I went swimming in the Med for the first time this year....actual swimming, not just a dip of the toes which is all I had mustered before that. I'm out there, floating, enjoying some relief from the sun when Copain's friend starts telling us a story about a little kid whose grandpa splashed so much water in his face that it made him barf in the water. Barf in the water. I could feel the drops of salt water dripping down my face and all I could imagine were the nasty chunks that were probably accompanying them.
Now I realize that it was the grandpa's fault and that on top of that, pretty much everyone has peed in the water at one time or another, but France (and perhaps all Latin countries in general) has an entirely different politic when it comes to public barfing and urination.
Now I realize that the reason for all this is that public bathrooms are not easily accessible - even in McDonalds you have to buy something in order to use their bathrooms (I was actually chased up the stairs by a security guard who saw me head straight for the bathrooms before stopping at the counter for a coke!). I also realize that kids can't "just hold it," and parents have to find solutions. Hence, peeing in the street, peeing in the parking lot, peeing on the beach - not just in the water, but flat out ON THE BEACH.
Let's take a walk down memory lane to my experience in San Sebastien. I'm hanging on the Playa de la Concha....reading my book, enjoying my vacay, and here comes little Johny (or Juan or whatever) with his Daddy. They lay out their towels and prepare to change little Juan into his bathing suit. Little Juan is in the buff and signals to Daddy that he has to go pee pee - and what does Daddy do?!! He digs a shallow hole in the sand - right next to my towel and directs his kid to pee in it!!!!!! I get that the kid had to pee right then - but couldn't the Dad have taken him away from the major walking traffic on the beach? (or in this case, up to the bathrooms that were right ON the beach??)
Another recent anecdote: I had just finished lunch in Cannes and was walking back to work with my colleagues, when off to the right I noticed a guy standing in the middle of the street with his SHABAOW (use your imagination) hanging out - taking a pee in the middle of the road. Seriously. Granted, it was a homeless guy who probably has massive psychological problems as many of the homeless people in Cannes do (right?!), but still - GROSS. I caught him doing it AGAIN the next day on the steps across the street from my office, and then he came over to my friends and I during a dinner and asked for money with his nasty, SHABAOW germy hand! I seriously can't deal.
These are just two stories, but I probably see this or see the results of this (ie: streams of yellow running out of the corners of buildings) at least five times a day.
I say, bring in the public toilets people! The streets and people of France will thank you.