23 September 2008

I Don't [Heart] the Hostel

There are some lessons to be learned. I think I have now sufficiently tested the theory that it is always better to stay in a hostelling international hostel--they are clean, they have lockers and decent bathrooms and plenty of internets, even if they are somewhat lacking in character. I've stayed in several HI hostels and they've varied from almost-boutique-hotel-standard (with free breakfast at the attached cafe) as in San Francisco to "functional" (in LA). The New York one I stayed in last time was fine, other than the 103rd Street location, so this time I thought I'd try a Jazz Hostel. The East Village one was fully booked so I'm at 96th Street and it's kind of sucky.

I really shouldn't judge a hostel until I've recovered from the exhaustion of travelling but... Although I've stayed in some pretty swish hotels in my time, I'm also fine with roughing it and have hostelled quite a bit in my time. (The Ex Dude may beg to differ given my massive temper tantrum in Yosemite where, having spent three hours on a coach and 45 minutes on a minibus and 20 minutes walking up a steep hill with a backpack, we reached our hostel, only to be told that our room was ever further up the hill than the highest distant point I could see; I came very close to whipping out the Amex, calling a taxi and booking a nice hotel instead.) 

Error #1 Room on the top floor. I travelled light but six flights of stairs aren't fun after a long journey (and a sticky, full subway ride).

Error #2 The room is somewhat damp and sticky (solved by opening the door onto the rooftop terrace, which is actually quite nice).

Error #3 No lockers. WHAT? What kind of youth hostel doesn't provide a locker for each bed in every room? Yes, there are drawers and yes, I have a padlock but I also have a nice laptop, a Crackberry and an expensive camera!

Error #4 No individual reading lights on the bed. I don't want to keep other people awake or to be kept awake by others.

Error #5 En suite bathroom. This is bollocks when you're sharing one bathroom (as in, a room with a shower and a loo) with seven people. The HI system of big communal bathrooms with lots of showers and loos in each, is much better. They have water fountains there too.

But...it is seven blocks closer to town and has an "express" subway stop as well as the local (slower) trains. Also, the internets are pretty good and the bed is fairly comfortable, if small and even though there is no safety bar to stop me falling out of my top bunk.

Basically, the goal now is to spend as little time here as possible (and to get up to go running early so I don't have to wait for the shower), which conflicts somewhat with my desire to spend as little money as posisble (given that evening activities--restaurants, cinemas, bars, theatres, etc.--tend to cost plenty of dollars). I'm such a private person that I can't bear to just leave my stuff out on display (or even in the unlockable drawers). In fact, it's really the lack of privacy of hostels that gets to me rather than the slumming it factor. I hate having to keeep everything packed in my suitcase...

However, I am in New York! This evening, I wasn't hungry and I couldn't drink any coffee (god knows what my body would do if I gave it coffee at the equivalent of 2.30 a.m.) so I just walked down Broadway to the Lincoln Centre, where the NY Film Festival will soon be starting--yay! This is about 30 blocks and I'm now pretty tired but hopefully enough to fall asleep, so I'll be ready to face my first full day in the city.  

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