Only this week, I decided to rent a 250cc scooter on my holidays on Spain’s Costa Blanca and stick my biker-chick wife on the back for a 280km round trip to Benidorm for the day.
I was just about to boast to my pals about cruising the Spanish autopistas in the scorching temperatures until my weather forecaster mother, yet again, told me it was almost as hot back in Ireland due to a mini heatwave.
It was only when I reached the golden beach in Benidorm, which is plastered with Manhattan-like high-rise towers, that I remembered an earlier road trip this year to the rural west of Ireland in the new Volkswagen Grand California campervan.
The Grand California is the bigger sibling to the California Beach/Ocean models, based on the Volkswagen Transporter, that come with the famous pop-up roof.
On the outside, the much more spacious Grand California takes its cues from the VW Crafter van – albeit with an additional roofline that’s taller than the bungalow I grew up in.
The tinted side windows, double bicycle rack at the rear and (optional) solar panel that sits above the driver’s cabin, are a clear note that this is no ordinary load lugger.
No, this big bad boy is a home on wheels that, despite its flaws, should give years of enjoyment to families, as long as the children don’t get too big for their boots – sorry, roof.
On the inside, Volkswagen’s in-house design team has done an amazing job of putting every last detail in place.
This is one of the only campervans that is actually built entirely by the manufacturer themselves and not just supplying a van shell for someone else to kit out, like most other brands do.
From the moment you step inside the side sliding door you can see that this home on wheels has been so well thought out.
The Grand California is fitted with a fridge, two-ring cooker and more storage space than all the Ikea units in my house.
The biggest difference the Grand California has over the Transporter-based model is that it comes with a wet room complete with shower and toilet.
Elsewhere around the cabin, there is an extremely comfortable double bed at the rear – which can be folded away while you’re driving – with an enormous storage area underneath.
The sad news is that the other double bed that is built into the roofline and accessed by a ladder is only really good to accommodate very small children – even the two teenagers I had with me on my travels had difficulty getting up and down and had to reverse down the ladder after a night’s slumber.
If I am to be totally honest, I think the pop-up roof in the smaller Beach/Ocean model is much more airy and far less claustrophobic.
Overall, the Grand California is a superb camper that will give you many years of pleasure.
However, with entry-level prices starting at just shy of €90k, it is not cheap – you could almost buy a home on ‘Cheap Irish Houses’ for less.
I still think I would forfeit the loo and shower for smaller more compact Transporter-based model if I were in the market – and I am in the market.