Friday, January 18, 2013

The Coolest Campers on the Coast

OK so here’s a confession: I still have my first peace-symbol necklace; my fringed, suede purse; a very-pretty macramé-and-beaded halter maxi-dress; and more than one tie-dyed t-shirt dating to the art form’s very earliest days.  

So imagine my delight when I heard about 69 Campers, a company that rents out three gorgeously renovated 1960s and 70s VW camper vans for touring Provence and the Cote d'Azur.

By the way, I’m totally hearing the Grateful Dead in my head right now! Aren't you? 

69 Campers is a family business run by Matt and Jennie Tombs, and Matt's parents Vic and Louise, who all hail from England. They moved to France eight years ago, to Portes du Soleil in the Alps, and later made the move to the South, where they now live full time with their three kids (aka ‘’van-washers’’). The family and their company are based in Seillans, a beautiful perched medieval village in the Var, not far from the famous pottery town of Fayence. They’re 70 kilometers from Nice and 80 minutes from St. Tropez.

The business, Matt says, took about a year to set up. The moved to Seillans in September,  launched 69 Campers in November and will welcome their first renters in early spring.

They used a UK company to source, import, restore and customize the vans, which were found in Alabama, California and Arizona. ‘’All three are left hand drive,’’ Matt says, ‘’and have undergone professional bare-metal restoration and mechanical overhaul. They have new 1600cc Twin Port engines, re-conditioned gearboxes and new electrical wiring looms. They were completely done up to our specs in terms of colors, materials, interiors.’’

The vans are called Gigi, Margot and Amélie and each has a personality all her own.   

Margot and Amélie, for instance, are known as ''bay windows'' and have ¾ ‘’Rock 'n' Roll’’ beds, an additional double bed in the pop-up roof and a front-seat hammock. Margot and Amélie sleep five.  

Gigi, a ''split screen,'' has a ¾ Rock 'n' Roll bed and a front-seat hammock; she sleeps three. Drive away awnings and tents can be hired if additional sleep-space is required.

All three vans have cool, custom hand-made interiors with fitted kitchens, two gas burners, a sink, a fridge and storage.  A solar shower comes with the van and a portable toilet can be added for a small fee. Also available for rent are iPod docks, GPS units, hammocks, linens, mountain bikes, food hampers, tented awnings, baby seats, sleeping bags and more. Matt and Jennie will happily provide campground info and regional maps.

For touring, rentals are three days minimum in mid season (March, April, May, October) and seven days minimum in high season (June to September).

Or, consider renting one for a wedding or another special event. Gigi, in fact, has been styled with weddings specifically in mind: ''Dressed in Harvest Moon Beige and Alpine White, she creates the perfect look for your special day!'' the website says. The campers can be decorated to compliment your theme and can be loaded up with Champagne and treats.

Or if you want Gigi, Margot and Amélie for your movie, ad campaign, photo shoot or trade show, just drop Matt a note. 

The Tombs expect it’ll take some time for this new business to take off—please forward and share this story!!--but say they couldn't be happier.

‘’What a thrill to be able to marry this iconic vehicle with Provence and the Côte d'Azur,’’ Matt says. ‘’Just like these campers, the region is completely steeped in beauty, history and charm.’’ 

69 Campers
Le Clos St Michel
185 Route De Draguignan
Seillans, 83440, France
Twitter: 69campers
Facebook: 69 Campers
Tel: +33 (0)4 83  11 17 75
Cell: +33 (06) 75 8 5 25 76

Photos: Two of the three girls have already joined the family; the third arrives on February 15th.  The 69 Campers logo and slogan. Matt and Jennie Tombs looking totally cool sur la plage. 

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  1. I have my leather peace symbol necklace too, Julie. And peacock feather earrings, a maxi skirt ... I won't go on.

    Once again, you found a winner for visitors to France. Keep it up.

  2. Brings back great memories of trips to the Bershires---'back in the day"

  3. Yet another great and informative post Julie. What a cool idea, will definitely re-post on FB, it's always so good to hear of wonderful new projects and businesses that folk put their hearts and souls into. I do hope it takes off with a bang.

  4. Fantastic and unique concept - wishing them all the best for a successful venture!

  5. Those are COOL! I want to rent one...puts my Twingo to shame :)

  6. We need this in Door County!!
    Luv This!!

  7. In 1972, three friends and I drove from the San Joaquin Valley in California to Vancouver, Canada in a 1969 VW camper! What fun we had and this post took me back to that time! I shall remember 69 Campers the next time we are in Provence.

  8. That's SUCH a cute idea! I had a pristine white poptop when my son was young. If I hadn't had a son wd never have thought of one or camping. It was really a blast. We went everywhere, very comfy. My hubs had one of those massive home on really isn't camping. I preferred the V-Dub.

  9. Thanks for sharing your innovative idea. You can simply add Camper awnings to the steps to make your camping experience more stylish and comfortable.