to Perry at Airstream
Europe.com - Belrepayre - An Airstream trailer/retro
caravan park in a beautiful setting in France facing the
and wife/business partner Coline
Vintage Airstream and automobile
Digger: Hello Perry, how are you?
Iím fine thanks.
Iíve heard some nice things about you and Coline from other
people in the Retro Caravan community over here in the UK.
Oh good. Itís always nice when people say nice things.
News travels far in the world of Retro Caravans. Can you
please tell us the background to Airstream Europe?
Sure. We had the mad idea about ten years ago and that was
before there were all these unusual places to stay. There were
very few teepees and yurts around. It took us ten years, on
and off, to import all of the caravans. And we built a trailer
park where we live in the south of France. And here we are.
It sounds idyllic there.
Yes, weíre 400 metres up in the midst of a forest about 25
minutes from Carcasonne which is our nearest big town.
If somebody like me wanted to Ďdo the south of Franceí in
terms of driving along the coast and seeing Monte Carlo, Nice
and so on like you see in the movies, would that be do-able
from where you are?
Yes. Weíre next to the wine region Ė weíre in the
Cathare region which is famous for all the castles and the
mountains, rivers and lakes.
Hmm, sounds beautiful. Iíve got an excuse to come over there
Itís a bit of an undiscovered bit of France, actually,
although the French are discovering it themselves at the
What about your passion for retro caravans. Can you tell us
Iíve been living in one for about 27 years. I raised my kids
in one and then I travelled around in one and I came back to
my house in France here and wanted to get a smaller one. Then
I had a mad idea to make a show with them so I started to
collect them. One day I came outside and saw them all sitting
in the field and thought ďPerry, thatís your business.Ē
A light bulb moment?
Yes, exactly and we started from there really. Iíve always
been into Retro stuff anyway.
Are you getting lot of Brits coming over there?
Yes, lots of Brits. People who like old things Ė they
donít always bring their old cars from England. Weíve had
a few. We had a few old Porsches and some hotrods came from
England last year and we get quite a lot of Vintage cars
What are the local attractions there apart from the beautiful countryside?
Weíre next to one of the prettiest towns in France called
Mirepoix, which is a medieval town and thatís only 8
kilometers from the Camping.
Why is Retro so big? Is it as big in France? Itís huge here.
Yes. Itís getting really big in Britain, isnít it? Thanks
to the Vintage Goodwood Festival you have each year and all
that. Why is it getting bigger? Very simply, because the
world today is lacking detail and lacking feeling and I think
people are looking for feeling whether it be in the past or
maybe it could even be in the future. But, for example music
Ė we only play vinyl records here, we donít play MP3s and
everything. Where I buy my records at the boot fairs, but also
in Toulouse; I was talking to the guy and he says that more
people are buying the old music because itís got a feeling.
It was written and played with a feeling and the bands
werenít out to get rich, they were playing just doing their
thing which you can feel in the music. And I think thatís relevant
to virtually everything today.
A lot of the musicians Iíve interveiwed from the sixties and
seventies bands also told me that they joined bands so they
could get the girls! (Both laugh)
What a thought! I didnít think of that.
Iíll come over and use your camping as a base for a tour of
that part of the world. Iíve always wanted to do the
Roger Moore/Tony Curtis thing along the south of France in a
Yes, yes, yes. Well, weíre a little way from Nice and all
that Ė weíre in the foothills of The Pyrenees, not far from Andorra.
Itís great Ė you can go up into the mountains and Toulouse
is not far away for people who like a city. Also
Carcassoneís not far away and thatís getting more music
gigs with people like Elton John playing there. Itís literally
twenty minutes away.
He played at our Northampton cricket ground last weekend.
Oh did he? Wow, he's getting everywhere. The Beach Boys also
played here recently.
Les Garcons de la plage?
(Laughs) Thatís great!
What options are you offering there?
We have ten Airstreams on site Ė fourteen actually, but
oneís a bar and oneís an office and oneís a shop.
Is there a diner to eat at?
Yes. If you look at our website youíll see thereís a 34
foot Airstream that was half made in America and half in
France as a really nice diner.
I love that American Diner experience, itís great.
We do hamburgers, we also do vegetarian food, we also have
organic food Ė all our produce and all our vegetables are
from local farms. We donít use supermarkets. Thereís ten
of the Airstreams on site to hire and each one has its own
theme. For example, the fifties ones will have the fifties
decorations in them down to the magazines. If a caravan is
from í57 then all of the magazines in there will be from
1957 and the music will be roughly from that era. Then weíve
got seventies ones, from 1970 up to 1976. One is dedicated to
a discotheque in New York called Studio 54, which has got
photographs and a book all about the discotheque inside.
Itís got flashing lights and a mirror ball and 8-track.
Youíre not doing it by halves are you Perry? Some people
would just go for the general look and feel but youíre
really going for it. Youíre a detail person.
Yes, I really am. We are because thereís no Ikea here!
interior views of the Airstream accommodation
Weíre into real plastic (laughs) and our pillows are organic
pillows and weíve gone a bit over the top because we like it
and we think thatís part of the whole Retro thing. Itís
things that worked that we like Ė can openers that work.
Things that made a Ďclunkí or a buzz when you switched them on?
Yes, we're into that sort of thing and right down to the food.
So each caravan has its own theme Ė another one is dedicated
to Melody Maker, which is completely wallpapered with articles
of all of the groups from 1972 Ė Jimi Hendrix, Benny
Goodman, all the characters. I come from the seventies and my
was Michael Balfour the actor.
Oh yes, I know him.
Funnily enough, he made quite a lot of what we would call
Retro films now Ė Fahrenheit 451, Z-Cars, The Avengers and
the Carry Ons so I grew up in that sort of era with the
studios and that sort of stuff. So Iíve got some of the films
from that time here to generate that sort of feeling.
What are the best things about what you're doing?
The reaction of the people. The feedback we get. I was accused
of selling dreams last year by one of my clients which I
thought was quite nice and he liked it as well. Itís selling
a sort of time-warp dream and because itís not a very big Camping
Ė I use the word Camping and I also use the phrase Trailer
Park as you probably noticed. Weíve only just started using
the phrase 'Trailer Park' again because it had such a bad
reputation but thatís all blown over now.
The Americans use the term Trailer Park rather than Caravan
Park or Camping.
Yes, the people love it and the feedbackís what keeps us
going. Because as you know, if you do something thatís got a
lot of detail then itís twice as much work.
And most people don't bother because it is too much work but
if you get the feedback from people saying ďThat was niceĒ
and ďThis is greatĒ then it keeps you going. We do all the
gardens and theyíre all landscaped with lots and lots of
flowers. Thatís unusual for a Camping Ė and the variation
of plants and flowers is enormous.
My sister was looking for a place in the mid-west of France a
few years ago and we went to one property which was owned by
some Brits. They had an English garden with gnomes and the
house was full of English stuff, right down to all the books
and DVDs but it was in a very French setting!
Wow! We try not to get too focused on one nationality Ė that's
our thing. We get a lot of Swedish, Danish, English, French. A
bit of everything and it makes it interesting. The Swedish
LOVE their Retro Ė they drive 2,500 kilometers to come down
here and donít think anything of it.
Wow, American distances.
Yes, you're absolutely right. Talking of America, these
caravans come from America and I like America and everything
but Iím not one of these huge stars and stripes fans. So we
fly flags here but theyíre of the states of America, not the
stars and stripes. We donít want to fall into only getting
locked into the American scene. We have 2cvs and funny French
cars coming in and we like that.
Fly the Hawaiian flag Perry, because itís got the Union Jack
in it. I have lots of American friends and I always wind them
up when I remind them that one of the US states still pays allegiance
to The Crown!
I think it goes back to the Emperor or Empress of Hawaii
liking the British flag and so wanting to incorporate it into
their design. Simple as that.
They wouldnít do that today. So we try not to be on one side
or another and we stay in the middle because we like the
diversity. In the beginning, we got quite a lot of bikers here
and then we thought ďNo, we donít just want bikers
here.Ē And now we get bikes, motor cars, bicycles and 2cvs
and variety is the spice of life and itís very true with
What is the Internet impact on the business?
I couldnít do without it. The Internet is great for us. We
also treat it with a difference Ė we spend a lot of time
talking to people and responding. My wifeís quite passionate
about that, because weíre a bit frightened of it being a bit
cold as The Internet can be.
Her introductory email to me was charming.
Ah, thatís nice of you.
And it is difficult with emails because itís so hard to get
the emotion across.
Yes, and with this whole Retro thing weíre trying to 'keep
real', because youíre probably witnessing this at first-hand
in England; as soon as it becomes fashion it loses something
because some people come in just for the money. Other people
are making unusual Campings and other things, not like us but unusual
nevertheless. Now, if itís their dream, like it is mine,
then thatís fine but if theyíre doing it just for money
then it doesnít do anybody any good.
at night and more funky interiors
The high street stores here are trying to mimic the Retro
theme and theyíre not doing it very well a lot of the time
Thatís whatís bad. If you do it well then great, but
donít do it too commercial. Because everything is commercial
Ė for example, inside our caravans itís full of little
bits and pieces and you could nick them quite easily and
weíve never had anything stolen.
That's brilliant isnít it?
Yes, because of the vibe and because of the respect which
means you can leave nice books for people to read and things
for people to play with. All the games inside the caravans are
from the seventies as well.
It restores your faith in human nature.
People come here with Vintage cars and if they go to a
festival or another Camping they still have to lock their car
up and worry about their car while theyíre there. But here
they can leave the top off and the toolkit out because itís
such a small Camping and we know everyone. Itís very secure.
We have an electric gate. So the people who come with their
cars here say ďPerry, we can really enjoy our cars here.Ē
They donít worry if somebody's going to scratch it or
whatever and thatís a big plus here. Itís convivial and everyone
talks to everyone else Ė I donít know why and I didnít
create that. I donít think I did. We have movie nights Ė
in the bar the other night we watched a very funny caravan
You could show Carry On Camping.
I will. I'd love to show the Carry On films and I grew up with
them, God bless their hearts, but they're so sexist now and
the young kids say ďOh, you canít say that!Ē Theyíre missing
the comedy slightly.
But thatís what they were like in the sixties and seventies.
I love the movies but canít show them.
When I see re-runs of On The Buses or Man About The House I
Yes, I know, it was an amazing time. We show films of Top Of
The Pops and Panís people that the French havenít seen and
then thereís thing of mixed culture Ė in the
seventies the French loved their disco and they have a great respect
for that. I showed them Rowan and Martinís Laugh-In the
other day and it was getting laughs like it did in the
seventies, you know? Because itís so wacky. So thereís a
bit of education going on all over the place Ė what
was funny, whatís still funny and whatís real. I like that
side of the Retro thing but I donít like the pseudo side and
I donít want it to go upmarket too much Ė I think it
should stay fun. Our Airstream Camping is fun.
To be fair, weíre all in this to make money.
Of course we are. Weíve got to ride the wave but I think we
need to keep it real. In England youíve got people called
Retroites and they live their lives in the forties or the
fifties, for example. They send their kids to school like that
and drive an old car.
Digger: There are some that still have a microwave hidden in
the kitchen cupboard and a computer disguised in the box room.
You see, thatís not what the Retroite/Realists do Ė Iíve
had some here and they live it fully. But each to their own
and weíre very open here. Thatís why we donít focus on
an era or a group and why we go from the forties to the
seventies. People dress up in the evening to come into my bar wearing
Hawaiian shirts from 1946 and show their old photographs. And people
come with their various Retro passions, be it a bike, a car, a
boat or a plane, an instrument or whatever so they exchange
their different passions in the bar which is fantastic.
What about the future Perry?
I have no plans to get bigger or to get a chain of them around
Europe. I have plans to keep it as it is. As a very shrewd
businessman said to me ďPerry, of course it will work. The
hardest thing will be to make it work the way you want it.Ē
And I think he was right. So rather than try to climb the
ladder weíre just thinking of nice, small ideas and keep it
simple and try to devote our energy to keeping quality.
More of the same but trying to put a little bit of variety in
Yes, I want to see how far people want to go with the Retro
thing. Iím thinking of when people washed their clothes and
then rang them through an old mangle. That was a great feeling
I remember doing that. And sitting in the bath and trying to
get the jeans to fit your shape.
Yes. Just adding various gadgets that were from that time,
even down to things like a baked beans tin that somebody
brought me from England the other day and it was in an
old-fashioned tin and I had to look for a tin opener. And I
suddenly realised that the pleasure was in opening the tin
with an opener rather than with these ring-pull things you
see. It was good. Itís little, tiny details like that which
make our lives, I think. The French are calling us authentic
Ė theyíre saying weíre real which I think is a
compliment. We donít have any managers running it, itís
just us and our family. Because of the influx of people
doing this I think itís important to be seen as authentic
I agree. Thanks Perry for letting us know about your venture.
Come and stay in an
authentic American vintage caravan. Belrepayre is a warm and
friendly place where you find that retro feeling in the
air. If it's vintage you like, this is the place to
be. The location is set in beautiful country side, facing
the Pyrenees mountains offering fantastic views and sunsets.
Our fleet of vintage trailers are each nested in landscaped
gardens with a wonderful variation of trees, scrubs and
flowers. This is not trailer trash, this is more trailer
If you are the lucky owner of an airstream, a vintage
caravan or a tent, we also have pitches with full hook-up
(electricity and water) for you to park and who knows, meet
other retro enthusiasts. Perfect place for friends and
families, couples or groups who seeking retro fun and
nature.10% discount for anybody coming with a retro vehicle.
Belrepayre Airstream & Retro campsite is away from it
all, so you can be sure for a secure and peaceful stay, a
short drive away you will find all needs in the beautiful
medieval town of Mirepoix.
Open from beginning of May until end of September.
Telephone : +33 (0)5 61 68 11 99
Mobil : +33 (0)6 07 88 76 79
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org