Geert and Mia live in Belgium and named their VW California ‘Basilio’ after their grandson, Basiel. They settled on a Cali for its convenience and love the flexibility of being able to wild camp away from campsites. Theirs is a well-equipped 4Motion camper and they particularly appreciate the additional accessories they have specified. And their van is clearly a ‘keeper’ since they fully intend that Basiel will inherit ‘Basilio’ in another twenty years’ time.
‘Happy Campers’ is a series of posts featuring camper vans and their owners. It’s designed to offer advice and inspiration to new and existing camper van owners – featuring members of the WildaboutScotland community. To take part, please send an e-mail to me answering the standard question format below together with a good photo or two.
1. Introducing myself and my camper van
Mia and I are a couple of 50+ with one daughter, Sarah, and one grandson, Basiel. (Hence the name for our camper van, ‘Basilio’ – hopefully he can make some trips with Basilio too). As we get more time off we decided to spend more time on short travel trips and wanted to be free to depart when we wanted without having to book a hotel upfront. We decided on a new Cali because we love the smell of a new car and also plan to use it for as long as possible. The next owner of ‘Basilio’ is hopefully our grandson, Basiel.
We decided at the beginning of 2014 to purchase a brand new VW California Comfortline 4Motion. After several years of looking for alternatives, the final choice was the Cali because we also use this as our day to day vehicle. We purchased our California at VW dealer Tavernier at Zedelgem (near Bruges) because Stefaan Tavernier specialises in selling Californias and there are always one or two on display in his showroom.
At most VW dealers there is no opportunity to see and feel a campervan. At specialised motorhome companies we rarely see a new California or they are mostly second hand. Also, those companies always try to sell their motorhomes and we think that a motorhome or converted larger van would be to big to use daily. We also wanted to put the van in our garage (after several sessions of measurement it must fit !)
2. How do I use my camper van ?
The VW is used for our daily transportation. We love the layout because the camping layout doesn’t use up all available space ! The bedding in the boot can easily be removed so there is lot of space available for shopping … For the moment the Cali is always ready to go – we have always everything packed so we can go off on a holiday on minutes notice. As a radio amateur and bycicle rider, I love to go out for a few days to ride and put my antenna in the field to communicate with other radio amateurs around the globe (when propagation is ok).
3. Best thing I love about my van ?
The fact it looks like any other VW van and we can stop everywhere and sleep (without putting up the roof of course). It is not shouting out “I’m a camper” ! The size is just right to use it in daily traffic and with the rearview camera it is so easy to park. When I go out for a long bicycle ride, I just park Basilio and when I come back I can fresh up, make some coffee or tea and enjoy the evening sun. In the morning when fog is around, the breakfast has never tasted so good.
4. Pet gripes ?
We have used our Cali only for short trips. In summer, when sleeping downstairs in the van it can be very hot. For this we have bought some extra accessoires to be able to keep the boot a little bit open, but then a mosquito net also needs to be used. You can find every possible accessory at Brandrup.
Fuel consumption is rather high compared with the smaller cars we have always driven. We try to get as much kms as possible with the bluemotion technology. 4Motion adds some extra to the general consumption but I wanted to have the four wheel drive as an extra safety feature. The Cali weigh 2,500 kg and is a total different vehicle to drive than a usual car.
5. Favourite accessories ?
One of my favourites is one is under the van: reinforced stabiliser bars to give the van stiffer suspension around corners. We also love the comfort sleep package by VW to have more comfort when sleeping below. The pioneer GPS with integrated rearview camera was a better alternative than the original VW and less expensive ! In terms of camping gear we love the small accessories from Campingaz so we can cook outside the van to enjoy the most of being outside.
6. Best tip for new owners ?
Look for a well-equipped Cali and if possible buy a new one. It’s a lot of money but you really get what you are paying for – a well designed and beautifully crafted van. You don’t have to worry about hidden faults or broken things inherited from other owners and you get a good warranty on the new vehicle.
When purchasing a new Cali you can buy a configuration that really suits your needs without having to compromise. Get a 4Motion with the reinforced stability feature, the 3 zone automatic aircon (climate control), dark windows … You’ll fee that the investment is worth it since every time you start for a journey you will enjoy every moment of the extras you have.
7. Best trip in my van ?
We haven’t made a long trip yet but every trip we do with our bikes to Holland, or even in Belgium, we enjoy the freedom of not having to look for a sleeping place or plan ahead.
8. Dream trip ?
I dream of a trip to Scotland, hence my intrest in WildaboutScotland.com. I’m looking forward to travelling to several whisky distilleries and enjoying the landscapes – perhaps in 2015 or 2016.
9. Favourite campsite ?
We’ve been only once on a campsite in Holland because we love to put Basilio at the side of the road and sleep in it 😉
10. When I’m not camping I’m …
… riding my bike, taking pictures, communicating with ham radio amateurs around the globe, or spending time in one of the several windmills in Flanders as a licenced miller. I also learn to play the piano (which is not as easy as expected). But whenever the weather is fine and the mood is right, I put my bike at the back of Basilio and off I am in nature ….