I can remember laughing at my mum always saying “Oooh, that looks like a nice garden centre” on a car trip and thinking, “That’s what old people say“. Now we found ourselves pointing out our own garden centres, even speculating that they would probably have a nice cafe inside with homemade cakes.
“No point in shelling out silly money…”
Once you have a new interest, you start to notice all those things in your daily life. Like when you are first pregnant, suddenly there are lots of pregnant women about. We had decided on a campervan to start with – no point in shelling out silly money and finding that it wasn’t actually for us. Now we started noticing every motorhome or campervan that passed and trying to be the first to recognise the make. At this point I have to say that I am rubbish at this game but OH enjoys it. “Bongo! El-Grand!“, he would shriek, satisfied (smug) look upon his face. I contented myself with being able to recognise a VW accurately at some distance but occasionally spied a prized Bongo before OH.
We settled on a Japanese import – a Honda Stepwagon – as we liked the configuration potential and also, VWs are expensive! Specifically our wish list was:
- Automatic transmission – another pointer to advancing years…
- Unconverted – we would make a choice later whether to do this
- 4 wheel drive – optional nice to have
- Pretty colour – just me
There are a few dealers in the UK that deal in imports so we buried ourselves in research to make sure that we were dealing with a reputable one.
“Customer service is paramount”
I will remember a good experience for a long time but not perhaps quite as long as a poor one – customer service is paramount in my book. One unhappy experience was sadly quite close to home. OH called a dealer in Worcestershire to see if we could go to view a van on the weekend to be told that weekend appointments were for, “Customers spending £20,000 plus”. I was incensed with rage, “Well we shan’t be going there then – ever!” I ranted, populating the next few hour’s conversations with random exclamations of, “How rude!“.
Eventually we found a dealer in Kent – County Cars – that we liked the sound of. A few weeks of monitoring the website was all it took until we spotted a vehicle we liked the look of and made a (weekend) appointment with the owner Alan to come to view. She was beautiful, unconverted, auto 4-wheel drive in metallic purple (my favourite colour) and in lovely condition. We shook on the deal and left Alan to sort out a few bits and the paperwork.
A couple of weeks later we got the train down to Kent and picked her up. Before starting back, we picked up a few essentials at a monster camping outlet in Gillingham – Camping International. This is a huge outlet set in an old cinema with everything you could want as a camper, however a little daunting for the first-timer. We started our journey back west with our intended purchase of a blow-up bed and some totally unnecessary essentials for November – a bucket BBQ and some melamine plates!