Here we go again, the nonsense resumes! Only this time we’re not in a nice self-contained flat overlooking some pretty harbour or on a big glizty cruise ship easing in to some exotic port
No, this time we in Crystal Palace (that’s South London for those not from these shores). In a caravan. Yep, you read it right. In a caravan.
You may remember my last blog – from Mogan – where we had decided to go travelling. Well, that plan is slowly coming together.
After Christmas (and before we had even decided this) a good friend and experienced caravanner took us around to some dealers to see what was on offer, have a look at sizes and layouts and to see what we could get for our money.
At last, just two weeks ago, we bought one. For those that know, or care, it’s a Coachman Pastiche 460/2. Built in 2004, but even at eight years old it’s in pretty good nick. Two berths (hence the/2) with most of the mod cons you’d need: Toilet, shower, washbasin, cooker, sink, fridge, heating and most important of all, a cocktail cabinet.
The fridge works on gas, battery or mains, the heating and hot water on gas or mains electric. Most sites provide electric hook up as part of your site fee but two propane cylinders in the front compartment are there if needed for heating and powering the cooker.
Anyway, back to the van later. Our ageing Nissan X-Trail, battered and bruised from years of doing those bloody parcels, although already fitted with a tow bar, didn’t have enough puff left in her to tow a van well. Someone wanted to buy it, so we sold it to them. My dear old crate that was the Mercedes CLK would have towed fine, but being automatic it would have needed an additional oil cooler fitted to the front, and being a supercharged petrol it would have needed a petrol tanker behind it.
So we’ve ended up with a an X-type diesel Jag estate. Anecdotal evidence gleaned from the ‘net suggested it would be good for towing – and so far, so good. And it’s black. Lovely.
Why Crystal Palace. Well, it’s not far from home – only fifty or so miles away, but more importantly, aforementioned friend Graham and his partner Robert were coming up for a couple of weeks, so we would have the benefit of their experience, advice and assistance. Not only that, but for less than twenty quid a night, we are a bus ride away from central London. Afternoon Tea and a show or two are already on the cards.
So , what’s it like. Well, there’s lots to learn. When we went to pick the van up, the dealer gave us a complete run down and walk through of the vans facilities and features. This was invaluable. Then it came to towing it home. Trev had towed before years ago, But I never had so he done the first bit, taking us across from the dealers at Southwater and on to the M23 and down. He pulled in to a lay-by and we swapped over. I was a little nervous, but everything went fine. Make sure your mirrors are well set up, be aware of the extra width and length and take it easy. We got home with the van intact.
The next challenge was to get the van on the drive. We had measured up and knew it would fit, but it was going be tight. However, the van, like many, is fitted with a ‘mover’ which is, basically a motor attached to each wheel and operated by remote control. Within ten minutes the van was on the drive. Easy!
The dealers had supplied a battery and gas bottle and had, very kindly thrown in a mains cable, an aquaroll (for fresh water) and a waste hog (as the name suggests, for waste water). We set up the water, waste and mains just as we would be doing on site.
I decided that the loo needed testing. Now, generally the loo, whilst capable of dealing with everything is really only used for those nocturnal visits. More substantial er, loads are dealt with in the toilet and shower blocks on site. Anyway, having opened the flies and assumed the position I was overwhelmed by a fit of giggles, brought on partially by the realisation that the bathroom blind was open and my actions could be seen by all and sundry – well with powerful binoculars anyway. It came out alright in the end though…
The van was duly ‘christened’ that night – no not like that – but with neighbours and friends joining us for drinkypoos. There was eight of us in there at one point. It was then that the van was officially named – as the title of this blog suggests – to Patsy.
In the following days various trips to shops ensued to procure accessories and essentials for the van'. The aforementioned cocktail cabinet had only two bottle holders so four more were ordered.Our friends advice on what to take and how to pack was invaluable. As Sunday approached, the more personal items went in. There is a substantial wardrobe so I was able to pack clothes in the full range of colours for which I am so renowned (?) So there are white shirts in there to complement the black ties, black jumpers, black cardies, black jeans and black shoes and boots…
Then we stopped.
But only to wait for Graham & Robert who we met down the road. They soon appeared and shortly after 10am we were away. I drove the first bit and whilst still a little cautious was soon in to the swing of things. The car was performing well, pulling the van up Handcross hill easily at 55 with plenty of horses to spare. We pulled in to a lay-by near Coulsden and swapped over. Trev handled the traffic well and we were soon pulling into the site. We had arrived on our first trip!
Checking in was straightforward and you are given a pitch number. They had done some juggling and put us together. We followed the boys down through the site, and waited as they pulled on. Then once the way was clear we done the same. A concern of many when towing is when having to reverse. But with the mover you don’t need to worry. It eased gently into place in no time at all.
With the steadies down and chocks and handbrake on, we could get set up. Trev started sorting the inside of the van while I worked on the outside. Electric plugged in, gas on, aquaroll filled and positioned and waste hog in place. The loo was charged with the chemicals and water. Then the kettle went on for a much needed cuppa.
An awning was included with the van although it had not been advertised as such so neither us or the dealer had any idea what it was like. Well, despite having no instructions it went up sort of ok. It was not a full length awning but a smaller ‘porch’. It was a bit flimsy and, having decided that we would look for something bigger and more substantial for longer trips, we took it down again.
The first supper, cooked by chef Trev was delicious – bangers, beans and spuds. We then joined the boys for an evening stroll through Crystal Palace park, marvelling at the massive iconic TV transmitter. Beer was obviously on the agenda and we stopped at a couple of boozers to sample their wares – purely for research purposes obviously!
Well, it was fine. We both slept reasonably well, the rather to frequent visits to the loo thanks to all the beer earlier notwithstanding. I’d left the heater on low and it was plenty warm enough. We’d survived the first night!
As I finish this it is now Monday night. We planned and successfully executed a really relaxing day. The weather is delightful and we even sat outside for a while.
So far, so good!