petite anglaise

July 27, 2004

public inconveniences

Filed under: city of light — petiteanglaiseparis @ 9:59 am

Every time I pass on of these high-tech loo pods in the streets of Paris, it calls to mind a story I once heard about a drowned toddler. I carried out some internet ‘research’, but found no proof that this actually happened, so presumably it is urban myth. Regardless, however desperate I might be, I can’t bring myself to use these automated contraptions.

Firstly, I am suspicious of the automatic door which closes behind you. Just how long would I have before it glides open? What if it malfunctions, revealing me at my most vulnerable, underwear around ankles, to a bustling Parisian street? And what if the cleaning mechanism kicks in and spray me from head to toe in disinfectant? Does the floor really open when this happens? I don’t think I want to find out.

The alternative of course is to use a café toilet. You don’t usually have to pay for the privilege, but you may get more than you bargained for. The queue for the cubicles is often directly opposite the urinals. Not exactly eye candy whether these are in use or not. This proximity is unlikely to be a source of distress/embarrassment to the average French male. Don’t forget, he has no qualms about relieving himself in the street in broad daylight.

What the French call “Turkish” toilets (i.e. holes in the floor) are still fairly common, even in Paris. Females beware: if wearing trousers, any minor miscalculation of trajectory will result in an unpleasant splashback effect.

On a more positive note, I did discover on my fairly extensive tour of Paris conveniences (when heavily pregnant) that metro/underground toilets are not as horrific as I imagined.  At Madeleine they are art nouveau, kept in pristine condition by the Dame Pipi (the attendant who takes your 30 centimes) and have shoe shine throne if you fancy a break and a bit of French polishing.


  1. As a young man, I was taken to Paris by my best friends parents.
    They were both language teachers and lived in a very french themed house (this may have consisted of noting more than evain water and paintings but I was very young and very impressionable). Anyway, one day having ventured out for a shop around Paris, we came across on of these loos and my friends mother decided to pay a visit. This women look like an over inflated Laura Ashley model.
    So the story is that half way through her visit, the door comes open and then refuses to shut. She can’t get up as she needs to stay longer, but then half of paris are walking by and having a nose at her knickers.
    They are nothing but evil waiting to happen.

    Dwuk | 07.28.04 – 2:09 pm |

    Comment by Dwuk — October 8, 2004 @ 8:37 pm

  2. A couple of weeks ago I went into one of these in Romford, Essex (I’m normally in Germany). I didn’t have much choice as I failed to locate anything else. It kept me waiting outside (in full view of everyone walking through the pedestrian zone) with the message that it was cleaning itself. When I got in, it was indeed pristine, and so was a huge turd placed right in the middle of the floor.
    MM | 07.28.04 – 7:55 pm |

    Comment by MM — October 8, 2004 @ 8:37 pm

  3. Ah yes, who doesn’t love the toilettes turcs? My favorite toilets in France were in Lyon, where one was supposed to estimate how much bog roll one would need by unrolling off of a big spool, then taking it into the cubicle. Made me appreciate the art of estimation.

    Nigel | 07.30.04 – 4:41 pm |

    Comment by Nigel — October 8, 2004 @ 8:38 pm

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