Our road-trip in a mortorhome: a family adventure in “snail” mode
This article is part of our weekly tourist advice column.
Unanimity. The proposal to spend a week’s vacation aboard a motorhome had won all the votes of the tribe. At this stage, it did not matter the destination of the trip (Italy, Scotland, France, Spain) or the choice of school leave, the very idea of walking the roads in a “house on wheels” or of passing the night in the middle of nature was enough to intoxicate the spirits. First of all, discovery, the experience of another mode of travel, the promise of a freedom never attempted. The enthusiasm was taking its toll. After much palaver, we had set our sights on the south-west of England. Close, easy to access and rather unknown: a perfect ground for this traveling resort, this family adventure in “snail” mode – more for the house on the back than for the speed, very appreciable for the mass of the machine. There was still driving on the left, with the steering wheel on the left… Anyway. Adventure is adventure.
After loading the luggage and food, you must first take charge of the “beast”. Because the machine has something to impress: seven and a half meters long by three high and two and a half wide. It is intended for five people but there are only four of us, so we will be comfortable. The road to Calais will be used primarily to wedge the mobile home in the center of the road (visual cues supported on the windshield and the dashboard) and to assess the space on each side, while providing a margin of security. Otherwise, it boils down to this: look away, turn wide, and back up long (given the size of the rear overhang).
Look away, turn wide and back up long
On arrival in Dover, synchronization of the benchmarks on the left lane is essential… And off we go for the English “Wild West”. A collaborative application available on the phone, Park4Night, will tell us about our goal for the day: Matley Camp, a camp specially designed for motorhomes in the New Forest, a stone’s throw west of Southampton.
In this natural park nestled in the beautiful countryside of Hampshire, wild horses welcome us, somewhat shy, until they accept the few carrots that we offer them. With the support of two long holds, we stabilize our rolling house under a majestic oak tree, without suspecting that our awakening the next day will be punctuated by the sound of the acorns which, falling, drumming on the roof of the machine. For now, it’s time for the evening meal, prepared on the miniature stove in the kitchen unit, in the center of the vehicle. We had everything planned in the refrigerator and its cooler, which allow us to store without problem for eight days.
Comfort on board is total: the lounge arranged in a U-shape around the unfolded table is completed by turning over the two front seats. As for the solar blanket that can be rolled out on the side of the vehicle, it makes it possible to extend the living space by installing, for example, a camping lounge which easily finds its place in the huge rear trunk (around 2 cubic meters). On the other hand, in such a framework, the television – with its satellite antenna with automatic deployment and adjustment – is completely superfluous. The fear of sleeping badly is evacuated from the first night: the bedding is good and the occasional pitching induced by the nightly reversals of each other rather takes the place of a lullaby. When we wake up, the local nature imposes itself in our astonished eyes although barely open: we are practically surrounded by squirrels, which frolic from one tree to another, and by the cows and wild horses come to graze the tall grass. and ferns adjacent to the vehicle. We follow their ballet through the multiple windows of the motorhome, moving stealthily.
Narrowed passage, glued-tight to a few centimeters
If the serenity of the camp reinforces the feeling of freedom, this last will decrease as we take certain secondary roads of the counties of Dorset, then of Devon. As much in town, as in the beautiful seaside resort of Torquay (the town of Agatha Christie) on the British Riviera, parking such a juggernaut is still easy on locations arranged online. As it is another kettle of fish when it is necessary to find a place to visit a village on foot. Or even get there… when the width of the lane is too small to allow two cars to cross (and a fortiori if one of the vehicles is a motorhome). Although marked by garages, this kind of roads quickly became a test. Passage narrowed, stuck-tight to a few centimeters, the stress infuses, without however – until then – dulling the collective enthusiasm. Until you have to turn around in a thousand maneuvers before reaching a camp, inaccessible due to the rock that is exposed.
Then, at the exit of a lane bordered by two high green walls which cut through the sides of the motor-home, a sign indicating “light vehicles” gives the final blow to our hopes of going to the picturesque village of Branscombe. The obvious is obvious to us. Three-digit secondary roads will now be “via non grata”. In these conditions, the outstretched farm camping at Woodfarm in Charmouth is a perfect strategic retreat. Both to reopen the horizons on the gentle hills of Dorset and to perform the few essential chores of motorhome travel: filling up with clean water and emptying used fluids.
Ultimately, apart from these aspects limiting freedom of movement, the motorhome allows an incomparable travel experience in the comfort of “home” that you take everywhere. Can not wait for next time…
5 good reasons to go by motorhome
1. Like at home
The image of the snail walking with its refuge on its back is very relevant. This “rolling house” makes you feel at home wherever you go. What give a little familiar air to this elsewhere that we discover.
The large bay formed by the windshield and the side windows – and which is maximized on a “van” type model (therefore without an alcove above the driving position) – gives the impression of being immersed in the environment.
The reduced space, although comfortable, of the passenger compartment is very appreciable for the passengers in the rear, who are also seated around a table (seat belts compulsory on the road). When stationary, we pass each other without (too much) getting in the way while the small lounge promotes a great conviviality.
Living room, semi-equipped kitchen, shower, chemical toilets, television with satellite dish, bedding, multiple storage spaces, everything is designed for the comfort of the occupants.
The feeling of being able to go wherever you want is real but sometimes hampered by the narrowness of the roads. This is to say if the availability of a GPS system making it possible to enter the dimensions of the vehicle should enhance the effect of freedom.
Traveling by motorhome
The formula, more and more popular, also has a significant cost. The Elnagh Magnum 530 model, made available by Bouillard establishments in Manage, is billed at around 1,600 euros per week.
Find out more
Mobicar, the international caravan and motorhome fair will take place from October 3 to 7 at Brussels Expo. Info: www.mobicar.be