Week 3/4: Some FAQs

Frequently Asked Question 1 – What is your itinenary?

The most frequent question we had before we started the adventure was “What are your plans?”. We’d reply with something like “To start, we’ll travel down the west side of France with the aim of getting to the north coast of Spain then to Portugal. We have a couple of places to stay booked in France, but our intention is do that part quite quickly.”

So why, after nearly a month are we still in France? Some circumstance have conspired to delay us. And, we were probably optimistic in our plans. First we had van issues, which took a while to resolve and stopped us travelling too far. 

  • Issue 1: We broke the bed, which meant we couldn’t raise it to be able to stand up inside the van without risking damaging something else. As I type this we are sat in Rodez VW and the hinge is being replaced, but it took a week to get the appointment to figure out what needed to be done and another week to order and install the parts.
  • Issue 2: The windscreen got hit by a stone and had a crack, so needed to be replaced. Fortunately insurance covered this, but it took a week and a half to get the appointment. That’s sorted now.
  • And, we’ve been trying to register Zeus with ICAD and get his EU passport. More on that soon. We don’t think we need to stay local while we wait for his ICAD registration. So we’re hoping our next update has some further travel in it.

Frequently Asked Question 2 – Isn’t the campervan too small?

Another frequent question is “How will you cope with living in such a small space?” We did a lot of thinking before we left on what we needed in the van, and did some trial trips to practice. Now that we have some real experience:

  • Lesson 1: Nearly everything depends on teamwork. For example in our apartment I could go and wash the dishes on my own. That’s not viable in the van – you need to wash, dry and repack as a single operation involving 2 people, as there is no space to move around easily.
  • Lesson 2: Everything takes longer so we can’t fit as much in the day. This is either because you’re working in a cramped space or because it’s a task that wouldn’t be part of your normal home life. Examples are having to brush teeth one person at a time, making and un-making the bed everyday (otherwise you can’t close the roof), filling and emptying water tanks. Luckily we are now time rich and maybe it is a good experience for us as former city folk to have to slow down a bit (a lot).
  • Lesson 3: The weather conditions really affect what you can do and everyone’s happiness levels. We had a several days of wet and cold weather. The van has no insulation so we’ve been sleeping in our clothes and wrapping Zeus up in several blankets. When it’s raining you can’t use the outside as part of your living space or choose to do an activity where you might get really wet as there’s nowhere to dry people or clothes. But you can make progress with reading or knitting projects.

We’ve found that after several consecutive days of cold and wet, we’re all tired and cranky. The main takeaway here for us is to find some milder and drier place to be.

That’s exactly what we did last Thursday after our first visit to the VW garage to assess the broken bed. We made a snap decision to drive down to the Mediterranean, via the awesome Millau bridge, for few days before we had to return for the windscreen fix. It was a good choice. We all slept much better. Zeus got to do some running on the beach (he loves to run). We did some good walks with views of the Mediterranean and Pyrenees. And, found some good bike trails.

The other experience we want to share from the last 2 weeks is our two stays at Passions. Passions are sites where campervans can stay for free for an evening, sometimes with basic facilities, typically at a farm, vineyard, cheese maker, etc. In exchange you might try and buy some of their produce. It’s something we’d be keen to do and the experience in both cases was great.

  • La Ferme du Gazenas: This farm produces milk for Bleu des Causses cheese. We got to learn about the history of the farm – post WW2, the evolution of the farm with the introduction of EU and quotas. We learnt about the milking process and fed some newborn calves. We learnt about and sampled the Bleu des Causses cheese (it is similar in production to Roquefort, but is made with cow rather than sheep milk).
  • Domaine Duffau: Is a vineyard in the AOP Gaillac region. Here we could try wine without having to drive afterwards. The most interesting wines we tried were both made with local grape variaties Braucol and Loin de l’Oeil.

Frequently Asked Question 3 – How do you use the loo in the campervan?

The final frequent question is “Does your campervan have a toilet?” No, but you don’t want to read about that. Or do you? Let us know if you’re interested 🙂

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