Excited as a kid – new caravan

It’s foolish of course, and at my time of life I should know better, but I’m as excited as a small boy in a toy-shop.  We’ve upgraded our caravan to a much more recent model.  We’ll be collecting it at the end of August.

I don’t regret having bought the Elddis as a first caravan, though.  The EX2000 was a special edition for the millennium, and was a posh van for its day, with top class fittings.

Caravan08a

Caravan10a

We’ve learned a lot in the last year, mostly from fellow caravanners that we’ve met on site. One thing that we didn’t know about when we rather impulsively bought the caravan last year was the different styles of caravanning that caravan users go in for. Some people tour pretty much on a daily basis, staying in one place for only one night then moving on. Some (like us) prefer to set up base camp and use that as a centre to tour the area. Yet others view the campsite itself as a destination, demanding lots of facilities like restaurants, bars, and a big swimming pool wherever they stay.

Some people are madly keen on rallies, and often use sites with few facilities, not even an electric hook-up. They need very well-appointed vans. We’ve been astonished at the size and luxury of some modern washrooms, but if there were no showers or loos on site, I guess that we’d appreciate a comfy bathroom on board too.

We already knew what sort of camping holidays we liked from many years of using the tent (admittedly on and off). Our recent stay at La Rolandiere was our sort of holiday. A lovely site with electricity, a clean shower block and waste disposal, it supplied all our basic needs.

We love to prowl round local markets for fresh food to prepare and feast on, so we need good kitchen equipment and preparation space. We love to explore local places, then perhaps come back to base and put our feet up for an hour or two, so we need couches on which to stretch out.

We don’t watch television, the equipment for which can be another caravanners’ obsession, so we don’t need a gigantic satellite-seeking dish on the caravan roof.  But I do love to keep in touch via a data link or wifi, so somewhere permanent to set up the technology for that is useful.

So we started considering what layout we’d most like for our upgrade.  This is the layout of the old Elddis EX2000.  It has an L-shaped lounge, quite a tiny washroom, but a nice kitchen including a large fridge and separate freezer.

EX2000 Schematic

At first we were tempted by vans with a fixed bed.  They actually have a bedroom, usually partitioned off from the living and kitchen areas.  No more messing about with slatted base panels, converting the lounge to a bed!  But of course there’s a price to be paid.  The bedroom and accompanying washroom take over a huge proportion of the van, meaning that the kitchen is too small for our needs, and the couches pretty meagre.  Typically the couches are reduced from 6 feet plus to around 5 feet long.

Then we were much taken with two berth vans.  Plenty of room on the couches, which can be two singles or one double as we please.  Normally a decent kitchen and vast washroom.

But after much prevarication, we decided that we’d miss our little dinette too much.  So, as it turns out, what we bought wasn’t a million miles away from our ideal.

This is what we went looking for:

Madrid Schematic

It’s a common enough layout, so we were spoiled for choice.  I almost decided that the one to buy would be the one with the most outlandish name.  How about a Sterling Eccles Moonstone?  Or an Elddis Crusader Typhoon?  In the end we weren’t far off the pace.  We’ve decided on a 2011 Bailey Unicorn Madrid from the very helpful Glossop Caravans.  I don’t have pictures of the real thing yet, but here’s an image of the same model © The Caravan Group:

Madrid Caravan Group image

Like our old one, it’s still a white box on wheels

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But so much changed between 1999 and 2011.  The main difference is the construction.  Our old van used the classic technique of plywood panels faced with aluminium or fibreglass screwed together and sealed against the weather.  The Bailey Unicorn uses a sandwich of aluminium sheets with dense plastic foam in the middle.  The panels are bolted and glued rather than screwed together.

We’ll now have “proper” wet radiator central heating rather than the old blown air.  The new van has the latest electronic anti-snaking device, rather than the crude but effective leaf spring and friction plate that is such a pain to fit at the start of every journey.  Our only sadness is that we lose our wonderful separate fridge and freezer, which is now fitted only in the big twin axle vans.

I won’t go on.  Caravan geeks can find the detail here in the Bailey archives: Bailey Unicorn 2011. And I couldn’t resist adding this link to a Unicorn Madrid walkthrough video. Worth watching for the style of presentation alone.

Two weeks to go. I can’t wait!

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