There are many things I love about London: the museums, the culture, our lovely family orientation neighborhood. The bathrooms are not one of them.
I’m a bit of a neat freak. My sisters have actually called me “Monica” from the hit TV series Friends which I’d say is only partially exaggerated. I can’t help it. I like a clean house, especially a clean bathroom. My three year old was actually seen making a “paper seat” on the child’s toilet at nursery school before she sat down. I was proud.
Unfortunately for me, I think London could use some work when it comes to the cleanliness of its bathrooms. Many of them just look as though they haven’t been cleaned in days, weeks or even ever. And don’t expect to smell a hint of bleach or pine fresh scent; many smell worse than they look. Just yesterday we were at a very large pub near Trafalgar Square. A very clean restaurant, but the disabled toilet (which I tend to use because it usually has a diaper changer and is on the same floor as the main restaurant) had no soap and no paper. Apparently this pub feels disabled Londoners don’t need to wipe or wash their hands, as the regular bathrooms one floor down were fully stocked and in much better condition.
Now I need to give credit where credit is due. The National Gallery and Methodist Central Hall have some of the cleanest bathrooms I’ve seen in London. (If you’re in Westminster, take note of these on a map if you want a clean toilet.)
Also take note of where your nearest McDonald’s and Starbucks are located. Let me explain. Many walk up food outlets must not be required to have a bathroom, because they often don’t. And if they do, they often frown on you if you pop in just to use the toilet without buying anything, like much of Europe, I’ve found. But you can always rely on your good old American chain to have a toilet. And I’m sorry Starbucks and McDonald’s, since you are American imports, it is my feeling you owe all Americans here the right to just walk in and use your bathroom free of charge, especially if I am pregnant, or I’ve got a newly potty-trained child with me.
Also, plan to go up stairs or down stairs to use a bathroom in a restaurant. Since real estate is at such a premium, toilets are usually stacked above or below, unless as I mentioned earlier, it is a larger place. In that case it may have a “disabled” toilet on the main level, which I can usually push a stroller into and change a diaper. I also sought these out when I was very pregnant to simply avoid the extra stairs.
Another site literally popping up everywhere are public pay toilets that raise for use, and lower into the ground for cleaning. I haven’t tried that yet, and here’s why. If I feel most restaurant toilets are hideous, the pay per use toilets are really one step below that, no pun intended.
I must say London is not as bad as the literal hole in the floor I was expected to pee in at Vatican City when I was a student in Rome. Americans, feel proud that you could probably eat off the floor of most American bathroom floors without worry. London, I love you, just not your bathrooms.