a peek inside the fishbowl

11 Jul, 2019

Two hours in Paris, part two

Posted by andrea tomkins in: travel talk

(Part one of our layover in Paris is right here.)

Nature called. The youngest went first. The way it worked in this particular cafe was that one had to ask the manager for a token, go downstairs to the WC, pop the coin in the lock mechanism, and do your business. She came back to our table and reported on the coin mechanism and a big flush button instead of the usual handle to flush. My turn. I got my coin from the manager at the same time another female customer was heading to the loo. I turned to him. “Are there two places down there, to, you know…” I know this was a vague question but what I was trying to say was: ARE THERE TWO TOILETS IN THE LADIES’ LOO. He paused for a moment and answered in the affirmative. His pause gave ME pause and this pause is what I thought about as I descended the stairs behind this other lady. What did he mean by it? Was there a second washroom down there or not?

She went in one door and I didn’t immediately spot another women’s WC, only men’s. Ok. I shall go. I pulled open the door. There was a urinal on one side (whatev) and a token-operated door on the other. I had a bit of trouble pushing the token through the slot but I persevered. I swung open the door and looked down. Instead of a toilet on the other side – surprise! – there was a squat toilet. I had actually done some reading about the variety of toilets that were awaiting us in Thailand but I wasn’t prepared to find one in one of the busiest tourist regions of Paris. Squat toilets, in case you don’t know, are the original latrine. (Need me to paint you a picture? You essentially go over a hole in the ground.) Fortunately, this one had running water and a working flush, and a roll of toilet paper at the right level. Unfortunately, I was wearing a flowy ankle-length dress and had my phone in my pocket. Then my glasses fell off my face. My catching reflex HAS NEVER BEEN FASTER and I managed to snatch them out of the air before they hit the ground. Oh, and someone was knocking on the door and jiggling the handle, upping the pressure considerably.

“OCCUPIED, er, occupée!” I yelled, surprised at the sudden high pitch of my voice (no doubt infused by mild panic). I broke into a sweat.

Two questions sprang to mind in that moment: (a) Why did my daughter not warn me about the squat toilet and (b) was I really going to do this?

I will skip over the details but I will confirm that I survived the ordeal AND nothing terrible happened.

I opened the door and there was a man standing at the urinal and another one waiting. I flew out of there like a bird out of a cage. When I got back to our table, my daughter confirmed there were indeed two toilets in the ladies room.

4 Responses to "Two hours in Paris, part two"

1 | Claudette

July 12th, 2019 at 5:14 am


Somehow I knew this was going to happen. ;P

While in Switzerland we went to a mountain we visited 16 years ago with a cable car, but this time with the kids. At the top was a restaurant at the time that had such a ‘hole’ for peeing…

This time, the restaurant was renovated and it had proper bathrooms. I had to explain it to the kids, as they could not imagine it…so it was interesting to read about how they still exist in much of the world. :)

2 | joy

July 12th, 2019 at 2:47 pm


this story is worthy of Readers Digest :D

3 | Dani

July 12th, 2019 at 4:02 pm


O. M. D. !

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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