latin quarter, Maps

The Last Public Pisser

Boulevard Arago 75013

The last public urinal, neglected but still standing proudly

Today I’m taking you on a field trip to view the last remaining vestige of the modern porter potty, a relic of simpler times- when taking a piss in public didn’t mean whipping out your willy behind the limited privacy of your car door and throwing open the golden gates of your bladder while parked on Rue Saint Jacques. (Ran past a guy -in a business suit- doing this very thing in broad daylight recently)

The Pissoir or Vespasienne (named after the ancient roman emperor Vespasien, who taxed people for using public urinals) first came about in the 1830’s in an effort to keep streets cleaner and preserve the dignity of females in the street who may have been unfortunately exposed to Mr. Longfellow during a public wee. It wasn’t long before someone had the bright idea to throw advertisements on the pissoirs to sell various products while also combating public indecency.

A large Vespasienne near the former Les Halles Paris markets

The pissoirs reached their peak in the 1930’s when there were about 1,200 throughout Paris but that number quickly shrank to 329 in 1966, probably due to the city not replacing ones that were broken and run down. After 2006 there was only one, and its currently situated on the picturesque Boulevard Arago in the 13th arrondissement. Its apparently still in use, obvious by its smell. 

That ain’t just normal urine folks. THATS UTI URINE!

Initially I wanted a photo inside, but this is as far as I could go before I started gagging

In the early 2000’s, the pissoir made a comeback and was rebaptised as the Sanisette. These bulky grey cube-like self-cleaning public toilets offered more privacy and were less smelly and dirty than the iron pissoirs who were probably only rarely doused with water. Originally you had to pay to use them, but they were made free to the public in 2009. The concept is great; they are accessible to all (male AND FEMALE, and they are wheel chair accessible, which is rare in Paris), they have a rinse cycle after every use, and are environmentally friendly. Some even play music!

There are currently more than 400 Sansinettes in Paris- yet they are used mostly by tourists and drug users. (The door automatically opens after 15 minutes in an ineffective effort to fight this) For myself, I used them in the beginning of my Paris life when I was desperate but now I’d rather pay 1€ for a café and use a dry toilet seat in a café.

Recently, a new type of public urinal (see photo below) has been its appearance in Paris, mostly on the riverbanks of the Seine. Despite its strangely, uhhh feminine appearance- (I’ll refrain from referencing female genitalia) let’s be honest- it’s there to cater to the male picnic population and their bladders full of rosé.


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