I may pride myself on the ability to pick up the Italian language with ease while travelling but I am also known to suffer embarrassing lapses of memory.
Signore e Signori… Ladies and Gentlemen. Not too difficult to remember, no?
Naturalmente. But after two glasses of aperitivo in Milan, anything is possible.
I totter down the staircase to the amenities, or servizi as they are called and stand motionless comparing the doors. There is no picture on either one to indicate the gender. Not even the words Donne / Uomi or initials to give me a clue.
Just Signore e Signori.
My mind tries to recall grammar classes from my university days but two Spritz con Aperol on an empty stomach have taken their toll. Too embarrassed to be caught loitering, I remember a Simpsons episode where Bart gets trapped behind a door at the zoo with man-eating tigers on the other side. He had to remember Roman numerals. There I was, in Italy, scratching my head with grammar rules. I take a gamble and open a door.
And I bolt straight out.
In retrospect, I should have realised that Signore preceding Signori would indicate it was female but alcohol and the blonde gene don’t mix well together.
So in the interests of helping fellow travellers to Italy and France, and those who cannot tell a skirt from a supposedly male figure with its legs apart (both are in the shape of a V, right?), here are simple words to remember.
Signore e Signori – Ladies and Gentlemen
Donne / Uomi – Women / Men
Femmes / Hommes – Women / Men
Madame / Monsieur – Ladies / Gentlemen
But it doesn’t stop here. Many restaurants in Europe even in Australia have the dreaded unisex toilet. Such amenities should be banned from existence. As any woman knows, there is a type of disease that affects the male population, a strand of domestic blindness when it comes to using a toilet. No woman wants to be afflicted with the opposite sex’s incompetence in the loo, particularly a stranger’s or someone she is trying to impress. And I’m not convinced that slapping the word ‘Ladies’ on two cubicles in a unisex toilet is the answer. If it’s that time of the month, it’s nobody’s business but mine. Besides, I need no audience from the men folk washing their hands while I put on my lipstick and pout seductively at the mirror.
I have written in depth about Japanese toilets and while I may have finer tastes when it comes to food and drink, I also have an obsession with photographing restaurant toilets. Hotel room toilets as well, but that’s another story. Many times I have sent a reluctant Mr G to the male amenities with a discreet camera so he can shoot what I’m missing out on.
So in honour of the restaurants of the world where I have dined, I give you the ‘best of’ restaurant toilet photographs – blurred, grainy, flashed and always taken in a hurry.
Le Grand Véfour, Paris – With such opulence, I didn’t want to leave. Mr G almost sent a search party after me.
Jamie’s Italian, London, Canary Wharf – In honour of the Crapper
Greenhouse by Joost, Sydney – Another unisex toilet where I rocked up for this photograph.
Angelina, Paris – Gold mirrors, taps and soap dispensers
Burj Al Arab Skyview Bar, Dubai – Opulence and luxury in the Men’s – Taken by Mr G
Burj Al Arab Skyview Bar, Dubai – Note the Jumeirah toilet paper and the hose in the Ladies
Pane e Acqua, Milan – Only a man would leave the toilet seat up in such an arty place. (Top R) A strategically blurred photo of me in action.
Café de 2 Moulins (Amelie’s Café), Paris – There were gnomes in this unisex ‘VéCé’
Ristorante al Calice, Venice – Mmm, retro green tiles. Where’s the flush?
I leave you with this photograph of the Unisex toilets at Emmilou Tapas Bar in Sydney’s Surry Hills. The photo on the right says it all. It’s direct. It’s in your face. It’s very Aussie. Yep, this is what you can expect when you have an all male staff. Tequila and Laphroaig where ‘this dunny dont work’.
Emmilou Tapas Bar, Surry Hills in Sydney – (we still heart you, Emmilou)
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Are you fascinated with restaurant toilets? Do you take photos of the Ladies and Gents in your travels? What’s your opinion on Unisex toilets? Share your opinion in the comments below.
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