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Postcard FromValancia #2

Part of adapting to a new place is structuring your life around a new schedule and we expected we would have to make some serious adjustments in Spain, particularly around their rota for meals. Oddly enough, while we have found adapting to the Spanish timelines for when and where to eat not as difficult as we anticipated, we are finding laundry, especially when and how to dry it, a real challenge.

Spaniards in general and Valencians specifically don’t own clothes dryers. On average, according to Wikipedia, Valencia has 319 days without rain per year so you can see how attractive it can seem to just string some lines and let the sun do the drying. But that presupposes you have enough space to use for drying clean wet clothes.

Our apartment in this 200+ year old former palace does not feel small. The fourteen-foot ceilings keep it feeling spacious. But in fact, it only has a very small outside space and thus very short clotheslines. The clothes washer itself holds 8.5 kg (or almost 19 pounds) of laundry, but our existing clotheslines won’t hold nearly that number of items that weight represents, not to mention bigger and heavier items like sheets and bath towels.

Fortunately, there are several innovative tools to help overcome the lack of drying space. First are some drying racks that you can suspend from the inside of your balcony banister if you are lucky enough to have a balcony (as we are). The portable, lightweight tools give you a pattern of latex-covered wires to use to hang your garments using similarly latex-wrapped wire hangers. Richard thinks he can get all his clean wet shirts on these. Then there are these drying racks that when folded take up about four feet by one inch but unfold to something roughly the size of a narrow stretcher and about four feet tall. These are meant to be set up in indoors and hold the rest of a load of laundry. We are both skeptical that clothes will dry on these indoors, but both fellow ex-pats and Spaniards assure us they will.

If they dry, it will probably be, in part, because of the washing machine’s ability to hyperdrive the spin cycle to some absurdly high number of RPMs. This centrifugal tornado at the end of the wash cycle ensures that even sheets and bath towels come out more damp than wet and well on their way to dry.

This morning, however, we just needed to get the sheets and towels washed so I put them in the roller bag and took them down to my neighborhood’s lavandaria, about a three-minute walk away. Here I was able to get them all washed and dried for about ten euro, six to wash and four to dry in two eighteen minutes sessions costing two euro each. The whole process took about an hour. At first, I was alone in the place, but toward the end a young man came in with a blue bag from which he proceeded to draw some wet clothes and put them in the dryer. It turned out he had washed them last night but worried they would not be dry for a work shift later that day. Then a woman came in with a bag, also seeking a dryer.

“It’s this weather,” she complained about the spate of cloudy days and temps in the teens (C), “Yes, they dry but it takes forever. Easier to bring them here and pay the two euros.”

Rich and will see how well our drying system performs when we wash clothes for the first time tomorrow.

In other news, I returned to the Central Market today and had a much better experience. Fewer people than on a weekend, fewer photographers, was able to get to know a couple of the vendors. I bought my first fresh fish this morning. I purchased two Dorado, a medium sized, white-fleshed fish I had never had but which my cooking mentor Karlos Aguiñaro, prepares often. I was able to buy them, have them cleaned and filleted, all in Spanish, for thirteen euro. I brought them home and cooked them up in one of the new frying pans I got yesterday, and it made for a glorious midday meal (la comida), along with the last of the black-eyed peas from New Year’s Day.

I also managed to figure out why I am routinely mistaken for British. The fishmonger told me I speak Spanish with a British accent. I’ll need to ask my Spaniard friends about this later.

This evening for cena (light dinner) we had some olive salt bread, a bit like a focaccia, which costs 1 euro per loaf and some lovely anchovies I got, along with a peppery cured sausage and green salad (market lettuce, fresh market onions, tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice).

Anyway, I know it’s only almost four pm back in the States, but here it’s almost 10 pm. Time for a quick turn down to the bar on my block for a quick limoncello and then back and to bed. Big day tomorrow. The apartment lacked a tv, so we bought a smart set from El Corte Ingles and expect delivery tomorrow plus the laundry. Love to you all.

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