All Washed Up

Friday, May 06, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Paris, France to Edinburgh, Scotland. 
On Wednesday (day 65), we traveled by train from Paris to Edinburgh.  Although we could have made the trip in less than two hours by plane, we opted for rail to have the opportunity to travel through the Chunnel, the 30-mile tunnel that passes below the English Channel to connect the United Kingdom with the mainland of Europe.
Since this marvel of engineering opened 15 years ago, we have been fascinated with the idea of getting from England to France by train.  We couldn't resist the opportunity and were giddy with excitement on the day of the trip.  Little did we realize. Near Calais, the Eurostar train taking us on this magical ride sped into a large hole in a remote area.  For the next 35 minutes, our view was of the tunnel infrastructure (pictured above).  Then we sped out of the tunnel and into the English countryside.  Yawn.
After transferring to another station in London to catch the train to Edinburgh, the trip ended up taking us about ten hours and cost three times what a discount flight would have.  But, hey, we had the experience of going through the Chunnel.
On Thursday, our first full day in Edinburgh, we rented a car and drove to a few small villages near the city to search for letterboxes.  By Friday, we were ready to try out the laundry facilities in the apartment we had rented.  Our clothes had been only hand washed since we encountered the laundry facilities in Rome, almost a month ago.
Because they are such voracious consumers of energy, tumble dryers, the type used most often in the U.S., are found in only about half of British homes.  With high energy costs and growing concern about energy efficiency, the use of tumble dryers is widely discouraged.  Even the BBC reports that line drying is growing in popularity.

Integrated Washer-Dryer
We were pretty surprised therefore to find a compact, handy-dandy Hotpoint BHWD129 tucked into the kitchen cabinets at the apartment.  Smashing!  After handwashing our clothes for two months and with complete disregard for our carbon footprints, we were eager to give the machine a try.
This integrated machine does it all, according to the manual.  Insert your dirty clothes and remove them clean and dry and ready to wear.  Save money and hassle with this economical and functional machine, the advertisement promises.  Clearly it does not mention saving time.  Nor does it suggest what your clothes will look like at the end.  There is a good reason for that.
The complicated dashboard (thankful it's in English!)
After a lengthy study of the control panel and the user manual, which we located online, we made what seemed a reasonable selection of cycles, inserted our clothes and detergent, and pressed the start button.  Like magic, the machine began to fill with water and agitation soon followed.
We weren't terribly surprised when the sounds were dissimilar to what you hear from a U.S. Maytag at work.  So we closed the cabinet door and pretty much ignored it.  An hour and a half later, we looked in the porthole to see what was happening.  We suspected that the washing stage might be finished because the high-speed spin cycle had been intermittently jarring objects across the kitchen counter and rattling our teeth for the previous 30 minutes or so.  Based on the numbers of fillings lost and cups broken, we estimated about 4500 rpm during that phase.
Soon we entered another cycle.  In addition to the continuation of occasional gurgling sounds, the drum would turn for a couple of minutes, stop, and begin turning again, but in the opposite direction.  Sometimes it would spin at a rapid pace again, but probably only at about 2000 rpm.  The indicator light told us it was in the drying phase.
This process went on for another hour.  When the END indicator finally lit, we eagerly opened the door to retrieve our clothes.  What a surprise!  We removed our clothes to find them slightly damp, prune-like with wrinkles, and somewhat smaller than when we inserted them more than two and a half hours before.  But, by golly, they were clean!  So we've cancelled our order for an outdoor clothes rack.  We're sticking with the modern technology!  Faster, easier, and carefree-- once you dry, iron, and stretch everything back to its original size.
Wondering if clothes might dry faster like this