Sunday, 19 July 2015

State of the art. Some comments on toilet facilities.

In the centre of Manchester there are a number of Spanish restaurants. The quality and authenticity varies. At least two that I know of are part of chains of supposedly Spanish restaurants which you can find in various big cities throughout the UK. At the moment, one of my favourites is La Viña on Deansgate. I know that this is part of a chain of sorts as a young friend, ex-student, of mine worked there for a while in sixth form and then transferred to their Leeds branch when he went off to university. The food is good. Whenever I have been there recently, the staff have all been Spanish or Spanish-speaking. It adds a certain someone to the atmosphere. 

In most of these places an effort has been made to make the toilet facilities also look authentically Spanish. In La Viña and La Tasca you go down steps nicely decorated with Spanish or Spanish-looking tiles to toilets in the basement. They bear a remarkable similarity to the basement toilets in La Porchaba, here in Vigo. They lack, however, that establishment's basement's similarity to one of the circle of hell. How can a place be so very hot!!! 

They also lack the rather disgusting graffiti which can be seen on the inside of the door in the ladies' loo in the Maracaíbo, on Plaza de Compostela in Vigo. I have commented before on the fact that for the last two years those toilets have had no lock on the door. You would think that a would-be classy establishment in an expensive part of town could afford to clean up the doors of the loo and put a lock on them. 

The Midcentury cafe, one of our frequent haunts, notable for its excellent mid-20th century music and its good wifi connection, not to mention the friendly, music-loving, redhead who runs the place, has toilets with room to swing several cats. Nicely decorated too, in keeping with the rest of the place. You could almost move in! 

One of the places we often visit in Pontevedra, the Meigas Fora, has toilets with views of the original walls of the city. They are behind glass. Someone obviously decided that the old walls should not be covered up and made the "musealised" toilets a feature of the place. 

Another loo worth a visit is in the Cafetería Sanfrancisco, not far from the Peregrina chapel in the centre of Pontevedra. We have been told that this cafe is more expensive than other places - coffee €1.50 instead of €1.40 probably won't break our bank - and that it is where the "pijos", the snobby, posh people go. We can do "pijo" with the best of them and so we have no qualms about sitting in its cool, discreetly soberly furnished interior, sipping café con hielo. You can find all sorts of weird and wonderful recipes for iced coffee but by far the best is the simple Spanish method: a cup of espresso coffee poured over the ice cubes in a glass. No fuss, no fancy ingredients, no cocktail shaker involved. Just coffee and ice! It also works with green tea. 

But one of the most impressive things about the Sanfrancisco must be the toilet facilities. The very approach to the loo is quite something. You turn the corner, going past the collection of that day's local and national newspapers and come across a tasteful, dark wood bookcase, floor to ceiling, full of books in several languages. Presumably this encourages people to start reading and then stay to finish the book, all the while having extra drinks and nibbles. Do they ever lose books? Surely some people are tempted to walk off with them. Or maybe "pijos" don't do such things! 

Beyond the bookshelves, like superior IKEA in their design, you come to the toilets themselves. No little stick drawings of male or female figures, no "señores" and "señoras" or anything of the like. The doors are labelled "ÉL" and "ELLA", he and she. I couldn't speak for "EL" but "ELLA" is decorated in green and black and is probably the cleanest and smartest ladies' loo I have ever come across. The ladies' loo in the Meigas Fora restaurant may have its bit of the old, original city wall behind glass, impressive in its way, but the Sanfrancisco beats it hand down for general smartness! 

Last time we went to Pontevedra, we travelled back to Vigo on one of the faster trains going directly to the new Vigo Urzáiz station. We would have been quite happy to go to Guixar on a slower train but the Urzáiz train fitted out timing better. So we had to put our luggage through the security scanner at Pontevedra station, explaining why we had to walk the length of the station to gain access to the platforms instead of being able to go through a door close to the ticket office. The long walk door forced you to pass through a narrowish access where the security chap stopped you. I wonder if they ever stop anyone and make them open their baggage. But we got through without incident and were soon on the train and whisked away through tunnels into the new, smart Vigo Urzáiz station. Very nice, but in the end, just a station. 

Curiously, as we walked towards the exit, there was a queue of people waiting to be ushered onto the platforms. For all the world like the queues you see at an airport as you head for passport control and the luggage carousel. Maybe the Vigo Urzáiz has ideas above its station! 

I tried out the loo on the new station. Not as classy as the Sanfrancisco but bright and clean. Having experienced the disgustingness that is the ladies' loo at Vigo bus station, I must say it is nice to come across a pleasant one in a public transport facility.

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