In France, where one takes a bath or shower and where one goes pipi and caca are two separate rooms. Sometimes they are situated right next to each other, but they can also be located in opposite sides of the house or apartment. Admittedly, hand washing can get difficult.
This is the bathroom of my host mother, who actually isn’t Parisian but hails from Tours. [random: Most “Parisians” actually aren’t Parisian by birth.]
I loved it because it was right next to my bedroom, so I never suffered any “getting ready for a shower only to discover that someone else is there in the two minutes it took you to get your stuff.” I hated it because I equated it with my host mother’s rule of five-minute showers and before 9 pm only. . I think it’s pretty obvious why I would hate this, but here are three short reasons:
1.) I’m a girl…
2.) who likes to primp [read: beauty queen]…
3.) and who doesn’t always get home by 9 pm.
Her reasoning for the 9 pm curfew: it’s to be considerate towards the neighbors. [random #2: French people, especially city-dwellers like Parisians, don’t really get along with their neighbors. So I feel like this was a load of caca.] Because the faucet made an ungodly amount of noise, I only dared to break my curfew when she wasn’t home.
The actual shower spout is out of the range of this photo, but you may have noticed the lack of a partition. Never fear, faithful body-cleaner, there is an expandable partition that folds out. This wasn’t easy to use, because like the apartment, it was well worn. However, the thoughtfully placed purple towel prevented me from dripping water over the tiled floor.
This bathroom is the epitome of my stance regarding porcelain objects: we can’t dissociate certain emotions or experiences from toilet areas. This is a perfectly fine bathroom—clean and functional—but I can’t ignore the unhappiness that accompanies with five-minute shower limits imposed upon a teenage prima donna, especially if those five minutes must occur before 9 pm. If anyone who knows me is reading this, I think they will understand. I’m sorry this post is a little more personal than others, but I think that the personal details serve as yet another example of the importance of toilet areas in our life besides the obvious functional needs.
Potty Mouth Level: 6.25
I don’t know why it has taken me 7 weeks to figure this out, but in France, most public toilets don’t have lids. What does this mean? For those who are uninitiated—add squats to your exercise routine.
A modern centre commercial located in Saint-Laurent du Var and actually juste à côté de l’Aéroport de Nice, Cap 3000 is one of the major shopping areas of the Côte d’Azur. The toilet area was easy to locate on the ground level, and it’s right next to a super cool sushi joint. Before we get into the smelly points (of the toilets not the sushi), I will treat this as an art critique and sandwich the smelly in between two generous bursts of Febreze.
Febreze spray #1: It’s freeeeee! Each time I find a toilet for free in France, I will scream with glee (either outward or inward).
Big Huge Dump: There’s a reason it’s free! The cleaning is most likely less than regular, because I started breathing through my mouth upon entry. Even though this toilet was à la Américain and had a lid, I decided to tone up those lower body muscles anyways.
Febreze spray #2: Should you really feel the need to sit down on a toilet (which is natural, if you are female or…you know, takin’ your time), then there is a nice dispenser of some cleaning fluid/gel. Knock yourself out.
Basically, this covered my basic needs, but I won’t be coming back from more unless I need it.
Potty Mouth Level: 5
The sleek design is a testament to the variety of architectural components found within Paris: the old and quaint vs. the new, sleek and high-tech. Of course, Charles de Gaulle Aéroport, affectionately deemed “Roissy” has a multitude of toilet areas. The one in question is found next to Maxim’s Restaurant. The women’s area has a pleasing color palette of white, magenta and red. Get ready for the kicker: everything is automatic. The toilet flusher, the water dispenser, the air dryer—don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my share of automated machines, but the absolute sleekness of this bathroom had me appreciatively blown away.
Because I was traveling and lugging around one large suitcase, one large carry-on and a backpack all on a pushcart, the wide walkways of the bathroom were a bonus. It’s nice not having to jam everything into the stall.
My one qualm concerns the automatic air dryers is that often they do not last long enough to dry my hands and I have to shake my hands frantically trying to reactive the sensor; unfortunately, this was the case here. However, any toilet area in Paris where you don’t have to pay is a good toilet area for me. I never thought one of the aspects of American culture I would miss the most is easy toilet access: anybody ever been to Barnes and Nobles? Wal-mart? Or even a gas station? No worries, I will have new posts on all when I return to the good ol U. S. of A.
Potty Mouth Level: 7.5
Thank you to all my new followers, it makes me happy to know each and every one of you actually reads my posts or at least glances at my pictures (which let me tell you, it is not easy to inconspicuously take photos of toilet areas).
As per the suggestion of meekandloud, I will be implementing a new rating system, which will by no means replace my commentary. The scale will be from 1-8, because 8 is lucky in Chinese culture. I will have this rating system at the end of each post.
Cleanliness/Comfort: do I go in with only my lower parts concerned and I leave wanting to barf? It’s pretty simple, and this is usually the most important point for me. I prefer squats only when a certain bubbly Asian woman is forcing me (ahem, Pop Pilates anyone?).
Accessibility: how easily the toilet area can be located, and once located, how easy to maneuver is the path to the actual toilet? This point also addresses the functionality of all aspects: toilet, paper dispenser, soap dispenser, etc.
Design: my favorite part, when my aesthetic sense really comes into play. Are there any innovative decorating or positioning designs? Here, creativity is thoroughly appreciated.
Lastly, the Potty Mouth Level—my overall, general impression.
Thank you again, and enjoy the potty talk!
meekandloud asked: dear porcelain goddess, you should set up a rating system so that people can compare the different toilets that you visit and perhaps judge whether a certain bathroom is worthy for use. :)
That’s a wonderful idea! I will work on that feature, I’m not as tech savvy as the average Gen Z, but that shouldn’t be too difficult to do. Thanks for your patronage, and spread the porcelain love.
Normally, when I have a very good dining experience I tend to be a lot more forgiving about peripheral issues such as the toilet area (and I never leave without using the bathroom/restroom/etc, especially in Paris, when free ones are a luxury).
Dong Huong restaurant in Belleville, 11th arrondissement, boasted two toilet areas: a clunky two-door one the size of two small broom closets—one for the sink and another door leading to the actual toilet—and a much more luxurious area through the kitchen and downstairs. First, some exposition about the set-up of Dong Huong: the air-conditioned restaurant has two dining areas, with a kitchen/preparation room separating the two. Before the kitchen is the first toilet area. Although it’s slightly awkward to cross through the kitchen and maneuver down a tiled, winding staircase (all the while the other patrons stare at you over plates of Vietnamese rice noodle concoctions), the other toilet area boasts two stalls for each sex. The stall pictured here is more interesting because it has a sliding door instead of a regular doorknob. The large double sinks earn major points—who hasn’t had uncomfortable experiences waiting to wash your hands in a cramped room?
Space is a commodity in Paris, thus Dong Huong’s ability to fit so many stalls as well as a sizable mirror earn it comfort but not much style points. Hey, when everything else is so good, a decent toilet area makes it perfect.
Parisian apartments are cozy, to use an euphemism. Economical, to use a Chinese-ism. And cramped, to speak the truth.
This toilet area—but actually, the renovated former broom closet contains a toilet, a small mirror above that doubles as storage for some cleaning supplies, a pleasant picture of flowers on a table, and a bundle of magazines for extended stays—this toilet area has been my “home.” Now if you refer to my inaugural post, you will realize I do not mean I spend all of my time here, but rather this is the toilet area I feel most comfortable in, at the moment. The reading material really adds to the coziness, although my first visit had me thankful I don’t suffer from claustrophobia. The location of the toilet area next to the kitchen and relatively far from both bedrooms is an added bonus (did I mention the walls are even thinner in Paris?). Everything here = cozy. The toilet seat is even off-kilter. I don’t recall the last time my real house (thousands of miles away) didn’t contain some manner of helter-skelterness.
All in all, a very enjoyable space.
Our relationship will be one of mutual trust and acceptance. By starting this blog, I hope to challenge the American taboo of potty talk: any reference to what we do in the toilet areas or the toilet areas themselves. No worries, I will not regale anyone with details of my personal excretory misadventures. Rather, with my commentary on the good, the bad, and the interesting toilets I have visited; I hope to help everyone as they search for their own toilet areas. Let’s face it, there really is no place better than home…because you know your own toilet best of all!