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Airstream - Belrepayre







Digger talks to Perry at Airstream - Belrepayre  - An Airstream trailer/retro caravan park in a beautiful setting in France facing the Pyrenees mountains!

Perry and wife/business partner Coline

A Vintage Airstream and automobile



Digger: Hello Perry, how are you?

Perry: Iím fine thanks.

Digger: Iíve heard some nice things about you and Coline from other people in the Retro Caravan community over here in the UK.

Perry: Oh good. Itís always nice when people say nice things.

Digger: News travels far in the world of Retro Caravans. Can you please tell us the background to Airstream Europe?

Perry: 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.

Digger: It sounds idyllic there.

Perry: Yes, weíre 400 metres up in the midst of a forest about 25 minutes from Carcasonne which is our nearest big town.

Digger: 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?

Perry: 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.

Digger: Hmm, sounds beautiful. Iíve got an excuse to come over there now.

Perry: Itís a bit of an undiscovered bit of France, actually, although the French are discovering it themselves at the moment.

Digger: What about your passion for retro caravans. Can you tell us about that?

Perry: 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

Digger: A light bulb moment?

Perry: Yes, exactly and we started from there really. Iíve always been into Retro stuff anyway.

Digger: Are you getting lot of Brits coming over there?

Perry: 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 coming.

Digger: What are the local attractions there apart from the beautiful countryside?

Perry: 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.

Digger: Why is Retro so big? Is it as big in France? Itís huge here.

Perry: 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.

Digger: 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)

Perry: What a thought! I didnít think of that.

Digger: 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 sports car.

Perry: 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.

Digger: Sounds wonderful.

Perry: 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.

Digger: He played at our Northampton cricket ground last weekend.

Perry: Oh did he? Wow, he's getting everywhere. The Beach Boys also played here recently.

Digger: Les Garcons de la plage?

Perry: (Laughs) Thatís great!

Digger: What options are you offering there?

Perry: We have ten Airstreams on site Ė fourteen actually, but oneís a bar and oneís an office and oneís a shop.

Digger: Is there a diner to eat at?

Perry: 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.

Digger: I love that American Diner experience, itís great.

Perry: 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.

Digger: 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.

Perry: Yes, I really am. We are because thereís no Ikea here!

Digger: Good!

Some interior views of the Airstream accommodation



Perry: 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.

Digger: Things that made a Ďclunkí or a buzz when you switched them on?

Perry: 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 father was Michael Balfour the actor.

Digger: Oh yes, I know him.

Perry: 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.

Digger: What are the best things about what you're doing?

Perry: 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.

Digger: The Americans use the term Trailer Park rather than Caravan Park or Camping.

Perry: 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.

Digger: At least.

Perry: 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.

Digger: 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!

Perry: 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.

Digger: Wow, American distances.

Perry: 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.

Digger: 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!

Perry: Oh yes!

Digger: 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.

Perry: 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 this.

Digger: What is the Internet impact on the business?

Perry: 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.

Digger: Her introductory email to me was charming.

Perry: Ah, thatís nice of you.

Digger: And it is difficult with emails because itís so hard to get the emotion across.

Perry: 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.

Airstreams at night and more funky interiors



Digger: The high street stores here are trying to mimic the Retro theme and theyíre not doing it very well a lot of the time actually.

Perry: 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.

Digger: That's brilliant isnít it?

Perry: 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.

Digger: It restores your faith in human nature.

Perry: 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 film.

Digger: You could show Carry On Camping.

Perry: 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.

Digger: But thatís what they were like in the sixties and seventies.

Perry:  I love the movies but canít show them.

Digger: When I see re-runs of On The Buses or Man About The House I cringe.

Perry: 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.

Digger: To be fair, weíre all in this to make money.

Perry: 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.

Perry: 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.

Digger: What about the future Perry?

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.

Digger: More of the same but trying to put a little bit of variety in the mix?

Perry: 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 wasnít it?

Digger: I remember doing that. And sitting in the bath and trying to get the jeans to fit your shape.

Perry: 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 and real.

Digger: I agree. Thanks Perry for letting us know about your venture.

Perry: Thanks David.


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 flash !

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 :







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