We had a fantastic opportunity to retire early, some 6 years ago, as a treat we decided to buy a motorhome. As with every major purchase in one’s life we carried out a lot of research, scouring the internet, subscribing to MMM and attending as many shows as possible, both at home in the UK and venturing further afield to Germany, where we found what we were looking for in the La Strada stand at the Dusseldorf show. Six years on and we are now on our second La Strada Motorhome, starting with the Regent L, which was a panel van and now “upgrading” slightly to the Nova L, which looks like a panel van to the untrained eye but is in fact a coachbuilt with a very high quality monocoque shell.
I had had my eye on the Nova L for some time, not because I didn’t like the Regent, but having had her for five years, I thought it would be good to move on. The bad news was that in 2007 La Strada had introduced a new Nova and had lengthened it to over 6 metres. As we travel on the ferry on a regular basis, one of our must have’s was for a motorhome or campervan no more than 6 metres in length. So when we happened across a Nova L for sale and realised it was a 2006 model i.e. 5.99 metres long and also automatic, we jumped at the chance to have a look, well when I say we jumped at the chance, we got in the car and made the long journey up to Newcastle from Southampton to take a look. We were not disappointed, the “van” had been stored in a garage with only 10,000 miles on the clock and was in pristine condition, the interior was of “showroom” condition, exactly what the add had said. We both truly fell in love with it, no expense had been spared on the all the extras, extras that we would not have dreamed of buying if we had wanted to purchase from new.
READY MADE BED
Having lived with a drop down bed in the Regent, I was keen to have a fixed bed in the new van, we did worry that it would be a complete waste of space, but the bonus came with a huge garage under, so we no longer had to store our bikes on the back of the van but stored away nicely with a custom built bike rack inside the garage. The drop down bed in the Regent was comfortable, but in the wee small hours of the night, it was a little tricky getting out and going to the bathroom.
The fixed bed in the Nova stretches across the rear of the Van and accommodates two “Duvalays” very nicely and in the morning you can just shake the duvet and the beds made. We inherited a surround sound stereo system which came with the van so you can listen to music, play DVD’s via the TV which sits at the foot of the bed, if you want to, we didn’t, so we have since removed the TV and DVD player and now just have a cd and radio, a must, to listen to Radio 4 long wave whilst abroad.
We have a large Heki over the bed with a concertina blind and fly screen, the only drawback here is that in hot climates you have to have the blind open in order to feel the benefit of the open Heki, although we have a window that runs along the width of the van too. A gas detector had been fitted by the previous owner which sits above the head of the bed and two LCD spotlights give you ample light to read in bed. We keep a blanket in a small cupboard at the foot of the bed for chilly nights, but I have to say, we have never used it, once you pull the privacy curtain across the entrance to the bed, the warmth stays in, in fact sometimes you have to open it, it’s so warm.
Conveniently, our central, hot air heating and water heating controls are located over the bed too, so we don’t have to get out of bed on chilly mornings to put the heating on, again the downside is that it so warm and cosy, you don’t want to get out of bed at all.
SMALL BUT PERFECTLY FORMED COOKING
A small galley kitchen lies in the centre of the van, opposite the Loo and shower room. We only have a 3 burner hob and triangular sink, but cooking is not a major part of the experience, preferring to eat out whenever possible. Having said that, there is a pull out shelf for food preparation; two over cupboards; one large cupboard under the sink and a full size fridge. The previous owner had an extra extractor installed to keep the kitchen cool; we also have a polar extractor in the kitchen which acts as air conditioning. We do not have an oven as we did in the Regent, but as it was, I only used it as a cupboard anyway. We have however invested in some induction pots and pans and an induction hob which we do use if we are on a hook-up.
There is a full length wardrobe in the kitchen area with a shelf, storage under the floor where you can access the taps for the two waste tanks, one in board to avoid freezing in cold weather and there is a step which leads up to the bed but is also a small storage space, here you can also access the grey waste tank for cleaning. A good low and central space for tins and heavy bottles, if you have run out of space in the pull out wine rack!
WASHING IT ALL DOWN
The shower room is located on the passenger side of the van. It has a very large shower area which is divided from the loo with a folding shower screen, so no more wet curtains sticking to you while trying to shower. We have a dedicated shower, rather than it doubling up as a basin tap and 2 plug holes drain away the water efficiently. Heavy, solid plastic lines the walls and floors in two colours, a grey shower tray and white walls with two shelves and a large mirror which makes up the shower area and then the loo sits alongside but completely protected from the show spray by the folding screen. There is a small Heki over the loo and a frosted, opening window, both have insulating blinds and fly screens integral. We keep a small wall mounted bin just inside the door of the shower room which is convenient for the kitchen waste too.
Stepping down into the lounge area, we have two bench seats at either side of the van and both cab seats are the swivelling captain chairs which makes 4 nice comfortable seats around the removable oval table, the table is on a stand but has a bracket which enables you to slide the table back and forth for easy access. When you don’t want to use the table, it stores overhead in a deep shelf like recess. We have a folding shelf that can be used instead of the full table which we generally use while in transit for lunch and coffee breaks. The fresh water tank sits under one of the bench seats and you can access it from both inside the van and outside the van to fill up, the tank holds a staggering 120 litres of water and feeds everything, including the loo flush. Again, storage is ample; we have two cupboards and two shelves over the bench seats, two cupboards which run the length of the front of the van over the cab seats and two ground level drawers. There is storage space beside the passenger side bench seat, where we keep a basket with all our guide books and maps, this offers easy access to the passenger for navigation and planning or if you are sat in the evening planning your next day’s journey. The bench seats also make up a small bed for a very little person.
We have leather upholstery throughout and calvados woodwork on all walls and cupboard doors, all easy to wash down. We do protect the cabin seats with a couple of sheepskin seat covers and whilst lovely and comfortable in cool or warm weather, we have found that in the heat of the Spanish sun, they need to be replaced with cotton or synthetic covers.
We inherited a safari room with our van which attaches to the awning but have never really been in one place long enough to try it out, making use only of our Fiamma Titanium awning and awning light.
SPACE ~ THE FINAL FRONTIER
The garage is huge, we had La Strada make up a custom bike rack which is fixed onto the back wall of the van. The garage also houses the release valve for the central heating, the control panel for the solar panel and a very handy 3 pin plug which we plug our coffee pot into for breakfast al fresco.
There is enough room for a folding table, a couple of large folding chairs, a large, lidded storage box for all those exotic foods which we always bring back from our travels, ample cases of wine and beer, spare everything and a Thule storage bag which fits on one of the double sided opening doors where we keep spare bulbs, bicycle repair kit, rubber gloves, spare cloths, the list goes on. In fact the garage is so big I can stand in it, slightly stooped; (I’m 5.2ft) and walk in one side and out the other, neat trick eh?
The gas is refillable and kept behind the driver’s seat, in an outside, separate locker, it houses two 11ltr bottles with an automatic changeover and a guage inside the van to tell you when you have used one bottle. We have adaptors for nearly every country you can think of, again, inherited from the previous owner.
The control panel above the door of the van informs you of the time and temperature both inside and outside, the fresh water levels, the solar panel status, and the leisure battery status. It controls the fridge, lighting and water pump too.
We have had our van over a year now and we love it, surprisingly so do many other people. The big problem for me is the amount of people that want to come inside and have a look, which means I don’t get much of a rest from cleaning and tidying just in case someone else knocks on the door for a peek, great way to meet new friends though. Oh and there is a La Strada club too, a lovely bunch of people and good support from La Strada themselves, although in Germany, we travelled over for the clubs anniversary and stayed with La Strada and were looked after by the staff and while we were there, we were wined and dined and many people took the opportunity to have some extras fitted to their vans. Very good after sales service indeed.
Rob Hallam & Annie Vincent
Published in MMM October 2012