Room with a View.
Our author loves beautiful hotels and hates camping. Would a few nights in the MINI Countryman’s roof tent change her mind? Together with her son, she travelled to southern Spain for a brave self-test.
MINI Cooper SE Countryman ALL4: energy consumption in kWh/100 km: 16.1 – 15.3; fuel consumption in l/100 km: 2.1 – 1.8; CO2 emission in g/km: 47 – 40. All values based on the combined WLTP test cycle. Further information: www.mini.com/disclaimer.
My first camping experience? A disaster! I was only sixteen years old at the time, and after three weeks with a girlfriend at a campsite on the French Atlantic coast, I was thoroughly fed up. I decided that I would never again spend even just a single night drenched in sweat in a sleeping bag on a camping mat. My resolve remained unwavering for the next 20 years. Then my son Pepe celebrated his fifth birthday. Now that he was a year older, it seemed as if not only his small body had grown a bit, but also his sense of adventure. He wanted to go camping.
Of course, you are supposed to enrich your children’s lives with new experiences. So I surrendered. The things you do for love... That is why I now find myself in Spain, in the driver’s seat of a MINI Countryman Plug-in Hybrid with a tent on the car roof. The plan: to explore the Andalusian coast with the MINI, starting in Seville. On board: a camping stove and quick-drying, gossamer-thin microfibre towels. We want to spend a few days near the legendary kitesurfing beaches of Tarifa, broken only by a short visit to Cádiz, and to sleep a few nights in a tent – on the roof of our MINI Countryman.
Pepe’s eyes shine with excitement. He scans the new world that passes by his window from his car seat. A child’s curiosity embraces anything and everything. It’s my own fault, I think to myself, because when we spend time with each other at home, we go out, on a treasure hunt, or chase after thieves and other baddies. Indoors, we build dens to hide in from monsters. And the books I read to Pepe are about boys who explore the world in a small boat. Or, as the case may be, about a girl who goes camping with her father – and has the time of her life. That probably inspired him. So now it had to be a camping trip, of all things. “I’d like to do that much more even than I want the big race car transporter,” says Pepe. And his will be done.
That is why, rather than entering the address of a beautiful beach hotel into the sat-nav, I am now asking it to calculate the time it will take us to get to the campsite – at least I have chosen one with direct access to the sea. I sigh and push the car’s engine starter button. Slowly, we are leaving Seville’s bullfighting arena and the Alcázar royal palace behind us, cross the wide Guadalquivir river and are finally driving down the Autovía del Sur. The lush green treetops of the pines by the side of the road protectively arch over it like a cosy blanket. As Pepe’s excitement increasingly mounts at the prospect of our camping adventure, I relax and enjoy the vehicle's comfort. Maybe this trip wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
We take a short break in Cádiz; the sun bathes the city’s bright buildings in a warm light. Pepe and I admire the cathedral, have a look at the Baluarte de la Candelaria fortress, stroll through the historic city centre’s alleyways whilst licking an ice cream. Then we get back into the Countryman. We will reach the campsite in Tarifa in about an hour and a half. I put my foot down; my son on the back seat looks out of the window again. Solar PV systems line the motorway, in the form of simple flat panels, but also in the form of towering constructions that remind me of baobab trees. “What are they?” asks Pepe. “They’re collectors that collect the sunlight and turn it into electricity,” I say, trying to explain the general idea as simply as possible. Silence. “So we are driving on sunshine?” my little passenger asks just to clarify the issue. “Yes, in a way,” I say with an amused smile.
As I park up the MINI Countryman, the sun disappears into the Atlantic like a giant red orange. I’m now facing a major challenge: the camping novice has to put up the tent! I loosen the three safety catches on the black fibreglass roof box. Thanks to the integrated gas springs, the tent erects itself almost without my help. Within two minutes, our home on the road rises up into the coming night. I breathe a sigh of relief. Pepe and I can’t wait and climb up the aluminium ladder. The roof tent is equipped with a beautifully soft mattress. There’s a mesh window at the front and one at the back that can be opened with a zip. Curious about the view, we unzip the front one. Perfect: a room with a sea view. Great excitement is followed by deep sleep.
The next morning, I am surprised at myself. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I kept re-examining my feelings. Not a trace of excitement. I couldn’t help myself; I just like the comfort offered by hotels. After a long hike, I like the idea of standing under a shower jet that does not stop automatically after twenty seconds. I get claustrophobic in sleeping bags. I prefer to stretch out on a king-size bed – especially as I rarely sleep without my 1.10-metre sidekick. And I prefer to find only my own hairs on the bathroom floor. But now, here, at this very moment, I don’t miss a thing.
They say children change your perspective of things. Maybe that also applies to camping. Over the next few days, my boy enthusiastically explores the 2.10 x 1.30 metre footprint of our refuge, time and again. Sticks his head outside and has a chat with our neighbour with the three words of Spanish he has picked up. I watch my child; his mood is infectious – and suddenly, I am looking forward to every single minute we will spend together in our AirTop.We develop routines. Just the way real campers do, right? Cook spaghetti on the gas cooker. Go for a stroll down to the beach after meals. Snuggle up inside the tent when we return from our wanderings. I have to grin when I notice how Pepe wriggles around in his sleeping bag. Only a short while later, he falls asleep. Breathes next to me, deeply and evenly. The waves are crashing onto the beach, I am happy. Some places are like good hosts who say: “Hey! Great to have you here!” This is definitely one of them.
Over the next few days, we go on excursions to various beaches, watch the kitesurfers and drive to the Duna de Valdevaqueros, one of Spain’s largest shifting sand dunes. The MINI Countryman safely carries us across any terrain, no lurching from side to side, no skidding on the sand-covered roads. These days, when people like something, they post it on social media. After a few days, I upload some pictures on Instagram: Pepe at the camping table, the view from the tent window onto the sea, us two rookies grinning proudly in front of our pitch, the smart MINI Countryman in the background. The girlfriend from back then – the one I went to France with – writes to me: “Should I be worried about you?” No, everything is perfectly fine. The post garners a lot of hearts.
On the last day, we wake up early. Still in pyjamas, we walk all the way right down to the crashing waves. Pepe runs along the water; I sit in the sand, squinting into the rising sun. When he’s completely out of breath, he plops down by my side. “Over there is Africa,” I say, drawing the outline of the imaginary landmass in the air with my index finger. “Does the world look a little bit differently beautiful everywhere?” asks Pepe. I nod. It is moments like these that will later become memories.
As I fold up our roof tent, I am overcome by a funny feeling. I feel sentimental. I realise that I will miss this car and our nights spent camping in a tent. All parents know that their children go through phases. What was great yesterday can be totally stupid by tomorrow. Weird whims, absurd habits or bizarre preferences suddenly belong to the past. Will Pepe perhaps want to spend our next holidays in a tree house? Or maybe a mountain hut will be the cooler option. At the moment, all of this seems very far away in the future. I take my son into my arms; silently, we take a last look at the churning Atlantic. He and I in a tent, above us only the stars. I’m sure we've made lasting memories. Or at least I will remember this forever.
Photography: Coke Bartrina, Text: Ricarda Twellmann
Hinweis (English disclaimers below):
Die offiziellen Angaben zu Kraftstoffverbrauch, CO2-Emissionen und Stromverbrauch wurden nach dem vorgeschriebenen Messverfahren VO (EU) 715/2007 in der jeweils geltenden Fassung ermittelt. Die Angaben berücksichtigen bei Spannbreiten Unterschiede in der gewählten Rad- und Reifengröße. Die Werte der Fahrzeuge basieren bereits auf der neuen WLTP-Verordnung und werden in NEFZ-Äquivalenzwerte zurückgerechnet, um den Vergleich zwischen den Fahrzeugen zu gewährleisten. Bei diesen Fahrzeugen können die CO2-Werte für fahrzeugbezogene Steuern oder andere Abgaben, die (zumindest unter anderem) auf CO2-Emissionen basieren, von den hier angegebenen Werten abweichen. Die CO2-Effizienz-Spezifikationen werden gemäß der Richtlinie 1999/94/EG und der Europäischen Verordnung in der jeweils gültigen Fassung festgelegt. Die angegebenen Werte basieren auf dem Kraftstoffverbrauch, den CO2-Werten und dem Energieverbrauch nach dem NEFZ-Zyklus für die Klassifizierung. Weitere Informationen über den offiziellen Kraftstoffverbrauch und die spezifischen CO2-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen können dem "Handbuch über den Kraftstoffverbrauch, die CO2-Emissionen und den Stromverbrauch neuer Personenkraftwagen" entnommen werden, das an allen Verkaufsstellen und unter https://www.dat.de/angebote/verlagsprodukte/leitfaden-kraftstoffverbrauch.html erhältlich ist.
The values of fuel consumptions, CO2 emissions and energy consumptions shown were determined according to the European Regulation (EC) 715/2007 in the version applicable at the time of type approval. The figures refer to a vehicle with basic configuration in Germany and the range shown considers optional equipment and the different size of wheels and tires available on the selected model. The values of the vehicles are already based on the new WLTP regulation and are translated back into NEDC-equivalent values in order to ensure the comparison between the vehicles. [With respect to these vehicles, for vehicle related taxes or other duties based (at least inter alia) on CO2-emissions the CO2 values may differ to the values stated here.] The CO2 efficiency specifications are determined according to Directive 1999/94/EC and the European Regulation in its current version applicable. The values shown are based on the fuel consumption, CO2 values and energy consumptions according to the NEDC cycle for the classification. For further information about the official fuel consumption and the specific CO2 emission of new passenger cars can be taken out of the „handbook of fuel consumption, the CO2 emission and power consumption of new passenger cars“, which is available at all selling points and at https://www.dat.de/angebote/verlagsprodukte/leitfaden-kraftstoffverbrauch.html