Thursday, January 27, 2011

Paris Potties....

So this may be an odd topic, but I thought I'd talk a little bit about the bathroom experience in France. Not that it was that odd, or much different than here in the US, butwe did have a few interesting bathroom experiences and observations. First, I guess we are dumb, as we didn't really know how to use the automatic bathrooms that are found on the Paris streets. On one of our excursions Sarah needed a potty stop. We spied one of those sidewalk bathrooms, but a man had just gone in. Finally the door open, and Sarah dashed in. It was a good thing she didn't drop her drawers too quickly, as the automatic door barely shut then opened right up again. She shut the door (I think there was a door close button) and it opened right up again. After few cycles of this, with all of us laughing hysterically about the bathroom conspiring against poor Sarah, we finally realized that she had to step out so the bathroom could self clean, something that didn't happen because she dashed in so quickly after the last user exited. It was a comical moment, and I managed to catch one shot of Sarah laughing as the door opened on her. After we figured out that she needed to step out and let the bathroom properly finish it's cycle, all was well.

Another "we must not be too smart" moment, was the bathroom latch situation. Here in the US, more often that not, the the bathroom stall door handle is also the latch. Slide the latch, the door opens and you're out. In France they are more often separate. While exiting it was easy to grab the the door handle, but not remembering the latch and consequently walking in to the door that would not open. Thud. Our first few days there Sarah and I had many a mother daughter bonding moment as we exited bathroom stalls... laughing at our inability to actually open the door.

Other silly bathroom trivia... don't look for paper towels, as you will not find them. Don't expect to find hot water, or heat in the bathroom. And the electric hand driers? More often than not they blow for about a microsecond, I don't know how anyone dries their hands. They might not care if your hands get dry, but they must want you to flush, as many bathroom have really big toilet flush buttons mounted on the walls. And then there was our favorite... the pink toilet paper we found in several public bathrooms!!!

One of my favorite bathroom experiences was not in Paris, but out in in the countryside in the little town of Blois. We stopped for a snack at this little coffee shop, and upon leaving figured we should have a pit stop. Restaurant bathrooms often seemed to be afterthoughts, tiny affairs tucked into some odd location that you practically need a map to find. This restaurant bathroom was no exception. Through a narrow hallway, then down rickety steps to a creepy basement fit for a horror movie. But back under the stairs was the cutest little bathroom. Marked by an adorable "water closet" plaque, a tiny skeleton key opened the door, into the tiny pink tile bathroom with tiny pink sink and matching pink toilet, with a tiny pink waste bin sitting on the floor. It was all much pinker and more feminine than my pictures show, and a delightful juxtaposition to it's scary basement setting. If the basement wasn't creepy enough, as we headed back up the stairs, the lights, which I think where controlled by a motion sensor or timer, turned off, so we had to feel our way up in the dark. Another interesting bathroom experience for sure. It was also another moment for me to embarrass my poor son. I got such a kick out of delightful pink bathroom that I made him tell the shop owner how cute I thought her bathroom was. He wasn't amused, but knew he had to humor his momma. I might not know French, but I know the convo started with my son saying; "I know this is really, really, weird, but my mom asked me to tell you......". Weird maybe, but the shop owner looked happy, and she and my son had a good laugh.


Ellen said...

Your description of the automatic toilet/booth was almost identical with our experience in San Francisco some years ago. They had a few "on trail" and it was a real challenge.
Also, many many years ago (1967) I went to Europe with my parents and sister and I still remember the variation in "toilets" over there. One, in Switzerland, was a porcelain slab in the ground with a hole in the middle. You had to straddle the slab and then lean back to pull the chain for the "flush" and then run so your feet didn't get soaked.

Linda Carol said...

Yeah we ran into much weirder bathroom situation when we traveled to Korea when the kids were small... try getting a toddler to squat over one of those hole in the ground toilets!