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Monday, June 25, 2007

Comments! A Senior Hosteller Speaks Out!

Hi, fellow travelers,

I really appreciate the comments readers make on my blog. Thank you, those of you who have taken the time to comment!

But since this blog doesn't automatically show the comments people make on my posts, you may not have seen this one unless you clicked on it. Since it's a great testimony to the concept of seniors hostelling, I'm posting it here because I think all my senior readers may benefit from this person's experience and advice.

Thanks Waiata, for your words!
waiata dawn davies said...

I am a life member of the Youth Hostel Association and have watched the movement develop from stark dormitories where guests helped with the cleaning before checking out each morning.

I grew up during World War 11. Only servicemen could travel overseas and have adventures, so sixteen years ago, on retiring from a lifetime of teaching and raising boys, I decided to travel before I grew too old to enjoy the experience. With the help of the IYH book 'The Great O.E.' I planned my itinerary and bought a round the world ticket. My stay at home friends prophesied all sorts of disasters and they were very, very wrong.

In Melbourne I booked a bed in the Youth Hostel at Perth.Both Hostels were clean comfortable and friendly. In Britain I stayed in Stratford upon Avon in a beautiful old house with rabbits on its lawn, then I spent several days in Edinburgh,before going on to Loch Lomond, Bristol,and Llandudno. I was able to get off the tour bus wherever I felt like stopping and find a Youth Hostel. It was easy.

In Europe I toured through Belgium, Germany, Italy and France. Only in Germany was I too old to stay in a Youth Hostel.

The nicest thing about it all was the kindness young hostellers showed to me. In San Gimignano, Italy (magical place)I tramped around with two Australian and a Canadian girl, exploring far more than I would have alone.The attitude to us oldies seemed to be 'we're going sightseeing, or out for a meal, would you like to come along?'These young folk have become good friends.

It was a magical journey and there were often people my own age travelling about and enjoying the informailty of hostel life.

Over the next fifteen years I had opportunities to join guided tours to Turkey and Greece, Russia and Scandinavia and Northern Italy. These tours were well organised and good value, but now I have reached my 82nd year and am slowing down, I can't trudge throungh miles of museums and cathedrals, I need to go at a slower pace. So later on this year I am planning another trip. To Crete, to Liverpool, then across to the States, ending with a month long stay in San Francisco. I find YHA and other services for elderly people wonderfully helpful.

Any 'oldies' out there who are doubtful about touring on their own should not hesitate.

Planning a trip begins sometimes a year before. To get the most out of touring you need to be fit. Get your blood pressure checked and lose weight! When I am at my normal weight I feel better, have more energy, and I don't need to make as many toilet stops as when I am fat! And I don't snore as loudly which makes sharing a dormitory more pleasant for the others. Pack non iron clothes and invest in a good pair of trainers. Study 'The Great O.E.' for it's wealth of practical information, and buy the wonderful little books which tell you about Youth Hostels in the countries you plan to visit.

Travelling is more fun than vegetating in a rest home, and it's probably cheaper.

Great post, Waiata! All you other senior hostellers out there. Tell us your experiences!

Happy traveling,


Want a Beach, Mountains or City Vacation? Find Three-In-One!

Hi, fellow travelers,

It's been a while since I updated this page. But ah! summer is upon us and it's time to find some interesting hostels to visit. Where do you want to go? The beach? The mountains? Some never-visited city?

Let's see what we can dig up today that will whet your travel appetite.

The beach is always a summer favorite. So how about a cool Canadian beach? I've discovered HI-Vancouver Jericho Beach Hostel in British Columbia. It's a summer-only hostel and only 20 minutes from downtown Vancouver. So you can combine the beach vacation with seeing an exciting and fun city.

Since this is a Hostelling International hostel, it is a little cheaper if you're a member. And it's a great idea to join HI anyway, as they have a lot of great hostels around the world. That'll cost you only $18/year if you're over 55 and join in the US. For US membership click here and for other nationalities click here.

Here's a little of what the hostel folks say about their facility:
We have a great licensed cafe on site, open for breakfast and dinner and run by a congenial host. We also have a large guest kitchen, TV room, on-site Internet access, laundry facilities, sports equipment and bike rentals. We provide all linens and towels (and a duvet), and lockers in a very safe and secure environment. With almost unlimited parking, Jericho remains the place to be for those who don't need to be in the thick of things to have a good time.
They also offer sports and activities like Erik's Lynn Forest and Canyon Tour: Mentioned in "Lonely Planet" as one of Vancouver's best, this classic walking tour includes:
  • sightseeing in the downtown core including Chinatown and Gastown
  • the beautiful Lynn Canyon-with its waterfalls and suspension bridge
  • serenely wooded trails
  • lunch at the edge of a beautiful crystal clear river
  • water lots of water (rivers, fountains, waterfalls and the ocean!)

This full day tour is only $11.99 CAD, which includes all public bus transportation, the ferry boat and our professional guide. A better bargain will be hard to find anywhere!

Private rooms for 2 at Jericho Beach are $63/night for members and $71 for non-members. That's Canadian dollars, so works out a little less in US dollars (59/66).

And Vancouver! What a fabulous city! Surrounded on three sides by water and the Coast Mountain Range on the fourth, it's a scenic wonderland. You'll find ocean kayaking or boat cruises for the less-adventurous, garden and city tours, even a rain forest.

The third largest city in Canada, it has museums and world-class shopping and dining. Visit the following link for great discounts:
100 Days of Summer

Whether you're dreaming about beaches, exciting cities or peaceful, cool mountains, you can't beat Vancouver at Jericho Beach Hostel. Book it from the search window on this page.

Happy traveling!


Saturday, March 03, 2007

More Hostels in the US?

Hi, fellow travelers,

I've been away on both pleasure and then, unfortunately, a family emergency. So it's been a while since I last updated. But I found an interesting article that brings up a point we've probably all realized -- there aren't nearly enough hostels in the USA.

Doug Markham, 50, Houston HI Chairman, talks about hostelling differences between the US and other parts of the world . . . and his own special attachment to hostelling. I think you'll find it thought-provoking.

Despite scarcity here, hostels a hit with Houston travelers abroad
Like many travelers just out of college, Doug Markham's first attraction to hostels was the price.

"In my younger days, cost was important - especially traveling in Europe - and staying in hostels allowed me to extend my vacation,'' Markham says. "Plus, hostels are fun; it's a wonderful party atmosphere.''

Now 50 and a successful Houston lawyer, Markham has another motivation.

"People from five or six countries may be staying at a hostel, and at this point in my life the cultural exchange is what I like best,'' he says. "You can talk about music, about politics, about almost anything. You make new friends.

"Often people meet at one hostel, then travel together to the next city. I stayed at a hostel in New Zealand with guests from England and Sweden, and we hiked together to the top of a glacier. There have been so many positive experiences.''

Markham, who has overnighted at about 200 hostels in 85 countries, is now volunteer chairman of the Houston chapter of Hostelling International-USA. The chapter's 600 members from across southeast Texas have access to more than 4,000 HI-sanctioned hostels worldwide.

. . .

While 80,000 Americans - students, seniors and in-betweeners - belong to Hostelling International-USA and embrace the hostel lifestyle during foreign travels, only about 100 independent hostels are scattered throughout the United States. There are none in the Deep South and rural Midwest.

Read the rest of the article here.

I thought the Chicago hostel he mentions sounded quite amazing to I looked into it. Here's what I found out.

Hostelling brings the world to Chicago!

Located in the center of downtown Chicago and in the heart of Chicago’s thriving education district. HI-Chicago is very close to Lake Michigan and within walking distance of Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain, the Art Institute, Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium. Our neighborhood is safe, fun and easy to get to from anywhere in Chicago. Activities from the hostel include free walking tours and excursions throughout the city. You will also receive discounts to many of Chicago's best attractions, including Chicago Architecture Foundation, Bobby's Bike Hike, Sears Tower and Hancock Observatory. The hostel has capacity for 500 guests and facilities include internet access, laundry and friendly staff to help you explore Chicago! We are open to serve you 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

You really couldn't ask for a better location to see Chicago from. And at $31 (plus local and state tax) per person, per night, it's a fantastic bargain. The hostel managers work hard to get discounts for their guests for Chicago sites like Sears Tower, Hancock Observatory, Bobby’s Bike Hike, and Chicago from the Lake boat tours.

Check out their website!

Happy traveling!


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Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Romantic Hostel?

Today The Today Show featured some romantic get-aways for Valentine's Day. They were in Monterey, California, Miami, Florida, Mexico and Quebec City and they were "inexpensive" ($200+/night).

Well not everyone finds $200+/night actually "inexpensive," right?

We all know hostels are truly inexpensive, but romantic? Not likely!

So I set out to find some romantic hostels, if they actually exist. First I looked at some of my previous posts. How about Salzburg?

Well I found this gorgeous hostel with private double bed rooms available February 13-16 where a couple can stay for all three nights for a total of $290.26, breakfast included!

Here's the description:
The SALLERHOF chosen as best overall international inn in the best of BEDANDBREAKFAST awards 2004 and also for 2005

We can book the Sound of Music tour or other tours for you. Tickets are available here and tour buses pick up every morning at the front door.

Sallerhof guesthouse is just 4 miles south of old town Salzburg, 1 mile from the motorway exit Salzburg Sued, 7 miles from the airport Salzburg and 5 miles from the railway station (Hauptbahnhof Salzburg - HBF Salzburg)

Our family-run pension has 35 beds in luxurious rooms furnished with care and attention. Our regular clients are drawn back by the individual atmosphere and the personal attention we pay to our guests. We even provide you with bicycles for exploring the beautiful surroundings and nearby attractions. We have our own free parking spaces so that you can enjoy your peaceful and relaxing stay in Salzburg to the full..

You will be treated to a hearty breakfast buffet with local produce and homemade specialities. For lunch and dinner there are many restaurants within 3 minutes walking distance, and you can bring each day to a close with a glass of wine on the patio in our peacefully situated garden.

Bus number 25 goes from Groedig to the historic city of Salzburg and to the railway station and back every 20 minutes - a 30 minutes ride for 1.80 Euro. The last bus runs at 23:00 from Salzburg. The next bus stop is a 2 minute walking distance. By taxi it's a 15-minute ride 14.- Euro.

Our non-smoking rooms have modern furnishings and all the features you need: a balcony, bath or shower, hair-dryer and satellite TV. You will feel right at home when you stay with us.

Salzburg not an option?
How about Miami Beach, then? I found tge Clay Hotel in South Beach availablefor those 3 nights for a total of $325! Here's what the owners say:

The Lonely Planet guidebook calls us 'the most beautiful hostel in America'. Another guidebook, 'Hostels USA' awarded us its top billing of four stars, naming us one of the best big city hostels. We believe that's because of our great room rates, terrific Mediterranean ambiance, and location in the heart of South Beach.
We're also near world famous Ocean Drive, and next to one of the most beautiful beaches you'll find anywhere. Please note that all of our rates include taxes & linen, air conditioning, satellite TV, refrigerators and telephones.
And then, well there's even a hostel in Monterey! Take a look at
The Del Monte Beach Inn where a couple can stay those same 3 nights for a total of $165 + tax!!
It is classicly distinguished in design as well as character. We host a continental break fast from 8 until 10 on the antique buffet. Hot muffins are served with the fruit of your choice. After breakfast take a leisurely stroll to Downtown Monterey, cross Del Monte Avenue to scout the Monterey Bay's shore, or just relax along the banks of Lake El Estero.
Each guest room has comfortable beds with crisp linen and the rooms are decorated with fresh flowers. All rooms have sinks and share antique
bathrooms with claw-foot tubs. Some rooms feature a kitchenette and private bathrooms.

Enjoy the best the Peninsula has to offer. A recreational bike and walking trail along the bay connects the Inn with old historic Monterey, Fishermen's Wharf, the Marina, Cannery Row, the Aquarium, tide pools and Maritime Museum. The Inn is just steps from the beautiful Del Monte Beach where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire Monterey Bay.
There is an endless list of things to do -- enjoy the magnificent 17-Mile Drive of Pebble Beach, legendary Carmel-by-the-Sea, Carmel Valley's ranches and vineyards, Point Lobos State Park, inspirational Big Sur and, of course, some of the best golf courses in the world.

I don't know about you, but why spend $290 a night when you can enjoy the same beautiful and romantic get-away for one third to one half that for 3 nights?

I found all these great hostels through the search panel in the left sidebar. They're all available for February 13 - 16, 2007. And there's loads more. Try it out -- anywhere you'd like to take your sweetheart next month -- you might be surprised by what you find!

Romantic hostels? You bet!

Happy traveling!


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Enchanting Salzburg in Winter

Imagine the fairytale village of Salzburg, Austria--where "The Sound of Music" was filmed--in winter! How about spending Christmas or New Year's there?

Check out this link to a slideshow of Salzburg at Christmas.

Believe it or not, there are several hostels in Salzburg, including a couple "more-hotel-like" ones that are really quite lovely, but still inexpensive.

Salzburg--in the preAlps--never shuts down regardless of the season. It's cold and snowy in the winter, but frostily beautiful! If you are a skier, you might want to take the snow shuttle up into the mountains. Even if you don't want to ski, you can still ride the shuttle. There are other options, from tobogganing to snow-shoeing to just plain walking in the winter wonderland.

The "Original Sound of Music Tour" is available every day for $35.00/adult. It's a wonderful ride with breathtaking views of the landscape where the opening scenes were filmed, while you listen to the original Sound of Music soundtrack. An English-speaking guide shows you the highlights of the film and the historical and architectural landmarks in the city, as well as a part of the picturesque lake district. It takes about 4 hours.

There are other tours you can take, like a full-day excursion along the Salzach river valley past many of Austria's ski resorts. Near Schladming, location of the 1982 ski World Championships, the tour ascends to the "Steirische Ramsau" 1000 m above sea level at the base of one of the Alpine glacier massives--the Dachstein. In the village there's time for a stroll in the frosty fresh air and lunch in one of the local inns. Then you'll hear the jingle of sleighbells calling you to the sleighs, lined up across the field to take you on an amazing winter sleighride! A stop for refreshments is made along the way, and while the horses rest, you can try some Austrian specialties. The trip, approximately 8 hours long, is available December 26, 28, 30 and 31.

You can explore all the Salzburg hostels using the search panel on this site, but I've picked out my favorite for the money. It is Haus-Lindner, a beautiful country house at the edge of the city. Here's what the owner says about it:

Our building is located north, opposite the city on a sunny mountain slope. From our panorama terrace you will enjoy the view over Salzburg and the wonderful mountains. The rooms are stylish and very comfortable, partly with balcony. Our bathrooms only include shower facilities. The newly arranged breakfast room serves also as a TV/Sat room as well as a lounge. Excellent breakfast, too!

We have parking for your car in front of the building. If you book the Sound of Music Tour at House Lindner, you are treated to the movie. The tour bus stops every morning at the house.
The beds at Haus-Lindner start at $23.36. Taxes and breakfast are included. And how about that view! Pretty impressive, no?

Salzburg is also the "city of Mozart." Mozart Week is January 26 through February 4, 2007. It includes a performance of Mozart's own arrangement of Handel's Messiah and a behind-the-scenes exhibit of the life and times of Mozart.

Besides music and tours, Salzburg's "old city" is delightful and you simply won't have the time to visit all of its elegant palaces, Baroque churches, lively theaters and fascinating museums.

Happy traveling!


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Reader's Questions Answered

Hi Travelers,

? ? Had a question from a reader who wanted to understand more about hostels, especially those for elders, and how feasible it might be to plan a European trip around them. I started out to answer the email, then decided there may be others who'd like a bit of a "refresher course" on this subject.

So here's my email-turned-post on the subject.

I'm not an expert, but I'll try to answer your questions.

As I'm sure you know, hostels started out as youth hostels and catered mainly to traveling students. They offered large dormitory-style rooms and there were a great many rules, age limits, curfews, and a long part of the day when you couldn't be in the hostel (lock-out time).

All that has changed, and there are only a few countries where hostels are limited to youth. Now almost all hostels are open to adults of all ages and some allow children, so whole families can use them.

Rooms have changed greatly and while hostels still include dormitories (which may be male, female or mixed rooms), these dorms generally have fewer beds to a room, and many hostels now have private and semi-private rooms, some with bathrooms in the room (ensuite) and some with shared bathrooms. Some have actual apartment units.

As a rule, there are kitchens that guests may use, lockers or locked rooms where things may be stored, no lock-out times or curfews, and various recreational facilities. Instead of the old fashioned "warden," modern hostel owners and staff are, by and large, friendly, helpful people who can offer all kinds of information and tips.

Now, as to "elder" hostels, there really aren't any that I know of per se. You have probably heard of "Elderhostel," but that is actually an organization that arranges full-service trips for seniors that usually include educational components. These trips are excellent, but too expensive for many people, and they are very structured. Here's a link to their website if you'd like more information about it.

But most hostels simply now include adults of all ages. Some are more friendly to seniors than others with more small or private rooms, elevators and wheelchair-friendly accesses, and quieter atmospheres. The best hostels for seniors have good public transportation or parking areas nearby as walking is often a concern.

BTW, there are definitely hostels out there that are known as "party hostels" which would most likely not be of interest to the mature traveler!

Modern hostels are still inexpensive compared to hotels, (and many seem more like small hotels) and the over-50s travelers who want to see the world and meet lots of different people while holding to a small budget, can find hostel accomodations very suitable.

People who are used to luxury travel, however, must realize that hosteling is not luxury travel. It's simple but adequate, clean, inexpensive and fun. And there are hostels all over the world--in an amazing array of different buildings and styles, often with fascinating histories, making them much more interesting than ordinary motels.

The best way to find out if there are hostels you would like to visit in the places you want to go is to explore them through the link on the left sidebar of my site. Just put a city, a country or a hostel name in the search line and click. Each result gives you loads of information about the individual hostel, its rates and what it has to offer.

Some have their own websites you can visit to learn even more. Others are part of a type of chain, in that the owners have other hostels in other cities, as well. They won't be all alike, but the management should be consistent.

My reader's query asked about taking a trip that includes parts of Germany, Italy and the Greek Isles. Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? In fact the resources to explore the hostel possibilites are all right there in that search panel. For instance I found:

The Sunshine Apartments (private double ensuite $39.65/person/night) in Baden Baden in the Black Forest Region of Germany

and the Summer Lodge in Maleme ($20.51/person/night) on Crete in
the Greek Isles.

And check out Rome just two posts down. These are just quickly-found examples from my search panel. You can research a lot more in the full search results.

If you'd like a bookful of European hostels with first person reviews, scroll down the page to my Resources post or click here for Paul Karr's great book on hostels in European Cities. Why not use the Amazon search panel in my Resources post to find books on Greece that include hostels?

I hope I've given you a start to discovering how hostels might be just the ticket for your next great trip!

Happy traveling!


Monday, November 27, 2006

How About a Funky Florida Hostel this Winter?

Hi Travelers,

Ever been to the Florida Everglades? It's a wonderful place to see and experience. We visited not long ago and were thrilled to see how well the alligators have recovered from their previous endangered status.

Alligators have lately posed something of a problem due to proliferation in more built-up areas. But the Everglades is where they truly belong and can be enjoyed in their natural habitat.

They are joined by crocodiles (can you tell the difference?**) among 50 other species of reptiles, 45 species of mammals and 350 species of birds including my favorite, the weird, but delightful anhingas that settle in the scrub trees along the sloughs to dry their wings after diving for fish.

**Here's the answer.

And it's warm and sunny in South Florida while much of the US moves into winter.

I found this great little totally funky hostel where you can have a private room for two for $50 a night. It's called Everglades International Hostel. Here's how it's introduced on their website:

"A friendly laid-back atmosphere and an ideal location for day-tripping all of South Florida's attractions like the Everglades National Park, the Keys and Miami are just the tip of what makes our hostel so special... whimsical tropical gardens, internet access, free calls anywhere in the US, large-screen movie room, fully equipped kitchen, free all-you-can-eat make-it-yourself pancakes, free street parking, laundry facilities and all this with no curfew or lock out!"

I think this picture says it all, don't you? To get the full effect, you really need to explore the facilities link on the site.

The website is great--lots of links to tours, places to see and things to do, including bike tours, canoe tours, the odd coral castle--hey--even sky-diving if you up for it (I'm definitely not!).

Here's their home page link: Everglades

But if you decide to book it, I'd sure appreciate it if you'd use my link through Hostel World on the left sidebar. ;-)

Happy traveling!


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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Accessible Rome

Hi Travelers,

Recognize that wonderful fountain on the right? Yep, it's the famouis Trevi Fountain. You sit in front of it or on the wall and throw a coin over your shoulder into the water.

It's supposed to insure your return to Rome. I tried it a few years ago and haven't got back there again--not yet--but I haven't given up the idea!

My theme today is "Accessible Rome." There's a hostel in Rome with great value for money and facilities that is wheelchair-friendly. Plus Camping Roma has all types of accommodation to suit every budget, from shared house tents to private/shared cabins (twins and triples) with ensuites.

It has facilities such as regular theme parties, swimming pool, bbqs, jacuzzis, big screen TV, superfriendly staff, the best restaurant and pizzeria, and a poolside bar.

They have the usual things including internet access, laundry, 24hr security and luggage storage.

Accomodation types of particular interest include:

� Mixed/shared dormitory (triples) with an ensuite. These are modern, comfortable sized rooms that sleep 3 people and come with their own shower and toilet, heater, air conditioning, fridge, storage space, bedding and electrical outlets and

� Private twins with an ensuite. Modern, comfortable rooms that sleep 2 people and come with their own shower, toilet, storage space, bedding, heating, air conditioning and electrical outlets. Individuals can only book a private bed as a twin.

Plus Camping Roma is a short private shuttle bus ride from the Vatican and well connected with public transport from the front gate into town and the metro.Plus Camping Roma also offers a transfer service for Ciampino airport for €10 per person and Fiumicino airport for €9 per person.

They can send you off in the right direction with maps, tickets and excursions around the eternal city and they pride themselves on their reputation for providing clean, comfortable and safe accommodation with additional locations: Plus Camping Michelangelo in Florence and Plus Camping Alba D'Oro in Venice.

Some traveler reviews:

"For value this is awesome. The cabins were brilliant and the staff ever so friendly and helpful. It's very safe and secure." Hostelworld customer, Australia.

"Plus Camping Roma is the best hostel/camping in Rome. You can't beat the price and amenities offered." Hostelworld customer, USA

Just put Plus Camping Roma in my hostel search box and check it out.

And . . .
I came across this article that should be useful to any wheelchair users bound for Rome. Below is the opening paragraph of Mary Murphy-Hanson's article on wheelchair travel and accessibility in Rome.

Click on the link at the bottom for her really thorough guide.


"Accessible Rome"

Several years ago I became confined to a wheelchair for most of my day. Like most people in wheelchairs I have varying degrees of 'ability'. While I can climb a few stairs, or walk a short distance, the marathon that is known as touring Rome far exceeds my capabilities. I also couldn't give up my passion for Rome. So I went to Rome in a wheelchair. Conquering Rome in a wheelchair!

Slow Travel Italy - Accessible Rome, wheelchair travel, disabilities, accessibility

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