Monday, August 30, 2010

In praise of cheap accomodations

After traveling for over ten years, I've my fill of all kinds of accomodations on the road. I've lived in fleapit motels mostly and some hostels and some very fancy hotels. I've stayed in a very fancy hotel in Paris where all their toiletries are from Anick Goutal, the very exclusive French perfumer and a converted chateau in Avignon, an extremely luxurious hotel in a room with a view of the Grand canal in Venice. My sweetest memories are of the times spent in fleapit hostels. In an expensive hotel, the clientele are rich and snobbish whereas in a cheap place, the clientele are usually younger and more exciting. They are more gung-ho and has more information and tips for a more enjoyable visit. I remember waking up in a really cheap place in Naples, Italy. There were two Japanese girls in the next room. We met at the coffee bar, so call, the owner was making coffee for us and was handing out packaged croissants. We asked them the usual questions, they arrived from Rome the night before by train and that morning was on their way to the ferry to take a boat to Capri where they'll visit the Blue Grotto. We tagged along and before long, all 4 of us were boarding a hydrofoil for Capri. We had a great time at the Blue Grotto and later we went to Pompeii. It was our first day and it takes a little time to get our bearings in a new place but the two girls helped make the process move faster. I told Sophie, 'I really admire their spirit' to which she replied, 'you have that same spirit.'
I remember arriving in Catania one year, the hostel we stayed in on our first trip was packed and they put us in an annex, another apartment that they owned, a few feet away. They gave us this pink room that looked more like a boudoir in a whorehouse. It was cheap and it had a great view of the waterfront of Catania. The second picture was of the cheapy place in Casablanca when we first arrived. When we tried to stay there again the second time after we've finished our tour of Morocco, the taxi driver wouldn't take us there, he didn't think we, two girls should stay in such a rundown place. He took us to a better place.
The important thing about hotels is that they should be clean and safe especially for foreign women. The funniest place we've stayed in was at a hostel in London. London accomodations are small, this one was small. There were 12 of us squeezed into a small room, there were 4 bunkbeds, each 3 berths high, in the 4 corners of the uber small room.
I know that travel shows on TV and in the magazines are sponsored by the big hotel chains and they want to sell an expensive room. Is there any correlation between watching these shows on TV and reading about travel in a glossy magazine and the reluctance to travel. The cost of such rooms are so prohibitive, one is discouraged to even plan a trip and these people end up going to the Caribean or Hawaii (again?). I still travel cheaply, living in cheap digs. I have a friend who told me that she doesn't travel like that anymore, meaning what, as one ages one is required to travel in grander style? What if you can't afford it, does that mean travel plans are out? Well, I still travel like a backpacker and I'm almost into my dotage and I still travel. I noticed that certain youth hostels has upper age limits. I chose the ones without.

No comments: