Tag: campervan

2019 in review, with highlights!

As the New Year approaches rapidly I always think it’s interesting to look back at the 12 months that have passed. Not in a congratulatory or self-pitying way. Just as a round up and reminder. And of course to pick out my 2019 highlights.

I couldn’t possibly do my decade in review, because that would be way too long and detailed, but needless to say the biggest and most life changing event was losing my Dad. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to lots of places and build a strong marriage (at the beginning of the decade I was fairly new to being a wife, whereas now I’m a veteran!)

In a nod to the decade “thing”, I will post a comparison pic – it’s actually my old vs new passport photo. I’m not doing too badly!

2009 vs 2019 - passport photo

My passport, on the other hand, is no longer European, sob…

So, 2019!

I started the year full of gusto, in a new job that felt very promising and full of great people, with travel plans afoot (as always) and hoping for another incredible summer after the great wonder that was Summer 2018.

I’m ending the year feeling a little more jaded, in a different (temporary) job; having learnt life lessons, employment lessons, and intuition lessons. If something feels wrong then it probably is! That said, an amazing Christmas holiday has made me happy and content, and that’s the most important thing.

2019 highlights

Every year has its ups and downs, and 2019 was no exception. But when I think of the best things, off the top of my head, these are the three that come to mind.

The birth of my nephew

After a really shitty pregnancy during which she was pretty much constantly poorly, and a 3 day labour, my sister gave birth to a 10lb 2oz beautiful baby boy by C-section on Saturday 27th July. It’s my first time being an auntie and it’s filled me with a new sense of pride and delight. Jacob is a joy (now he’s stopped crying when he sees me, and rewards me with smiles instead!) Being part of his first Christmas was incredible. I love him so much!

2019 highlights - my nephew

Easter weekend in Paignton

This was totally unplanned and very last minute! The weekend before Easter we were watching Four in a Bed on TV and I said how nice it would be to have a short break at the English seaside. We haven’t been to Paignton for many years. The husband has happy memories of childhood holidays there, so we found a B&B and off we went.

Last time we were in Paignton it was quite run down. Lots of places were closed and not much going on. We were thrilled to see there’s been some investment in the area, with seafront pubs reopening and lots of people around. It helped that the weather was unseasonably excellent for Easter. We went to the zoo, went on a steam railway, went on the fairground, met up with friends who were staying in Torquay, and had an absolute blast.

2019 highlights - a weekend in Paignton

Read about our weekend here.

Buying a campervan

The highlight about this was seeing my husband’s face as he lived a childhood dream. He’d gone on and on AND ON about it for months; looking for the right one and umming and aahing about what to do. Then we found Bodhi Bongo at the end of September. We picked him up in early October, and have already had some great times with him. No overnighters yet, but watch this space in 2020!

2019 highlights - Mazda Bongo campervan

What are your 2019 highlights? Thanks, as always, for reading!

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Days out: Sudeley Castle

I hadn’t even heard of Sudeley Castle until we started researching places to go for our first day out in Bodhi Bongo. We wanted somewhere not too far. A place that my Mother in Law would also enjoy. Somewhere we could have a wander round before making tea and cooking bacon sandwiches in the campervan.

Remembering my Gardeners World 2-4-1 card which I hadn’t yet used this year (last year we visited Wollerton Hall gardens using the card) I came across Sudeley; just over an hour drive away in the Cotswold village of Winchcombe, with lots of associated Tudor history. It looked perfect for our inaugural voyage!

What a place!

Entry to the castle is down a long winding driveway to the main car park. From here the castle isn’t visible; enter through the gift shop then take the wild winding path down to the ruins of the old 15th century banqueting hall. You could be forgiven for thinking you’ve wandered off the beaten path; it’s very informal – almost like you’re trespassing!

A cross between a museum and a stately home

Sudeley charts some of it’s 1000 year history through exhibitions, short films and original artefacts, while also opening a handful of rooms lived in by the owners when they’re in residence.

Elizabeth I’s christening gown hangs in one of the exhibition rooms, as does a waistcoat belonging to Charles I (he took refuge in the castle during the civil war).

In another room is an ornately carved wooden bed, adorned with bed covers made for and slept in by Marie Antoinette.

The artefacts and storyline of the history of the castle, like everything, is wonderfully done but largely informal; making it a pleasure to just wander and soak in everything this gem has to offer.

Sudeley is also famed for being  the only private castle in England to have a queen buried within the grounds. The tomb of Katherine Parr – final and surviving wife of Henry VIII – is situated in St Mary’s Church within the castle grounds. This was not her original burial place; her body was discovered some 200 years after her death and reinterred within the church in the late 1700s.

The whole of the castle is surrounded by beautifully tended gardens, including the Elizabethan Knot garden. The Secret Garden is accessed through an archway in a hedge to the side of St Mary’s Church. Being October the gardens obviously weren’t in full flower, but still very lovely to wander around.

Wander at will

One of the things we found very surprising, and refreshing, about Sudeley Castle and the grounds was the feeling of openness. There were no designated paths to follow. No arrows telling you in which direction to walk around the building or, signs telling you to keep off the grass. It felt like everywhere was accessible and welcoming; like the owners really want visitors to be there, to immerse themselves, and to enjoy Sudeley in their own way.

Sudeley Castle is a truly wonderful place; beautiful, well looked after, true to its history, educational, informative and a joy to visit. Do go there if you can!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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We bought a campervan!

Of all the unusual things I’ve bought over the years, (a pair of maracas from eBay when drunk, for example, I didn’t know I’d bought them until they arrived a few days later), I never thought I would (part) own a campervan. You see, I’ve never been camping, or had any desire to do so. I’ve never stayed anywhere without a toilet and shower under the same roof as my bed. Yet here I am, indulging my husband’s dream, and feeling rather excited about the prospect!

His previous childhood itch, of owning a Harley Davidson, has been scratched. As beautiful as his bike is, it’s sitting mainly unused in our garage as the UK road conditions get worse and biking becomes less appealing to him. Now it’s time for childhood dream number two; a campervan, a mini home on wheels that will take us up hill, down dale and everywhere in between.

Most people associate campervans with the iconic VW, but that wasn’t an option for us. Original (old) models are rare and often unreliable, while the newer ones are hugely expensive.

Instead we’ve gone for a Mazda Bongo.

A what, I hear you ask? I’d never heard of them either, and admit that the name is quite comical. But the husband, being the nerd thorough fellow he is, has been researching campers for a long time. He confidently announced to me that the Bongo is the way to go. It also has a bit of a cult following, and a real community on hand to help. There are dedicated Facebook groups regular real life meet ups organised around the country.

Bongos were never sold in the UK market. All the ones on the UK roads have been imported from Japan. Sold as an 8 seater utility vehicle over there they’re prime for all sorts of conversions; with owners adding cupboards, beds, cookers and more. The DVLA is reportedly getting stricter on reclassifying newly converted vans, so we went on the hunt for one which had already been converted to our needs.

Introducing Bodhi!

The Bongo community is big on naming their vans. Whilst ours will be known as “The Van” in the most part, we had to give it an official moniker as well. This comes purely from the husband, who has a love of the film Point Break and the main surfer character Bodhi, played by Patrick Swayze. Bodhi is also a Sanskrit name meaning “awakening” or “enlightenment”. The Buddhist concept of Bodhi is spiritual awakening and freedom from the cycle of life, which seems pretty apt (if all goes to plan and I take to campervan life!)

Bodhi has a sofa which pulls out into a full length bed, a two ring gas cooker, a fridge, a table and a sink. His roof lifts up sideways, which is quite unusual, but gives us full height for standing up all the way along the van. He has a leisure battery to power the electrics, but he can also be hooked up to a mains electricity point on a camp site! He has interior lights and plug sockets, and cupboard space for storing essentials.


Where to?

I mentioned in my last post that the Jurassic Coast is on my travel hitlist. The husband has already found a campsite with seaviews overlooking Durdle Door, so that’s pencilled in as a to-do next summer. In the meantime we’ll find our campervan feet, work out what kit we need (I didn’t know that portable compost toilets were a thing, but having one of those in an awning next to the van rather than trekking across a field in the middle of the night after too much wine makes much more sense), and start our foray into freedom on wheels!

I also get to buy important pretty things!

Things like cushions, rugs, duvet covers, and fairy lights! Although this is proving more stressful than I thought, as we try to decide on a theme. Decorating a small space is a big responsibility!

Here’s me when we collected him last week.

I’m sure there’ll be many more Bodhi posts as time goes on; from interior pictures to our adventures!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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