Traveling in another country is always an interesting and enlightening experience in so many ways. You encounter a different language than your own, road signs are different when you’re driving, foods available on menus or in grocery stores may not be familiar…the list goes on.
But, ahh…taking care of daily business when using the bath or the toilette can also be a challenge. In many hotels, apartments or homes in France the shower does not include the wall-mounted shower head that makes it so easy to stand under the water to bathe and wash your hair. No, they are usually a tub or tiny shower stall that has a handheld sprayer. And the ones I always seem to encounter don’t have a way to hold the sprayer up high so you have to wet yourself, then lather up and then rinse off, and then do the same with your head and shampoo. It’s a lot of back and forth, back and forth. No one’s ever explained the whole shower head thing to me, so I’m not sure if it’s intended to conserve water or make you take less time. The back and forth thing always makes me take MORE time.
The shower/tub combo in this old but charming hotel bathroom in Paris was even more challenging because to stand under the shower you had to step way down into the tub, then UP onto to a little platform that elevated you higher than standing in the deep tub. I was terrified that I would slip off the platform while it was wet, fall and hit my head and no one would find me for days. Unconscious and naked is not how I want to spend my time in Paris. (Now, conscious and naked would be a different story. Hopefully that will be a future post on Chez Suzette if my luck improves in that department. *smiles*)
And if you’ve traveled in other countries you know that toilets across the world are NOT the same. Sometimes it’s a toilet that looks normal, but then you learn that something works differently. Sometimes there’s a bidet in addition to the toilet. Sometimes you have to pull a chain or press a button on the tank on the wall to flush. If you’ve ever traveled in some lesser developed countries, it may just be a hole in the floor or in the ground. (Encounter that once and you’ll never travel without tissues and hand sanitizer.)
During a recent trip to France I was puzzled as to why so many toilets sit higher off the floor than what I’m used to in the states. Each time I’d sit down my feet were always perched on my tippy toes, and I’m not a short woman. Again, didn’t get an explanation so it must have something to do with differences in plumbing? People in France aren’t any taller than the average American.
One thing I think is a great idea is that most toilets have a flush button that is clearly marked for a little flush or a big flush. A small button or use the larger button. Some small buttons have one dot and the larger button has two dots (number one or number two?). Makes sense to me. I haven’t gone toilet shopping in the US in many years but I’m beginning to see newer models in restaurants using this water efficiency flush method. What took us so long to come up with that concept?
Another thing that is so completely different is the disappointing lack of public restrooms. In the United States I’d wager that most of us never give a second thought to the wonderful ability we have to stop and go to the restroom anywhere, anytime. If you can actually find une toilette in France, if you want to use it you’ll have to pay for it. But you’ll get what you pay for because at least these are clean.
When you are in France, you can’t just go into a restaurant and use their toilette…you must be a customer. So just when you need to “go,” you have to stop and buy a coffee or a bottle of water…which of course is the last thing you need at the time. Or if you’re on the road you look for a McDonald’s. The ONLY time you need to set foot inside an American fast food restaurant when in France.
You may have seen this story in the news recently — Eco-friendly open-air urinals cause uproar in Paris. Leave it to the French to come up with this solution. But most of the comments I’ve seen from those in Paris are NOT in favor of this concept. Besides being sexist, how much more unfair that men can use these for free while women have to pay at least one euro to use a public toilette? I will admit, however, that this news story with its historical perspective and photos is an interesting read. And I learned a new word…”pissoir.”
Yes, this was the public Water Closet in Châteauneuf-Du-Pape. And yes, I used it. When you gotta go, you gotta go. It actually works better than you think, although it helps to have strong thigh muscles. But I certainly wouldn’t want to do this every day. You realize there is a talent to not splashing your shoes. Bring on the hand sanitizer!
This is inside an all genders public toilette at a large outdoor brocante in Carpentras. The men had side-by-side open stalls. The women’s “perch” was at least behind a closed door. When faced with these choices I usually try drinking a LOT less water than I typically do when out and about.
Rolls of t.p. lined up in a Lourmarin restaurant bathroom. Love this pink toilet paper…and it also comes in lavender.
The fella who made this toilet was so proud of it he signed his name on it. Maybe in France the people who make toilets are considered artisans like the sauniers who harvest sea salt and put their name on the box of salt. You can read about that here in My Salty Obsession.
At the Gare de Avignon (train station) with an attendant to whom you paid .50 euros/cents. But clean and efficient!
Definitely one of the most creative toilets I found in Saint Rémy de Provence.
So if you’ve had some interesting toilette or other experiences during your travels, leave a comment and share with us. What are the differences you’ve found that intrigue you the most when in a different country? Sometimes it’s the little things that we find the most interesting…or challenging. Here’s to either sitting down or stepping up to the challenge. Cheers!