Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

48. Party Hostels… with your parents

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

One day, when I get old, will I hate something I used to love dearly? Will I become jaded or just realistic?

These are questions I asked myself when I recently saw the Kabul Hostel listed among The Guardian‘s 10 Best Hostels in Barcelona.

Kabul Hostel, Barcelona: "An institution in the best possible sense."

Kabul Hostel, Barcelona: "An institution in the best possible sense."

I have stayed at Kabul on two occasions: Once, when I was 22, on my first backpacking trip to Europe, and a second time, when I was 30, on my first backpacking trip with — get this — my brother and my parents. No joke. My parents are cheap. They didn’t want to stay in a hotel. They wanted an “authentic” backpacking experience. They were also the only people over 30 in the entire building, cleaning staff included.

The receptionist took pity on us. He at least put is in a room with only four bunks; our family had our own room.

The party atmosphere was a shock not only to my parents, but also to the young people we met in the hostel bar.

“We’re here with our parents,” my brother told an American girl we met. “You’re fucking kidding, right?” she said. “Nope,” I said. “They’re upstairs sleeping, or trying to sleep. They have earplugs.” People were incredulous.

“Why on Earth would your parents want to stay here?” she asked.

“Well, I stayed here years ago and loved it,” I explained. “The location is perfect and it’s dirt cheap. I warned my mom that it would be a little crazy and the funny thing is, her eyes lit up when I told her that. I think she wanted a glimpse of what the young backpacker scene is like.”

We asked for it.

“A Barcelona institution in the best possible sense, the recently renovated Kabul has been housing backpackers since the pre-Olympic days, before the sailors and prostitutes patrolling the nearby Rambla were replaced by Geordie stag parties,” writes The Guardian‘s Sally Davies. “It’s an unbeatable location, right on the arcaded Plaça Reial in the centre of the Barri Gòtic, but is really aimed at hard-core party people –- the cheap beer and all-night comings and goings of the clubbers make it less fun for anyone here for a quiet weekend of sightseeing, especially in the larger rooms (mixed dorms sleep up to 20 people).”

After three sleepless nights in Barcelona (which my brother and I thoroughly enjoyed), my ‘rents had seen enough. Or maybe they’d heard enough: girls shrieking in the hallways, people shouting, listening to loud music and drinking boxed wine in the adjacent rooms before going out (with all the windows open, as there was no air conditioning).

“This is unbelievable. These kids do not sleep!” said my mom, on the second night. My dad grunted from behind his sleep mask. The earplugs offered little relief.

But we were operating on opposite schedules. Mom and Dad were getting ready to go to bed, just as we were all getting dressed to go out.

We stayed in a private guest house in Venice, the next stop on our trip. No more party hostels for Mom and Dad. NOW, they realized the peace and quiet was worth the extra money.

Honestly, I don’t hate the Kabul Hostel. I had a blast both times I was there. My parents hate it.

Growing up kinda sucks. And so, I resist (see 44. Finishing school/Quitting your job).

Share Button

43. Reading the book about the place

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

alex-garlands-the-beachBackpackers are a pretentious lot. Actually, people who travel, in general, are full of shit. Some will tell you they’ve lived somewhere, but they were really just visiting. Or they’ve been to a place, but were actually just on a layover there, and didn’t leave the airport. These types of people insist they are into photography, global culture, art, film, music, and of course literature.

They’re remarkably insecure, which is why they constantly attempt to reaffirm their sense of enlightenment on all topics. “Have you see that movie?” Oh yeah, it’s fantastic. “Have you been to…” Yes, three times. “Have you seen Buddha?” Mm-hmm, when I was in Cambodia. “Are you better than me?” (Unspoken: Yes.)

Just as they will refuse to see the movie before they read the book, they won’t travel somewhere without having read THE book about it. Some will be leafing through the book while on the plane, train or bus en route to the place. But make no mistake, there is only ONE BOOK you simply must read before you go somewhere. Some examples:

Thailand: The Beach
No book has tickled the global backpacker imagination as much as this Alex Garland neo-classic, and the Leo DiCaprio movie didn’t hurt either. Poignant use of Nintendo metaphors amid differing interpretations of “paradise” and the “parasites” trying to find it ring true for anybody born after 1970. Ko Phi Phi has the movie to thank for the millions of parasites that descend upon it every year.

Spain: The Sun Also Rises
What Garland has done for Generation X, Hemingway did for young people in the 20s and 30s, members of the “Lost Generation.” His book is still doing it today. After all, the book is about love, partying and living overseas in France and Spain, so it should come as no surprise that it inspires countless readers to pack up and give it a go. Just as DiCaprio put Ko Phi Phi on the map, Hemingway informed the world of Pamplona’s frenzied San Fermin Festival.

India: Midnight’s Children
I tried reading this a few years ago and couldn’t get past the first 70 pages. If Rushdie were employing his own version of “magical realism,” I wish he would have used less magic and more realism. I didn’t know what the hell was going on. It was convoluted and senseless. Maybe if I finally get to India, it will all become clear… or at least I could find some enlightened backpackers who would be able explain it to me.

South America: 100 Years of Solitude
This book confirmed it for me: I’m not a huge fan of magical realism. Too much extraneous detail. But just like you have to try the chicken feet at the dim sum restaurant, you have to read Marquez if you want to do right by South American literature. Thankfully, the copy I bought didn’t have the Oprah’s Book Club logo on it. I’m pretentious like that.

Vietnam: The Quiet American
Like Hemingway and Orwell, Greene is a foreign correspondent-turned author who likes the sauce and in this case, opium. F.E.T. enthusiasts (i.e. white guys who like Asian chicks) will dig the protagonist, who locks down a primo local gal and enjoys the spoils of expat life and moral superiority during Vietnam’s French colonial war in the early 1950s.

The United States: On The Road
Garland to Generation X = Hemingway to Lost Generation = Kerouac to Beat Generation. The underlying theme to this wanderer’s journal is that it’s fun to hang with arty rich kids who drink booze like it’s water, listen to black music and drive wildly down the open highway. Sounds a lot like the backpacking scene to me. Oh and that San Francisco was the shit in the 50s. Still is today.

Any other geographically-specific books you’ve seen while traveling? There are tons. Please post comments to let me know which ones you’ve run into.

Share Button

27. One-uppers

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Traveling to a cool place is like going to an awesome concert. The experience is so good that you wish everybody could see and hear what it’s like. This type of feeling gives one a false sense of superiority, the delusion that other people are missing out big time. “You really shoulda been there,” or “OMG, I wish you were there,” or “You would have LOVED it,” are common manifestations of this feeling.

Don’t be fooled. These statements are stone cold, back-handed beenous. The back-handed beenou is a standard backpacker conversational maneuver. The speaker feigns a desire to share, but really it’s a need to gloat, so he tickles his uvula and pukes out a quick beenou for all to behold.

kristen-wiig-as-penelope-snl-kristen-wiig-323108_1024_768But even when somebody hasn’t missed out — when they’ve actually been to that place or seen that concert — it doesn’t compare. This is one-upping. Somebody sneaked out a little horn toot, which led Mr. Big Shot to pull the tugboat foghorn. The exchange takes on a sudden “check, check mate” silence, leaving everybody feeling stunned and staring blankly at the table.

“I absolutely loved Amsterdam,” somebody says.

“Yeah, Amsterdam is pretty amazing,” says Mr. Big Shot. “I met a Dutch guy when I was backpacking in Indo. His mom was born in Indo when it was still a Dutch colony. Anyway, he was in Indo trying to get in touch with his roots. On a jungle trek we went on, he got bit by a snake and I sucked the venom out; saved his life. Years later, I went to visit him; he lives in Amsterdam. His dad like owns Shell Oil. So we got blazed, ate krokete and drove Maseratis through the streets of Amsterdam all fuckin’ day.”

You see, one-uppers can’t help but shit all over a perfectly good conversation between well meaning travelers. It’s a collegiate thing, sort of like how the goof with the ponytail challenges Matt Damon to an intellectual duel only to get absolutely demolished by Damon, who cites plagiarism and famously proceeds to get Minnie Driver’s number. My boy’s wickid smaht.

The point is: One-uppers will do whatever it takes to make conversation revolve around themselves and their enlightened, shoulda-been-there experience.

The weekend after we ran with the bulls (beenou, see 1. Aussie Guys), my buddies and I went to San Sebastian. The place was awash in backpacker overflow from Pamplona. We ended up partying with some Americans and amid the drunken blur of pub hopping and running into a number of annoying Brit lad parties with matching t-shirts or rugby shirts, I recall getting caught in a heavy downpour.

We retreated to an apartment a few of the Americans had been renting for the past month leading up to the Running of the Bulls. We proceeded to keep drinking and people were playing CDs. Completely dating myself, as this was pre-iPod era. Somebody put on Dave Matthews Band. And an interesting wrinkle in the time-space continuum gave rise to a compound beenou of unseen magnitude: A backpacker bragged about an awesome concert.

“Oh this song reminds me of when we saw Dave in some dive bar in Memphis,” said the backpacker, a fat dude from Georgia. That’s right. He called him “Dave,” like he knew him, not Dave Matthews. “This was way before Crash, before college radio made him huge and lame. He and the band were only doing small shows in tiny little venues. Blahblahblahblah…”

I wish I had more quotes from this guy, but I was drunk and, as a habit I tend to block out one-uppers.

Share Button