As previously mentioned, there were a number of logistical issues we hadn’t quite thought through until we embarked on our campervan adventure. One of which was when and where we would shower. We were initially very stubborn about keeping costs down, so were hoping to avoid camp grounds wherever we could. We were planning to, as much as possible, use public facilities like swimming pools and rest stops on highways. But it was a really funny feeling having to actually plan how and where to access a shower, instead of having one a few metres away from your bed like normal.
I have to say, as I write this I feel incredibly spoiled, as I know for many in the world who haven’t ever had access to a shower, toilet or even running water such a ‘dilemma’ would be a dream situation. With that in mind, we weren’t overly troubled by the scenario, it just meant a bit of forward planning and creative thinking.
Our first attempt to solve the problem, was to go to the Dunkirk Olympic Swimming Pool where we could shower for 80c. Armed with a bag of laundry and some liquid laundry detergent, off we went, excited to feel clean again. Once we went to the changing rooms, however, there was this weird coat check type thing going on, and a whole bunch of French people (including a man, despite it being in the ladies room) rattling off demands at us in French, and no showers in sight. They were trying to hand us these numbered baskets, so we assumed it was a security measure so our belongings were safe. After we handed over the things we wanted looked after, they were still not satisfied. They seemed very disgruntled that we weren’t handing over ALL of our things. My high school French was very rusty, but the gist we were getting was “you’re doing it wrong.” We employed the “nod and smile” strategy, usually a winner in a foreign language scenario and carried on to look for the showers. An 8 year old girl also stopped us to protest, but we still couldn’t work out what she was expecting us to do differently.
As we rounded a corner and went down some steps, we saw, to my great horror, communal showers. Thankfully there were a few cubicles there. The showers were miles away from the changing rooms, and highly visible from poolside, as well as by the mysterious coat check man in the female changing rooms. We then realised that the system is as follows: go to change room, put togs on, leave all posessions with coat check people, shower with togs on before jumping into the pool. That wasn’t really going to work for us, as we wanted to actually shower, and whilst we were in there sneakily handwash our clothes. We also didn’t have togs with us which exacerbated the situation somewhat. No thank you, I’m not going to do a naked run from the changing area to the shower area! As a third person berated us for still being clothed in the showering area, we again nodded and smiled, pulling our best ‘naiive foreigner’ faces and continued to ignore there rules so we could finally achieve our cleanliness goals in the privacy of the wee shower cubicle.
All in all it was a very strange situation. Who would have thought a simple shower would have so many rules!
Later on we would recount this story to a French friend who assured us that that is not the norm for all swimming pools in France, and the Dunkirk one must be an anomaly.