Beaches and Bathrooms in Bordeaux

Today is Ascension Thursday and it’s a national holiday in France. Rather than drop in to a local cathedral to see how the Catholic church was celebrating, we cycled over to the Parc Bordelaise and then strolled along the river where it looked like most of the city’s inhabitants were out enjoying the hot, sunny day.

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Down by the riverside.

One of the coolest (literally and figuratively) sites in Bordeaux is the Water Mirror, a 21st-century landmark in a predominantly 18th-century city. Located across from Place de la Bourse, between Quai de la Douane and Quai Louis XVIII on the Garonne River, the Water Mirror is a spectacular pool, designed by landscape artist Michel Corajoud.

Most days the world’s largest reflecting pool looks like this…

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At night, it becomes mystical, especially when it alternates between a shallow reflection pool and artificial mist.

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Pool version of the Water Mirror.

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Mist version of the Water Mirror.

Today I discovered that on hot days, this gigantic slab of granite becomes the Bordeaux Beach as kids of all ages take to the 2 cm of water like ducks. I was tempted to go wallow in the water alongside them, but resisted the impulse.

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The Bordeaux Beach.

The French definitely know how to live in the moment and enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Among the picnics in the park and sun bathing by the river, I saw an ample supply of Bordeaux wine. Maybe they should fill the Water Mirror with some blanc and really let the good times roll?!

Americans used to exude an eternal optimism (I use the past tense because I don’t see evidence of a national optimism anymore — quite the contrary) that was infectious. The French continue to suffer from existential fatalism. While their cultural existentialism may lead them to ponder life’s meaning, it doesn’t cause them to sweat who’s using what bathroom. There are no national conversations on bathroom usage in France.

In fact, men and women (and all those who identify as either) often share bathrooms in this country. Yours truly has visited many bathrooms simultaneously being utilized by Frenchmen; and I have lived to tell this tale.

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Unisex bathroom in a hotel lobby.

Thanks to my bathroom excursions in France, I can personally guarantee that civilization doesn’t end when people of different sexes enter a common room, do their business in a private stall, and wash their hands at a shared sink. France unequivocably proves that legislation is not required to regulate bathrooms. Common decency will do the trick.

Perhaps we should follow the example of our French brethren in bathroom etiquette? I would, however, draw the line at urinating in the street which I have seen sober, anatomical males do on more than one occasion in this fair country.

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