Van versus villa – Our Europe

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Van versus villa

We spent last week in a three-bedroom villa in the south of France with a private pool, two bathrooms – each with two sinks, and a kitchen, dining and living area the size of a petanque pitch.

Our son and his three-year-old daughter had flown out to spend a week’s holiday with us, so we splashed out on a family holiday near the town of Valbonne.

While we were lazing round on sunbeds, sipping Provencal rose and tipping our toes in the pool, our van languished outside in a shady parking spot under a tree.

We visited her every day, usually to get something out of her extensive stock cupboard, or to let our granddaughter play with the electric step, and each time I locked the door behind me I felt a pang of regret.

Don’t get me wrong, our villa was gorgeous. The garden and pool was so sublime we had to drag ourselves to the beach at Cannes; but after seven months on the road, we have become so used to #vanlife that we feel out of place in a traditional house.

Here are the top 5 reasons why a van is better than a villa.

  1. The feeling for freedom. In your van, you know you can simply pull up that electric step, and as long as you have fuel in the tank, and a map, you can go anywhere, at anytime.
  2. Housework only takes 30 minutes. I gave our Hymer a good clean yesterday, down on my hands and knees washing the floor and dusting every cupboard door. I dread to think how long it would have taken to clean the villa.
  3. You feel as if you are living outdoors, even when you’re inside. As I write we are parked up in a municipal aire in Pelisanne. It is nothing more than a car park, with some services such as chemical toilet disposal and fresh water, but the door is open and the birds are singing. Sadly, the sun is no longer shining, but it still feels great!
  4. It is so much cheaper to live in a van. We stay in a mix of sites, aires and camperstops, and occasionally wild camp, so our monthly costs are reasonable. But even if we stayed in a top of the range campsite every night with hot showers, electricity and wifi, we would spend far less every month on life’s essentials than we do running our tiny flat back home in Scotland.
  5. The sense of adventure. Most mornings when I wake up I have no idea where I am going to sleep that night. We may have an end point in mind, but you never know what it is going to be like until you get there. Take Aups, where we have just spent a fabulous three days. We had only planned to stay two nights, but we were captivated by this tiny town in the foothills of French Alps, so stayed longer. Tonight we are in Pelisanne, which is less interesting, and tomorrow…who knows

The one downside to #vanlife. Our family and friends are not with us…

  • Valbonne was a revelation. The medieval heart of the town is a delight, and the main square is the perfect place to enjoy lunch or dinner. Read more about it here.
  • Aups was at the heart of the French Resistance, and it too has a medieval centre. It is also famous for its black truffles and has several fantastic restaurants. We treated ourselves to Sunday lunch at Le Restaurant Saint Marc. It was excellent, even if we did spend one-and-a-half-times our weekly Lidl budget on the “gourmand” set menu and a bottle of red.


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  1. Pingback : French cuisine: the heart of Europe’s kitchen – Our Europe

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