friends Jo and Henry who have just bought themselves a camper van and this was their first trip in it and it all went very well.

The farm is a working farm and not for profit which makes me feel better about the price of everything, it’s all a bit steep.

The camping side is great, it’s as close to wild camping as you get and it wasn’t that busy. You can have a fire although you have to pay for permission to have the fire, you get a red bucket and you can buy some massively over priced logs and kindling, bring your own if you can, you don’t need a fire pit.

We booked a load of activities for the kids, goat walking, Easter egg hunt, lamb feeding, meeting the Easter bunny and walking the fairy trail and they were all excellent activities, the kids really enjoyed them, especially Stella

As I mentioned earlier the camping is fairly wild. There are compost toilets which were clean and well maintained. There were two showers near us neither of which worked as they should so we ventured up to the showers near the farm shop, they didn’t work very well either and looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in months, we needed a shower however and the kids needed a good scrub so we cracked on anyway.

All in all we had a good time, to summarise the farm, camping, staff and activities were excellent, the showers were rubbish and the shop over priced, £9.50 for 4 cans of Red Stripe, makes London prices seem cheap!

Replacing the stock stereo

For a long time it’s been on my mind to replace the stereo in the van. One of the first jobs I had as a kid was working on the weekend in a car stereo store and ever since I’ve never had a standard sound system in any of my vehicles. Pair that with my DJ antics it’s fair to say I know and appreciate a good sound system, the one that came with this van is not a good system, so much so that I rarely have it on.

There are lots of blog posts that tell you how to take out the stereo and reinstall it, I’m not going to go into that, look it up if you need to, what I’m going to share is what I took out, what I put in and how it sounds.

This is the stock system, it took about an hour to get it all out.

The stock Sprinter stereo, speakers and tweeter

Believe it or not that head unit is made by Alpine!

Below is what I bought

Xtrons PSP90M245
Hertz DSK 165.3
Kenwood KSC-Sw11 powered under seat sub

The head unit supports Apple Car play and the android equivalent, car play was the main feature i wanted, it also has a built in 4 channel 50watt amp, you can connect a DAB aerial to it which I will do at some point and you can also add an ODBII dongle and get fault codes and live engine data. It fits straight in to the void left by the stock unit with no need for an spacers or surrounds, the site says the unit is suitable for 906 sprinters from 2006 – 2012, mine is a 2013 and it fits fine with no issues or fettling requirements.

After researching underseat subs and not understanding how anything in such a shallow enclosure could provide any sub base I settled on the Kenwood sub as it seems to be the most popular and wasn’t very expensive.

The decision on the door speakers and dash tweeters was made after looking at other audio system update blogs, the Hertz speakers seem pretty popular and give pleasing results.

Installing the head unit was pretty straight forward, you just take out the old one and plug in the new one, I did have to strip back the aerial connection from the van so it fitted the stereo’s connection. If you want to take advantage of Car Play or have easy access to load your own music / movies on to the head unit then you need to put the USB cables somewhere accessible. I pulled out the USB and audio port in the dash near the steering and routed the cables through there, it’s not the prettiest solution but it works for me.

The sub I installed under the drivers seat as I have a diesel heater in the passenger seat, I Isolated the speaker from the chassis using a bit of left over trim from the cab shelf, the door speakers require a spacer, I bought a pair that are supposed to be for a Vauxhall from Halfords, so long as it fits a 6.5” speaker and it’s the same depth as the original speakers you can use any. There was no need to trim or cut the door cards. I also stuffed some left over insulation around them to try and damp any vibrations in the door.

So how does it sound?

It sounds better but is by no means amazing. The top and mids are definitely crisper but the sub just sounds like a 6 x 9 speaker in small cabinet playing the best sub signal it can muster, this is still better than what was there before and it has it’s own remote control so you can easily adjust it dependant on what music is playing.

I am sure that when I am driving the sound will be far more acceptable than the stock system and having the option to now stream Spotify, Mixcloud or my own personal library from my phone and having navigation on a considerably bigger screen is a major benefit.

I ordered some sound deadening panels and added them to the the passenger door as it was vibrating a lot, if I’m absolutely honest once I installed them and compared it to the door without the panels in it there wasn’t much difference in sound, at some point I’ll put the remaining panels on the other door just because I have nothing else to do with them but to my ears they’ve not made any significant improvement, ultimately I just need to get used to the sound as it which is a definite improvement over the previous sound.