When you've got to go, Paris toilets are an elusive prize

Paris, France: With cafes, pubs, and museums closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, Parisians are discovering what visitors have known for years: locating a public toilet in the French capital takes some detective work and patience.

Long lines have formed outside the few facilities available as the spring weather draws more people outside, especially in parks and along the Seine's banks.

"It's really complicated, especially for girls, because there's always a line and there aren't that many toilets," said Charlotte Le Merdy, a publishing assistant, waiting with around a dozen others for a break near Notre-Dame cathedral.

Men are more likely to hide behind a tree or seek refuge behind a distant wall, which hasn't improved the city's tumultuous relationship with cleanliness.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo is already facing a barrage of trash and neglect accusations on social media, where hundreds of unflattering images with the hashtag "#saccageParis" (trash of Paris) have been shared in recent weeks.

"I probably shouldn't say it, but you try to go somewhere secluded, in the bushes maybe," said Romain Chevreux, an event organizer who was enjoying an afternoon near the Eiffel Tower.

"It's a little complicated, especially because a lot of toilets are out of order, so you do what you have to," he said.

Luc, a street cleaner near the Place de la Republique, confirmed that "guys piss everywhere -- you see that the streets are dirty, that there's no hygiene."

'So dirty' 

According to the district, there are 435 self-cleaning toilets built across the capital, with use dropping by 20% due to Covid-19 lockdowns last year.

There are also 50 stand-alone urinals and 300 toilets in parks and gardens, many of which are listed on the website toilettespubliques.net.

However, many people believe that this is insufficient. And, in many cases, the functioning toilets aren't exactly welcoming.

"These toilets are so filthy, going inside is like you're trying to get sick," said Bamoye, a bike courier who like his colleagues often has no other choice.

Elie Sabaa, a taxi driver, has developed another strategy in the absence of quick breaks at a cafe.

"Ninety percent of the time I have to go back home because it's the only place that's clean," he said. "It wastes a lot of time."

Parisians are becoming more anxious for cafes and restaurants to reopen as a result of the situation — Starting May 19, President Emmanuel Macron has announced that outdoor seating will be permitted.

"It does pose a problem when you drink too much in the parks, you want to find a toilet and there's a massive line," said English teacher Paris Zeikos.

"You need to be cautious about how much water you drink before, how much water you drink afterward, and you kind of need to be aware of your surroundings at the same time," he said.

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