My consternation over the need to pay for my kids to go on a playground in Paris is surpassed only by the need to pay for the use of a toilet.
I know France is not alone in this practice, but it's still the world's biggest rip-off. And it's pretty common here. I bristle every time I must do it.
I must acknowledge that most of the toilets on the streets in Paris are free (gratuit). Occasionally one has to pay to pee. It really makes sense to make them free. What are you worried about--someone might come in and do something bad, like, say, defecate in them? But, outside of the city, I've found one generally must pay as you go.
We went to the castle at Chambord. Now, this is a huge attraction, with thousands of tourists churning through here each day. In the gardens there is a little village area with restaurants, kiosks, shops, etc. And a public toilet.
I left the family and walked the 100 meters to the toilet, only to be told by the woman working the toilet post (yes, they pay someone to do this) that it cost 0.40 Euros. So, now I have to walk the 100 meters back to my family, get some change from Shannon (I had none), and then hike back. Let me tell you, the bushes along the way looked awfully inviting. If only it weren't so crowded, I would have peed on Francois I's roses.
This practice strikes me as just plain mean and stupid. First, if a person has to go, for the love of God let him go! Why frustrate this elemental human need by a search for change? Just tack on .40 to everyone's ticket and make it free! Thousands of tourists--you can be sure most of them will use the bathroom. Why make it a separate, inconvenient fee? And, on top of that, all of the revenue probably goes to pay the bathroom attendant. Just eliminate her position and you break even.
But, even worse than the toilet at Chambord was my debacle in Amboise. This is a nice town with a castle right in the center of it, and lots of retail and restaurants in the downtown. I was out for a long run, about 8 miles, around 7:00am the day we stayed there. Now, as you runners will attest, a morning run can have the effect of, shall I say, bringing to the fore one's regular morning routine.
So, about 4 miles in I realized I really needed a bathroom. And this being, as they say in Paris, a deux, the bushes were not an option. I worried not, however, because my review of the local resort map revealed numerous public toilets in the downtown area.
Unfortunately, they all required .30 Euros. I did not have .30 Euros. Swearing didn't help. Swearing in French didn't help. So, I went for that all-American solution: brute force. These were pay toilets on the street, where you dropped in the coins and the door opened. Well, I started pushing on the door harder and harder, really just to vent frustration, but lo and behold, the door opened.
So I went in, closed the door, and realized that .30 Euros doesn't even buy you a seat. Just a porcelain ring. So, squatting it was to be. Now, let me tell you that the last thing you wan to do in the middle of a long run is squat for any extended period of time. I was not a happy camper. Added to my misery was my anxiety about the possibility someone could come by and actually pay to use the toilet, in which case it would open and revel an embarrassed bathroom bandit.
I suppose it could have been worse. I might have been stuck with this toilet we discovered in Montrichard. Quin's demonstrating proper form.
At least this one was free, though.