Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


Spanish things

Quick: think of Spanish things!

What did you come up with? Depending on your interests, you may have gone paella-tapas-José Andrés or guitar-Aranjuez-Rodrigo or bullfights-Hemingway-war. I’d run through a lot of options before getting to lace-Sevilla-mantilla but that’s because I’m not into things that are hard to wash (delicates = the worst) and I’m a bad Spaniard.

I’m thinking about lace because a recent episode of “Project Runway,” a fashion competition show, sent its contestants to European fashion capitals for inspiration. The person who went to Barcelona chose lace to represent the intricate design work she saw on buildings around the city. (You can see the end result here.)

I would never have connected lace to Barcelona or Catalunya (it’s closely associated with the regional clothing of southern parts of Spain), but I was reminded of a cool thing I saw at the CaixaForum in 2007.

Caixa Forum lace lion 1

charging bull

The Wall Street bull (“Charging Bull”) never looked so cute!

Looking back at this, I thought of graffiti knitters (also known as yarn bombers), people who knit cozies for things found in public (phone booths, statues, street lamps, etc.). The work is pretty funny and just looking at photos of their finished work make me feel all warm and fuzzy.

One more thing

The CaixaForum is a free art space in a former textile factory near Plaça Catalunya. The exhibitions are hit and miss but they have a great museum shop and wonderful clean bathrooms.

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Quartino: great bathroom in Paris (4è)

Quartino street

Street view

A while back I wrote about how much I like Quartino Pizza in the 4è. Today, I want to highlight that they also have a great bathroom. Technically, you can get away with using it if you don’t patronize the shop, so if you’re in the area and need a clean bathroom, stop by. (You’ll probably still get some pizza though. It’s really good.)

So many hooks to hang things on!

So many hooks to hang things on!

Sink and Dyson-esque hand dryer.

Sink and Dyson-esque hand dryer.

Clean toilet with easily accessible paper dispenser.
Clean toilet with easily accessible paper dispenser.

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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.