Oui Paris!

Much to my excitement, Paris was next on the map. I have always had (as I think everyone does) a romanticised idea of Paris in my head. From bicycles to baguettes and croissants to fine wines, Paris was always going to leave an impression.img_1521_fotor

We arrived at our aire which is located just outside the airport (location, location right?) and only cost five euro a night. Score! Even though the planes were a little noisy, they also zipped amazing pastel contrails across the setting sky in the late afternoons. Unfortunately, we didn’t realise that the aire had over 800 camper van parks on site AND there was a campervan show on that same weekend. To say it was busy was an understatement of epic proportions. Every serious campervanner or wannabe campervanner was there with kids, dogs, cats, trailers and smart cars in tow. Sassy was easily dwarfed and we felt like instant outsiders knowing our van’s worth versus the worth of these monstrous motorhomes and huge pop out loungeroom/bedroom buses. The monetary value was definitely no object for some of these people and it was pretty crazy to see just how far the home on wheels idea could be pushed. In the aire, there was no view, no facilities and it was a 10km+ ride to the centre of Paris through what can only be described as the ghetto suburbs but, we happily paid the cashier and spent a couple of days enjoying all that the city of love had to offer.

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Luckily, Sassy was a stand out with her blue/purple tones and distinctive butterfly designs.

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A romantic, outdoors dinner with views of about 12 other caravan butts. This is living!

On our ride in and out of the city centre, we noticed that we passed whole neighbourhoods which were almost like little countries all of their own. There were distinguishable differences in the culture, decor, food and people as we progressed every couple of blocks. This was the first thing I did not really expect: the huge cultural diversity in Paris’ outer ‘burbs. The inner suburbs were very much what I expected to find and the French people that we engaged with unfortunately inclined towards living up to their snobby status, not that we minded at all, we were in Paris!

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Looking out across the Seine.

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Padlocks of love.

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Street Performers

We meandered through the streets, picked through second hand clothes and food markets, marvelled at street performers, discovered trendy shops and drooled over delicious smelling restaurants all on day one.

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Pretty stoked with my Eiffel Tower views.

The second day we purchased one of the hop on hop off bus tours to allow ourselves to get more acquainted with the history and architecture of the city, helping us efficiently tick off all of the main attractions before lunchtime.

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Then we walked back to the Eiffel tower with locally made wine and cheese in hand to enjoy the view of the sunset before bicycling home to find Sassy amongst the motorhome maze once again.

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Joining the crowds for a sunny afternoon of wine and cheese on the iconic Eiffel Tower lawn.

Day three was spent back in the city, suburb hopping on the trains as we tried to secure cheaper tickets for one of the cabaret shows from the kiosk vendors unfortunately, we just missed out. We rescued Sassy from her maze of campervan terror that night and free camped outside one of the expensive campgrounds instead. It was quite fancy inside and we creeped in late at night for a cheeky shower, (after extensive baby wipe showers for three days) before heading off the next morning in search of the coastline and waves.

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Purchasing ‘Sassy’ the van

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She looked pretty good when we inspected her. She is not quite this clean anymore.

We knew before we left on our around the world trip that we wanted to travel Europe by campervan rather than backpack or by flying between big cities. We started researching the associated costs of renting versus buying a couple of months out from our departure date.

Though renting a van seemed more safe, simple and organised we also felt that it was more restricting (not allowed in certain countries, extra costs, season price changes, time restrictions) and would impede on our desired travel plans, especially because our plans were very open. The vans that we truly loved (check out @vanlifediaries or Quirky Campers for some serious van-spiration) were pushing our budget to the limit and the vans within our price range were quite basic and didn’t quite feel like ‘us’.

We were also unsure of where we wanted to go or how long we would be gone for which made hiring all the more difficult. It was way more exciting thinking that we could buy our van, extra responsibilities and all but  it would at least be ours to do with what we wanted. Repairs, breakdowns, modifications, restorations and all. A reassuring thought was that if we did buy, we might even manage to get some money back at the end of our trip when we sold it on to someone else so they could start their own adVANture.

The process for Australian and New Zealand citizens is not as straight forward as you might think (even with a UK working visa), but it is totally doable once you know what you are trying to get done. Some key terms for your consideration:

MOT= a roadworthy certificate done every year to check for basic safety – every car needs to have an up to date one.

Road tax = Registration costs – must be paid by the new owner

V5 form = Name transfer form – must be completed once there is a new owner. A new one will be sent to the UK address you provide.

Green Card= Comprehensive car insurance receipt

The MOST USEFUL INFORMATION EVER was from The Macadames blog. They explained everything in beautifully organised detail (way more than I will below) and I am eternally grateful for their information. Most importantly, you will need to swindle a UK address to attach the car to and a friendly someone who will happily receive any mail related to the vehicle for you (not much after the initial transfer forms). We also found that down under insurance seemed to be the only option for insuring vehicles across multiple countries if you are NOT a UK resident. They do offer travel insurance as well for combination discounts but I cannot confirm if they deliver on claims as we are yet to put one in (touch wood). We also didn’t opt for breakdown assist, though in hindsight it probably would have been worth it. I’ll talk about our many engine mishaps another time. All I can say is that any payment in British pounds hurts a whole lot more when you are an Aussie because of the currency exchange rate at the moment.

We used Gumtree and auto search sites as our main form of research and contact. Though I have heard renting and buying vans in other European countries such as Germany or France can prove cheaper, we decided that the language barrier would be too big of an issue for us. We were a little concerned about the right hand drive versus left hand drive factor, but now that we are doing it, it hasn’t been an issue at all. The only disadvantage is checking oncoming traffic when overtaking (which Sassy doesn’t do much of) and some corners or roundabouts where the driver has to rely on the passenger a little more for giveway clearance. We inquired about many vans, but actually inspected only 5. We had our hearts set on one particularly awesome van, our money at the ready only to be told we were the second to see it and that the first group had already bought it. Spewing!

Next up was Gene, an older gentleman who continually told us about his heart condition and the the good times he had spent in his van. We spent a lot of time testing it out while he spilled his wealth of knowledge about vans and engines. We felt that his van was great but a little too small for our needs and left saying we would let him know after we viewed a couple more for comparison. We contacted him after deciding on a different van and he unleashed quite a scathing text attack on us wishing poor fortune with our future van which was a little shocking from such a seemingly kind and gentle man. Perhaps he felt we had swindled him in some way. I am still unsure but try to laugh about it instead and hope that his words aren’t the reason we ended up breaking down as much as we did in the beginning.

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Sassy has truly become our home away from home.

Eventually we found Sassy who was at the lower end of our budget which we decided could be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on which way you looked at it. She was fully stocked and ready to go (cutlery, kitchenware, bedding and a chemical toilet) and lastly, she was already owned by an Australian couple who were just wrapping up their own Eurotrip (they provided a wealth of information and tips). We caught a train out to see her and after a lengthy conversation with her owners, lunch and a couple of beers at the closest pub we decided she would do and we began to prepare for our next leg with much excitement.

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