In preparation for our 7 months abroad, Chris and I packed a lot of clothes. We were moving into a furnished apartment and, therefore, didn’t need to bring much else. With this in mind, we took advantage of every ounce, every nook and cranny of space in our suitcases to ensure that we’d have what we needed to span 3 seasons.
We stuffed. We rolled. We layered. We were the epitome of packing excellence. But, no matter how well you pack, at some point, your supply of clean undergarments begins to dwindle. At some point, you have to re-learn how to do the laundry.
I say “re-learn” with a chuckle, because I’ve been doing my own laundry for a long time now. Save for the occasional cry for help on a weekend visit home from college, I had been relatively self-sufficient in this area for many years. But, when you’re faced with a different set of tools – a tiny, top-loaded washing machine situated in your bathroom, a corresponding instruction manual in French, and water temperature knobs in degrees Celsius, for example – it throws you for a little bit of a loop.
I knew that this appliance, like most other things in our apartment, would probably have its own set of quirks and rules of engagement. Sure enough, there was a lengthy section in our Apartment Notes booklet:
WASHING MACHINE: Do not fill tumbler more than half full with clothes. Put liquid or powder detergent in left-hand container (one on right is for long cycles that have “pre-wash” and you need powder for that), if you use softener it goes in middle. Turn knob right to desired setting, change spin speed if desired, hit ‘depart’ – let “port” light go off by itself and then washer will start.
Not only was the machine a third of the size I was used to, but I could only fill it half full. Gone were the days of stuffing my cavernous, All-American tumbler to the brim. But, that aside, the instructions sounded pretty straight forward. Okay, so I’ll just have to do multiple loads. Not a big deal. I should probably be sorting my whites from my darks anyway. Heck, I could do a separate load for my whites, lights, and darks! Watch out Donna Reed!
I read on.
NOTE: it takes a LONG time, so unless clothes are extra dirty, BEST to use the 29-minute setting.
Don’t roll in the mud. Got it.
At end, do not force lid open – it stays ‘locked’ for a short time. Do 1 pair of jeans at a time: 2 will be VERY wet at end and may harm machine. Dry in coin laundromat (turn right on Rue Rochechouart).
I knew before we moved in to this apartment that we didn’t have a dryer to use in-house. I knew that I was extra lucky to have a washing machine at all, really; many Parisians rely solely on the laundromat as their apartments are not as well equipped. But I assumed there would at least be a drying rack tucked away somewhere. I would even take a line and some clothes pins! No cigar. I pictured myself hiking down Rue Rochechouart with a hamper full of damp clothes – clothes that had been wet and dripping for hours while I washed load after load in my tiny washing machine. Not ideal, at least for the long term.
Our minds made up, Chris and I embarked on an expedition to find me a drying rack of some sort, something small and easy to store. Assuming we’d have more luck in a concentrated retail center, Chris suggested first that we try the mall. Le Forum des Halles, found in the les Halles neighborhood, is a giant, modern structure containing a broad variety of stores – many of which are underground and accessible from the metro. It was a promising first attempt, but after about 2 hours of searching, we realized that we weren’t going to find what we were looking for amidst the throw pillows and expensive wall décor in these high-end boutiques. So, where do people go for, you know, cheap, everyday stuff? What do people do without Target or Walmart when they have a random and somewhat obscure laundry need?
Discouraged, we brought our plea before the all-knowing Google. Is there a Target equivalent in Paris? Two stores popped up with gusto: Monoprix and Tati. We had seen both of these retail chains scattered throughout the city but never had a reason to visit either one up to this point. Other tourists swore by them. Now feeling hopeful, we left the mall and navigated to the nearest Monoprix.
But Monoprix was another letdown. While they had a few hampers, packs of clothes pins, and ironing accessories – in the right direction, for sure – there were no drying racks to be found. By this point, nearly 3 hours into our unsuccessful mission, Chris and I both were tired and frustrated. As we entered the Tati down the street, we decided that, if this store did not have a drying rack with our name on it, we would take the metro home and worry about this again another day. I hoped our clean underwear would hold out…
We rounded the corner into the housewares section. And, much to our shock, there it was: the drying rack of all drying racks, a real 5-foot tall wonder of wonders! We really couldn’t believe our eyes. It definitely wasn’t small and I had absolutely no idea where I would store it when it wasn’t in use… or when it WAS in use, for that matter! But it was a drying rack. And it was perfect. Now we just had to get it home. We lugged it to the front counter and paid, faced with the reality that we were too far away from our apartment to walk. We would have to take this monstrosity on the metro. Without a doubt, I found this to be much more amusing than Chris did.
When we arrived home, I unwrapped and assembled my new toy in front of the window in our bedroom. I did a few loads of wash in my tiny washing machine and draped the damp clothes over the rungs. I admired my handiwork and reflected on our stressful but oh, so comical adventure. Little did I know that, later on in the week, we’d see the same giant drying rack at a home goods store not a block from our apartment. I guess it pays to explore your neighborhood before venturing out. But, all things considered, it was a good learning experience. And, Laundry Day had never been so exciting.