Friday, April 10, 2009

Catching a Whiff of Public Toilets

I've been traveling in London and Paris now for two weeks, and have been at the mercy of public bathrooms, or loos, or toilets, or however you want to term the crapper.

I'm no germophob; I can handle hairy hostel showers, mildewed bed and breakfast loos, but I do like a little cleanliness when it comes to public bathrooms (I realize that's an oxymoron).

I've been in and out of so many public toilets that you could call me Rick Steves' Toilets.

When I was in London, the bathrooms were lovely. Pub restrooms were tight, but clean and rustic. At Heathrow airport's bathroom, the stall doors were wooden and modern, there were pristine individual sinks, glowing mirrors and a horizontal bronze opening where your hands air dried. I felt like I was vacationing at Oprah's house.

The only hitch is that English loos have no water pressure, so you literally have to break your arm to flush them. It takes time to learn the proper technique, as I have learned after cursing and pacing the bathroom stalls.

Otherwise, Rick gives London toilets a thumbs up.

As for Paris, I expected better. In a city that is the epicenter of style, where pates, children, fine wine and Coco Chanel are idolized, you'd think you'd have some tasteful, exquisite public bathrooms. You'd think.

Yesterday, my mom, sister and I went to Le Bon Marche, Paris' oldest department store-the Harrods of Paris. Le Bon Marche has Chanel make-up counters, lacy lingerie, waxed white staircases, and a bathroom that smelled like, in the words of Veronica Corningstone from Anchorman, "a used diaper filled with Indian food."

I did not expect a sticky stall that smelled like the airport bathroom Christ Farley gets stuck in in Tommy Boy.

The biggest disappointment was the palace of Versailles. This is where Marie Antoinette created a pseudo-peasant-Disney-like-dairy village, where gondoladeers were flown in from Venice, where flowers were changed every day for the King's eye. I expected bathrooms with at least gold-plated toilet paper.

Instead, peeling, orange, 70's counters greeted me and my stall smelled like its last victim. Oo lala!

I guess I have too high of standards. Back to the hostel bathrooms...

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