This is by far the most bizarre thing that has happened on the trip thus far, and quite possibly the greatest story ever…
After about 2-weeks of 85+ degree Spanish sun, all of our clothes had been soaked in sweat at least twice if not thrice, so we were long overdue for some laundry time.
I know, you’re probably thinking to yourself, is he really going to tell us a story about their laundry!? Yes. Yes I am. And you’ll see why in just a minute, but first let me set the story up…
Ok, first of all keep in mind that we are now deep in the heart of Spain. This is no longer touristy Barcelona or metropolitan Madrid where you can get by on little to no Espanol. Being the stupid American’s that we are, I have very little knowledge of the language, and Jay has managed to recall just a smidgen of the Mexican-flavored Spanish that he once knew. In addition, the streets here are about as narrow as a toothpick and street signs are just a fantasy they write about in children stories.
Okay, so now that you have an idea of what we are up against… back to our laundry.
We first ask the lady at the hotel front desk where we might find laundry. She points down the street and says something to the effect of “Alfalfa.” Neither of us had a cowlick, so we assumed she was referring to an area down the road a few blocks that we had seen the night prior. This should be easy we thought as we set out down the narrow road with a garbage bag full of stinky socks. Without too much difficulty we walked right into the Alfalfa district. We looked left. We looked right. We looked up side streets. We looked down alleyways. There wasn’t a laundromat or dry cleaners anywhere to be found.
So much for easy.
Now by this time it’s around noon, and the sun is high overhead with the temperature quickly approaching 89 degrees. The last time I checked, carrying a black Heafty garbage bag around in this weather isn’t one of the Surgeon Generals recommendations. I set it down on the curb while Jay tried to ask a local for some directions. The guy he found pointed us in another direction and jotted down a street name where we could find a Lavenderia.
So off we went again, this time on a hunt for Calle de Juan Antonio Cauestani. We walked and walked and walked, looking for what we thought was a supposed to be a street that came to a dead end. How far is one really supposed to keep walking when looking for a dead end!? That in and of itself seems like a dead end. We walked so far that by now they could have very easily paved over Jaun’s street and put up a new street in its place. So it was time for Plan C: Ask directions again.
I set the now sweaty sacks of stinky socks on the sidewalk and Jay popped his head into a jewelry store on the corner to ask for another set of directions. She had no clue where this Juan Antonio street was, but she did give us a green flyer and told us that if we knocked on a door across the street they would be able to take our laundry.
Mmmmkay. Just go knock on someone’s door and ask if they will do our laundry? Right. Hey, it’s Spain… anything is possible, let’s give it a go.
So we ring the doorbell on building #22. We can barely make out a single syllable through the old crackly intercom. We simply respond with “Hola.” It must have been the secret word, because someone upstairs buzzed us in!
We now find ourselves standing in an open air foyer with closed doors in front of us, a stair case to the left of us, and a gate leading out to a patio on the right. The door we just walked through is behind us. We stare at each other blankly and shrug. There isn’t a sole in sight. No signs on any doors, and it certainly doesn’t look like a laundromat. About a minute later from the other side of the locked gate, an elderly lady in a robe hobbles out with a cane in each hand. She stares at us with a confused look on her face. We stare back with what I’m sure must have been an even more confused look. Jay somehow manages to utter the word “Lavenderia” as I flash the green paper at her. Without saying a word, she disappears again off behind the gate just as slowly as she first appeared.
A bell rings twice.
Should we leave, we think?
Just as we are about to give up, another younger lady in nun attire emerges from behind the same gate.
I guess we’re in the right place after all!
She opens the gate and we pass the plastic sack to her. She starts categorizing the garments and tallying up the cost. She hands us a copy of the receipt and tells us it will be ready tomorrow by 4:30. We thank her and head back the way we came.
Wow. What the heck just happened!?
By now we’ve figured out that we were standing in the entry way to a convent. That totally explains the “Hermanas” (translation: sisters) on the green flyer that the lady at the jewelry store handed to Jay. That’s right, nuns, yes NUNS, are washing our dirty underwear! Who’s the one sinning here? Us or them? It just feels so wrong.
Fast forward to tomorrow….
With a train to catch at 5pm, a 4:30 laundry pickup is going to be cutting it real close. Way too close considering we have to pack those clothes into our bags and then find a cab. Not gonna cut it, so we show up a bit early, and ring the bell for the covenant.
A minute passes, no answer.
We discuss that it’s quite possible the 4:30 pickup time was not due to washing/drying time, but instead because of some religious practices unbeknownst to us. Just as we are about to give up on an early pickup, The younger nun answers the door with a grin, and quickly ushers us inside. Now standing back in that same foyer, she hands Jay a key…
…and instructs us to unlock the door in front of us and to wait. Meanwhile she scurries off quickly behind the gate.
My oh my, this keeps getting more and more strange.
So now we are in a little holding area….
Sitting. Waiting. Clueless.
Still waiting. Still clueless.
We think our earlier assumption was correct in that a religious ceremony of some sort was underway and we were not to be seen in the foyer, so she hid us from view in what felt like a closet. Only it had religious paintings on the walls…
…doilies on the table, chairs, and yet another gate spanning one wall. A minute later we see her quickly walking with two bags of clean laundry in hand. She unlocks this new gate and hands us the bags.
We pay her for the services rendered (expensive but the story is worth so much more) and kindly ask her name and for a photograph. She was more than happy to oblige…
And even gave Jay a traditional Spanish farewell kiss (cheek to cheek)! Don’t worry Carme, we won’t tell God. It’s our little secret!
And for those wondering, yes they do great Laundry! Holy, yet no holes! And no socks lost! It’s truly a miracle! Our boxers are blessed and we made our train on time! The man upstairs must laughing his holy ass off!