Under the Covers & Between the Sheets

For some reason, hotel commercials always make a hotel look like the epitome of good living. Montages of bed-jumping and pillow fights give way to a luxurious awakening in the most comfortable, plush bed in existence. I don’t know why, but there’s something about sleeping between fresh sheets in a bed you didn’t have to make that just feels good.

Unfortunately, some hotel beds don’t live up to the hype. Especially in Europe.

As an avid traveler, I’m jetting off to the other side of the pond just about every other month for some reason or another. I am easily seduced by patisseries and bakeries, castles and cathedrals. I love to pop open my suitcase and hang my clothes in the closet, pretending that the city I’ll be exploring is my city and the hotel room is my own little apartment. It’s a pleasant fantasy … until I lay me down to sleep.

I typically travel with my husband, and therefore we book a double room with a queen-sized bed. But more often than not, this queen-sized bed is, in fact, simply two twin beds pushed together. This makes for a very awkward sleeping arrangement, with an uncomfortable space between the two beds that grows during the night. And dare I say, there is nothing romantic about twin beds.

In addition to the faux-queen-sized bed, in Italy we were subjected to something I call “pavement bed.” Lifting the sheets reveals that the “mattress” is a piece of foam stretched over a wooden box. It feels something like sleeping on the floor, only elevated.

My favorite (or least favorite) situation though, is the “missing sheet.” I have noticed in several countries now, from the south of Italy to the heart of Paris, from a boutique hotel in Copenhagen to posh, central city accommodations in Barcelona, that sheets are vanishing from the beds. A group of hoteliers must have met in an underground, top-secret travel industry compound and decided that the flat sheet was a waste of time. Everywhere we go, the bedding formula seems to be a fitted sheet, comforter, regular pillow, other pillow, and an awkward table-runner-thing at the bottom of the bed. No extra pillows stashed in closets, no extra blankets stuffed into a drawer.

Let me clarify: these kinds of travel problems are not really problems, and if being the wrong temperature while sleeping is your biggest issue abroad, then you’re winning. But it is interesting. When did the “missing sheet” movement come about? What was the reason? Were people stealing the flat sheet? Is it more cost effective not to have both sheets? Is this a European thing (like the bidet, which I have discussed in an earlier article) that we Americans just don’t understand?

Apparently not; when I’ve asked Spaniards and Dutchmen and Danish and Parisians, they don’t know what I’m talking about. Of course they have traditional sheet sets! Obviously, a queen bed isn’t two twins pushed together. “It’s probably just a hotel thing,” they say.

Which brings me back to our side of the Atlantic and a little American pride. At any chain motel, hotel, Holiday Inn, b&b, loft, treehouse or teepee in which you can stay the night here, there is a bonafide mattress that is actually the size advertised. You had better believe that not only are there both flat and fitted sheets, but the closet is chock full of extra pillows and blankets – just in case.

Because, hey … those extras come in handy during pillow fights and raucous bed-jumping. ♦


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