Our "other" life in France.
"Laundry and pizza" by Rae-Helen Fisenden
I just finished watching a rather boring video on a very old open-air laundromat located in Florida-possibly one of America’s first. I did this as part of my research for this blog because I wanted to learn more about how the concept of open air laundromats first started and therefore, how they’ve evolved into what we now see here, in rural France. France is SO progressive in many ways I could spend a whole blog talking about just that subject alone, but instead, I’ll focus on two advancements in technology here that I find amazing and which are, surprisingly, related.
As a prelude to this however, it’s interesting to note that the world’s largest open air laundry is actually located in Mumbai. Known as Dhobi Ghat, for 140 years 7,000 male workers have washed half a million items of clothing daily in this mammoth open air laundry. They work for 20 hours each day. Essentially it is a huge human powered washing machine.
It makes me feel immensely grateful that I can simply scan my credit card or insert several euros, press a couple of options and start a process which will take 32 minutes. At the end of this cycle my laundry will have been well washed, smell fabulous ( washing liquid inclusive in price ) and is ready to either take home to dry in the sun or can alternatively be placed in the giant tumble dryer for another 30 minutes or so. Job done. And best of all, these wonderful machines are located on the open air with just enough covering for protection from any rain. You can wait in your car and read a book or leave and come back. There's no real need to be concerned about security either as theft is uncommon.
There are three machines. One is a washing machine that can hold 18 kilos of laundry. The other is smaller and its capacity is 8 kilos. The dryer is the third machine and can hold 16 kilos of washing. They are located nearby to a supermarket and often a car wash as well as a petrol station. Obviously, one can shop or wash the car and fill up on fuel while waiting. Smart thinking. And frequently there are huge bins clearly marked for rubbish and recyclables. Lots of options.
Now, why would I get so excited by this wonderful technology. It's been around for a while thank God and come a long, long way. I do have a washing machine and a condenser dryer in both of our french homes which guests use- so the simple answer is, it’s all about capacity and time. When we do a changeover between guests there is an inordinate amount of washing to do. Sheets, mattress protectors, towels, pillow cases, pillow shams and bed spreads all have to be laundered and sometimes, very quickly. Of course we have a few sets of everything stored if we only have several hours between one set of guests leaving and a new set arriving but still, it needs to be done. I’m not a front loader girl I’ve discovered. The cycles take way too long and you can’t darn well interrupt them, but these massive, public BYO laundry machines are fast, efficient, and very handy indeed. Added to this is the fact that your laundry, after being dried in the huge tumbler, is far less wrinkled and less likely to have to be ironed. Bonus. Simply marvellous for blankets and heavier items too. I can practically hear your excitement mounting! And perhaps you’re thinking...what if there’s a queue? Secret tip. We go at lunch time. That’s between midday and 2 o’clock and rarely have we had to wait.
Ok, so if that doesn’t float your boat then I’m pretty sure this next little invention might. It’s an automatic pizza dispenser available 24/24. It’s located next door to the Laverie (french word for outdoor laundromat) in St Cyprien near our Berbiguieres cottage. It’s brand new and we were somewhat perplexed when we first saw it. What an earth did it do? It looked a bit like the Tardis from Dr Who on steroids. Now, it’s a fact that pizza is becoming ( I guess everywhere ) but particularly in France, a very popular fast food choice. We watched with fascination as some young people inserted their money into the Pizza Tardis, chose their pizza and 3 minutes later out popped a steaming hot pizza in a box. Incroyable!
Even my non-engineering mind started to think about the logistics of this process which would include refrigeration, an oven at high temperature and the mechanics to dispense the correct pizza in the correct order. Wow. But really, what a smart idea! So the relationship between the two you may ask? Do your laundry and have a pizza at any time of the day or night and combine one with the other. Just need the wine and life would be complete!