One thing tourists may worry about when out and about in a foreign city is whether they will find a public toilet when and where they need one. The Mediterranean isn’t renowned for providing clean, findable public lavatories.
I remember as a child holidaying in France my mother’s preoccupation with making sure we kids ‘spent a penny’ before sightseeing for the day. Back then, French public loos were non-existent or at best all you found were scantilly-clad street urinals. We usually had to buy a drink (the last thing you need) in order to use a cafe’s loos. Those were the days before ubiquitous McDonalds.
Our capital Valletta has for years been much the same experience for tourists in need of fast relief. Some less savoury locals caught short seem to have been using various corners of the city – take the stairs from St George’s Square down to the ditch parking and Yellow Garage and you’ll know what I mean. Thankfully this stinky stairwell will be swept away with Renzo Piano’s plans for City Gate.
But for the past month or so, Valletta has had a shining, exemplary public convenience. It stands where a monument to stench once stood, on the corner of Strait Street and Old Theatre Street; the old sign now painted over and complemented by an illuminated international WC symbol. Amazingly, for any building in Valletta, it has wheelchair access (adherence to EU rules no doubt).
A post about a public loo? We wouldn’t bother normally with such a banal subject, but this revamped loo isn’t any old loo. It’s a superloo of the 21st century with a nod in the direction of Valletta’s palatial past. The Grand Masters’ Palace is just a stone’s throw away after all.The street it’s on, Strait Street, or il-Gut (the Maltese name sounding more appropriate), was famed in British Service days for its music halls and variety clubs – some less salubrious than others. The new Strait Street public toilets are designed in music hall theme. The entrance looks like the foyer of a club – a gentlemen’s club of sorts – or perhaps that of a small theatre. It is graced with heavy red drapes, sports a neon sign reminiscent of Radio City in New York, and is overseen by an attendant dressed in dinner jacket and dicky bow tie.
He wouldn’t pose for the photo unfortunately, but you might have more luck persuading him. He is bound to become a celebrity. Does he wear white satin gloves when squirting pine fresh cleaner we wonder? The whole convenience is such a male-looking preserve, I wonder too if it has nappy changing? Do contribute your user experiences in the comments section.
Cost: 30c a visit
Location: Corner of Strait St and Old Theatre St, just between the two M&S’s entrances.
Interest score: 9/10
Visitor experience – I didn’t need to ‘go’ so please let us know what music is piped inside the cubicles!
Elizabeth Ayling says
Brilliant! I can’t wait for more of these inspirational gems of architectural convenience! What a hoot! BTW, my UK guests had a great time spending a cent at those Valletta ones! People really do a double take!
chris briffa says
glad you liked our red-light disrict loo! and that you share our vision of a revived valletta retro-glamour…
yes, the ladies loo is fully accessible for the disabled and it has a nappy changer…
we are working on the other 4 conveniences, in collaboration with the Valletta Local Council, each one with its own theme and each one to house art shows and installations…
chris briffa, architect, valletta