Now we really have been and gone and done it!
We went to the Caravan and Motorhome Show at the Birmingham NEC this week with the intention of looking at different motorhomes and then looking for a secondhand one a couple of years old and hopefully fitted with a bit of kit. Of course, when you see all those lovely shiny latest models your mind tends to wander.
It started with a throw away comment that Kate made as we were sitting in the sun at Gruissan a few weeks ago. “I wonder what it is like here in winter” she mused with the thought of getting away from the British winter for a while. One problem we decided would be that central France can get very cold in winter, minus 20c is common and British vans are just not built to withstand those sort of temperatures. With the fresh and waste water tanks hanging below the floor freezing at night would be a real possibility. The answer would be a German van with all the services and tanks located between double floors and heated.
Jumping back to Gruisan a year earlier, we met and spent some time chatting to another English couple who had a German ‘A’ Class N + B van. Graham and Gillian invited us in for pre-supper G & T’s one evening and when we climbed into their motorhome I was blown away by the difference in light and view through the enormous windscreen and skinny A pillars. From then I have always had a hankering after an ‘A’ Class. In France this year we have seen more and more A Lines and have often admired the styling of the Carthago’s.
For those not conversant with motorhome terms our present van is a ‘Coachbuilt’ or ‘Semi-integrated’ as they are called in Germany. That means that it is built on the base vehicle chassis with the habitation part joined to the original cab. An ‘A’ Class or ‘Integrated’ uses the chassis, engine and dash of the base vehicle, in our case a Fiat Ducato, and the converter builds the complete body around it including the cab, windscreen and doors giving it a coach like look to the front.
So, off to the NEC we went with a list of manufacturers vehicles shortlisted including Hymer, Burstner, Knaus, Niesmann+Bischoff, Frankia and Carthago. We met a couple in the car park who had a Carthago, sang its praises and advised us which dealer to use as they and other members of the owners club had been given good service and a good deal by them.
When we reached the stand they were there and introduced us to the couple that owned the company, a small family owned firm based in Staffordshire. We spent ages looking at the Cartago range then went around the other stands to compare. Whatever we looked at we kept coming back to Carthago so went back for some quotes. We drove back to nearby Blythe Water, where we had booked in for a couple of nights, with layouts, styles and figures spinning around in our heads. The evening was spent calculating, cogitating and comparing, helped by generous glasses of red wine.
The following day it was back to the show and after a little bargaining a deal was done and an order placed for a brand spanking new Carthago Chic C Line I50.
It has a double floor system with all the services and tanks heated within the floor, a huge garage for bikes,chairs and possibly a scooter later on. Inside is an island bed, good size shower and very smart kitchen. It will have an engine upgrade from 130BHP to 150, automatic gearbox, Alde wet central heating instead of the usual blown air Truma system, the front drop down bed, which we would never use, is being replaced by extra lockers and as we do more miles on the continent than in the UK, we have specified LHD. An awning, satellite system, and a few other small additions will be fitted by the dealer.
All those changes means we probably won’t get delivery until next spring – it will be a very long wait.
All this light headedness means that the coffers will be well and truly bare and we will be living on bread and dripping for the foreseeable future. The good news is that, as an extra luxury, we may be able to afford to sprinkle some salt on for special occasions.