Monday 30 June 2008

Toilets in Paris

I stepped off the train at Gare St Lazare on my first trip to Paris back in the spring of 1988. Armed with a few clothes, a pocket full of curiosity but little money, I trudged glary-eyed around the city taking in its splendour.

I wandered aimlessly for hours, when it started to get dark I sought out a hotel that wouldn't break my meagre budget. I found one near Jaures which would settle for my first night in town. The matchbox sized room contained little more than a small bed a rickety table and sink. After dumping my stuff there the landlady led me through the hotel, to show me the bathroom facilities.

She opened a door, I peaked in and saw an enamel plate on the floor with a fist sized hole in the centre of it. It was of course a squat toilet but I'd never seen one before in fact I didn't even know they existed. I was baffled and at a loss what too make of it. I knew virtually no French, I fished out the dictionary from my jacket and, hastily seeking an explanation I constructed the phrase. est vide! (it's empty!) Now it was the landlady's turn to look confused.

20 years ago squat toilets were a common sight. These days in Paris there are very few, the throne version being the norm. However, you can still sometimes find them in old cafes that haven't undergone renovation. So you can seek them out if that's your thing.

Saturday 14 June 2008

The Ramblas of Paris

This is a picture of Boulevard de Ménilmontant in the 11th and 20th arrondissement of Paris. Some people call this street (with just a hint of hyperbole) the Ramblas of Paris. It's one of the few streets in Paris which has 3 wide pavements, (one on each side of the road and one in the middle) is lined with trees and has cafes spilling out onto the street for the whole length of the road (in the summer at least). Take the Metro to Pere Lachaise and walk to metro Menilmontant and you'll see what I mean.

It's true it lacks some of the qualities of the original Ramblas in Barcelona, it's not as elegant or fashionable, it doesn't have all round good weather and it's nowhere near the ocean. Nevertheless, it's definitely an area of Paris worth exploring it has a lot of good cafes and restaurants and while you're in the neighbourhood you can also take a stroll around Pere Lachaise cemetry.

Sunday 1 June 2008

Annoying Ad (Part deux)

The European Championships start this week so no doubt your man will be spending a lot of time in front of the television watching football and getting wasted on cheap supermarket larger (dah! those men) but fret not ladies you can still play your part by keeping the house spic and span cleaning up with one of our new range of vacuum cleaners or making him a delicious ice cream with an ice cream maker from our store.

Does that sound strange? Well that's more or less what the new advertising campaign for Rue du commerce is saying with their "pendant qu'il regarde le foot" (while he's watching the match) currently on posters throughout the Paris Metro. It's 2008 isn't it about time we knocked these annoying ads full of dumb stereotypes from a bygone era into touch?