Neil Lewis

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Your first tour in your first 'van can be a daunting prospect, so Neil Lewis decided a family reunion was the perfect push to kick-start his adventures

In September 2014, my wife and I bought a two-year old Bailey Approach 625 SE with just 2500 miles on the clock, keen to add to that modest mileage as soon as we could.

But we wanted to start with a not-too-ambitious tour, to help us find our feet in the world of motorcaravanning. The idea was that we, and our dog, would start our motorhome experience by driving to Kristiansand in Norway to see relatives. It was overseas, yes, so not the just-round-the-corner, local first trip some go for, but with family at the other end, it felt a 'safe' option. Thus our first trip was planned, the Eurotunnel booked and we set off on a quiet Sunday from Norfolk, planning to reach Norway by Thursday. A sense of nervous excitement stirred inside the cab of the Bailey as the engine fired into life, I release the handbrake and headed south.

The traffic was reasonable on both sides of the Channel and we arrived at the campsite at about 5.30pm. Our first destination on our first trip was a site just outside Ghent in Belgium called Camping Blaarmeersen. There were decent facilities on site and you could bus or cycle to the city centre. Being our first ever overnight stay in our 'van, we'd pre-booked a pitch by email to ensure we were close to an electric hook-up.

Rather than start cooking in the Bailey, we decided to go to the campsite's restaurant. We were able to sit outside on the terrace with the dog and peruse the menu over a cold drink. It was lovely and the perfect end to our first day of touring – and the chips were excellent. 

Bellies full, it was back to the Bailey for bedtime. Our 'van has a U-shaped lounge at the back and we were using the rear seating as two single beds. This allowed our Golden Retriever to sleep anywhere on the floor or in his bed outside the bathroom. Soon we were tucked up for our first night in a motorhome and we were hoping for a good night’s sleep.

The next day, fully refreshed, we were back on the road, aiming for Bremen in Germany, nerves banished after our successful first day. The route took us from Belgium and through part of Holland, before hitting the German autobahns. The motorway junctions were becoming complicated and I was reliant on the sat-nav to keep us on the right roads. The electronic voice was issuing orders left, right and centre like a drill sergeant in the army, and I dutifully followed. Once in Germany, we travelled mostly on the E37 until we reached Bremen.      

The Bailey was easy to drive and comfortable when spending a day at the wheel. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the cars were noticeably quicker on the German autobahns than those of France and Belgium, and as we proceeded at a steady pace I was not surprised to be overtaken by fast cars. Perhaps I was a little jealous that I could not join in the fun.

We hit Bremen during the afternoon rush hour and made our way to the north east of the city, close to the university. The campsite was called Campingplatz am Stadtwaldsee, we received a friendly greeting on arrival, and soon we were booked into the motorhome stopover parking area just outside the main site. We were pleased to find an excellent wash block, shop and restaurant. Enjoying a beer while sitting on a terrace overlooking a lake was a relaxing way to end the day, before returning to the 'van for dinner.

Two days in and so far, so good. Driving the Bailey, seeing the countryside and living in the motorhome was proving a fun way of life. We went to sleep, looking forward to the next day's travels, Denmark our day three destination. We'll be back soon with part two!

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