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This question's going to drive a few of you crazy.

We're going to Paris at the end of September. Went to England in May, and because of it I thought about this next question. I read that in Paris, there are no such things as washcloths, so pack your own. We found that true about England too, to the point where the toiletry section at the local grocery store did not sell anything resembling a washcloth... short socks came in double duty there. Same thing with contact lens saline solution... nothing! So, here's my vastly broad question that'll drive a few of you crazy... is there anything here in the states we as Americans use daily that we'd expect in our Paris apartment, but it just won't be there... i.e. take it with you. Yes, yes, yes we will contact the apartment owner. But, if you don't know that there are no washcloths in Paris, then how do you know to ask? That is the crux of my question. Thanks and let the answers begin!

Posted by
12040 posts

Wash cloths are definitely one thing. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is that if you use a deodorant like Speed Stick (ie, one that's sort of powdery), I can't find something similar in Europe. Despite the old stereotype, Europeans do wear deodorant, it just tends to be the spray or gel type.

Posted by
3110 posts

You might ask if the Paris apartment has a shower curtain or glass door if you are used to one in your US home. We've often encountered tubs and showers in Europe with no water barrier whatsoever.

Posted by
175 posts

On every trip to France I stock up on the great mitt style washcloths sold in the hypermarches in packs. They are made from thick terry towelling and because your hand slips in to the mitt they very easy to use. And they come in a sorts of colours and designs. With the glove and some lovely Provencal soap your
day can start with a bit of French flair. Well...

Posted by
774 posts

Here's another person who loves the French version of washclothes, the mitt style. We have a bunch at home that I bought, in Paris actually, at a local chain that I'm blanking on the name of. Mostly groceries, but housewares as well. Sorry, we haven't rented apartments, so I can't help you there. But I do love my French washcloths (and loved your message header).

Posted by
8114 posts

I don't think they are just a French item, because you can buy those fit-on-your-hand wash-clothes in other countries. Look in the babies section if you can't find them with other towels. Used to get them at Woolworths here in Germany when my daughter was a baby.

Posted by
3110 posts

We usually buy the wash mitts in Germany but I have seen them at the Monoprix in Paris and other French cities. Monoprix is a favorite for budget souvenirs BTW.

Posted by
1068 posts

Your question is very adorable. And it was only driving me crazy because I couldn't think of a single thing! And then I remembered that when my mother and her sister were in Paris with us two years ago, they rented an apartment, and there was no corkscrew in the kitchen! That struck us as hilarious. But all they had to do was walk 2 blocks to the local Monoprix and pick one up. It was 6 Euros. And I don't think it is a general rule. I cannot imagine any other apartment kitchen not having a corkscrew in it. So yes, check with the apartment owner or agent. As for washcloths and contact lens solution, I have seen both (in many different stores) in England and France. I don't think that grocery store toiletry sections generally sell towels and washcloths - in the UK or in the USA. My local Safeway doesn't stock washcloths. So, you might have been looking in the wrong place.

Posted by
8291 posts

Monoprix (they're all over Paris), and department stores (Galleries Layfayette, Au Printemps) sell the mitt style washcloths. (Edit: wrote this before Mona's post appeared) All apts are different, but the two apts we rented did not have soap, shampoo, paper towels, iron/board, hair dryer, and hangers.

Posted by
1357 posts

That's the big thing for me, no hand soap in the bathrooms. I never remember to bring that. If you travel for business and collect hand soaps from hotels, pack 'em. We've got an apartment in Germany booked in a couple of weeks, now I know what to pack. Keep the suggestions coming!

Posted by
524 posts

Hi Jean Paul For my face, I take the disposable makeup remover wipes. I use these at the end of a long plane ride. When I need a pick me up during the day and at the hotels. They come in small square travel packages. When you are moving from city to city, your washcloth won't dry. For other parts of your body, I also take the the good smelling baby wipes in travel packages. Better perhaps when you are on the go rather than in an apartment. For your apartment, buying a washcloth and taking it with you is good. Have fun in my favorite city in the world! Bobbie

Posted by
228 posts

Besides washcloths, deodorant, bar soap, shower curtains and wine openers, anything else? Sound like so far as long as we can find a supermarket we'll be just fine. I did see on googlearth street-view that there is one a block away.... quelle convenient! Speaking of google earth street view, have you used it? I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS FEATURE! I wonder if I can see somebody being actively pick-pocketed if I "drive" around the major tourist sites!

Posted by
4371 posts

Since you asked...and I can't think of anything else for you to bring with you (and BTW I loved your thread's title!)... I, also, LOVE Google Street View!!! I've (kinda) joked about munching on bread and cheese and sipping wine while 'wandering' the streets of Paris...or sipping Campari while 'strolling' the medieval street plan of Siena...or finishing off that bottle of wine 'in' Rome...ahhhhhh... (per your original question - you might consider making a list of things you'd want in your apt - kitchen knife, corkscrew, wine glasses, towel/soap, paper towels, etc. - then as soon as you get there checking them off so you'll be able to go to the store and pick up anything you might need then)

Posted by
8114 posts

Tom has been going to the wrong stores. I buy stick deo all the time. They have it for men or for women or even odorless.

Posted by
3110 posts

Jo, Tom is referring to the "good kind" of deodorant that you can only get in the US. We once took our body odor challenged teenager for Germany for 7 months. He ran out of the type of deodorant that we had taken along about half way through the trip. We tried all brands of deodorant at the German hypermarkts (sp). My husband and a colleague (edit spelling), both chemists, stood in front of the deodorant isle and couldn't find any with the "special" active ingredients allowed in American deodorants. When a relative came to visit at Thanksgiving time, the only thing they were asked to bring for us was more deodorant and we'd been living abroad since June...

Posted by
1035 posts

"My husband and a college, both chemists, stood in front of the deodorant isle and couldn't find any with the "special" active ingredients allowed in American deodorants." The special ingredient is aluminum. The issue isn't deodorants as much as antiperspirants, which have the active ingredients mentioned and are harder to find in Europe.

Posted by
337 posts

Michael 1, I think you mean aluminum chlorohydrates, not metallic aluminum ;-) And they are in pretty much every German deodorant, it is actually quite hard to find one without it if you just happen to be sensitive.

Posted by
11832 posts

It's probably not so much being unable to find something as knowing where to find it. In the U.S., I'm used to getting everything I need at the grocery store. In Europe, I visit multiple stores (but I think the grocery stores are becoming more like ours). In particular, I visit pharmacies more, for things like shampoo, than I would in the States.

Posted by
79 posts

I don't know how "high maintenance" you are, but European hotels, B&Bs, etc rarely have conditioner, only shampoo. My daughter's hair is prone to tangles, so I always bring a small bottle of conditioner, or buy one when I get wherever I am going.

Posted by
138 posts

I substitute the flat French sponges (pop up when wet) for washcloths. I agree with the sentiment on bringing antiperspirant - ran out in France and my French substitute - well it was lacking in the odor control department but an interesting experience (my roommate respectfully disagrees). Also, I bring dryer sheets to throw in the dryer in the laundromat - I haven't seen those but I haven't spent much time looking in grocery stores for them as I'm spending time chatting with others in the laundromat. The dryer sheets are great for other uses as well.

Posted by
12040 posts

Well, since I started this whole deoderant/antiperspirant debate, let me clarify. In the US, I preferred to use the types that are made of a pasty, waxy semi-solid white material. That's what I have trouble finding in Germany. I can find liquid sprays, liquid roll-ons and gels, but not the thicker white stuff. Important for me personally because I'm a heavy sweater and the other stuff sweats off much quicker. "There are also a lot of food additives, antibiotics, and chemicals allowed in US food that aren't allowed in European food." I'm not sure why this foody rumor still persists. I can vouch that a lot of the food quality of basic items (cheese, bread, cuts of meat, vegetables, fruits, particularly berries) over here, from a taste perspective, is superior to what is easily available in the US. But go to a Carrefour, Rewe, Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, etc. and look at the labels. You see pretty much the same stuff goes into the food on both sides of the Atlantic. The only real differences I see are that over here, they tend to use more sucrose as a sweetener instead of fructose, and they don't put it in foods where you wouldn't normally expect it (ie, juice, breads, salad dressings, broth, etc.). My village is surrounded by agricultural fields and pastures and I can assure you by the smells that fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides are used heavily.

Posted by
8404 posts

Dental Floss! Last time I tried to buy it, I had to go to a pharmacy where they claimed it was silk thread. Same for anti-histamine if you are prone to allergies. T
hey sell six highly packaged tablets as if they were gold nuggets instead of the buckets full you can get at CVS.

Posted by
1 posts

I always take an old towel and cut it into wash cloth sized pieces. I throw them away before coming home, which makes more room in my luggage for things I bought on the trip.

Posted by
1631 posts

Those of you who have rented apartments, do they have ice cube trays? Actually, do they have freezers? Can't remember from when I lived there. I know having an iced drink is not something that Europeans usually do. You could probably take one of those silicone ice cube trays. Also, take your own zip-loc bags. I haven't seen them yet in their grocery stores.

Posted by
14 posts

I read most of the suggestions to your question but did not see anyone suggest bringing the adapter plug to make your hair dryer/shaver/cell phone charger/camera charger/laptop etc. work in Paris. Your London adapter plug will not work in Paris, you will need the "round pin" type. Since we USA'ers thrive on "chargers" you might want to take several adapters with you. My 2008 trip to Paris was in October with a Rick Steves Tour....and this year I am going in August with my granddaughter and staying in an "apartment exchange". I expect a big difference in temperature, crowds and activities.......but Paris should still be Paris, the great city that I love.

Posted by
11450 posts

Contact solution is sold in pharmcies not generally in regular stores, same with dental floss, bring from home, its really expensive there.

Posted by
1 posts

If you are lactose intolerant, take along enough lactase tablets to last you. They can be difficult to find, even when you ask at a pharmacy.

Posted by
2987 posts

I've been living in Germany for 6 months and despite complaints on ex-pat boards, I've been able to find nearly everything I want from home (aside from more esoteric stuff, like good el pastor tacos) here, the problem is knowing where to look. It's a lot harder if you're traveling, because tourist-heavy areas are really good about hiding the more practical stores, or doing away with them completely. When in doubt -ask a local! I find that buying something cheap at a souvenir shop pretty much means that even in the supposedly "rude" places like Paris I'm entitled to ask the cashier about all sorts of info, and they are happy to oblige, to the point of walking me to the destination I'm looking for. I have to second the wine opener advice, though. Ended up in Brittany without one, our horrible hotel manager wouldn't lend us one, and I was cursing everything. Another thing to remember is markets and even supermarkets tend to close earlier than you'd think, even in summer. If you absolutely need something, try to source it by the afternoon. Come 6 or 7pm you may be out of luck.

Posted by
12040 posts

And apart from outdoor markets, don't expect to do any shopping on Sundays. Some ex-pats hate this, but I love it. Sunday really becomes a day of much-needed rest, and not just another day to run errands.

Posted by
2987 posts

Tom - I like the Sunday rest days in theory, but I have been trying to be more observant of the Jewish shabbat (Saturday) and 2 days of not being able to run errands becomes somewhat problematic! Apparently in the 16th century some German Jews put forth the idea of switching the day of rest to Sunday just to make their lives easier and I can't say I blame them!

Posted by
8404 posts

That may be true in Germany, but in France there are many markets on Sundays. In addition, the government has given the large stores, stores in touristic areas, and malls permission to open on Sundays.

Posted by
133 posts

I haven't been to Paris but in Spain we could not find deodorant bar soap like Irish Spring. There was a limited selection of bar soaps intended as "complexion soaps". The Spaniards evidently prefer scented liquid body washes in big bottles.

Posted by
14911 posts

I try to bring the toiletries, the first aid supplies and little sundries I might need, especially vitamins and painkillers. Chances are you won't find what you need easily and certainly not quickly. The packaging is different, the LANGUAGE is different, and some things (like vitamins) can be frightfully expensive. And if I am planning on doing a lot of walking, I absolutely will take moleskin with me. Even on a day hike here at home.

Posted by
10 posts

We just returned from Europe on Tuesday. We were in Spain, Switzerland and Germany. One thing none of our hotels and b and b's had was facial tissues, so you may want to think about bringing a travel pack or two. We actually had washcloths in two of our hotels! But I always pack a few old washcloths that I can just throw away before I come home.

Posted by
588 posts

I take a package of Handi-Wipes (packet of 10 usually in the grocery store area). They can be used wash clothes, washed and reused. Lots of uses for them and they dry quickly. Mouth wash if you use it. I never can find it in Europe. I take one or two trial size with me and then when I'm out I'm out. Monoprix is a great store and they are everywhere. Much better prices than the little markets. You don't see as many little convenient stores as you do in US or in UK.

Posted by
643 posts

My parents had rented an apartment in London in 1990 for three weeks. When my wife and I rented an apartment in London for 10 days in 2008, my mom told me to make sure and bring a hot pad for the oven. Apparently they don't use these in England. We didn't use the oven too much, but when we did (those Tesco pizzas sold in the cold case were delicious) we were glad we brought our own hot pad!!

Posted by
27733 posts

bring a hot pad for the oven. Apparently they don't use these in England. No, we burn our flesh to the bone every time we use the oven. ;-) Every house I have been to has them. Sometimes single, sometimes two handed. We have some, and also bought some fireproof gloves from a neat store called Lakeland (oven gloves page) . BTW - we have mouthwash too. Our favourite we bring from Migros supermarket in Switzerland.

Posted by
8404 posts

JH is exactly correct; the dryers aren't malfunctioning. Not only do the dryers take four times as long, but your clothes come out all wrinkled. He's referring to the small units in apartments, not the ones in automatic laundries. Most French homes don't have dryers; people put their clothes on drying racks in the bathroom or laundry room for a day. These little combo machines are in vacation rentals.

Posted by
2893 posts

If your rental comes with a washer and dryer, you may find that the dryer does not work anywhere near as fast as a properly working US dryer and your clothes will not be as dry. I have rented apartments in Paris and each time there was a combination washer and dryer and each time, clothes came out of the dryer no where near dry enough to be worn. It's not a big deal but you need to adjust for it and save time for the clothes to dry after they are taken out of the "dryer." It could be that I have back luck and just get dryer after dryer that malfunctions.

Posted by
104 posts

Maureen...wait a second are you saying there is NO soap in the Restrooms in public?

Posted by
6 posts

Re: contact solution (and other related needs), you can go to a chemist and speak to someone at the counter there. Many items that we are used to buying on our own are available this way. It can be strange at first (and there is less variety than we are used to) but it can be very helpful.