Greenhouse at Le Jardin des Plantes

A greenhouse at Le Jardin des Plantes, Paris' botanical gardens. The Jardin des Plantes is a large park full of statues (as so many Parisian parks are), but it also contains numerous buildings and a zoo. The buildings include greenhouses (including the one pictured here) and a museum of natural history featuring exhibits on mineralogy, zoology, botany, paleontology, and bugs. I didn't go in to any of these. I was following our French friend Christophe's itinerary and it was late in the day.

I did, however, have one of my two Weird Parisian Bathroom Experiences here. Paris is one of the European cities that have installed kiosk-style bathrooms, where you deposit some coins and wait for a door to open, then go inside, do your business into a toilet-shaped bowl with a hinge on the back, rinse your hands in the stream of eau non potable (non-drinkable water) running down behind the bowl, leave, close the door behind you, and let the bathroom wash and sterilize itself before the door will open for the next user. If you spend more than 15 minutes in there, the door opens automatically. Okay, fine. I deposited my 20F and went in. While I was in there, I heard a few more coins dropping into the slot, and then heard some tugging at the door. I finished, rinsed my hands, and opened the door, only to be almost shoved out of the way by an elderly French woman who was evidently quite keen on using the facility ASAP. I tried to think of how to explain, in my rusty French, that it needed to flush and clean itself first, but there was no stopping her. Before I could even open my mouth, I heard a brief "Ooh la la" in a "tsk-tsk" sort of tone as she disappeared into the bathroomlet, and then the door closed. Another woman bellowed after her, "Dépechez-vous!" ("Hurry up!") It was all very strange. You'd think the natives would know how to use those things.


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Emily Way (
Last updated August 15, 1999