Sense and sensitivity in Europe

View of Nice from the hotel

I washed my hands and dried them on the towel. Almost immediately, I sensed something “hideous.” I didn’t know where it was from at first. Then, holding up my hands, I smelled them and, “OH MY GOSH!” It was my hands. How did they get so smelly AFTER I washed them? I started my “investigation.”

I sniffed all the suspicious items I could find, but nothing smelled even close to the “original smell.” After fifteen minutes, I decided to do the unthinkable – something I would never do in a hotel: I put one towel near my nose. “Agghhhh!” I yelled in horror as I found the culprit. To make sure it was really the towel, I waited till my husband took the shower and dried himself on one, then sniffed his shoulder (yes, I’d rather smell his shoulder than the second towel.) His skin gave off the same hideous smell I first detected. It really made me think…


That was what happened in Nice. A few days later we were in Firenze. In the hotel, I washed my hands and tapped them very lightly on the towel. Christopher Columbus! Here again I found the “original smell.” How could it be?


After 17 days in France and Italy, we stayed at five hotels ranging from three to four stars, including a luxurious one with French doors opening out to the balcony overlooking the magnificent Mediterranean. Even there, the smell followed me. This could not be a coincidence. I know that Europe has very strict environmental laws, one of which regulates what chemicals to be included in the laundry detergent. By the time we got to the second hotel, I was sure it is the detergent here that leaves the lingering odor on the towels. They smelled rotten, as if people washed them without using detergent so the odor built up over time to become so obnoxious. At this point, I tried not to raise all the images that I possibly could about how these towels got this odor from day one till when I used them. Very scary thoughts. Better not think about them.

I have to say I admire the Europeans for implementing responsible environmental laws. For one thing, they are not wasteful (also for a good reason.) In France and Italy, you have to bring your own grocery shopping bags or pay for one at the store. They use less chemicals for cleaning the carpet/floor and the bathroom as well. All the shoes stores do not reek of chemicals like Target’s shoes section. Smelly towels, however, are the last things I expected. (My husband didn’t think it was that bad.) So, call me sensitive, but between tipping my hat off to their environmental sensitivity and the towels, I’d rather drop the towel.

Night view of the Duomo in Firenze


  1. Thanks, oddznns for the comments. I am pretty sure it is the commercial biodegradable detergent. I cannot say about the second option. And yes, it is very easy to get used to things in America :-).

  2. (1) It could be type of biodegradable detergent they use
    (2) Maybe they hang the linen out to dry. I notice if you do that and it’s humid, the linens get a horrid mouldy smell.

    Funny how Americanized we become. When I first went back to VN, my clothes would smell funny after a rainy day because we had to hang them up in the balcony above the kitchen and not out in the sun. This was before they started selling OMO softeners. Now they smell strongly artificial, rain or shine! We still don’t have a dryer. The electricity supply would go kaput in the apartment if we used one.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.