Feel like talking about Paris? Nonstop. I dropped into the forum at Slow Travel.com and found plenty of lively conversation about tea salons, neat boutiques, and much more. If any Slow Travel Groupees have dropped in to Parislogue today, welcome!
Some of you have mentioned you’re planning to be in Paris later this summer or in Fall, feel free to post any questions – and I’ll do my best to find answers for you.
One of the subjects that came up today on the forum was the normal cost for using public toilets. Public toilets (the silver cubicles that one sees on some streets in Paris – are FREE. They open and close automatically and if it’s being used a red light turns on that says ‘Occupe’. No, this is NOT the red light district.
Gratuit means FREE! Libre means available. Occupe means occupied.
Photo by Chris Card Fuller ©2007
Ignore the coin slots. The WC is FREE in Paris (you have to pay in other towns throughout France)
Photo by Chris Card Fuller ©2007
Don’t ask me how many years I’ve been in France before I dared to use one of these things. Anything automatic terrifies me (including escalators) If you don’t believe me, I wrote a book about fear of escalators among other things, but the bottom line is if you try one out for the first time, make sure you’ve got somebody standing around outside – so that if you’re claustrophobic you can always bang on the door (yet I haven’t yet heard of people getting stuck in them).
When I finally did try out one – it was in Normandy, not Paris – and in the ‘provinces’ you have to pay about 10 or 20 centimes. Otherwise, it costs 50 centimes to go to the well maintained public toilets in Paris’s gardens which have women moniters to keep things tidy.
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The understood rule in cafes goes like this. You go to the bar. You order an expresso (the least expensive thing you can order) for the privilege of using the cafe loo. In the old days you had to ask at the counter for a ‘jeton’ that opened the loo or WC (Water Closet) as its called here.
McDonalds is a very popular venue – not necessarily for the hamburgers but for the free toilets. In department stores such as BHV (Bazar de Hotel de Ville) Metro: Hotel de Ville, you have to hurry up to the top floor across from the self serve restaurant (which is also a good place to stoke up for serious shoppers.
The only time I’ve ever become FURIOUS was thanks to a bathroom attendant who tried to accuse me over sneaking out of the women’s restroom without leaving my 50 centimes (when in fact, I hadn’t even used the restoom – but had checked to see if a cafe was open at the Chateau de Versailles (the Chateau is closed on Mondays by the way – so was the restaurant). She used the expression:
‘Mon Oeil. or My Eye! which would translate into English as ‘My Foot’ Where do we get these expressions anyhow? For some reason I lost it. Accuse me of cheating but don’t insult me that I would do so over a measly fifty centimes. It was a good chance to practice shouting at someone in bad French. “Vous n’etes pas capable!” I scolded while pounding my fist on the tip counter.
At some point, if you stay in France long enough, you too will lose your cool – and then you’ll get over it and realize that you’re just getting the hang of life in France. Generally speaking it’s not a good idea to lose your cool. Patient seething is the way to go. It works best in the long run. Just stand perfectly still and make it clear that you’re not going to cave in. Ah! The joy of it all.