I’ve slept in many dwellings around the world in my globetrotting expat life, even in a place of worship, a chapel in Italy. I’ve bedded down in odd and not so odd places such as (to name just a few) the former guesthouse of an African president, a French horse stable, a dilapidated English colonial settler’s house in Kenya, a lovely apartment in Italy inside an ancient building with a wall dating from the 12th century (see photo on the left), splendid Spanish castles (paradores), and a bush clearing in Uganda with the warning sign: LEAVE ENOUGH SPACE BETWEEN TENTS FOR ELEPHANTS TO PASS THROUGH.
Once my man and I crashed through a bed, the framework collapsing loud and dramatically under us as we lay down. We were in a small hotel in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso in West Africa. We were on our way to Niamé, Niger to visit friends doing Good Works in the desert.
The Ouagadougou hotel was run by a Frenchwoman, highly bleached, bejeweled and made-up, wearing a mini-skirt. I know what you are thinking. Well, who knows. Madame had a green parrot on her shoulder and was chatting away in sexy French to a friend in the hotel bar when we arrived. The bar doubled as the lobby, a convenient use of space. With a drink in her manicured hand and the big bird perched on her shoulder, Madame looked deliciously exotic to me. The whole scene looked like something from a movie.
Our room was not exotic, but it was cheap. We did not belong to the five-star-hotel tribe, so it was fine. Then the bed collapsed. Which was also fine, because it was funny. Our two-year-old daughter said so. She laughed and laughed. I later worked the experience into a romance novel, where of course the hero and heroine crashed through the bed while about to engage in a bit of sexual congress. Anyway, we dragged the mattress off the broken frame, shoved the wreckage aside and the three of us went to sleep.
The horse stable I mentioned was in the south of France and belonged to a Dutch cousin of mine who’d fixed it up to serve as a rustic vacation cottage. Several years after the Ouagadougou crash, now the parents of two daughters, we trekked through Europe and visited my cousin, who offered us her floor for the night. The girls were not amused since we’d just driven up from Spain where for a few decadent nights we had slept royally in luxuriously restored castles known as paradores. Fancying themselves princesses now, the daughters were not impressed by a horse stable. But such is life.
Below: Castillo de Santa Catalina in Jaen, Spain, where we spent a couple of nights.
Then there was the time we spent a night in a deserted “guesthouse” out in the middle of nowhere in Ghana, West Africa. We’d checked in earlier that day, and the door had been left unlocked for our return that evening, since no one would be in attendance until morning.
After visiting friends living in a tiny house in a distant village, we arrived back at the guesthouse after dark. Dark as in very, very pitch black dark. No moon. No electricity in miles around. My man and I (baby in arms) found our way in, our feet crunching eerily on something unseen in the hallway, hearing scuttling noises. Finally having excavated my flashlight (torch) from the depths of my cavernous bag, we saw the gruesome scene before us: thousands of panicky cockroaches scurrying in all directions, leaving behind the corpses of their loved ones, the ones we had massacred under our feet.
And now you wonder if we stayed and slept there? Yes, we did. It was too late and too far back to our friends’ house. The three of us spending the sweltering tropical night in our tiny Ugly Duckling Citroen 2dc with the windows closed to keep the mosquitoes out was a worse nightmare. So we ventured forth to our bedroom and found it marginally more bug free there. We made the bed with our own bedding, tucked in the mosquito netting as tight as we could and hoped it kept the roaches out too. (Okay, this was decades ago. When we lived in Ghana again more recently, we did not hear of, or encounter, accommodations of such crunchy standards.)
In the early years of our marriage we had more such interesting disgusting bed-time encounters. While living in a huge dilapidated colonial settler’s house in a mud hut village in Kenya, East Africa, we were once awakened by something jumping on our bed. We sat up, shone our flashlight around and found two evil red rodent eyes glaring at us from a corner of the huge fireplace. A rat. It scampered away not to be found. (You may remember another close encounter with a rat in this story.)
A year earlier in the same country we’d lived in a cute little house in a small town. Electricity, running water, the works! Returning home late one night from a two-week safari, we rolled into bed, dead tired, and went to sleep.
Until we woke up, itching and scratching. And finding, on closer inspection, that during our absence our bed had been made good use of by trespassers and was filthy and crawling with bed bugs. Let me spare you the rest of this repulsive story.
I’ve had enough; haven’t you?
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Your turn: Tell me your bed time stories! What creepy, fancy or unusual places have you bedded down?