Travel: Where I’ve Stayed Part 1: 1999-2009

Posted by in Culture, Travel

London’s Earls Court famous backpacker scene in 1999

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2019 marks my 20th year of being ‘on the road.’ A Kerouac reference which follows on nicely from Lonesome Traveller which I used for Perry Blake’s blog. Nowadays we are spoilt for choice between hostels, hotels, and now Air BnB, here’s a selection of places I’ve stayed over the last 20 years of independent travelling.

At the last count 40+ hostels, 16 hotels, a few Air BnBs, a bookstore (Paris), a train station (Auckland), a homestay (Hanoi), a bank! An empty building, a restaurant and wild camping (Barcelona). Never did Couchsurfing and I’ve yet to try Be Welcome and Housesitting (though my friends place in Cardiff came close).

*NOTE: Normally I wouldn’t use profanity but this piece is a rare exception where I’ve been brutally frank. Apologies if it causes offence to regular readers. And speaking of which…  it’s a long one! 

LONDON – THE INCHMONT and SILVER FERN (both now defunct) 

Pros: In the heart of Kangaroo Valley, a (mostly) good camaraderie between inmates (long-termers), free brekkie at the Fern, albeit Corn Flakes in a Tupperware container that never seemed to be washed.

Cons: Some dodgy Kiwi staff, you know the type, surly smile, hands grabbing for cash!

Pretty disgusting bathrooms and rooms that resemble tips! Towards the end it lost its charm by hiring anyone to hand, some pissy guests and I think the owner by this point had decided on selling it on and whoever took up the baton converted it into swanky flats (not too surprising really given its location).

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NOTTINGHAM – IGLOO

Pros: It was new. Owner was ok if memory serves.

Cons: Some funny tenants including the cantankerous Kiwi’s who had either never backpacked before or simply were naive to the ground rules. i.e. label thy milk or others will use it and in some cases others will use it anyway. This factor is still relevant at the time of writing nearly 20 years’ later! *As of 2021 and the pandemic the original Igloo is no more but there is another branch in the centre.

OXFORD – BACKPACKERS

From memory, a bit tatty, don’t know what it might be now.

BATH – BACKPACKERS 

Pros: Cheap and in the heart of historic Bath, not far from the Abbey and Pump Rooms. The Vault was a good social and music room with a pool table.

Cons: Shitty manager. If this hostel had looked like some of the others on this list instead of a beer lovers camper-van, it would have been a winner. *apparently the song is pretty much still the same judging by the reviews.

DUBLIN – GLOBETROTTERS

Pros: The first time I stayed here in 1998 was a dream! Reasonable room, big breakfast in a huge dining room and agreeable staff. However in 2006 it was a very different story. 

Cons: Mouthy staff idiot, obviously not suited to hospitality at all. Some of the staff from my previous visit were present but did nothing to curtail said clown hence my move to the Abbey Court on the river (see below).

GALWAY – CAN’T REMEMBER HOSTEL NAME

SLIGO – HARBOUR HOUSE?? 

The location seems about right but I can’t remember for sure. Still at the time it was considered the Taj Mahal of hostels. 

Pros: Owner was ok and fair minded, room was magnificent with its own shower.

Cons: Location, was quite a way from town in an industrial estate! Two Rottweilers strolling around the kitchen made me a little nervous. Anti-social Germans who kept to themselves. Waking up with the flu.

PORTSMOUTH – BACKPACKERS

Pros: Pompee Pete, funny guy and near the promenade. Again interesting inmates as documented in my book Voyage of Nomad.

Cons: Quite a way from town centre and bus station.

PRAGUE – CAN’T REMEMBER NAME OF HOSTEL

Fine if you like people walking through your room in the early hours and breakfast with Polish coconut biscuits also documented in the Nomad book.

VIENNA – WOMBATS 

Pros: Beautiful hostel, excellent decor and rooms.

Cons: Crappy staff. A change of plan meant leaving early and with no refund. There is no excuse for that in travel. As plans change there is no harm in refunding someone. I haven’t stayed with Wombats since.

Paris is always good, freezing, but good.

PARIS – LE VILLAGE 

Pros: Beautiful with a window on Sacre Couer.

Cons: A little uphill but this didn’t bother me as I had a pack at the time.

PARIS – SHAKESPEARE AND CO (BOOKSTORE)

Pros: It was free.

Cons: Some of the inmates thought of it as their own private utopia. No bathroom or kitchen.

EXETER – BACKPACKERS 

Pros: Newly opened (this was in 2000) with a reasonable owner.

Cons: Umm, Exeter is ok for hiking but there wasn’t at the time any definable features and I was looking for a home, Exeter wasn’t it. 

VENICE – BIASIN

Pros: A fortunate find right in the heart of Venice.

Cons: Room was a co-share, the other guy was ok but the keys, it took a lot of patience to get into the sanctuary.

FLORENCE – CAN’T REMEMBER NAME OF HOSTEL

Rome, Berlin and Edinburgh.

ROME – ALESSANDRO 

Pros: Nice cosy apartment style place close to Termini (train station).

Cons: My job fell through, it may have opened the door to a career in hospitality but everything happens for a reason.

SORRENTO – CAN’T REMEMBER NAME OF HOSTEL

MONACO – BACKPACKERS 

Yes! I kid you not, I have no idea if it’s still there but back in 2000 it was my window on wealth and all that glitters.

Pros: It provided a cheap solution to see Monaco and free breakfast.

Cons: Staff a bit so so.

NICE – HOSTEL CHEZ PATRICK

Pros: Big dorms in a residential block and I believe he is still going!

Cons: The shower was in a closet! 

WELLINGTON – BEETHOVEN HOUSE (defunct as of 2009)

Pros: I quite liked the eccentric owner who awakened us with ‘Good Morning Possums!’

Big room overlooking the city and old museum. Breakfast too if memory serves.

Cons: Can’t remember any. 

WELLINGTON – ROWENA’S LODGE

Pros: Umm, it had a piano?

Cons: Dark dingy room, crappy British staff with all the personality of a breeze block. Couldn’t wait to leave. Welly didn’t get much better sadly.

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LONDON – OLAVE HOUSE

Pros: it was a marvel when it opened, new chest of draws, curtains but how time devoured it. Sometime after I left it became Back to the Future alternate 1985. Curtains gone, chest of draws a dilapidated pile of wood. Black guys who wear shades in dark rooms, my former room! 

Cons: run by middle eastern cowboys who wouldn’t supply a reference even though I’d paid rent on time for a year. I can only hope Karma got ‘em! *now part of Evolve Housing’s accommodation for homeless youth!

COPENHAGEN – HOSTEL

Can’t remember the name but in a suburb, kind of a precursor to what is now Air Bnb. I got to sample the real Danish neighbourhood vibe.

Pros: Unique angle on a cool city, staying in someone’s apartment.

Cons: No problem with the hostel but the city didn’t open ’til a week later!

BERLIN – HOSTEL 

The name of this one is also lost to the winds of time, but it was smart with the most demonic power shower nailing one to the wall and a rather chubby guy who was a bit of a snorer. Some mouthy staff in attendance though this too can be rather common.

GENEVA – BACKPACKERS

Pros: Close to station. Nice English guy who left me his teabags 🙂

Cons: A little sterile in terms of atmosphere but I’ve stayed in worse. Very Swiss, neat, tidy, did the job.

EDINBURGH – ARGYLE

Pros: Nice homey feel to this one, away from the main drag. Funny Polish receptionist at the time.

Cons: Not a very good time for work so escaped to Dublin.

DUBLIN – ABBEY COURT HOSTEL

Pros: Central and by the olive river. The chirpy Aussies singing outside. Staff ok.

Cons: Some crappy guests/roommates, juggernauts passing by outside.

Read more on Part 2 2010-2020

PLAYLIST AND CREDITS

Thanks for reading here. Should anyone be interested in my work; principally writing, photography, and teaching, please contact me for a FREE Overview PDF. Meanwhile, stay tuned with Kulture Kiosk via The Atlas or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram where you can see some of my photos from around the world. Playlist and credits follow…

PLAYLIST
Roam – The B-52s
Life on Your Own – The Human League
Take Me Anywhere – Do Re Mi
Shelter – Lone Justice
Home – Roger Waters
Can’t Stay Long – Ultravox

Photo Credits: KH