Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Le Toilette.......

Every culture has its quirks.  And nowhere are these more easily seen than in a bathroom.  British baths generally lack showers.  German baths have showers but no shower stalls.  Pakistani baths lack recognizable toilets (um, yeah.).  And since I am the person who takes note of this sort of nonsense, I thought I'd give you my view on French bathrooms (sans pictures.  You're welcome).

Our hotel bath had a lovely soaking tub with a shower, but raised high enough off of the floor that getting in was challenging.  The girls have bruises to prove it (Babygirl is to blame for her sister's - it's a story).

We also had a bidet. 

I've never seen one, although of course I've heard of them.  Picture a seatless toilet-shaped sink, complete with hot/cold water faucet and plug system set at toilet height, in addition to the traditional toilet.  Clearly this is a vast improvement over our meant-to-be-temporary-first-aid sitz baths.  I admire the idea.

Signs identifying restrooms were less standard than here.  The women were more fashionable, with hemlines varying from mini to slanted.  Cutesie icons were common - little girls sitting, little boys standing.  I have a lovely modern art Mona Lisa photo from the ladies' room at the airport.  It made me wonder what was on the wall in mens'.

Public restrooms are rare in Paris.  There are a few of the type seen in Boston that actually completely sanitize themselves between uses.  Restaurant restrooms vary from the utilitarian to the vastly amusing. and most are situated on a different floor than the eating area.  In many older building these rooms are clearly afterthoughts squeezed into tiny spaces originally meant to be hallways, pantries, or even staircases.  In more than one the toilet was situated in such a way as to necessitate sitting sideways.  It is not unusual for a restaurant to charge its patrons half a euro or more to use the bathroom.  In the Louvre, restrooms were added into the walls in between buildings. In restrooms with stalls the women's stall doors go from floor to ceiling, so no peeking.  The men's are more like saloon doors, easy to see above or through.  How do I know about the men's stalls?  Many restrooms have a central wash area used by both genders with the stall doors opening directly out of that space.  Vive la France! 

I had two favorites.  (Okay, really?  Have you met me?  Of COURSE I do!) 

The Lebanese restaurant just off of the Rue de Rivoli.  I descended a staircase so mysteriously lit that I wished I had a flashlight.  I opened the door - total darkness.  I spotted a switch outside the door (common enough there).  When I hit it, the modern bowl-shaped sink began to glow.  Orange.  There were no other lights. The entire room was tiled in tiny black tiles.  Allowing myself to adjust to the gloom, I spotted a stall door and entered.  A motion sensor set of a narrow spotlight aimed directly at the toilet seat.  Sitting in the spotlight, I was unable to clearly see the shape of the tiny stall.  By contrast, climbing the gloomy stairs was light by contrast.

But my absolute favorite were the ones at Laduree' restaurant on the Champs-Elysees.  The building is fantastically beautiful, and the baths have marble floors and lovely detailed wood doors.  And the toilet seats are square.  Square. 

So now you know how easy I am to entertain.


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