Like millions of other travellers around the world, I put much stock in the recommendations of the Lonely Planet guidebooks. For the most part they were spot on and gave me loads of top tips throughout my travels of the UK. However there was one occasion in particular where they got it completely wrong, and a hostel that, on paper, sounded like it would be a pretty upmarket joint, actually turned out to be just the opposite.
The hostel was actually described as ‘the best in the country’ – high praise indeed. However, I did write my own description for Lonely Planet – I wonder if they would consider a rewrite? I have changed the name of the town though as I don’t wish to give them any bad press – they do a good enough job of disproving Lonely Planet’s description all on their own!
Blanktown’s answer to the Bates Motel is not, as their internet profile would have you believe an ‘easy 400m walk from the train station’, but actually only accessible after a 30 minute trek down every side street surrounding the station, a 20 minute walk to the tourist information centre and a 2 MILE hike along a motorway, through an industrial estate and up a mountain. Upon arrival you will discover a mental asylum circa 1956 with mission brown interior, monosyllabic desk clerk and an old man who sits alternately staring vacantly at the wall or furtively at you.
After receiving your linen and room key, you follow directions up the shabbily carpeted stairs and along a corridor that stretches all the way down to your room at the end of the hall, the walls seemingly getting narrower and narrower the close you get to your door. Opening the door you discover an empty room with, admittedly, clean and new looking beds, but no locker and no bathroom. You realise you’ve walked through half of the building and have not seen nor heard another living soul, bar the mute desk clerk and gaping old man.
Do you stay? Or do you get a refund and, tired and dejected, check into the very expensive hotel just next door to the train station, where you then proceed to have two very hot showers in the shiny white bathroom and watch bad UK TV until you fall asleep?
A couple of days later I met two Canadian girls who’d stayed in the same hostel and agreed that it was the worst one they’d ever stayed at. It had no bar or cafe and while it did have a kitchen, they had arrived quite late at night and had had no opportunity to get any food to prepare, nor any option of finding somewhere else to eat. Or stay. In addition, the next morning they were woken by regular intercom announcements reminding them all that they had to be out by 10:00am or they’d be forced to pay for another night’s accommodation.
While I’m sure there are worse hostels to stay at, this was the dodgiest one I came across. I only object because it was touted as ‘modern’ and ‘the best hostel in the country’, to which I offer a loud and resounding ‘BOLLOCKS’!
Quite often a search of my music collection fails to turn up any relevant tracks and that’s when I’m forced to go a huntin’. I quite like it when this happens because it means that I end up stumbling across all kinds of new and wonderful things.
Summer Cats are a six-piece indie rock outfit from Melbourne, Australia and this track is a seriously catchy little number.
Image: This picture is not the place that I’m referring to, but it is a photo of an old asylum that evokes the general atmosphere of the wretched hostel in question.