David Downie’s book Paris, paris: Journey Into the City of Light (Broadway Paperbacks 2011) has been a great source of information and inspiration as I settle into my temporary home in Paris. Each chapter contains a lovely essay about another unusual part of this city, with some history, some photographs, and plenty of quirky information that you just can’t find in your ordinary guide books. I’ve been planning long walks around some of the chapters, and it’s made for a wonderful introduction to Paris.
One of my favorite chapters, The Janus City, or, Why the Year 1900 Lives On, is about how the Belle Epoque period of Paris is alive and well in the contemporary City of Light. One of Downie’s recommended 1900 era sites are the Art Nouveau toilets on the Place de la Madeleine. According to Downie’s directions, there is a spiraling staircase across the street from Cafe Le Paris-London, where you could find “a lavish cavern of carved wood, brass, and mirrors, with floral frescoes and stained-glass windows in each cabinet.”
I looked forward to finding a site so weird and off-the-beaten-track, and it took me a little while to find the right spot. Unfortunately, the toilets are now closed. I asked the woman at the nearby flower stand, and she said they are closed for good, “c’est tout.” So for now, until the toilets are ever renovated, the photos below will show you all that you can find.