I got a PM from someone saying my question was offensive. I surely didn't mean it to be. The reason we posted the question in the first place was from bad experiences we had years ago in France. Once my mother-in-law wet her pants in Paris because no one,not even a policeman, would help her find a toilet. She was very angry. My father stopped traveling in France and Italy because he had trouble finding facilities, and he needed a cane to walk. We wanted to know if anything had changed. I never have a problem finding a restroom in the states and I travel a lot. The are convenience stores, supermarkets, libraries, parks and restaurants. I never hesitate to ask for the bathroom in a restaurant and on the rare occasion if I'm told it's only for customers, I always think to myself "well now I'll probably never be one". It has snobbish feel to it. It's like that restaurant in Date Night, where the hostess answers the phone "you're welcome" maybe not but I have to lighten this up! It's not really more of an expense- this is a service industry after all and there are built-in costs associated with running any business- people wouldn't ask if they didn't need it. Having said that, I have no problem with paying to pee. If we traveled expecting everything to be like home, then why go?. It's just that in a place as civilized and sophisticated as France, you'd expect more than you apparently get. My husband lived in Paris in the 60's and doesn't recall not using friend's WC's - that sounds so weird. Has that happened to you? And I've lived in London which can have some pretty smelly tube stations, but not all always.
You guys have offered up some great info. I think this post is worthwhile. And we love the French. Vive les differences! But not all of them!