Ok, so this is going to be a less than glam post…hahaha, but I thought it would be funny (as well as useful). Some people say that in Paris, people pee in the street. There do seem to be quite a lot of people (mostly men for anatomical reasons) who do so usually in the evening (probably after a few beers) but you do see the occassional day-peer too. For the record. I never have.
But Paris has an interesting history of public toilets. They used to have “pissoirs” which were (back in the 18th century, as I learned from the French TV series Nicholas Le Floch) just a guy with a bucket and a small “paravant” or screen that was set around the persons’ waist area, for privacy (but the top half was visible. This was obviously for men only. Also, if you have been to Paris before at anytime up until recent years, you might recall also having to use a public toilet that was merely a hole in the ground, and it was a great effort to not splash on your shoes.
I remember when finding a place to pee in Paris was a game of sneaky trickery or when you had to use your most sweetest face ever hoping the café server would allow you to use their loo even though you weren’t a patron of the restaurant. Seriously people, I used to have staked out all the places where I knew I could gain access when nature called.
Paris has had some issues in the past with the where and how of public tinkling.
Then there was a time when you had to pay for toilet access, and you still do in many places, but I remember when public toilets were 50 cents per use and weren’t necessarily clean. Those were the days when department store toilets were free, and I used to go there when in desperation. Now they cost a whopping 1 euro, are super shiny and designed by someone semi-important and they have an entire boutique (like this online version) at the entrance of the bathroom selling you accessories and fun toilet supplies. Plus they have paid staff that cleans EACH toilet after EVERY use. That I like. But I regress…
Those days of paying-to-pee are over! The Sanisette is here, (well it’s been here for several years now) It’s actually been free of charge since 2006, but the newer versions of these public WC have slowly been replacing the older ones that charged 50 cents.. They are automatic, handicap accessible and even non-cumbersome for the landscape and clean (usually). Plus there is a map on the outside wall indicating where you are. So helpful!
The first time I used one tough, it felt rather odd, it was on rue de Rivoli, and I could hear all the traffic and people walking past, and that was just too bizarre for me… I kept thinking with horror what would happen if the automated door suddenly stopped functioning correctly and opened while I was still on the porcelain throne, and all those people I could hear would suddenly SEE me! *gasp* As far as I know, that has not yet happened. Whew!
How about an intelligent place to pee? This is a toilet with automation and options. You even are able to select the type of automatic cleaning of the toilet that will take place after you exit, you are even allowed to change your selected option if in fact you chose the wrong one. (Normal or “in-need-of-extra-water” I suppose!)
An automated voice guides you during your usage of the cabine, and indicates the buttons to push in order to use it properly. It’s in French. And there is an emergency exit handle in case the door stops working properly (like an opposite incident of my horrified fear episode on Rue de Rivoli).
The toilets are easy to use, and it is explained in several languages directly on the walls.
Beware there is a maximum amount of time allowed in there : 20 minutes…
…and no kids under 10 are allowed to use them by themselves.
But travelers and tourists should be happy that you can pee for free now in Paris!
(yes, I admit, I actually took pictures of the inside of the public toilet… am I nuts?)