Way back in 2004, my girlfriend and I loaded up a dilapidated VW Camper and set out on a mission from Birmingham to Barcelona with sun, sea and Sonar Festival in mind. It was the height of the budget flight boom but, with a chronic aviophobic in tow and a collective wallet of pitiful proportions, we decided to avoid the flying cattle truck and take our food (and accommodation) with us.
We started out on a typically wet and grey English summer morning, heading south towards Portsmouth and the ferry that was to take us over the English Channel to Caen on the northern coast of France. We made good time, despite the customary hour spent on a 5 mile section of the M6 and, after a pleasant afternoon on the water, we arrived and set up camp for the night.
Our luck wasn’t to last however and on waking the next morning, for no discernible reason, the Camper had decided to throw a tantrum and stay firmly where it was. Now, I’m no mechanic, and between the two of us our French was barely passable but, recognising a broken starter motor (it had been troublesome for a while) and getting directions to the local mechanic proved to be a relatively easy undertaking. The real problem was finding the correct part for the van and, having planned our travels to the minute, we were already in danger of missing the beginning of the festival.
A few nervous hours passed until a tractor appeared on the horizon and, like some mechanically minded, rural French Zoro coming to save the day, our replacement part trundled into the garage. We paid our dues and sped off, heading towards Bordeaux where we spent the night overly intoxicated on cheap (and delicious) local wine.
Despite our rather fragile state the following morning, we set off just after lunch in effort to catch at least the latter part of the first day of the festival. We made it through Toulouse, Perpignan and the Spanish border in record time, stopping only to refuel. The final 2 hours of our journey were spent driving along the coast of north-western Spain with the Mediterranean stretching out all the way to sunset in the west. We made it just in time to park the van by the beach and head into the city for a weekend of little sleep and wonderful music.
2014 will see the 10 year anniversary of our little trip and we plan to head out again, only this time in something a little more reliable. The old VW Campers can be a liability unless you have the money to keep them running and so we’ve decided to look at van hire from Sixt as a cheaper and stress free alternative to the original VW. I don’t think we’ll manage to avoid the 5 day hangover but at least we won’t have to worry about our ride home.