Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Ubiquitous Bidet

One of the chief attractions of European skiing is the novelty of it all. Food, customs, language and manners are different in each country and different from “home.” One of the European novelties, found in most hotels, is the ever present bidet. It’s not that Americans have never seen a bidet. They are just more prevalent in Europe than in the States.

If you ask an experienced traveler what it’s for you may get a polite smile and a knowing, “…everyone knows what it’s for.” But bidets are somewhat like the subject of “sex” to a high school freshman. Everyone talks big but most have no idea how it all works.

It’s likely that the bidet has been a discussion topic on every SM trip. For example, consider the 2008 Ski Masters travelers. Since their return there has been steady on-line discussion of the little porcelain pedestal and its many uses. For better or worse most of the uses found by the group were not envisioned by the French furniture makers who produced the first bidets in the early part of the 18th century.

Yes, it’s true. Historians suggest it was first developed for the French royalty. And it was a piece of furniture since it sat in the boudoir along with the chamber pot. Separate bathroom were a 20th century innovation which came along with running water and indoor plumbing. The French name, bidet, translates as “pony” or “royal pony” and came from the fact that users were instructed to mount the device, facing the wall, and sit, much like they would on a pony saddle. (Hey, if you can’t believe what you read on the web what can you believe?)

The purpose, then as now, was to rinse off ones “private parts.” But the imagination of SM travelers has significantly expanded the list of uses to include a shampoo basin, a laundry and sock soaking tub and boot cleaner. The Masts found it useful as a wine chiller. Demeree Schaefer still believes it’s a “children’s sink.”

Each afternoon in Val d’Isere, 1994, a group filled the “party room” bidet with roadside snow to cool the beer and wine. It served that purpose well but the melting snow left behind a layer of grit and sand that must have left the housekeeping staff questioning standards of American hygiene.

So, you are thinking, enough about the history of the thing. How DO you use it? As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words so click here for a tasteful instruction video. If you want to read more, click here for a narrative version.

And if you have any other good uses for the device, pass them on. The whole group will appreciate the educational input.

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