Last year my mum decided to finally purchase a camper van, although she had always wanted a VW 60s split screen camper those things cost a small fortune. We knew we wanted a vehicle that would make out camping trips a lot easier. As we were very serious about this, from checking out coverage plans such as good sam extended service plans to watching online videos about staying safe while camping, we knew that we had the basics in check to make this camping trip one to remember. When everything like this is done before the trip, it just makes it a lot less stressful, which is what we want.
Instead, she bought a gorgeous VW T5 which had the back converted to a camper. I had been wanting to venture out camping in it since the day she picked it up, and so we decided to go to France for the May bank holiday. I’ve never really been camping; as a kid I was lucky enough to get holidays abroad in Spain and Greece, so I missed out on the whole caravanning in the south coast or camp site holidays in France. I am by no means complaining, I know I was lucky enough to get to see the places I did, however I find myself now wanting those experiences.
For my birthday last year I went to Calais for 2 days, but we didn’t have much time to check out the local area so we decided to camp near to Calais and found a gorgeous camp site called Camping La Bien Assise not far away in the small village of Guines. Originally we had wanted to go to this alan rogers camping site, because our friends had recommended it after they’d enjoyed a weekend away. Before we could even set off on the trip we had a lot of preparing to do – driving in a different country isn’t just confusing it can also be a minefield in terms of the different laws. In France, for example, you have to have certain items in your vehicle by law, items such as a hi-vis jacket, hazard triangle and even a breathalyzer kit! Not only that but you have to make sure your car/van is up to the job – do you really want to break down or have issues whilst driving along a country road in a foreign country? It’s best to check you have things like all season tyres, an oil check and whatever spares you might need.
So, after a very early start on the Saturday morning, and a fraught time trying to place the beam converters on the van (something else that’s a requirement for a UK vechicle travelling in Europe), it was time for the drive down to the Euro Tunnel after picking Sammie up on the way. My mum is petrified of water so we decided to give the ferry a miss this time & opt for the tunnel; she was going to be stressed enough with the thought of foreign road driving. On the way down we made plans on how in God’s name the three of us were gonna set the awning up (the tent attached to the side of the van) and also how we were going to spend our next few days. The Euro Tunnel was a strange affair, it’s like being on a train but not on a train, and a few times I had the thought of ‘what if the water gets too heavy and break through the tunnel’… I never said I was a smart cookie. Once we arrived in France it was panic stations all over; my mum has been driving years and is a car buff so she’s a very confident driver, however as soon as we set off the nerves kicked in as the inbuilt sat nav was being temperamental and wouldn’t pick us up as been in France. So it was down to me, the non-driver to use Google Maps on the phone & become a walking talking sat nav. My first rookie mistake was to say ‘take the third exit off the roundabout’ when it actual fact it’s the first exit as you’re reading it right, not left. Despite this we managed to make it to the campsite in one piece. Camping Le Bien Assise is a beautiful campsite, and the staff there could not have been more helpful – they had put us close to the bathrooms haha. It’s a large site with a heated pool, on site bar, snack bar, pub and restaurant. It’s set in the most beautiful surroundings too, very green and well kept. After setting the awning up with not much bother at all it was time to relax… And by relax I mean break out the cheese, crackers and prosecco.
That night our first sleeping disaster arose… I had bought myself and Sammie self-inflating beds for the trip, and happily twisted the cap to let them inflate. But, I am nothing if not an idiot, so I forgot to close the caps before we got in to bed, thus the deflation began and we were basically sleeping on the lumpy ground all night. Definitely check out camping resources like those at Globo Surf to check out the best items for camping so you don’t end up like us – sleeping on the lumpy floor.
The following day we planned to go to Calais for the afternoon, potter around the shops then have some food and drink. So in the morning I decided to have a proper little wander around the camp grounds. There is a beautiful stately looking home just off the side of the campsite, which actually looks attached, and once round the back there’s beautiful streams, farm animals and greenery as far as the eye can see. I definitely want to return to the area and have more time to explore, as there’s also a little village just down the road. Like all good plans, ours went awry when we figured out it was going to cost €40 for a taxi in to Calais (it’s only a 15 minute drive), luckily we just managed to catch a bus so we were saved. Or so we thought. Once we got to Calais it suddenly became apparent that everywhere was shut, shopping wise. Apparently the town more or less closes down on Sundays, so instead of looking in lots of little shops, we decided to grab some food and a few carafes of wine (which at €5 a pop it would have been rude not to). Once night time feel and it was time for bed it had started raining pretty badly, and as you can see from the picture of our set up the awning floor wasn’t attached, thus came our second sleeping disaster.
Before we went to sleep we (drunkenly) made sure there was no ground sheet hanging out of the awning parameters, so that no rain could gather in it. But it did. On my side. I woke up about 1am as my feet were cold, turns out the bottom of the ground sheet escaped and a puddle was a puddling at my feet. This has then soaked my mattress, which soaked my sleeping bag and then soaked through to the duvet I had over me… It had also soaked up to about knee height by this point. It had also creeped over to Sammies’s side and she woke up too, from then we just burst out laughing & wondered if we could sleep in the disabled shower block for the night as it was heated. Come morning time we were both convinced we had trench foot, and the rain had basically soaked all but 1 foot of my bedding. Fun times.
Monday was our last full day and we were set to go to Cite Europe shopping centre to raid Sephora, but it was a bank holiday and apparently the French close ERRTHINGGGG on bank holidays, as we found out when we pulled up to park. Another ‘disaster day’, so instead we drove in to Belgium for an hour and picked up some alcohol… If you can’t shop, then drink. The weather was pitiful too, so it wasn’t like we could go off and explore, as one moment it was glorious sun then the next torrential downpour.
A little bit of a disaster trip but I enjoyed every trench-footed-nothing-even open second of it. Oh, and to add insult to injury on our way back to the Euro Tunnel to return home we were parked right next to the bloody shopping centre & Sephora was within touching distance… It was just not meant to be. We do plan to go back at the end of August, so hopefully there’s no French bank holidays that week.
If you’re looking for some #RoadtripsOfEurope to take yourself or have a read about be sure to check out the Kwik Fit E-book which has some great inspo…
Have you ever had trench foot? Joking… Have you ever had a holiday where nothing has gone to plan, but it was still amazing?
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