Spain Hostels: Time for a Private Room?

Court of Myrtles Al Hambra
Patio de los Arrayanes (Court of Myrtles) – Al Hambra, Granada Nirmala and N.R. Venkatesh photos.

When Do You Know You’ve Outgrown Youth Hostels?

By Karen Horst

Dancing by the beach in Barcelona. Karen Horst photos.
Dancing by the beach in Barcelona. Karen Horst photos.

I am not an old lady but I bet everyone else at my Granada hostel thought so. The Australian girls younger than my daughter agreed that my son is cute as they perused my family pictures on my laptop.

The gentleman plastered with tattoos volunteered to sing with me to Madonna’s “Holiday” for karaoke night.

Everyone was so nice. Silly little Tom even invited me to climb the treehouse and join him and the two Chrises for a joint. The next day Tom complained of a stomachache and diarrhea, kick-starting my mothering instincts to recommend he drink more water and eat yogurt while I chided my inner teenager for exposing myself to his germs.

Hiking the Albaicin

After hiking the Albaicin to the hostel following an evening flamenco show, the Queens of Denmark waylaid me in the patio and began pouring me more sangria. Richard kept serving free shots of schnapps from the tiki bar. Queen Marlouse and I started a game of charades and Tomoko immediately deduced my Michael Jackson impression.

I stayed up way past my bedtime. I finally made it to my bunk bed and sort of slept as the room spun circles around my head. I stumbled down to the kitchen around 9:30 the next morning for coffee, juice, or whatever I could find to wash down my Advils. The Queens of Denmark had checked out. They hollered “Ciao Karen,” and I chased them down the cobblestone street for hugs and kisses goodbye.

Tossa de Mar

Hostelers in Granada's Albaicin.
Hostelers in Grenada’s Albaicin.

At Tossa De Mar on the Costa Brava, the hostel owners served us a dinner of fried sardines and red wine on the rooftop terrace one evening. After the sardines, a group from the hostel converged at the Pirate Bar by the castle.

I could not remember names and even the British woman I met at the bus stop tagged everyone who did not speak English according to their country of origin. TK would refer to “the Argentinian,” “the Dutch brothers,” “the Snorer” (the Spanish guy in her room who keeps her awake), or “that French bloke.”

Chapel of Carmen.
Chapel of Carmen.

After the Pirate Bar, we all went to a Discoteca that promised free shots. We arrived at an empty bar except for one strange guy, who of course immediately started hitting on me. So I told “the snorer” that he was now my boyfriend.

After fiercely ignoring a few more incomprehensible comments from the weirdo, my “boyfriend” told him to buzz off. So we danced to Spanish disco music until “the Argentinian” decided to play DJ and kept spinning really bad dance music, forcing us to leave for another Discoteca.

The new joint charged a cover. Music blasted from the packed nightclub.

TK and I decided to head home. It was 2 a.m. and we felt sort of old and wanted to let the kids have fun sans matronly chaperones. The kids came home around 5 a.m. The church bell next door rattled me awake again at 9 a.m. while bronzed six-pack abs greeted me as their owner pulled on a shirt.

Testosterone-Infused Antics

“The German Bloke” entertained TK and me with his testosterone-infused antics. At the Pirate Bar by the castle he strutted as the Alpha Male with his own harem of four to six women, dominating the conversation with his wild stories and pathetic jokes. Then suddenly “the Dutch brothers” showed up and he had a fight on his hands to maintain the attention of all the girls.

TK woke in the middle of the night to use the loo and found one of the Dutch girls servicing one of the Dutch brothers in the Lady’s showers. Or were the girls Australian? I cannot keep all these nationalities straight.

So the next night the German Bloke was on his own, trying to seduce us into sharing our dinner with him. I told him to pitch in with a bottle of wine and he promptly left and bought himself a sandwich. The next morning, the German Bloke came down for breakfast in a shirt that read, and I am not making this up, “I AM AWESOME.”

Tossa de Mar Spain on the Costa Brava.
Tossa de Mar Spain on the Costa Brava.

Tight quarters in Barcelona

I followed TK to Barcelona and checked into the hostel she recommended. Down the street from the Plaza Espana and only thirteen euros a day!

That should have warned me. For two noisy nights, I slept fitfully as one of six bodies sandwiched into a closet overlooking a busy street. Three packed dorm rooms shared the one and one half-bath flat with a kitchen carved out of the hallway.

After arriving I couldn’t use my locker or rest my head until the odoriferous man snoring in my designated bunk woke for his reassignment to the correct dorm.

I always found a line for the bathroom or a locked door, especially when the girls down the hall opted to use the shower room as their personal sauna/day spa. With so little space in our cramped dorm rooms, people chose to sleep, reorganize their backpacks and somehow monopolize the loveseat that served as the hostel’s lounge. When I first checked in I literally could not find a place to sit.

Underwear flapping in the Seville’s breeze

Climbing on bridge over Guadalquivir in Seville. Boys will be boys.
Climbing on a bridge over Guadalquivir in Seville. Boys will be boys.

Opening the front door to my spacious hostel in Seville, I initially sucked in a lungful of peace and serenity. The German girl at the reception desk spoke in a whisper.

My roommate in the four-bunk dorm left after my first night and I had the place, including a private toilet and shower, all to myself for the next two nights.

The Friday evening free sangria only attracted a handful of guests, including a Spanish couple contemptuous of my pathetic attempts at conversation in a language I have studied sporadically since junior high school.

Hanging Laundry

I left the lounge and wandered up to the rooftop terrace. Someone had hung their wet laundry the length of the narrow terrace, ruining the ambiance as well as the view. I stomped back to my bottom bunk and read, staying up late to finish “The Walking Dead, the Road to Woodbury” from the hostel’s library. For breakfast, I ate the rest of the bread someone had abandoned in the kitchen.

Not dead yet

I have not given up on my quest for Shangri-La. I am booking my hostels online for my upcoming trip to Argentina and Brazil. I look forward to meeting fellow travelers of all ages and character traits.

I will pack my earplugs. I read the reviews; I am old enough to know that I should look before I leap. But I am steering toward private rooms.

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Karen Horst


Karen Horst studied and worked as a reporter and editor until motherhood encouraged her to change gears. Currently living in Columbia, Missouri, she hails from California and has traveled in Nepal, New Zealand, Mexico, the Caribbean, Western Europe and across the US.

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