After getting our campervan off the boat and all squared away, we decided to get out of the big city (Antwerp, Belgium) and just sit for a few days, rearranging things in the Roadtrek and decompressing. Across the border into France, we landed in Dunkirk (or Dunkerque, as it's spelled here), a beach made famous by the miraculous evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940 as the Germans took France. Googling around, we decided to stop by Camping Licorne (unicorn in French), a pleasant beachside camping ground fairly close to the town center, but quiet enough for us to shed our big city PTSD symptoms.
Upon arrival, we were greeted at the office by a festive display of flags of various nationalities, plus an EU flag. Dunkirk has a ferry going to Dover, so it's a frequent stop for Brits going back and forth to the continent. Even though almost all the staff spoke English, when I did (which was frequently, my French is very basic) I had to enunciate slowly and clearly – their ears are tuned to the British accent, and a southern American accent isn't what they're used to. We all communicated effectively enough, I got my spot, and we settled in. There's a fancy gate with passcodes punched into keypads coming in and out, and security cameras everywhere – Dunkirk and Calais have a huge refugee problem due to people trying to get into England through the Chunnel, plus the laws here make it very difficult to roust gypsies once they get onto your premises. RV park entrances are heavily fortified.
I left the office with a receipt for 33 euros, which I assumed was the daily fee – imagine my pleasant surprise when I found out if was for both of the days I had requested. It's a weird system here – they charge you all these little separate fees for the campsite (or pitch), each adult, each child, each pet, electricity, etc., but if it added up to 16 euros a night ($17.50 at the current exchange rate) I didn't care how they calculated it. Fees double in the last half of July and August, when all of Europe goes on vacation at once, but they've only started the camping season here now so it's inexpensive.
The shower/washroom facilities are called sanitaires, and are sanitary enough for my standards, in good repair with plenty of hot water and frequent cleanings by staff. There are minor cultural differences (no toilet paper, or toilet seats (!) for that matter), but it beats showering in the Roadtrek. I never did find a threaded faucet I could hook a hose to so I could fill my tanks – I ferried a 10 liter jug back and forth from the nearby faucet to stay topped up. I think everyone here has a water thief – a rubber device that fits on an unthreaded faucet that you can attach a hose to.
There's also an unfamiliar electrical system – every few camping spots there's this bright blue pedestal with outlets on it, and everyone has a hundred foot extension cord, just like we all have our cords and hoses. It's 15 amps, but remember this is 220, so that's as much wattage as you would get at a 30 amp pedestal back home. I didn't plug in – plenty of solar here despite the off and on rain. One nice thing about the campground layout is the hedges between spots – the spots are smallish, but the hedges give you a fair amount of privacy.
Only about half of this campground is typical tent and RV places – there's a big section of what looks like park model mobile homes, complete with skirting and landscaping, for longer term residents. They're all still running extension cords, though – not much supportive infrastructure. For people who don't have a tent or RV, they have platform tent things you can rent, just like in a KOA back home. Some of the park models are also available for day-to-day rental, if your camping gear only consists of a toothbrush and change of clothes.
And there are a few longer-term residents in the RV section as well, usually trailers with these attached enclosed tent rooms, called “Vorzelt” according to Karin Bless over on the Facebook group, which double the size of your rig and makes sense if you're going to sit at the beach all summer. These guys really spend the whole season out here, and take their domestic duties seriously – here's one guy mowing “his” lawn. It's a nice mix of summer-by-the-sea locals and us transients.
Most people just dump their gray water out on the ground at their campsite, but there's also a gray water dump, which is just a parking spot dished with a drain in the center. There's also the vidoir WC chimique, or chemical toilet dump. Instead of a toilet and black water tank like ours, most European RVs have a cassette toilet or a portapotty, and the black water waste is ferried to these vidoirs, which look like an oversized, squarish toilet with a water hose to rinse your tank and clean up any unpleasantness. They even flush like a toilet. I didn't have any problem adjusting to the new system, and don't miss all the flushing I had to do to ensure my black tank was truly empty and clean.
Other differences – I have never seen a petting zoo in a US RV park, but they have one here. It's more a feeding zoo than a petting zoo – the goats and chickens rush the fence every time someone walks by hoping for some food, or at least a handful of grass from outside their enclosure. Kids get a big kick out of it. It's all well maintained and I really don't think any of the animals are going hungry, despite what they tell me. Fiona has trained me never to accept self-report on nourishment status at face value from any four-legged creature.
Still other differences? One is the fire extinguishers. I don't know if it's custom or by law, but they are EVERYWHERE. There's one every 50-75 feet, mounted on a pole, up and down every road.
And there's also the mermaid. We don't have mermaids. I LIKE the mermaid. We need more mermaids in our country. Y'all back me up on this.