Updated: May 12
Apologies to The Beatles for paraphrasing their song for the title. We've come across several blog sites that talk about staying in hostels when grey hair starts to show. Well, what about when all your hair is grey? Is it still wise to stay in a hostel? Is it still fun? Do you look out of place staying in a backpacker's hostel? We say the answer to these two questions is a resounding "NO" (except for the 'fun' question, then it is a "YES"). As an older person there may be an inclination to stay in all-inclusive resorts or chain hotel that offer familiarity and predictability; and sometimes that is what a person might want. With children an all-inclusive can make a lot of sense, and for small children it is likely the most logical choice. However, as we age it is important to keep ourselves engaged with new experiences, opportunities and exposed to new ideas and opinions. Nutrition is the other important piece, and that also fits in to the hostel experience as most offer kitchens for use. We love eating out though eventually that can get old and you just want to have something lite that you have prepared yourself. At least we do - I think our tolerance is 4 days in a row eating out and then we are needing to cook our own meals. Not to mention it gets quite expensive eating out.
We love the unique nature of most hostels around the world - many created within buildings that had previous lives like monasteries, reform schools (the photo below) or old warehouses. The small pension we stayed in Barcelona was in a building built in the 1600s. Most hostels we've come across are in old historic buildings that have been converted. One of our most memorable and enjoyable was the International Youth Hostel in the North of Dublin that was a boy’s reform school in the 1800s, and a convent before that. The dining hall - with all the nation’s flags hanging from the rafters - reminded us of the great hall in Hogwarts's of Harry Potter lore. A hostel in the centre of Dublin (Kinlay House) is a 17th century residence that is a labyrinth of halls and rooms with a fun common gathering area and kitchen where we have had the opportunity to strike up many conversations with folks from all parts of this earth, and from age 20 through 70. We are in our 50s as of this writing and we couldn't imagine settling in to the Lazy-Boy lifestyle (not yet - maybe not ever), as - in our opinion - this leads to premature aging. There is an old saying and apologies to the author who we don't remember now, but it generally says that growing up is mandatory, growing old is optional. And it is with that mindset that we set out on our hosteling adventures. We firmly believe hostels are for the young and old alike - not to mention when you are paycheque to paycheque it makes travel financially realistic with most private rooms going for under $100 per night in major cities.
The dining hall at the Dublin International Youth Hostel located at 61 Mountjoy Street, Dublin 7, Ireland.
Hostels - for the most part - are small independent businesses that are often family run endeavours. Staying in hostels puts your money directly back into the community you have come to visit, thereby strengthening the local economy to help it thrive and to be there for you the next time you visit, or for your kids, grandkids, etc.
Outside 'Isaac's Hostel' in North Dublin. It is 1 block from Connelly Train Station where you can catch the Dart to Howth, or south to Bray and Greystones (or even Wexford) - you could even catch the train here to zip up to Belfast (about 2.5 hours one way) for a day trip. If you have a few days in Dublin a 40 minute ride on the Dart to Greystones will bring you to the Bray Cliff Walk - 7 km along the side of a mountain that is beautiful if you have a bit of sun. Isaac's Hostel has a great common area and kitchen. We would recommend the rooms on any of the upper floors - great hostel, but the ground floor rooms can feel a little claustrophobic. Amazing history in this building.
Storage lockers are available for rent at 'Isaac's Hostel' - located in the basement of the building. According to Lonely Planet, "Isaac's Hostel is in a 200-year-old wine vault just around the corner from the main bus station. Friendly, secure and well stocked, it generates consistently good reviews from backpackers and other budget travellers'. The old wine vault aspect of Isaac's is very cool - the whole environment is really unique and fun. I didn't grab a picture at the time of the kitchen and common area, but both are really neat - some good pics on Hostelworld of Isaacs.
One of our favourite hostels in Ireland is on the West Coast along the Wild Atlantic Way in the town of Westport. It is called 'Abbeywood House', and is a hostel in an old monastery; very unique and quite a different building. Susan and Guillaume have owned and run the place for over 18 years now. They are two of the nicest people you could hope to meet, and every two years when we get to go to Westport they remember us and make us feel very welcome. The breakfast is very good, and the coffee is delicious. A great way to start a day of exploration around Westport and Croagh Patrick or Clew Bay. The showers are hot and the rooms are quite big.
Room #7 has a great view of Croagh Patrick - really, all of them do. This was our favourite of the 3 different rooms we've stayed in.
Abbeywood House - www.abbeywoodhouse.com
Main floor hallway with the chapel/breakfast/social room to the left.
The old chapel is the breakfast area - and a great place to meet people from all over Ireland and Europe.
Abbeywood House breakfast/activity room
Abbeywood House - when we were there they were using Bewley's Coffee - a local Irish roast, and one of our favourites.
View of Croagh Patrick from room #7 at Abbeywood House - granted, I have a pretty good zoom on the little Sony point-and-shoot camera.
ROSSIO HOSTEL, LISBON, PORTUGAL
One of our favourite hostel on the planet is Rossio Hostel in Lisbon. We have now stayed here twice, and it was even better the second time. See our Trip Advisor review on Rossio Hostel here. Our video of Rossio hostel is available on our YouTube channel here. Rossio has so much going for it - the location is right on Rossio Square, the site of chariot races some 1000 years ago, and also one of Lisbon's central squares. It is a quick 10 minute walk to the Tagus (Tay-Zoo) River, and close to many shops, cafes and restaurants. Rossio is also above the metro station that takes you to the Cais De Sadro station at the end of the line where you can catch the ferry (10 minutes) over to Cacilhas and the Cristo Rei statue, as well as catch the trains to Sintra and Cascais right downstairs from the hostel. Rossio is in an old 17th century building and has lots of character. No elevator, so you do need to be able to do stairs. The people at Rossio are a big part of what makes it special - there is fado and tapas nights on Sundays that are not to be missed, and pizza night with a cover band every other Tuesday that is a really good time. Staff are amazing, and you feel like you are part of the family and that Rossio is home. The downside to Rossio is the people and the place is really hard to leave. Special shout-outs to Elsa for cooking up such fantastic breakfasts and great coffee (included in your stay), and to Madalena for making our stay so special. All the staff deserve credit, and if you stay at Rossio you will get to know everyone. It really is one of the very special places to stay on the planet.
The lobby and shared space at the entrance to Rossio Hostel.
Rossio Hostel - the windows at the top are the Lisboa (left), Sintra (middle and the room we had this time), and Cascais rooms (right). Dorms are the next floor down as are a few more private rooms. Beautiful location and a fantastic restaurant out the side called Pexiaria.
One of the rooms - Lisboa, Sintra, Cascais, Largos all look similar. Beautiful rooms with amazing views.
The common area where the fado nights and pizza nights are held. Fado nights are for 3 hours and includes tapas and one of Lisbon's best fado singers for 20,00 Euro (too cheap - suggested they raise the price as the food and music is beyond words).
Self-serve kitchen for cooking your own meals. Elsa uses this in the mornings to cook up crepes, scramble eggs and coffee. Pick up some fresh, local fruit to add to your crepe and some Greek yogurt. You will not start the day hungry.
The view from our room at Rossio hostel.
Peaceful Nomads with Madelena, one of the many wonderful staff at Rossio Hostel.
Jacobs Inn Hostel – Dublin, Ireland
This is a hostel we had not stayed in before this last trip. Jacobs Inn Hostel is located on the North side of the River Liffey in Dublin. It is ½ block from Connelly Train Station (catch the train to Belfast or points South from here), and ½ block from the Luas Line (Dublin’s rapid transit train). There is a pub/café downstairs that offers a big Irish breakfast for 10,00 Euro and they make a decent Americano and Latte. Private rooms are available as well as dorms and 4 or 8 bed pod rooms (which we rented the 4 pod) for larger groups and families. The facilities are spotless and a shout-out needs to go to the cleaning team at Jacobs Inn. They do a fantastic job – especially during these pandemic years it is so important. There are lockers to store your luggage before and after check-in/out so if you have a later flight, you can leave your bags until closer to departure time. The staff are nice and get you checked in fast. There is a balcony on the 4th floor where you have a nice view of North Dublin, and more importantly, you get to watch the trains come and go from Connelly station, including Irish Rail and the local ‘Dart’ commuter train. We utilized Jacobs Inn twice this trip, and we will be staying here again as the location is close to transit, O'Connell Street and a short walk to Dame Street (restaurants) and Temple Bar. You can check out our video of Jacobs Inn Hostel here. Fun fact: Jacobs Inn has used our photo on their website - it is the last set of photos before the bottom - swipe right and it is the picture of the 3 of us in the 4-pod beds.
Jacobs Inn Hostel is located 1/2 block from the Connelly Train Station, and 1/2 block from a Luas Line (Dublin's rapid transit) stop on the Red Line near O'Connel Street.
View from the deck on the 4th floor - gorgeous place to grab an Americano from the cafe downstairs and enjoy the morning.
We rented a 4-bed pod room. Jacobs does have privates available - this was fun, and very economical. Each pod has charging stations for phones, laptops, etc. This photo is on Jacobs Inn's website (www.jacobsinn.com)
Lobby of Jacobs Inn Hostel
Mural in the lobby of Jacobs Inn Hostel - lockers are available if you need to store your luggage for any reason. Big Irish breakfast for 10,00 Euro in the cafe/pub.
These hostel instalments do jump around a bit, and apologies for that. We will smooth out the website soon.