27 August – 2 September 2019
Somewhere between the Rhine and the Moselle we got caught driving out in the open in another sudden and violent hailstorm. It was really quite unnerving, particularly when we saw cars stopping under cover that we couldn’t. We were both relieved when the hail turned to rain and the electric storm passed away. Then we drove over a line in the road and everything was dry, untouched by the storm. Weird.
We spent a night on the banks of the Moselle on an unwelcoming and unappealing campsite with freight trains passing by every 15 minutes. We left in short order the next day. We were only a short distance from Niesmann & Bischoff at Polch, the factory that made our van and where we had an appointment the next day. We headed over there, parked up on its stellplatz and spent the day looking at new motorhomes and wandering round a nearby camping supplies shop! How the time flies when you’re having fun!
The staff at Polch were great and we resolved a few things including the horrible noise the new fly screen was making and a software update for our satnav and reversing camera which were playing up. We left happy and headed up towards Düsseldorf spending the night on a nice quiet stellplatz – a car park with 8 spaces for vans – just outside Bergheim. Next to a nice park – the grounds of pretty Schloss Paffendorf -where we had a nice dander in the late afternoon sun.
Before Düsseldorf, we had important business at the Leatherman centre at Ratingen. Their doors were shut as this, the first Leatherman premises outside America, isn’t officially open yet. But they were lovely, replacing not only the missing tool but 2 damaged ones, serviced it and provided a new leather holder and 2 bottles of Leathermans craft beer – now thats what we call service!
The Caravan Salon at Düsseldorf is Europe’s biggest motorhome show and launches the new ranges for the forthcoming season. We visited in 2015 before becoming motorhomers and had great memories, but then we had stayed in the city and travelled out to the arena by train, wide-eyed innocents in the camping world. This time we were motorhomers staying in the special motorhome parking area for 3 nights on the first weekend of the 9-day show. We weren’t sure what to expect, but were amazed at the sheer scale of it. Huge car parks packed with motorhomes parked nose-to-tail,, stewards everywhere, and we really didn’t there were that many big motorhomes on the road – it was a real shock to see so many of them together. Hundreds of top of the range, massive, luxury things – Morello, Concorde, some massive Cruzzer’s with pop-out sides that we had never heard of before, the dry-land equivalent of “gin-palaces”. We parked up, went for a walk round and explored, then got the chairs out, sat in the sun along with everyone else and sipped on our ice cold Leatherman beers.
There is a ‘Caravan Centre’ where the showers, toilets & service point are, as there is overnight parking there all year round for all the events. But for the Caravan Salon, when they have 70,000 motorhomes staying over the duration of the event, there is events catering, a bar & a stage with live music every night. We were aware that the motorhome world has it’s jamborees – in the UK there are regular outdoor shows with camping area and hospitality – the Malvern Show for instance is famous for it’s weekend of country & western music. Being a bit anti-social we had always avoided them and now we were in the moddle of the biggest of them all. There was only one thing to do – go to the bar and enjoy!
Cold German beer, a nice chat with a Dutch motor-homer who gave us tips on touring Scandinavia, and the first time Kate had seen Danny watch a live rock band – okay, so they were definitely targeting the over 50’s but it was still a rock band. The grey pound, en masse – a great night!
Caravan Salon is huge – it absolutely dwarfs the annual NEC one in the UK. Day 1 we did accessories – yes, a whole day walking our flip-flops off looking at accessories. It was hot day and a couple of extortionately priced beers were definitely needed to help us get round. But it was Day 2 we had been anticipating – motorhomes! It was cool, grey and drizzly outside but in the massive halls exploring the huge array on offer it felt more like Christmas.
We started in the “Premium” hall with a bewildering array of the most expensive motorhomes in the world. Morellos had our favourite van of the show in our ‘type’- their smallest at a manageable 8m but with a starting price, before the many necesary ‘extras’ of €157,000 it remains in the “when we win lottery” realm. Continuing in fantasy land we moves on to the big Morello’s with their garages containing Porsches, and then real luxury of the Concordes whose motto seems to be “Bigger and Better”. Jaw-droppingly plush – and huge – and then there were the Cruzzers with their pop-out sides which we didn’t have the nerve to queue to explore.
There are a surprising number of people able to afford these but we worked out that the reason we don’t really see them on the road is that they generally can’t get to the places we can – we are at the extreme for those at nearly 5 tonnes and just under 8m. These monsters, upwards of 15 tonnes and 12m make for a somewhat different travel experience. Oh, and you won’t get much change out of €500,000 (without the Porsche)
We also came across Kate’s new favourite – the monster trucks we sometimes see and have always wanted to look inside. A company who does adventure tours had some – they do tours of places like Morocco, and Iran-Azerbaijan, where you turn up with some clothes and they provide the vehicle & kit. Up to 13 vehicles travel together, often off-road, meeting at set points at the end of the day with experts available to help at all times. Sounds absolutely brilliant, the only catch being it’s around €1000 a day without the air-fare. Shame. But at least we got to see around inside a couple.
Not luxury, but solid and completely self-sufficient on both lithium batteries (24 of them) & solar, and a water purification system so you can suck it up from anywhere. Brilliant. The bigger one had just been round Mongolia for 6 months. Absolutely awesome – and again in the €500,000 range.
After the Premium hall everything else seemed reasonably priced! We explored caravans and trailer tents, mini-motorhomes and budget motorhomes, the only thing missing was British representation! We stayed until closing and still hadn’t seen it all. What a show!
Back at the van we found that one of the big trucks we like had parked up opposite – it just needed some scratches like ours to look properly tough.
Danny had been in touch with N&B Owners Club member Martin who has been very helpful in the past and was coming for 5 nights. The website was playing up but we knew the van model and parking area so, given the distinct lack of GB motorhomes, we went looking equipped with a bottle of wine. Sure enough we found Martin & Jen sat outside their 9m van chatting to another couple they had just met up with from the Motorhome Fun internet forum. We joined them and had a lovely couple of hours sipping wine and sharing stories – very sociable. Danny even got to inspect Martin’s huge garage – amazing what keeps you happy when your world is a motorhome. We toddled back to our smaller abode, happy but with a touch of garage envy. Tomorrow we head south.