There’s just something about Volkswagen campervans that can’t help but make you smile. Whether you simply pass by one on the road or are actually behind the wheel yourself. Now, I may be a little biased seeing as the family car when I was growing up was a V dub, and I have extremely fond memories of the adventures we had exploring in it. But I don’t think it's just me. The look on the faces of the families or groups of ‘surfer friends’ that I spot heading (generally) west - tells me they are loving every minute of it as well.
I suppose the thing about travelling like this is it forces you to slow down and it stops being about where you are going but more about the journey itself. That said, when you do find a nice spot, well… then these groovy little vans allow you to kick back, relax, make a cup of tea and, dare I say it, maybe even have a siesta?
Travel back in time
Speaking of siestas, you may have noticed if you’ve ever spotted a VW campervan here in the Algarve (but no doubt it’s the same in Lisbon and Porto where they have bases too) that almost all these vans are ‘Siesta Campers’.
This is because all the joy created by keeping these vintage vans in tip top condition and allowing everybody to enjoy them today is thanks largely to the efforts of an English couple called Claire and Loyd Rozzo and this campervan rental company they started over 10 years ago.
They recently wrote into The Portugal News telling us about a new feature in their vans that means that even more people can enjoy them, and this seemed, although I did already know them a little (the Algarve is a small world after all), like the perfect excuse to visit their base and find out more.
The main headquarters where they work on their vans is in São Bras de Alportel in what was a 1950’s service station. You arrive and see that there are all kinds of beautiful VW campervans- from old classics all the way up to the newest top of the range versions. Far from having a siesta, there was a flurry of activity as the team was busy working away on the vans.
Here I met Loyd and got to sit down to get to know him better and find out a bit more about how this all came to be.
Family holidays on wheels
Loyd’s love for travelling started young when he would spend his childhood holidays exploring Europe with his parents in a 1971 VW camper. Indeed, it was later while roaming around in Spain that he met Claire also ‘on the road’ and it was while rolling around in their own van that they honed their considerable expertise in fixing them - when it (as well as fellow travellers' vans) inevitably went wrong.
However, these intrepid explorers did eventually decide to set down roots and chose the Algarve. They have two, now teenage, daughters called Maisie and Lara who grew up in São Brás but are now just starting to go off to finish their education in England.
Siesta’s magic touch
Back to the workshop, Loyd showed me around their fleet of VW vans. Ranging from the oldest lady Martha (who is over 50 year old!) to the newest high tech VW’s on the market - all kitted out with the unique ‘Siesta touch’.
Let the good times roll
Claire arrived towards the end of my chat with Loyd and it was nice to see them reminisce together about what an adventure it has all been. Things like camping trips when the girls were smaller and how in those days when the vans weren’t quite as reliable they had to rush off much more often to ‘save people’. Claire laughed about the time they had to go to swap an entire engine out in a car park in Aljezur.
A trip down memory lane
Their vans have definitely seen some adventures that's for sure, and you might be thinking that it's a shame that they can’t talk - but they can!
Claire dug into her cupboard and pulled out the various old ‘Captains Logs’ which is where guests in their vans are encouraged to record their adventures as well as leave tips for future occupants. This feature was used a lot more before smartphones got involved and people now put the effort into their Instagram stories instead. This is something that Claire said is great too (as if you check out their Instagram they have all kinds of influencers using their vans and taking truly epic pictures and videos of their road trips) but I could tell by her face how much Claire loved the poems, comics and treasure maps carefully inscribed into these old notebooks.
Space to travel
The newest feature in their vans, which is what they wrote in to tell us about, is that their ‘California’ models are now disabled friendly. Now, although it might still be tricky for a disabled person to actually sleep in the vans, it could definitely make a fun alternative to renting a disabled friendly car - as it has the added bonus of having all those sweet siesta bonuses like a fridge, cooktop and running water. Not to mention, how it allows you to travel in not just comfort, but let's face it, style.
So, if you are looking to unwind - along the beautiful long and winding roads of Portugal - then look no further. To find out more about them please follow them on Facebook and Instagram @siestacampers or visit their website siestacampers.com