I have a major fascination with restrooms, washrooms, lavoratories, loos, washclosets, toilets – you know those places where you go – well, you know. I know this seems like a really random thing, but having been stricken with a chronic bladder disorder (it has a medical name but I prefer to call it “cranky bladder”) I have come to have a love/hate relationship with washrooms, which depending on their condition, add heightened stress to an already stressful situation. I take a miracle pill three times a day that certainly helps and I am really lucky that it worked for me as 25% of the women afflicted with a “cranky bladder” get no relief whatsoever. And so when my husband (Loverboy) and I planned a trip to Ireland, the idea of traveling around and trying to locate a decent washroom was a definite concern.
The whole washroom-issue-while-traveling has probably been heightened by a trip to China I took a few years ago. Some of the washrooms in China are quite interesting and can provide plenty of challenges for the uninitiated. I remember my first foray into what is called a squatter. I had traveled for 21 hours to reach my destination in Nanjing. Upon my arrival, my hosts whisked me away to a restaurant where we shared a hot pot and some quarts of beer (therein lies the problem, as my mother would say). By the time we were ready to leave the restaurant, I really had to use the washroom. I made my way to one and when I got in and closed the door, I realized it was nothing more than an hole in the floor. Now, never having had to use a hole in the floor (even the most primitive outhouse I have ever used had a seat of sorts) I was helpless to know how to even begin. Using a squatter requires agility and skill that I certainly didn’t have, and in most instances where I was forced to use one, the results were sketchy, at best. I needed at least four hands to deal with everything that was involved however, I was only born with two hands so that was an issue. I won’t go into details as no one needs to have that picture in their heads but let’s just say I celebrated when I found a washroom with a “Canadian” toilet and my “cranky bladder” was very happy. After a couple of weeks in China, it did get a little easier but it was never something I was really comfortable with – kind of like using chopsticks!
So now Loverboy and I were traveling to another foreign country and I could only imagine the horrifying washrooms we would encounter. We arrived in Ireland in the early morning hours and so couldn’t check into our hotel. We were able to check our bags with the front desk and then found the public washrooms in the hotel. Imagine my delight to find a beautifully clean washroom with stalls that had floor to ceiling doors. So private and comfortable. My “cranky bladder” felt a little less cranky with this discovery. Our hotel was the lovely Grand Hotel in Malahide, located outside Dublin, so I figured this was an anomaly and things would go downhill from there – kind of like how the medieval bathrooms in castles worked.
Traveling across Ireland for two weeks provided me plenty of opportunities to go to washrooms, especially as there is a pub on every corner, in every city, town, village, field (well, you get the picture). Whether I was in hotels, pubs, restaurants, museums, on the bus that we traveled on, in outhouses on a farm (honestly, I could have eaten off the floor of this one!), in castles, or in gaols (jails in Irish and I was only visiting, I swear!), each and every washroom I entered was the same – meticulously clean with private stalls that my “cranky bladder” really appreciated. Now Ireland probably doesn’t think to advertise their wonderfully clean and private washrooms as a reason to visit their country, but I really think it is something to celebrate and share with the world. There are a lot of people out there with “cranky bladders” or other “cranky parts” that would appreciate the attention Ireland gives to its washrooms.
One of the coolest washrooms I visited (and yes, I even took a picture) was in Galway. We had eaten lunch at the Kings Head Pub and I used the washroom before I left. Well, five minutes later, my “cranky bladder” started to complain again. I figured I would wait until I got on the bus but as Loverboy and I were walking down the main street, we passed a modern looking steel building (really stood out sitting among the cobble stone sidewalks and limestone cottages) with the international symbol for washroom on the doors, two for women and two for men. My “cranky bladder” decided this was as good a place as any and so I sidled up to the door. The cost to use the washroom was twenty cents and when I put my money in the slot, the steel door whooshed open (kind of like in a Get Smart episode) and I stepped inside, the door closing automatically behind me. In front of me stood a modern steel toilet and on the walls were buttons and little cubby holes. It was pretty freaky. A voice began announcing all the features and how to use them. You pushed a button by the toilet and toilet paper came down into one of the cubbies. To get soap and wash your hands, you had to push other buttons and put your hands into another cubby. As in most washroom establishments in Ireland, you used a powerful dryer (not wimpy dryers like the ones in Canada) to thoroughly dry your hands in a matter of seconds. Very few washrooms had paper towels, obviously an environmentally friendly choice, which probably helped keep the washrooms cleaner. (I am always puzzled by the number of people who can’t get their paper towels into the garbage can when I visit washrooms in Canada.) The whole experience made my “cranky bladder” happy; the only worry I had was how to open the door to leave, but I finally located the exit button and with a whoosh I was out. (I will be using this setting in a future piece of writing. This was the best twenty cent investment I ever made!)
Ireland really was one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. In any direction I looked, a picture was waiting to be taken. The scenery was breathtaking; the washrooms were phenomenal! I know I will return to Ireland one day and it will be with the knowledge that I can skip to “the loo” without having to worry about my “cranky bladder”. After all, there are so many other things to worry about when you visit Ireland like:
- Where is the nearest pub?
- What time does the traditional music start at the pub?
- What time does the pub close?
A decent washroom needs to be the least of our worries!