Travel tips from Apollonia

My colleague Apollonia has been to Europe many times over the past few years (she has family in Italy), so naturally I sought her advice before our recent trip to France.

She gave me ten euro in bills and coins, and some travel tips.

Here are the tips, and some commentary:

#1: “Wear this scapular on the plane. I wear it when I fly. It couldn’t hurt. You don’t want anything to happen, do you?”




No, of course I don’t want anything to happen. I wore the scapular on the flight from Boston to Paris, and sure enough, nothing happened. Then, as a control experiment, I carried it in my hand luggage on the return trip. Nothing happened then either. (Actually, the return trip was faster and easier than the away trip.)

#2: “You’ll need the change I’m giving you. You have to pay to go to the bathroom, you know.”

Only partially true. Some bathrooms have an attendant (whom the French call, charmingly, “Madame Pipi”) who collects her fifty cents as you go in. Some have an honor system: a little box outside the bathroom into which you can drop a few coins. Many are free altogether (we encountered many of these). Some, interestingly, are self-cleaning. Here’s how they work: you put in your money (usually thirty cents) and the door unlocks. You do your business and leave. After the door closes behind you, an infernal device sprays the toilet – and the whole room – with water and disinfectant.

(At the Deauville train station, an elderly couple taught us how to get around this: you pay your thirty cents, use the facilities, exit – but you don’t quite close the door. Your accomplice / partner dashes in while you hold the door, and voila! Free bathroom!)

(Of course, if you were to let the door close while your friend was in the bathroom, he’d get a blinding faceful of disinfectant.)

(Which would be very funny.)

#3: “Versailles was filthy. There were dust bunnies under the furniture. All the glass surfaces in the Hall of Mirrors were dirty. It was worse than Nazi Germany in there.”



Okay, I didn’t see any dust bunnies in Versailles. The mirrors are plenty warped, but – hey – they’re over three hundred years old.

As for Nazi Germany, here’s Partner’s comment:

“I used the bathroom in the Visitor’s Center in Honfleur. It smelled worse than a barn in there. I still have the stink in my nose. Please tell Apollonia that, if she wants to experience Nazi Germany, she should go there and give that bathroom a try.”

Travel is so broadening, isn’t it?

About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: