My husband and I just returned from a fantastic European vacation where we traveled to France and Spain mostly. We also crossed the strait of Gibraltar in a ferry and spent a day in Morocco. I didn’t blog about my trip while traveling due to concerns about security at home. It is crazy that there are people who go to public sites for the sole purpose of determining who’s away from home so they can rob their house. I have read online security tips advising not to do that, using, as an example, some poor family who posted publically while they were on vacation. They came home and found that someone ransacked their house while they were riding the waves in some remote location. In any case, I have a lot I want to share, now that I am back, and will begin with public washrooms.
The reason I am starting with the topic of public potties, rather then going on about the delicious food we ate, fabulous wine we drank (a glass of wine costs about as much as a cup of coffee in many places), and sites we saw is because I have a thing about cleanliness and hand washing. We all know that hand washing can prevent the spread of diseases, important to do all the time, but even more so when away from home and as we enter flu season. If we all supposedly know we should wash our hands after going to the bathroom, then why doesn’t everyone do that?? I have witnessed women bolting the bathroom without washing their hands. There is no excuse. Instead of being NurseElaine in a starched white uniform and going on about germs, disease and prevention, I thought I would talk about the public bathrooms in Europe and what I liked about them. Believe me, there is no way I would talk about the U.S. public restrooms as I find most of them gross.
1) Always Found Soap: Yep, in the vast majority of bathrooms I used there was soap. And, if you have read my posts on incontinence and also read what I have written about urinary tract infections, you would know that I have visit many, many public restrooms while traveling. In fact, I would argue that I visited many, many different bathrooms in a day sometimes. On our recent vacation, I can’t remember not using a bathroom that didn’t have a soap dispenser of some kind. This includes toilets at different landmarks, airports, train stations, auto rest stops, restaurants and small bars located in alleys. Soap is present and where there is soap there is the potential for good personal hygiene after using the toilet.
2) Most restrooms were clean: Love the fact that while some of the toilets I visited had really old fixtures, lighting that looked like it was from the 1930s, and tile floors and walls that were original to very old buildings, they were clean. I don’t know if it is a pride thing or just a better understanding of the importance of cleanliness when you are providing services to tourists, but I was happy to see that. In fact, I would argue that I see more yucky potties in the U.S. then I’ve ever found abroad. For example, I was talking to my next-door neighbor’s mother yesterday who mentioned that she had also been to Morocco. She told me that a restroom she used, when traveling there many years ago, was spotless. The only thing that was disturbing to her was the man who continued to mop between the toilets even while women were using them. Then, he expected a tip. She gave him one!
Years ago while in Hamburg, Germany, I went into a public restroom at the train station and backed out hurriedly because there was a tall man in a butchers coat in there. Checked the sign on the door again and, sure enough, it was the ladies room. He was there to keep the room clean and he did. It was spotless and I gladly tipped him. Now there is a jobs program that could be implemented in the U.S. I’d be happy to designate my tax dollars to ensuring clean public restrooms and filled soap dispensers. Could reduce infections and save insurance providers billions of dollars. I am kidding – sort of!!
3) Very few paper towels for hand wiping after washing: Don’t know if that is a cost savings thing or not wanting to waste paper, but I didn’t like that. Often there were hand dryers, but many didn’t work. In any case, I sometimes just air dried my hands by waving them while walking or wiped excess water on my pants. Oh well, at least I washed with soap.
4) Mostly found toilet paper: Important to always carry your own pack of tissues or wipes, because you never know if there will or won’t be paper. One thing I liked is that when there wasn’t, the woman before me would mention it and offer me paper. That happened more than once. Wish we could all cooperate on more complex things too, but I appreciated the kindness of the warning.
5) Didn’t see many tampon or pad vending machines: The only place I saw vending machines were in airport or train station bathrooms. So, be prepared and take product with you if you even remotely think you will need it. Recently in the U.S. in Pinehurst, North Carolina, where you find many very exclusive golf clubs, I visited the Pinehurst Country Club that houses Course No. 2. I am not a golfer, nor do I belong to that club but it is supposed to be a really big deal if you play golf there. We had friends visiting that wanted to go to Pinehurst. Of course while there I had to use the bathroom. Along with cloth wipes the Club had complimentary Tampax sitting in cute little baskets. That doesn’t happen often, so again, take some if you think you may need it.
6) No buggies on the walls: OK, that is me with my bug phobia and not wanting a spider to fall into my bushy wild hair. Hate when I see spider webs in bathrooms and I truly didn’t see any. Made for a much more relaxed experience.
7) Found many bathrooms with high stall walls: I have always hated bathroom stalls that had short metal pieces as dividers, as they afford absolutely no privacy. You might as well place the potty in the middle of the room. In Europe, I most frequently found high walls between the stalls or even some bathrooms that were individual rooms with their own lights. It kind of made me feel at home. In any case, this is just a non-hygiene observation that I wanted to share.
For those of you have stuck with me and read this blog, I want to reiterate that I am writing about the ladies rooms in Europe as a way to talk about hand washing after using the bathroom. According to the Center for Disease Control, “Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.” If no soap, use antibacterial cleanser, as you owe it to yourself and others! I promise that my next blog will be about the wonderful sites we visited and there will be no mention of potties!