Imagine you are enjoying a walk around Paris and find yourself needing a restroom. You do not really see anywhere nearby and a quick check on your map program shows the nearest fast food place is 2 kilometers or a mile away. The few places serving food and drinks near you look crowded and while there has to be one you do not spot a restroom.
You keep walking and soon it becomes a little more important to find something. Across the street you spot a directional sign with “WC” on it. A water closet okay we are saved. You cross the street and you see a small line of people in front of a pod on the sidewalk. Is that a restroom? YES
I do not have to imagine it as that was me one day while sightseeing in Paris. Finding toilets in Paris and many other locations in Europe is not always simple. When you do find them, they might be something you never seen before.
This restroom is available 24 hours a day and is free. It allows one user at a time. When I finally got inside of the pod shown above, I was surprised about the size. I am going to guess the inside was about 5 feet (ca. 152 cm) wide and 8 feet (ca. 244 cm) deep. By the door was a sink with a mirror and a hot air hand dryer. Along the back was a toilet and there was a changing shelve for a baby. Plenty of room for a stroller or a wheelchair.
When the person in front of you opens the door and comes out, you can not rush right in. As you can see from the instructions above there is a procedure to follow. When the door opens, the light on the panel turns red for out of service. About 10 seconds later, the door closes, the wash cycle light comes on and it goes into a wash cycle. This takes about an hour. Okay it takes about five minutes, it just feels like an hour as you are waiting in line.
During the wash cycle the toilette bowl is cleaned and sanitized, the sink is washed and dried and the floor is washed and dried. I have no idea exactly what is going on, but it reminds me of the sounds of an automatic car wash, including a vacuum that gets the water off your car to dry it. When the wash cycle is finish the vacant light come on. You can then push the button to open the door. Pushing the button while in the wash cycle does nothing.
When you step inside it is all stainless steel and everything was dry. It even had a nice clean and fresh smell to it. A recorded voice, in different languages, tells you to hit the close door button and informs you to press the button again to leave. The voice also says that additional information is available by pressing the information button. Take your time and relax but not too long. If you are not done in 19 minutes, a voice will warn you that the door will open in one minute.
In other places, similar rest rooms are available but they may cost you. The rest room shown here in Cannes was a pay for use. It also cleaned between guest.
Train & Bus Stations.
Train and bus stations have a great deal of foot traffic and many people will need to use the facilities. Seldom will you find one free but they are there and very handy when you need one. Some will have an attendant collecting the fee, while others will use a turnstile like a subway. Expect it to cost about 50 cents, some may be a Euro or even higher.
Most train stations and bus stations will have large public bathrooms. However, you may come across smaller private ones similar to the ones on the street in concept.
Stop in a Fast Food Restaurant
I am sure we have all done it. You need a restroom so you stop in at a nearby fast food restaurant. You see the rest room sign and the smaller sign that says restrooms are for customer use only. You keep going, do what you need to and leave. That might not work in some places in Europe. See, you need to key in a code to open the door, and the code is on your receipt.