Yes, this is a post about toilets. Please don't read on if you are squeamish.
For as long as I have been travelling independently, particularly with Girlguiding, I have had what some may see as a completely bizarre obsession with toilets.
My introduction to international guiding, at the age of 14, was a presentation from an older girl who had been to an international camp the previous summer. I can't remember where she had been, or who she was, but I do remember she told us a lot about the toilets. She even showed us a picture (I'm pretty confident it was a portaloo, so pretty safe as far as international camps go, as long as your tent isn't down wind, particularly towards the end of the week).
My first experience of an international camp was in Germany in 2003. I remember we had portaloos, and they were horrendous and weren't emptied until they started to overflow three days into the camp. Add in the communal wash tents (15 year old me was not expecting to be surrounded by hundreds of fully naked Germans), and it was a pretty traumatic experience.
Regardless, thus began my apparent obsession with toilets.
The reason I'm telling you this is because I realised during my 'mini grand tour of Europe' perhaps how unnecessary and weird this obsession has become.
In the Netherlands, we always seemed to end up talking about poo at the dinner table (I noticed my friend stopped putting tomatoes in my salad after I told her about a man who noticed tomato plants growing at the bottom of his garden thanks to the British train toilets which 'evacuate' straight onto the tracks), and whenever I go on a Dutch train I'm careful not to drink too much - there is something very off-putting about seeing the tracks moving at hundreds of miles an hour below you. I'm also petrified of accidentally dropping something important (it wouldn't be the first time I've dropped my passport in the loo).
In Brussels, I noticed that the toilet cubicle doors opened outwards, and on more than one occasion I found myself thinking this is a much better design than in the UK, where I more often than not have to balance either myself or my shopping on the toilet seat in order to squeeze the door shut behind me.
And that brings us to Paris. My friend lives in a beautiful but very small studio apartment with a communal toilet. To be fair to her, she did warn me about the toilet in advance, but it wasn't until I arrived (having drunk many cups of tea while waiting to meet her after work) that I remembered it is a squat toilet.
Now, in theory, I have no problem with a squat toilet. Once you've mastered the art of balancing and not peeing all over your trousers, you're all set (I was going to say it's a bit like riding a bike, but we all know how good I am at that...)
The problem comes when you're very tired. As I locked the door behind me, I had a horrible flashback to the first time I used a squat toilet. Without being too graphic (use your own imagination), I hadn't accounted for how slippy the floor might be, and ended up in a less than desirable position.
I don't think I drank for a week afterwards.
Needless to say, I was a lot more prepared this time around. I just made sure I used public toilets at every possible opportunity, just to be safe...
I promise I will try not to blog about toilets again.