When I was in London last month, I had planned to just sit around, drink Earl Grey and chill. I’ve been to London so many times and have exhausted most of the tourist activity options that I was out of news things to see and write about.
Then, something caught my eyes on this wonderful things called the World Wide Web.
London Loo Tours.
“Loo Tours is London’s only walking tour of public toilets.” The tour’s website said, first line, in bold letters.
Well I’d be surprised if there were another tour that toured public toilets! I thought to myself. (… a quick search had semi-confirmed that there was no more toilet tours to be found, with the exception of a toilet dating concept that worried me slightly)
The more I read about this loo tours, which has been featured on BBC Travel and various other blogs, the more intrigued I got. So, I dished out my credit card and booked four spots on this unique tour concept to find out what it’s all about.
On the day of the tour, we met Rachel in front of the public toilets at Waterloo station (puts a new spin on the name doesn’t it? Water-loo?). Rachel is from the US of A, and had come to London to find work as a drama graduate. As someone living on a budget she became obsessed with finding free public toilets around the city. The more she searched and the more she learnt about London’s public toilets, the more she wanted to find out more.
This is how she became the walking encyclopedia of public toilets in London.
We walked along South Bank, across the Millennium Bridge, visited Embankment gardens, through Charing Cross station and around to Trafalgar Square; we visited toilets of the old, new, public and privately managed as well as one that was specifically built for the Queens Jubilee (the Jubiloo).
What most people don’t realise is just how much planning and management the governments often have to put in for a city’s public toilets. As we walked, we learned the politics associated with toilets, the history to the usage of the word ‘crap’ and some of the genius ways of providing loo facilities for gents on the go.
Of course, all the while, we were poking our noses into places where people do their business.
Leading the way with a plunger in hand, (and yes, we did get a few stares) we even braved the most pissed-on lane way. We held our breath and read the graffiti that came with it as we shrunk ourselves to the centre of the path trying not to get too close (let’s just say, there are some walls in London you just shouldn’t touch). It was all part of the loo experience.
Rachel ended the tour at one of the underground bar, that used to serve as a public toilet and where many of the notorious figures would come and hang out. The bar itself had fascinating toilet facilities too, fitted with glass doors that are see-through while they are free, and clouds over when you click the lock!
Upon further discussions about toilets I learnt that there was a government website dedicated to informing the public about the locations of public toilets in Australia.
It took an American in London to tell me that. I definitely learnt something on this tour!