First off, I need to apologise for my lack of dedication to this blog lately. Have you ever had those moments where you get epic writers block and feel like you don't have anything worthwhile to say? Yeah, that's where I've been lately. But luckily I had a rather interesting weekend in a hostel in London last week and I want to tell you all about it!
So. last weekend I got the chance to head into London to catch up with some camp friends and help hire some new staff at the CIEE recruitment fair! It was so good to see some friendly faces again and meet some of the people who I will be spending the summer with. Seeing the anticipation on their faces reminded me of how I felt before heading to camp for the first time and I am so excited for them, knowing what lies ahead in the extra-ordinary world!
On Friday my friend Lorna and I were reunited outside Aldgate East tube station. It was just as magical as it sounds, rain and all! But it didn't matter - we were so excited to see each other and have a weekend full of camp related stuff that we didn't care what the weather was doing (ok, maybe a little bit - her SO Steve was anxious about the rain ruining his new shoes! And you know, rain sucks).
We headed down the road to our hostel - Wombats London - to drop of our bags before heading off in search of our American Abroad. The hostel looked really nice online and Lorna had stayed there before so I had some pretty high expectations.
We checked in and I was really impressed by how large and spacious the reception area was. It looked like a really nice place to come and chill out after dinner etc so I could see why this was a popular place for travellers to make camp.
When we got up to our room we were delighted to find that nobody else had checked in yet so we had free pick of the beds! Score! Neither of us are top bunk people so we took the two bottom bunks in the corner, stowed our bags in the lockers and headed out to find Anthony from his swanky Hilton hotel near Tower Bridge.
A good old cuppa tea, a long overdue catch up, some lengthy persuading of Steve (Lorna's SO) and Carlos (Steve's friend) to come and join us at camp this summer (it worked, we won) and a standard tourist pic by Tower Bridge later, we headed off for dinner.
Ever checked out Flat Iron in Carnaby Street?? You should - one of the best steaks of my entire life and very reasonably priced!! Your life will be forever changed. You're welcome.
Anyway, dinner was fab and we headed to the pub to get to know some of the people who would be at the camp fair with us the next day. It was tonnes of fun and time flew by. Before we knew it it was nearly midnight and we were heading back to our hostel looking forward to a good night's sleep before the camp recruitment fair.
Too bad that didn't happen!!
Nope. We got back to the hostel to find almost every bed taken in our room (Ok, realistically we didn't think we would have the place to ourselves but it would have been nice) and I met the girl who would be sleeping above me.
Nightmare #1: The smelly roommate
Yep. She smelled. Bad. I don't know if it was just that her clothes were stale from travelling for a while without being able to wash them or what but it was the kind of smell that catches you off guard and sticks in the back of your throat. I know this makes me come across as really rude or shallow or whatever but it really was quite overpowering. Lorna and I exchanged a look - you know the one - and set to making our beds. Now, I know that I should say something about how she may have smelled bad but was really nice. Except she wasn't. She looked at us like we had just crawled in off the street, barely said two words to us and climbed into her bed. I could have blamed it on the language barrier if there was one. There wasn't. She was as English as we were. How do I know this? Well...
Nightmare #2: The noisy neighbour
Yep. Smelly girl waited until we got into bed before having a chat with her friend who was in the bed above Lorna. They chatted a lot. It's just common courtesy to be quiet when you're in a dorm, right?? I mean it was nearly 1am and all of us were in bed. It's just rude. I know most of them were on a trip and had no set plans the next day but Lorna and I had a job to do in the morning and we were tired and cranky at this point. And it wasn't even like they chatted for a minute then fell asleep. A good ten minutes passed and I was just summoning my courage to ask them to be quiet when they stopped. Finally. I snuggled down, closed my eyes and drifted off. Until...
Nightmare #3: The late arrival
It's common knowledge when you agree to stay in a dorm that you may get a late arrival but that doesn't make it any easier when it happens. 1:30am I woke up as a bright torch light was shined repeatedly into my face. I know it wasn't this poor girls fault and she really was doing her best to be quiet, I don't think she even realised she was shining her light in my eyes, but in my tired state this felt like the worst thing ever and I couldn't fall back to sleep until she had got into bed and turned off the torch. It took about 25 minutes from the point I woke up for her to make her bed and sort herself out enough to go to sleep so it was nearly 2am by the time I settled down again ready to get some much needed shut eye.
Nightmare #4: The fire alarm
The one sound you never want to hear in a hostel in the middle of the night. The fire alarm. You guessed it, at 2:15am, just as I was drifting off, I could hear a strange ringing coming from another part of the building. After a few seconds I realised it was a fire alarm, just in time for the one in our room to chime in. Loudly. We all sat up in bed silently contemplating whether or not it was a real alarm or a drill (although realistically, how many hostels drill their fire alarms at 2am??) Now, at this point, I would just like to remind you all that fire alarms should always, ALWAYS be taken seriously, no matter what time of day or night it is. We live in a society where we are so used to tests that we don't always respond to fire alarms in the way we should. Just as I thought maybe this wasn't a drill and threw back the covers to find my essentials, it stopped. We all stared at each other in the dark before deciding to go back to sleep. That didn't last long. Again, just as we got comfortable, the alarm went off again and stopped after a few seconds. 7 times this happened between 2am and 3:30am. I don't know what caused it but I was pissed. I paid for a bed to get some sleep, not be kept up all night by sodding fire alarms!! (Disclaimer: we couldn't hear anyone banging on doors telling people to evacuate the building, we looked out the window and saw nobody congregating on the street and one of the girls went downstairs and was assured that it wasn't a fire).
Nightmare #5: The epic snoozer
After being kept awake almost all night the last thing anyone would want to hear is an alarm clock. Much less, an alarm clock that gets snoozed for 9 minutes at a time, Every time. Smelly girl had a VERY loud alarm set on her phone that went off at 7am. She snoozed it every 9 minutes until 7:40am when she eventually shut it off for good after some pointed words from the girl across the room..
7:45am. My (silent, vibrate only) alarm goes off. After barely 4 hours sleep I decided I could snooze for an extra 15 minutes before I absolutely had to get up. But, as seemed to be the theme with Wombats, the hostel had other ideas and as if it knew I was falling asleep, off goes the fire alarm. Again. "Fuck this" I thought and I got out of bed. The alarm started again. Lorna and I looked at each other and just laughed. At this point there was no point trying to do anything but get ready and try and find the funny side. The alarm went off a further 5 times before we checked out making it 13 times in total. Lucky us.
Now, the hostel was really nice, the rooms were spacious and airy, the beds were comfy and Lorna assured me the alarms hadn't caused any problems the last time she stayed there. Under any other circumstances I would recommend this place in a heartbeat. However, I like my sleep and it was stolen from me that night and we weren't even offered as much as an apology for the inconvenience at the Front Desk on checkout.
I was tempted to ask for a full refund but when I saw the line of angry customers trying to complain I decided it wasn't worth it. Sorry Wombats, but I won't be staying with you again.