The Chateau Agel in Southern France
Travel these days can be a major time suck as well as a hit to the wallet. With the extra charges for bags and the endless lines for security, now more than ever I travel light. I only bring enough clothes for half my stay, usually two to three weeks. This means at some point on my trip I’ll be doing some laundry. Knowing that not every place I stay will have a washing machine, I bring my own laundry detergent and come prepared to hand wash everything.
I’ve been using this method for several trips and didn’t run into a problem until my fall vacation to France. Usually I travel in late spring when the weather is warm enough for nature to be my clothes dryer. But on my trip to France, somehow I forgot that this time of year weather would be rainy and cold and nature wasn’t going to be lending me much of a hand. So when my one week of clothes was so dirty my jeans could practically walk on their own, I knew I could no longer put off cleaning my clothes.
The wonderful 13th century chateau I stayed in actually had a laundry. So what’s the problem you might ask? Well, after breaking a washing machine in Tokyo, having my clothes shrunk two sizes in the Philippines, and finding my favorite pants stolen out of a dryer in Italy, I wasn’t a big fan of communal laundry facilities. So instead of taking my clothes down to the laundry tucked into a corner of the chateau, I decided to wash my clothes by hand. After all, my bathroom sink was huge.
I did my first round of laundry, including three tops, four pairs of underwear, three pairs of socks and one lightweight sweater. I realized the bathroom didn’t have a shower curtain rod, my emergency clothesline of choice. Without my usual standby, I proceeded to hang my clothes on every available fixture in the bathroom including a picture and the fireplace mantel. Yes, I was lucky enough to have a fireplace in the bathroom. Unfortunately, I couldn’t seem to get the fireplace to work but, it did come in handy as clothesline. At least that’s what I thought.
After a whole day of dripping all over the floor and into the bathtub my clothes were drying about as fast as a wet snail. I still didn’t want to resort to the dryer so I wrung the clothes out one more time and proceeded to hang them all over the bathroom like Christmas ornaments. Right then one of my travel companions stopped by my room in desperate need of more toilet paper. Without thinking, I let Joan follow me into the bathroom.
She looked in horror at my clothes hanging everywhere. “What are you thinking? There are laundry facilities downstairs.”
I hung my head as the water from my sweater hit the tile floor in steady drips. “I like to wash my clothes by hand.”
Joan rolled her eyes. “You’re crazy. The clothes are going to take forever to dry in this weather. Plus there’s no heat in the Chateau.”
A fact I was well aware of. I had two comforters on my bed and still needed to wear silk underwear under my flannel pajamas in order to sleep. “Tell me about it.” I stared at my clothes draped everywhere like Dali clocks. “Look, I’ve had some really bad experiences with public laundries. Besides my clothes are shy.”
Thankfully she laughed. “I think I have something that might help.”
Darting back to her room, Joan returned with a multi-colored twisted cord. “Here,” she said as she handed it to me.
At first I was a bit confused. “Is doing my own laundry an offence I don’t know about? Am I supposed to hang myself?”
She laughed so hard she slipped on the wet tile and ended up in the bathtub with my sweater draped over her shoulder.
I threw her the cord like a life saver. “Here, grab on.” I was amazed at how handy it was as I pulled Joan out of the bathtub. “You must be psychic. How did you know I’d need a rope?”
My wet sweater went flying across the room. “No you idiot. It’s a clothesline.”
Moral of the story: Remember to follow Fish Out of Water rule # 8: Always bring a clothesline. You might just need it to rescue someone…yourself.