to pee or not to pee?



Thirty years ago, on my first visit to Paris, I fell in love with the Montemartre District, the artist area around Sacre Couer Basilica. I had read that it has turned into a giant Parisian Wisconsin Dells (without the thrill rides and with considerably more adult interest). Nevertheless, one must go. With hundreds of people around, we needed a meeting place, and I suggested a kiosk to the right of the basilica. Little did I know.

Shortly after leaving child #3 and my husband there, they noticed an odd smell in the area. I noticed an odd liquid on the stairs nearby. Quite soon, sure enough, we watched as one young man went behind the kiosk, presumably did his business, and nonchalantly left, pulling up as he went. Then another. And another. And several more. Who says only women go in pairs? This, in spite of the fact that a public bathroom was right down those wet, smelly stairs. Some old world traditions die hard. Being the careful, shielding mother I am, I told the girls they should sneak around the corner and yell ‘Boo!’ at an opportune moment.

Though I certainly witnessed this thirty years ago, I was saddened by the way the are has been treated through the years. The basilica is as wondrous as ever and the street musicians as engaging, but the obnoxious bracelet hawkers combined with the broken glass and the smell of beer and urine almost destroy the finest view in Paris. Is it because this tourist attraction makes no money that is is forgotten in the caretaking department? Other cities take note—tourists don’t really care for this type of atmosphere.

In fact, as a video we saw before we left home told us, Parisian police are attempting to crack down on public peeing. They issue ticket if they catch you, ah, issuing. But not, apparently, on Montmartre, as the kiosk was clearly a well known peepee palace and no one cared. So, clearly, there are places in Paris to pee or not to pee.

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