Monday, December 17, 2007

Loo of the Year

When I'm traveling, there's nothing more important to me than being able to locate a toilet. In my long history of needing a toilet, I have, with an unerring sense for such things, found public facilities in places as far afield as Cambridge (Massachusetts), Orange and Aigues-Mortes (France), Salzburg (Austria), and Henley-in-Arden (England). In England, most towns have "public conveniences" housed in their own separate building, and in most of the places we visited during our year in England I can tell you where to find a toilet. Kenilworth? At the top of the Warwick Road, across from the MacDonald DeMontfort Hotel. Stratford-upon-Avon? Across from Bancroft Gardens, on Waterside between Bridge and Sheep Streets. Tewkesbury? Next to the car park near Tewkesbury Abbey. And two of the restrooms I visited during my tour of the great public toilets of England—the one in the square outside of Lincoln Castle and the one in the Wallace Collection in London—have recently been named winners of the coveted Loo of the Year Award. The 2007 winners were announced on December 5. The 3-star Lincoln Castle Square loo, which I utilized on two separate visits to Lincoln, is a perennial winner in the full-time attended public toilet category.

Why is this man looking so smug? He's just been to one of London's five-star public toilets!

In London, the toilets in the more posh areas (e.g., the shopping district near Victoria Station) are pay toilets, although free toilets can be found in Hyde Park, Marylebone Station, and other places around town (if, like me, you have that sixth sense for locating toilets). But if you want an exceptional free toilet experience on your trip to London, check out the 5-star public loo at The Wallace Collection (click for a floor plan highlighting the location of the toilets) on Manchester Square. While you're there, you may also want to spend some time looking at the remarkable collection of medieval armor and art, including Frans Hals' famous Laughing Cavalier (pictured here) and Fragonnard's Girl on a Swing.

Note: Northfield is in the process of putting up "wayfinding signs" that will help direct visitors to the public conveniences available at the Northfield Public Library and the Northfield Historical Society.

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New Poem: "Phrasebook"

My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .