Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures


Oh, the places you’ll live!

European real estate is a weird thing. In Barcelona, I arrived at my assigned student housing and found that this was my room.

On Carrer de Sardenya, Barcelona 2005

On Carrer de Sardenya, Barcelona 2005

When I’d lived in a dorm my freshman year in college and had to share a tiny cell with a total stranger I still had more space to myself and certainly had more storage. The photo is taken from the doorway and there were no other furnishings in el cuarto. Notably absent was a place to put my clothes. Or my suitcases. Or my books. Or even to sit down and study. It was a nightmare.

And now in France, I have an opposite problem. Toilets here tend to get their own rooms which makes no sense to me.

My toilletes (and yes, it's plural for reasons beyond me).

My toilletes (and yes, it’s plural for reasons beyond me).

It’s a total waste of space, and from a construction perspective, the cost of an additional door and two walls seems irresponsible. If it were a half bath (toilet and a sink), I wouldn’t object so much, but with this design, you are obligated to touch the handle with dirty hands. It’s both excessive and unhygienic which are words that some people might use to describe the French. (But not me! I aime the French!)

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Crazy Sign Week: Paris

Welcome to Crazy Sign Week! Since I’m trying to take it easy (doctor’s orders), I won’t be running around and having adventures with which to entertain you all. And yet, content must be posted so I’m posting some of my favorite signs from my travels.

This the public toilet sign for a shopping mall near Le Kremlin-Bicètre, an area just south of the Paris border. I like everything about this sign because it made me think so much the day I saw it: Why is there a chess pawn on top of a garbage can? How are those people’s heads staying on? Can you even roll a wheel that has a huge gap in it?


More fun with apartment listings!

Yay! Looking for a place in Paris is the most fun I’ve ever had! I am enjoying this experience so much! The opportunities for learning are infinite!

Like, here’s a place where I can practice my home renovation skills!

No, really! The listing specifies that the place is a fixer-upper and that it would be perfect for a building professional or an experienced handyman (travaux à prévoir, idéal professionnel du bâtiment ou bricoleur expérimenté)! Who doesn’t want to build a kitchen from scratch? In a rental?

Here, the toilet is like, “Get me the fuck out of here!” If the fixtures don’t want to stay, why the hell should I? And note how far away the toilet paper is! All the way on top of the tank!

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The best little bathroom in eastern Paris

In a way, I’m disappointed. I have clearly already found the best public toilet in the world, so my life-long quest is over and I have many years yet to live.

This is the women’s restroom at the Hotel Adagio Paris Vincennes (recommended by my family). Please note the lovely natural lighting, the presence of TWO hooks on the back of the door, a SHELF inside, handicapped accessibility and a double toilet paper dispenser comfortably within reach of the toilet. (That last thing is a legitimate issue.)

Double and triple bonus points go to the big trash can in the room, as well as another one just next to the door leaving the restrooms. This second bin is necessary for throwing out the paper towel used to open the door.

The only time you’d really be within range of this particular facility is if you came to Vincennes to hang out at the château or spent the day in the Bois de Vincennes (Paris’s biggest park!). Or maybe you’re a Métro junkie who just likes to ride the train and get out at different stops and see what’s going on there. (I used to do this in other cities. It’s a great way to learn where things are and get a feeling for different areas.)


Get out at the back of the train (last car) and exit out onto Avenue de Paris. Head west on the north sidewalk. The hotel is on the right, just after the intersection which borders the grounds around the château. Buzz to get let in and walk purposefully straight back. The bathroom’s just after the vending machines. If you’re one of those people who have no sense of direction, when you get out of the Métro, face the château. That’s south. Proceed as above.

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Stranger With My Face

Like most people, upon getting out of bed, I head directly to the bathroom. I’ll often brush my teeth first since that’s a good way to get my brain thinking it’s time to wake up (a process that takes a couple hours).

Last week, blurry-eyed as usual, I did a very groggy double take since there was a stranger with my face in the mirror. I blinked several times and sat on the edge of the tub to brush my teeth and thought about the person in the mirror. After a couple minutes of slowly repeating the up-down, round-and-round motion it came to me: my face was tan (i.e. its normal color) but I hadn’t seen it that way in nearly two years. It turns out that the face I’d been living with was the stranger and I finally saw my real self again.

All of which to say, summer has arrived and it is glorious.

[If you like YA books, this is a great title for which I still have incredible affection. It was the source of many of my BFF’s and my inside jokes for years.]