Year: 2015

Rémi Berchet

Rémi Berchet, concerto for freerider

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Far from here, many years ago, my high school music teacher had a tatty ponytail (although I have nothing against ponytails), a pale face (nor against pale faces, I might add) and obsessive doggedness about perfect rhythm on the recorder (but here, I draw the line…). But that was far away… and a long time ago. In short, a far cry from what the high school pupils in Bourg Saint Maurice (Savoie) see when their music teacher, Rémi Berchet, enters the classroom. Rémi is a solo mountaineer, who lives for his passions: skiing in winter, running in summer. Last August, Rémi was on the starting line of the magnificent TDS (Traces des Ducs de Savoie) race, which covers 119km of GR hike paths in the Mont Blanc region. This year, he completed the 7,250m positive height gain in just 15 hours, 13 minutes and 40 seconds, finishing just outside the top three! But now that winter is here again, Rémi can rest his feet in his ski boots, before, without a doubt, climbing the last few …

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Scotland by Zeppelin

Hebrides Express – by Jeanne T. & MPQ.

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Five days. That’s all we have. For a round-trip visit to the Isle of Mull that’s more than enough. Eight years ago, along with a friend we completed our first visit to Scotland on these same roads, in a van. The reasons for hitting these same roads this year are plentiful and fun! A report with the photographers from the Zeppelin travelogue, and most importantly to celebrate the 10th anniversary of discovering a little corner of paradise in Scotland. Back on these one-track roads 10 years later, it’s Jeanne’s turn to describe her trip in words and pictures. MPQ. We skipped the Fireman’s Ball for a fantastic voyage across England and Scotland. Paris-Calais-Dover- Liverpool- Corran- Lochaline – Isle of Mull. MPQ. picks up the Esquisse (the van kitted out by We Van) in Nantes and meets me in Paris. To burn off some energy in anticipation of the 20-hour drive we have in store, we head to a concert by the folk group June Bug at a music shop in the Barbès neighbourhood. M. has put us …

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Race

Taking it easy in a deckchair

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The deckchair is a piece of historic social heritage. Thanks are due to Léon B. and his party the Front P. which, in 1936, were thoughtful enough to introduce paid holidays and, at the same time, the deckchair trend. Beaches were filled with a vast sea of brightly coloured canvas stretched over reclining wood frames, replacing the rattan chairs of yesteryear. Besides being part of our social heritage, the deckchair is also an apocope in France. The French term for deckchair, “transat”, is in fact a phonetic modification of “transatlantique”, as these chairs were first used on the liners that crossed the Atlantic. Make no mistake, that is what it’s all about: the solo Atlantic crossing by Armand de Jacquelot in Mini 6,50, the world’s smallest offshore racing yacht. And the vast expanse of stretched canvas becomes a large blue spinnaker. Abracadabra. Armand, skipper of n°755 We-Van, was present on Saturday 19 September 2015 at the start of the famous Minitransat race from Douarnenez to Pointe- à-Pitre. He started designing boats as a boy and …

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We-Van by Kampes Nomads

Life in a campervan : destination surf – by Kampes Nomads

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We tested a campervan from We-Van to explore the famous surfing spots in the Basque region of southwestern France. The model we chose was the “Esquisse” a two-seater van built on a Volkswagen chassis, for a road trip combining moderation, efficiency and comfort. Hiring this campervan for our Surf Trip was clearly the best option. When surfing is part of your daily life, your priorities involve monitoring the weather forecast and “hunting” waves. The best way to do this is on wheels, heading directly to each destination, which sometimes means covering a significant distance before finding the perfect spot. The advantage of a campervan is being able to park near, and sometimes even at, our playground, so we can head straight for the water as soon as the sun rises. Our daily routine went something like this: – Substantial and nutritious breakfast, before giving in to the call of the waves – Short coffee break. After physical effort, sustenance… while always keeping an eye on the outgoing tide – Surf session at sunset (the best time), …

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#vanlife godfather

Foster Huntington, the #vanlife godfather

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It’s the story of a guy who made a complete U turn in life. A guy who decided not to take the motorway, preferring to stick to the smaller tracks and roads. A group of blokes talk about it, a rare breed, and rarer still are those who do it well with annoying skill and success. The story of this guy is touching, like the setting of the sun over Oregon. Foster, a disillusioned dropout from a university in Maine, which he never really wanted to go to. He overcame his problems by releasing ‘A Restless Transplant’, a blog which was quickly spotted by Ralph Lauren who then offered him a job in New-York. Too much time spent behind a desk bored him to death, and inspired him to work on a personal project, The Burning House. This materialist-minimalist photo blog inspired by Wabi-sabiste (!) is drawing attention from a publisher who has offered to make a book out of it. Foster saved the advance payment and spent it immediately on a van (a VW Synchro), quit his job and hit the road, creating the famous #vanlife and released ‘Home Is Where You Park …

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Cotentin by François M.

The Golden Oldies are on the road again

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To properly celebrate our friend JC’s 70th birthday, we wanted to come up with something outside of the box. For a break from the usual parties of the previous decade, we opted to prepare a surprise at the house which was little different: his eight (self-proclaimed) best friends ‘wisely’ pulled up in a minibus, headed for the Cotentin Peninsula! We were able to set off all together (without having to take other friends just outside of our close circle) to relive the kind of adventures we had in our schooldays with all the jokes and songs (not the radio). Our trip was dotted judiciously with great meals, for which one person was condemned to be the designated driver (definitely the BEST friend). THE best friend Exploring Cotentin, this region of France which is so unjustly misunderstood, offered us a real sense of getting away from it all: the moors take you to Scotland, the prairies and cliffs to Ireland, its charming little ports to Cornwall and the massive beaches lined with sand dunes to California. Without forgetting the restaurants which keep you firmly in France. …

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First time

The spirit of the van – by Kiki B.

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What the van experience really boils down to is a return to a forgotten time, one which has been sidelined by our modern culture with its walls of all powerful tv screens, packed nightclubs and all of the superficial pleasures that come with it. We have been separated from the lost pleasures of looking at a star filled sky or connecting to nature. If the van experience is after all a return to these forgotten pleasures: then it is not just alpha or omega, it is both! It is the be all and end all. Travelling by van is all about reliving simple pleasures and stripping away phoney illusions. You turn the key and that’s it, you’re on your way. Because after all that’s really all there is to it, there’s no need to bother with taking the bus to an airport, checking in just to take another bus which takes you to a plane which in turn does endless laps on the tarmac before you finally take off. The van experience bypasses this needless hassle by returning to the true, ultimate meaning of …

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Gold of Bengal

Nomad of the Seas, or the low-tech adventure.

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The Nomad of the Sea project has its origins in plant-life, where all is well and good. 2009. Corentin de Chatelperron works in Bangladesh at a naval construction site and like all good engineers, is constantly thinking. The material which it seems simply has to be used in the construction of boats, fibreglass, is the root of the problem. Corentin dreams of replacing this imported, expensive, polluting composite material with jute fibre. Jute (Corchorus capsularis), a local, abundant foodstuff, possesses stunning technological characteristics. Applied science requires Corentin to make his theoretical reflections into a practical reality and he did this by building the first boat made of both fibre and jute fibre. Applied science? He returned to France from Bangladesh on this little sailing boat all alone, on a journey lasting 186 days over 9,000 miles (16,700 km). “The adventure of Tara Tari” helped him earn the credibility and fame to found Gold of Bengal. This research and development project focussed on jute led to the creation of a second boat in 2013 made from 100% agrocomposite materials reinforced with natural jute fibres. During these different nomadic …

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bocaux

What’s with the jars?

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So you’re getting ready for a van journey. It’s all about the logistics, just like setting sail. You would never set sail without taking supplies and likewise you would never hit the road without provisioning! Good, with that settled… what are we going to bring? We’re not on a racing boat, we don’t need to shorten our toothbrushes just to lighten the load: we can afford to bring heavier stuff. And if we start running out of space, we can leave some things behind (like clothes, there are always too many clothes): because good grub is vital, or rather, a question of survival. Take, for example, a nice walk in the humid English countryside. You might find yourself unable to reach a local restaurant. Your only salvation is the food that you have brought with you. And even if we’re not talking about haute cuisine or gastronomy, we’re still talking about ‘good nosh’ all the same! And exhausted, what could be better than hearing a nice dish simmering away just as you settle down for the evening with a drink, while the sun sets behind the mountains …

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The Way of the World, Nicolas Bouvier

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The Way of the World is story of a journey, of itinerant forays in a Fiat 500 Topolino, taking place in the mid-20th century between Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. The story centres around the author and his painter friend Thierry Vernet. It’s a tale of a maiden voyage, a story of youth – Nicolas Bouvier is only 25 years old – but which stunningly combines poetic aspects with intellectual reflections, embedded in a harsh reality, like the greatest stories of this genre. ‘Being deprived of necessities stimulated, to a certain extent, an appetite for what was essential’. ‘The virtue of travelling is that it purges life before filling it up’. ‘It had to be a flourishing civilisation to speak about women in that tone of mystery. With its tanned daughters, its fresh starched linin, its cows out to pasture and the neighbouring gypsies as leaven in the dough, peasant-Bogojevo had plenty to be pleased about’. ‘In the time it took to smoke a few cigarettes, they made their strings sob for the simple pleasure of turning one’s soul upside down’. ‘They …

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