Category Archives: vwt4

Day 2

Not a lot to say about day 2, we made our way to the Alps which meant 12 hours on the road, not all of it was driving, we stopped at an Aire and I grabbed a couple of hours sleep in my  laybag while lolly consulted the maps and Aire books looking for the best place to stay, we settled for Les Deux Alps. 

We managed to get a shower as well, fairly ghetto setup in a car park and at lease one motorist saw me naked but it was worth it to feel clean again, you can see the shower laying on the roof to the right. 


After a lot of driving we arrived and were greeted by some stunning mountain views. 


We cooked some burgers, drank some booze, watched the first episode of Stranger Things and went to bed, we don’t have to drive anywhere tomorrow so we’re off exploring the mountain, can’t wait! 

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Bye Bye DRL’s – Hello being able to see….

One of the things that attracted me to Bumblee when we were searching for our Urban Caravan was purely cosmetic, the lovely looking Audi style day running lights or DRL’s for short, here they being modelled by Bumblebee.

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Whilst they look very nice and are quite expensive to buy they are rubbish as lights. Visibility at night is dreadful, so much so we can drive around at night with the full beam on and nobody flashes us, true story. I thought it might be the bulbs so invested in a set of H1 Osram night breakers, they marginally improved the situation.

There are a number of wiring looms you can buy that allegedly improve the situation specifically for DRL’s with projector style lights by combing the side lights and full beam or by increasing voltage to the bulbs, the problem you run into is by increasing the voltage to the bulbs you raise the bulbs temperature which in turn melts the projector cover and combining the side lights and full beam is only helpful when you have your full beam on, not really a solution.

I spoke to Martyn at Travelvolts who confirmed I had done pretty much all I could do and the only way to see an improvement would be to go back to standard lights, fit an upgrade loom and night breaker bulbs so, after a year and a half of bad night time driving it was time to take the plunge.

After doing a bit of research I bought the following from eBay and Amazon.

Headlights

Indicators

Bulbs

I also bought the headlight upgrade loom kit from Travelvolts, you can buy something similar from other places but I trust Martyn and his products so I bought it from him.

First things first, out with the old, you have to remove the front grille which is held in place by four screws, two at the top and two in the lower grille, it then just pops out.

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Once this is done you can unbolt and disconnect the headlights, quick nod to the previous owner or whoever fitted these for maintaining consistency with their poor work, both headlights were held in with 2 bolts instead of four..

Undo your bolts and unclip your bulbs and the lights come out, this is what you are left with.

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I came across what I think are the self levelling motors for the lights, one was connected to one of the DRL’s and the other wasn’t, I removed them both as my new lights have no way to connect them. Once you remove your lights you are left with a few extra plugs, I taped them up as I felt that would be helpful.

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At this point I slotted together the indicators and headlights, I then fitted the bulbs and attached the wiring loom upgrade to the bulbs, this makes installing the loom a bit less fiddly. I then fitted the lights with four bolts for each, I had to pack the drivers side light out a little near the bottom with washers so it sat straight.

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Last thing to do was hook up the loom using the instructions I downloaded from Travelvolts and test the lights before putting the front grill back on, all working first time, marvellous.

I then took the van to the hand car wash as it was filthy.

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I’m really pleased with how they look, the smoked indicators tie in with the smoked rear clusters and the main lights IMO look better than the old DRL’s. I waited for nightfall and took the van out for a drive to see if the visibility had improved.

In hindsight I wish I had taken a visibility before and after picture for comparison, I cannot tell you how much of a difference this has made, dipped beam visibility has greatly increased and full beam is bonkers, you can see miles ahead, the bulbs give off a nice white light too, not quite Xenon but not far off, the light temperature also matches up with my fogs!

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If you are thinking about swapping out your standard lights for DRL’s my advice would be save your money and upgrade the looms and bulbs instead, maybe buy some smoked or clear indicators if you want to add a custom look.

The total cost of this came to approx £170.00, the old DRL’s will be going up on eBay and I reckon I should get £100.00 back for them so with any luck, this will only of cost 70 quid, money well spent!

 

 

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Re-Insulating Bumblebee

One of the first things we did when we got Bumblebee was install central locking to both passenger doors and the sliding door, when me and Andy took the panel off the sliding door to fit the central locking motor and contacts we came across the worst kind of insulation you can use for a van, bog standard loft insulation aka lagging.

It’s bad for a number of reasons but the main one being it absorbs moisture, either from cooking or making tea in the van or just breathing, soaks it all up and rusts your van from the inside out, it had to go.

It’s taken me a while to crack on with it mainly because it’s a mission, every panel has to come off, the electrics have to come out, cupboards undone, rock and roll bed out, massive ball ache, however, after the leak in Seaford and an impending 11 days in Wales at the end of March where it will rain I had to fix the leak so I figured I might as well take a couple of days off work and sort it all out once and for all…

First thing to do was decide how to insulate the van, there are a number of methods to choose from, some involving bubble wrap, others using recycled plastic bottles, the cheapo option the previous owner went for or the method I chose, Thermoliner.

The principal behind Thermoliner is you stick it on your van and then put your panels back creating a void between the outside of your van and the inside, the thermoliner greatly reduces the transfer of the climate outside of your van to the inside and the climate inside of your van to the outside, I bought a roll of Thermoliner 8m x 1m from Harrisons Trim Supplies, you can read all about it and order it from here, I put my order in and it arrived the next day, sweet.

First job was to empty the van, it’s an eye opener when you take everything out of the various nooks and crannies and put it in all one pile!

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Next up was to get the bed out, this is held in by four bolts, the two nearest to the tailgate are easy to get out as I could hold the spanner on the bolt with one hand and use a socket to undo the nut with the other, there was no way I could do this for the two nearer the cabin, i’d need 8 foot super bendy arms and hands with grips like the jaw of a pit bull, luckily I had some g-clamps, I was quite impressed with my impromptu ingenuity!

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I managed to get the bed out by myself and left it on the drive and set about removing the first panel.

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As I suspected, full of crappy lagging, I removed that and set about replacing it with Thermoliner. I used the panel I removed as a template and marked out the amount of Thermoliner I would need. It was pretty cold and I was a bit worried the Thermoliner adhesive back wouldn’t stick, not a problem, it stuck without issue.

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Thermoliner is my new favourite thing, it’s really easy to work with, it’s easy to cut and sticks to anything, before I could make any further progress the cat came to inspect my work.

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Once she was happy she tested the tailgate to see if it could take her weight, no issue there.

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Once the cat jogged on I set about undoing all the electrics and unbolting the cabinet so I could access the panels behind it, as you can see there was a small bit of awful insulation, one whole panel was left completely exposed.

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I came across this which I think is part of the vans previous life with the AA, I have no idea what it does but disaster would probably follow if I removed it so I left it where it was.

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In about an hour the drivers side of the van was properly insulated.

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Once i’d replaced the panels on the drivers side I moved the cabinet back and secured it properly, the whole thing was held in place with 4 screws, there are also a number of internal brackets that might as well have been held together with blue tack, how none of this came apart is beyond me, I spent about an hour reinforcing all the brackets and securing the cabinet to the walls and floor of the van, it’s solid now, how it should have been in the first place!

Next up and the last job for Thursday, the roof.

Trim clips are my new least favorite thing, what a pain in the arse they are even with a trim clip removal tool.

Since we’ve owned the van there has been an ugly remnant of the Bumblebees previous life as an AA van i’ve been meaning to remove.

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I don’t know what this actually did but it as you can see it’s covered in filler, I guess this was supposed to seal it from the elements, didn’t really work…

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This is about where the drip came through when we were in Seaford, I cut out the cables and undid what ever that thing was leaving a nice hole in the roof!

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Ideally I would have cut out the rust and welded a plate in to cover the gaping hole however I can’t weld and didn’t have any plates hanging about so i did the next best thing, I wired brushed off the rust and sealed the hole internally with Dynamat and externally with all purpose clear silicon, should hold fine!

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None of the roof had been insulated, it is now !

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I finished up for the day and left the roof panels down overnight to dry as they were damp from the leak.

The next morning I put the roof panels back up, rewired all the electrics, insulated the tailgate and sliding door, I didn’t take any pictures as to be honest there are only so many pictures of insulated panels your readers are going to be interested in…

It took me a day to do that and I was nearing the finish line, all that was left to do was put the rock and roll bed back in along with all the stuff that lives in the van and decide what to do with the Thermoliner I had left.

I decided to insulate the cab doors, why not…

Before

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After

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Lolly helped me get the bed back in and I ferried all out “essential” stuff back to the van.

The van is now in my opinion properly insulated and should be leak free, I took a picture of all the lagging I took out of the van along with the left over AA cabling..

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I’m glad I finally got round to insulting the van myself, i’ve been meaning to do it for ages and I hope it keeps us nice and warm in Wales, i also feel I can put a built not bought sticker on the van as i’ve pretty much properly redone everything the previous owner put in.

If you are reading this and starting a build i’d really recommend Thermoliner for your insulation, it’s easy to work with, good value for money and delivered pronto if you order it form Harrisons.

 

 

 

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Valentines camping at Seaford

What shall we do for Valentines I asked Lolly, lets go somewhere in our urban caravan she said, we’ll book Friday off and go for a long weekend, sounds like a plan I replied.

We set a rule that for short weekends away we wouldn’t travel more than an hour or so’s drive, Lolly had also mentioned visiting Beachy Head so I figured somewhere near there would be a good place to stay and so it was I came across Seaford.

I chose Seaford because i’d never heard of it, it isn’t too far from Beachy Head and there was a campsite that was taking bookings in February, most places don’t begin their season till the beginning of March, it’s also just over an hours drive from where we live, perfect.

The campsite stayed at is called Buckle Caravan Park and the description amounted to ” No frills campsite with few rules, like camping in the good old days” – that sounded alright to me.

The first thing that hits you when you arrive is the place looks a bit run down although I am sure it looks completely different if the sun is shining, it’s also a little strange that the campsite warden has built a moat around his twin static caravan and decorated the garden with scallop shells, odd garden ornaments and a concrete pig. The reception building is also a little odd looking completely out of place with everything around it, despite it all looking a bit rubbish we were warmly greeted, shown our pitch on a map, educated about the electric gate and told the shower and toilet blocks nearest to us were being repaired / renovated so we’d have to use the ones near the office, there is also a club house open on Saturday with a bar which we were more than welcome to use.

I also didn’t have enough cash on me to pay for our stay and the deposit for the key fob, no worries, pay tomorrow said the guy at reception which was nice.

We made out way to our pitch, parked up and made a brew.

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As you can see, there are a lot of caravans, most of which seem to be there all year round and as such most appeared empty, the campsite was really quiet, looking ahead is a grassy knoll and beyond that a pebble beach and the sea, it’s not that pretty so I didn’t take a picture.

I’d downloaded a walk which was the first one on this page and on the basis it was dry with no rain forecast we drove to East Dean, parked up at the Tiger Inn and set off on our walk. The guide is a quite old and a little out of date but most of the landmarks still exist and we didn’t get lost, bonus.

We stopped at a national trust spot called Birling gap, we grabbed a beer and a cider, used their wifi and then made our way to the beach which you access via metal stairs from the top of the cliff.

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There are lots of signs saying that the cliffs are a little unstable and there are also the biggest lumps of chalk that are very handy for writing on metal stairs should you feel the need to do so…

We hung about for a while, grabbed a selfie and then headed on our way..

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From here we headed uphill toward the Bell Tout lighthouse, built by a chap called Mad Jack Fuller who had an addiction for building follys he believed he finally made something useful, however he built his lighthouse on the fog line so the light didn’t shine very far when it was foggy and was useless to ships avoiding the cliffs, it’s now a B&B..

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We picked up the pace as the sun was beginning to set, from the Bell Tout chipped down a hill, along a roman road and back into East Dean where we started, our plan was for dinner at the Tiger Inn which has what appears to be a real Tigers head on the wall, i’m not a fan of stuffed animals but i’ve never seen a stuffed tigers head before and felt compelled to take a picture of it.

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The pub is on the green at East Dean, it’s a hotel as well, there are a host of locally brewed ales, a warm fire and a great menu, we had baked camembert to start and then the Tiger Inn burger, I got all excited about the local ales and drunk one of each, I was too drunk to drive home and we were going to stay in the car park, Lolly however elected to drive us home and only had 2 halfs and 2 pints of water. I’m glad we went back to the campsite as it meant I could hook us up to 240V and get the heater going, would have been a bloody cold night otherwise.

We also got to catch up with one of my old raving buddies and best mates Rob, he lives just down the road in Peacehaven and met us for a Guiness.

During the night the rain came and it didn’t stop, we woke in the morning and discovered the van has a leak coming from the roof, most likely where the AA lights were mounted. We decided we’d head home instead of staying another night as the weather wasn’t set to improve and everything are wanted to do meant we would be out in the rain. Before we left we had a shower, whilst the facilities weren’t the best looking they were clean and the water hot.

We drove into Seaford in search of breakfast and came across a place called Sub Station, what a lovely surprise, proper nice breakfast in a sub and the owner is great fun too, left him looking up on Google “was Mary Berry fit” after confirming old Mary has had a bit of botox…

Other than the nice cafe Seaford is a bit rundown, I doubt it’s on any must visit list which is why i’ve never heard of it, it’s not that far from Brighton, Hastings and Eastbourne which are more well known.

What I will say is the countryside around Seaford is really quite beautiful so it was worth staying there for that.

It was still raining when we left Sub Station, we stopped off at a place called paradise park, had a wander round there and then headed for home looking forward to sleeping in a warm bed with no leaks!

I probably wouldn’t go back to Buckle but I wouldn’t say avoid it either, 20 quid a night for a hard standing pitch right by the beach is great value and i’m sure when the sun is shining it’s a completely different place, if you fancy a cheap night away “near” Brighton and Hastings give it a go !

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Exclusive camping!

Getting off the motorway past the accident was a bit of a bodge, there was no way through so we all had to turn around and go up the emergency lane the wrong way and then leave via the slip road that comes onto the motorway from a local village, we had to wait a while but eventually we got going. 

We were so lucky not to have been involved in that crash, it must have just happened as we pulled up behind it. 

Our course had been diverted from Bruges to the garage  in Oostkamp and we arrived about 30 minutes after we got off the motorway. Long story short, 300 euros to fix then van and the part wouldn’t arrive the following day, after much discussion and possible scenarios it was decided we’d be staying with VW for the night! 

  
We’ve stayed in worse places and to be honest, what else could we do? 

It was chucking it down with rain so we got our waterproofs on, grabbed the bikes and rode into Bruges, here’s a picture of lolly looking a lot bigger than she actually is!

  
The ride wasn’t long and we joked that staying at the VW garage was a result really as it was closer to Bruges than our campsite! 

There is an old fish market in a square, we parked our bikes there and went for a wander, the first place we came across was the ice rink and a load of food and drink stalls, smelled lovely but were probably tourist prices, we carried on wandering about in the rain and eventually came to the conclusion we should drink some beers, we found an empty bar with a window seat and plotted up, here we are with a leffe each. 

  
Something has happened to my wife, when we met she didn’t do booze and certainly not beer, that has all changed now and we spent the next couple of hours drinking leffe, chouff and jupiler, the last being out least favourite. 

Before we came I bought lolly a guide book for Bruges and in it she read about a restaurant that came with a beer to suit each course, Den Dyver it’s called, we agreed that is where we would eat and set about finding it, I was given directions which I was confident I understood, turns out I didn’t and after lolly took control of our course we eventually found the restaurant which was right by where we parked our bikes.

We came across this guy en route, he’s made out of old tyres. 

  
The restaurant was pleasantly empty and they no longer did the beer with each course, the guide book was three years old and they stopped the beer thing a couple of years earlier. The food still looked awesome even though none of the menu was in English, it’s in Dutch or French and I suprised myself as I worked out most of what was on there using French.  

My starter was amazing, it has a name that I cant remember but it’s a traditional dish and it’s brown shrimps, mash potato, poached egg and hollandaise sauce, lolly had carpaccio scallops, they were nice but I preferred mine. Main course was chataubriand to share, epic is about the best way to describe it, we ate all of it and couldn’t possibly eat anything else when we’d finished. 

The meal wasn’t cheap but it wasn’t massively expensive either, London prices really which we’re used to on occasion, well worth it and if you’re ever over here pay it a visit. 

We grabbed our bikes and rode back to the van, the rain had stopped and this time we had rememberd lights for both of us so less tricky than our previous night riding in France. 

We setup the bed and crashed, tomorrow is another day, Lollys birthday in fact! 

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Onwards to Bruges!

  
So here we are on the Eurostar waiting to depart. Should have left 30 minutes ago, never mind! We’re on holiday and that’s all that matters, tonight we’ll be scoffing waffles and quaffing beers, that’s the plan anyways. Must remember not to put petrol in the van 🙂

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Le Conclusion

We’ve been home almost a week now, I went straight back to work, Lolly had the remainder of the week off before starting her new job. It’s the longest trip we’ve done in the van both in distance (just over 2000 miles) and time (21 days), I thought it would be a good idea to write down what we would do differently next time and things we (mainly me) would like to do to the van for our next adventure. 

I also need to cut my grass!

  
Moving About

We both agree that whilst it was nice to move about and see different places if we do it again, we’ll get as far as we want to go and then stay there for a while, maybe spend a couple of days getting somewhere, hold up for a week, then move on somewhere not too far away, stay there for more than a couple of nights, less moving the better. It’s a pain packing up the van every other day, taking all the thermal curtains down, putting the bed up, moving the surfboards from the back to the front and then back again when taking off, it would be much easier if we could arrive, set up camp and then leave it like that for a bit.

Stuff

I doubt we’d take much less, maybe less clothes (especially if we head back to Montalivet) and i’d deffo find a better way to store the body boards as they take up a lot of room in the van, there are a couple of things i’d take next time for sure. I will definitely have on board a reverse polarity adapter for the 240v hook up. We came across this twice, once in an aire and once at a campsite, from what I have read a lot of the Flot Bleu aire’s are wired up reverse which could wreak all sorts of havoc on your electrics, luckily our PMS 3 has a reverse polarity indicator.

I’d like to see if I could get another top box on the roof, in there i’d put all the bedding and one of those fold up table and chairs for when we eat or just wanted to sit outside the van.

Van upgrades.

Solar, I definitely want a solar solution for the leisure battery, whilst I enjoyed staying at the campsites with all their facilities I also really enjoyed staying at the aires, most of which had no electricity supply. I could keep the fridge going for a lot longer which would mean Lolly would have ice for her G&T’s (plus the ice won’t melt and flood the fridge), i’d have cold beers and our food would keep, the split charge kit has massively helped keep the charge up when on the move as has rewiring the fridge.

A pop top, i’ve never really seen the point of them until I saw Dickie and Julias van, I really liked the fact that they didn’t have to fold down their seats in the rear when it was time for bed, they just popped the roof, put their duvet and pillows up there and climbed up to crash, they also have a sunroof so I wouldn’t have to ditch ours which is a feature I really like. I would however have to revisit how the top box attaches to the roof, rails bolted to the pop top would do the job.

An awning, more for rain than sun, it does sometimes rain when cruising about the place in summer and to have a shelter to sit under while nature does it’s thing would be much nicer than having to sit in the van with all the stuff we just chucked in to prevent it getting wet !

Curtains, Van-x preferably, our just kamper thermal curtains are great but they are annoying to deploy, lots of licking and then occasionally falling down in the night, curtains for the rear and two side windows would be great.

Location

We really enjoyed France and both feel we have a lot more to explore and will definitely be going back, we’d both really like to do a similar trip in Spain and then maybe Morocco, dreams for now but you never know !

There is a part of me that looked enviously at the size and space the huge motorhomes had that we were frequently parked up next to, also having your own toilet and shower means you could do a whole trip without ever going to a campsite using just your own facilities, what puts me off is pretty much all of the owners had upwards of 20 years on us, we’re not ready to roll with the olds, we’re still reasonably young and happy being in the cool crowd with our lovely yellow T4  !

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Le naked

I’m not entirely sure how I missed the bit about our next stop being a naturist site, lolly assures me that I read the description and that I said it was cool. 

I was first alerted to the nakedness when we came to check in, all of the staff were in clothes, then some naked people walked in, genuinely I had no idea we were heading to a naturist site. 

I don’t have a problem with naturism, if people want to walk about in the buff then that’s up to them, me being naked however, that I have issue with. 

I’ve never really been comfortable with being naked, for one, I have psoriasis and this season it’s come up on my head and my arse, I don’t like looking at it and I don’t think anyone else would either. Secondly I’ve never felt particularly good about my physique, I’m not massively fat but I’m not lean either, I’m not muscular but not unmuscular either if that makes sense, average is about the best way I could describe myself. 

I turn the light off when I go to bed before I take my clothes off so I don’t catch a glance of my naked self in the mirror, issues. 

Lolly assures me that nobody is particularly looking and deep down I know she’s right, the demons in my head have other idea’s however and are set to ruin what could have been a couple of fun days trying a new experience. 

After getting over the initial shock about the whole naturist thing we made our way to the pitch we’d been assigned, it was in the blazing sun with no shelter and next door to the newly arrived circus, this would be the first and possibly last time I saw a camel wandering through the open air toilets. There were also some beautiful but quite sad looking tigers. 

  
We agreed this would not do, especially as the pitch we were given was being vacated by a Welsh couple for exactly the same reasons. A short trip to reception, an explanation of our situation and requirements resulted in us being given a list of available spots and to just help ourselves. 

The list and accompanying map were a pain to use and for Lolly it got too much, it wouldn’t be long before one of us blew a fuse, lolly went to the beach, I sorted our pitch. 

Sorting our pitch involved stopping at the spar for a couple of beers, skulling one and then opening the other for the drive round the site trying to find a suitable spot from the available ones.

After a couple of no goes I came across a suitable spot and drove the van toward it, that’s when I beached the van in sand, no going anywhere. 

Within seconds I was surrounded by naked men, an English chap called Gerry introduced himself and apologised for not coming out sooner to warn me of the sand trap, apparently I wasn’t the first to get stuck. Meanwhile, a couple of the naked men left and returned with shovels and what followed was possibly one of the more bizzare things I’ve seen in my life, naked men digging out a campervan, a true once in a lifetime experience. 

Eventually we got the van out with some digging and an old towel of all things, I got the van where it needed to be and setup camp mashley. 

 
Despite finding the whole naked digging rescue thing a bit surreal I was genuinely moved at everyone’s willingness to help a stupid Englishman stuck in the sand. I headed off to the beach to find lolly, it didn’t take long to find her and the journey to the beach involved naked overload, naked people everywhere, walking, cycling, flying down water slides and the beach, naked surfing, never seen that before! We hung by the beach and caught some waves on our bodyboards, the surf there is excellent, I put on a wetsuit, still not up for being naked just yet. 

When we got back to the van our only shower option was pretty open, no doors, just a shower while people pass by on their way to their next naked activity, I bit the bullet and got on with it, wasn’t so bad. Lolly I might add has no issue with being naked and from the moment she got to the beach ditched her clothes and didn’t wear much for the remainder of our trip. 

  
The following day the weather was a bit rubbish, I hung by the van updating the blog and devising a Frankenstein charging system so our fridge would work. I also threw a shit fit about being naked on some slides but that’s a whole other story. Lauren went for a wander and we visited Aldi to pick up some supplies for a BBQ at the beach. 

The beach at Montalivet is awesome and perfect for a BBQ.  Seeing as nobody was really around and I’d pissed off lolly with my shit fit at the water slides I figured the best thing I could do was get naked on the beach with my wife and go for a naked swim, here we are below after the swim, butt naked!

  
We cooked a shed load of food, lamb, chicken and unfortunately some rubbish burgers, steak hache for any of you heading to France, make sure you season them! 

The beach is a great spot for a sunset and this nights sunset was nothing short of epic, a stunning sunset with a massive looming storm, sometimes I forget with the right composition how good a photo an iPhone can take. 

  
We took a stroll back to the van, crashed, got up and prepped for the journey to Chambord. 

Gerry and his wife Catherine came to wish us a safe journey, they were such nice people, we bumped into them loads around the site and they always said hello, Gerry was infectiously happy at all times. 

The whole naked thing seems to remove so many barriers we humans put up, everyone I encountered on the site was butt naked, friendly and happy, I suspect at one with the whole underneath we are all the same idea. 

The site is an amazing place, it’s like a small village, in fact I know smaller villages. The facilities are excellent, the surroundings beautiful and a happy community atmosphere. 

I still feel a bit weird naked but genuinely, I hope I get over it because I’d go back to CHM in Montalivet and I’d probably get naked. 

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Le dune

Camping municipal Verdalle has turned out to be ok, the pitch is massive, the toilet and shower facilities are excellent, they have some strange rules like no hanging out washing after 10am and don’t use the trees to make washing lines which we’ve duly ignored. 

  
The beach was another IMO average affair, sandy and the sea was out so quite muddy too, when we returned in the evening the tide had come in and the beach looked a lot better, would have been a great place for a sunset but we missed that as I was busy cooking chicken, I didn’t bother taking a picture of the beach. 

Earlier in the day we’d taken a walk and round the corner from our campsite and average beach was a lovely little harbour. 

 

As you can see the weather has greatly improved, our first afternoon / evening in Gujan-Mestras passed fairly uneventfully, sun, average beach, walk, chicken and bed. 

The following morning we got up, ate what we had left that would pass for breakfast and jumped on the bikes, our destination being The Grand Dune of Pyla, basically a massive sand dune by the sea that’s slowly swallowing a forest. 

We got a bit lost en route although we did find a nice forest to ride through. 

  

11 miles later we arrived at the dune and it was mental, people everywhere, not quite what we had expected and to be honest, almost enough to turn us on our heels, I convinced Lolly some food and a drink would be a good idea, she was more up for grabbing a panini and buggering off but I insisted we grab a table, this is where I had my first favourite French dish, a croque Monsieur!

  

It was lovely and lolly is now convinced she can make them for me at home, bonus!

After a quick food and drink break we set off to conquer the dune, this is not something to try if you are unfit, obese, have a heart condition or are generally unwell. It’s a steep ascent in sand which is harder work than it looks, much harder, there are steps you can go up but they are equally as steep but with better footing.  It took us about 10 minutes to get to the top of the dune and that was with a couple of stops, the view out across the bay is stunning. 

  

I took some better pictures with my other camera and when I’ve edited them I’ll post them up. 

It’s nowhere near as frantic at the top of dune, almost peaceful so we hung about for an hour catching some rays and then headed down the other side to the beach and the sea, we stayed there for a few hours and I read Lolly some of the book I am reading, it’s called the Martian, a great read and now Lolly is into it I’m going to have to read her the rest of the book while we are away!

To get back to the bikes we had to climb up the dune again which took about 20 min this time as our start point was lower than before, after a lot of effort we reached the summit, chipped down the other side and made our way to the bikes, we still had an 11 mile ride home to do!

We took a different route home basically following the coast on a cycle path, about halfway we stopped at a little town square that had a few bars and restaurants, we got a corner table right by the beach.

 
I had steak and lolly had paella, both dishes were lovely and we were treated to a beautiful sunset. 

 
We made our way home mostly on the cycle path, the light faded and Lolly had no lights on her bike, mine are rechargeable and about halfway home the front one ran out of juice, the ride home was tense but we made it without getting killed!

Below is the report from Strava, I kept stopping Strava so I could see where we were on the way home so it’s not quite as accurate as it could be, I’m fairly certain we did more than 17 miles. 

  
This morning we got up, left the campsite and headed to an aire in a pine forest called Biscarrose Plage, there is a crappy toilet and that’s it, no other facilities, proper camping in the woods!

  
There is a beach about 2 mins from here we’re off to check out shortly, have fun at your desk or wherever you’re reading this from, we’ll be on the beach!

For anyone interested, so far we’ve covered 752 miles in 7 days, the van is running sweet and all the little upgrades and mods we’ve made for this trip have been totally worth it!

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Great stone beach, Dungeness and more wild camping!

When the sun comes out there is nothing Lolly and I like better than heading to the beach. If you live in London or Greater London as we do, the beach usually means Brighton. We like Brighton, we got married there but the beach itself isn’t all that, it’s made of pebbles, if the suns out it’s rammed, getting into town is a slow process and it’s easier to solve a rubiks cube on acid than it is to find somewhere to park. You can however go by train, it’s very well connected and the town is a cool place to be, we didn’t want to be in the town, we wanted a beach.

I can’t quite remember when it was we discovered “our” beach as we like to call it, I suspect it was Lolly’s doing as I never bother looking these things up but it’s our go to spot for sand, a few drinks and a bbq, the beach itself is called Greatstone and it’s not far from Dymchurch in Kent, I like to call Dymchurch grim church because in my eyes it’s pretty grim.

There are many nice things about Greatstone beach, parking is easy and not massively expensive, it’s never that busy and it’s a proper sand beach with dunes which is where we usually head to as the beach itself is always a little bit windy, the dunes give you a bit of shelter, there is also well maintained toilets and an off-licence / general store that sells all sorts, we bought beer, biscuits and a mallet. Generally when we are there the sea is about a mile out so we often ditch paddling and just eat, drink and people watch, with that in mind, we cracked open some booze and got the Cobb BBQ on the go.

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Believe it or not that is actually on the go, the cobb doesn’t look like it’s doing anything but the reality is there is some lovely harrisa chicken cooking there and it’s a good job the cobb has a lid, it was windy and near enough everything we took to the beach got covered in sand except the chicken.

While we were cooking I took a quick panorama with my phone so you can get an idea of what the beach looks like and how busy it isn’t.

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The chicken was lovely as was the bean salad Lauren made, we munched, we drank and once i’d reached my limit of what I could have and be within the legal limits to drive, I convinced Lauren we should stay the night wild camping style so I could drink more booze, I love my wife, she agreed and said drink as much as you like!

We’d brought our bikes along as we’d discussed earlier about maybe going for a bike ride. I’d had a good few beers and thought riding on the road probably wasn’t the best idea so I championed the idea of riding across the compact sand, Lauren wasn’t convinced especially as she would have to carry her bike across the loose sand to get to the compacted bit, I think she agreed in the end just to shut me up, we took everything back to the van, grabbed the bike and headed off along the sand.

I’ll be the first to admit it wasn’t quite as easy as i’d thought but it wasn’t too hard either, it was really nice riding on the beach and the further away we got from the van the closer the tide came in, as the beach turned to shingle which made riding almost impossible and the sea was right beside us we got off and went for a paddle.

We had agreed that we would ride to the headland, as this was now not possible via the beach we carried the bikes up on to the road and continued to follow the coast road eventually arriving at a nice pub called The Pilot Inn. The pub was heaving with diners and drinkers, we had now left Greatstone and were in Dungeness, we stopped for a drink and surveyed our surroundings, we spotted a light house and decided to take a look, a helpful sign said it was one mile away.

This is were we discovered our new favourite place, Dungeness Nature Reserve, it’s not your typical nature reserve on the basis that it’s made mostly of shingle but it’s a truly remarkable place. The maddest thing of all is there is a nuclear power station and dotted all around the area are little plaques with details of what to do should the plant go tits up. There are also the most quirky and unique properties, some made out of old train carriages, some that look like run down fishing huts and others that wouldn’t look out of place on George Clarkes amazing spaces, there are also a couple of lighthouses, one of which drew us there in the first place.

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That one doesn’t emit a light but there is one round the corner that does, the first one was built in 1904 and was replaced by the second one in 1961 becasue when they built the power station it obstructed the original lighthouse beacon, I learnt that from another blog written by a T4 owner wild camping in Dungeness!

As I mentioned earlier, i’d had too much drink to drive home and we had planned to stay in the car park by the beach, the nature reserve however looked like a much better option, there were a few motorhomes parked up so we rode back, grabbed the van and parked up for the night next to another T4 and watched the sun go down.

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It should also be noted that we were parked quite near the power station which looked really nice when the sun went down and it was all lit up although the picture below doesn’t really demonstrate this!

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I drank the last of my beers, Lauren had a decaf tea and we got our heads down for the night, more wild camping!

We didn’t bother putting the thermal blinds up so we were woken when the sun came up as our van was flooded with daylight, Lauren did her best to rouse me so I could observe the beautiful sunrise but I wasn’t really up for opening my eyes for a little while yet.

I eventually got up about 7, we made some tea, put the bed away and headed off back to Croydon, i’d really like to go back there again, it was a cool place to stay and there is a load more to explore and photograph, i’ll bring my DSLR next time!

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