Let's run down the pros and cons of hostel-dwelling, shall we? Pros: 1. It's very very very cheap. For the price of around 25 dollars an evening you can have a bed, bathroom access, free wireless internet, laundry services, a safe for your valubles and daily breakfast. Not bad, for Europe, where sitting on a bench in a park can often run you at least a couple Euros. 2. If you are the kind of person for whom traveling in foreign lands is an opportunity to get wasted in a variety of bar and club-like locations, a hostel is a great place to stay, because for a set price you can do a "pub crawl", which is an event, as some eager young Canadians explained to me, in which helpful strangers lead inebriated travelers through a series of "pubs" and clubs. Traveling really does broaden your horizons, doesn't it? 3. There is a bar in the basement.
Cons: 1. It's very very very loud. It's more then possible that because you pay so little to be there they had to make the walls out of paper, cleverly concealed as walls. 2. The lack of personal space can overwhelm one, as can changing in the bathroom, sleeping on a bunk bed (how do children DO this?) and hiding all your stuff because as nice as other travelers are, well, you gots to live by Hitchcock rules and TRUST NO ONE. 3. There is a bar in the basement.
Nevertheless, as uncomfortable as hostels can be, and as much as my friend Jon makes fun of them (hi, Jon!), I do enjoy staying in them overall because, well, did I mention cheap? But more then that, really, is that you can meet people of all kinds, which is a blessing and a curse in it's way. Currently as I type this a stressed out Korean man reads in the bed near to mine and a Brazilian guy dozes, which is socially acceptable during the day here in Spain, point to Europe. Last night I sat in the hostel bar ( I mean, I could leave, I guess, but it's RIGHT THERE, so...) with an extremely, painfully earnest german boy and about 20 loud french teenage girls. Ah, the world, it's such a great place where teenagers everywhere all dress exactly the same. Like a Delia's catalogue just threw up all over them.
Luckily, my Spanish classes here have started, so I no longer feel obligated to connect with strangers in the hostel, because I can now connect with strangers in my classes. Speaking Spanish with a dutch girl, an austrian girl and a french guy can get a little awkward, but I'm not going to lie to you, it beats watching french girls writhe around a hostel basement to the soothing sounds of Rhianna. And not, you know, new, post haircut Rhianna, but old vintage Bring it on: All or Nothing Rhianna. Some things travel so slowly across the Atlantic Ocean...
While is is a commonly held belief that Spain, and, in fact, all of Southern Europe, is a balmy land of sunshine and smiles, the sad truth is that Spain enjoys a winter just the like the rest of the world (or the rest of the Civilized world, as I believe I've made my thoughts on California crystal clear). When I walked out of my Spanish class this afternoon, it was cold, rainy and disgusting. Just like fall at home.
Leah Franqui is a fairly interesting person/director/writer/reader/eater/drinker. She likes ugly dogs and dislikes her hair in the morning. She's a sucker for environmental causes and plays hardball with deals on chewing gum. She is a struggle.