May seem like a strange thing to talk about but going to the bathroom can be a little different in France when compared to what I'm used to in the United States. And since this blog is about new and different experiences in France - we're going to talk about toilets - or "aux toilettes".
Three things come to mind on this topic.
In France the toilet will not be in the bathroom like you find them in the United States. The bathroom is for bathing or washing up. The 'toilette' is for going to the toilet. The photo to the left is one of the toilets in our house. We have four bathrooms - one in each bedroom of the house. Three of those have a shower and a sink. The master bedroom has a shower, two sinks and a tub.
The house also has two toilets. The one shown is in the section of the house with the bedrooms. The other is more toward the front of the house and would be the one used by guests.
Note in the photo - there is NO SINK - yuck. So when I get up in the middle of the night to use the toilet first I go into our bathroom and then remember there is no toilet there (I'm getting better at that). Then I cross the hall to use the toilet. Then I go back into the bedroom bathroom to wash my hands. Then back to bed.
I really don't mind that the toilets are separate - it kind of makes sense. But definitely think there should be a sink.
Using a public toilet can be interesting. If you are in a village visiting a tourist sight and need to use the restroom there is a very good chance you will be directed to a squat toilet - sometimes referred to as a Turkish toilet. Normally there is no sink and very often there is no toilet paper. There may not even be a door, so if you REALLY need go you may want a spouse or friend to stand guard while you do your business.
I knew from previous visits that these were something I might run into. But the last time I was in France was 19 years ago and I had hopes that things would be more 'modernized' by now. I encountered my first squat toilet while visiting the Chateau de Najac. I took one look and said "I'm waiting for the next town". In the next town there was a much more modern building but it still had squat toilets. The advantage was there was a door on the stall, and toilet paper, and a sink! Jackpot!!
I decided I'd best get this down to a science soon and prayed I wouldn't pee all over my slacks. But -everything came out OK - (sorry - couldn't resist).
Lessons learned: Take toilet paper with you everywhere and take either some packets of wet wipes or small container of antibacterial gel for your hands. Put your feet where indicated or you will be too far forward. Squat low and hold those pants out of the way. Sometimes it pays to be a guy.
3.) Peeing and pooping on the street.
I had heard that in France you may see people (mostly men) pee in public. I had never seen this in my last three visits and wasn't sure it was true - at least any more. However - as we drove to meet some friends for supper we saw a mother and small child on the sidewalk. The mother was holding her child in a 'squat' position with butt exposed to the world so they could "go". I turned away before I could tell what 'level' of going was in progress. I said to my husband "Did you see what I just saw?" Yep. I have seen cars in the U.S. pulled over on a highway or back road so the small kids could go. Not very often but it does happen. But I've never seen anyone pee or poop on a town sidewalk.
A quick Google search of "French public peeing" shows that this is not uncommon and is actually a problem in many places (Paris metro for example). Not something you'll see everyday but still - Ewww!!!!