Roots&Boots: Santiago de Compostela’s Pilgrim Hostel

The elation of arriving to Santiago de Compostela after 200 miles and 14 nights alternating between pilgrims inns and pensiones was only met with the elation that we’d have a place to rest our heads. We took rounds of photos in the Plaza del Obradoiro, packs over our heads, sunbursts creeping in our shots.

Located just 350 meters (and downhill!) from the magnificent square, Roots&Boots hostel was to become the roof over our heads that night. A cross between a pilgrim’s inn and a hostel, the owners converted a gorgeous four-story casa señorial, or a state house, into a hostel complete with intricate woodwork, creaky floors and a huge outdoor terrace with bean bag chairs.

Admittedly, Hayley and I spent very little time in Roots&Boots because we had a beautiful, compact city to enjoy and a dozen other pilgrims to meet for a goodbye beer.

What I liked

The common areas and bar – For me, a hostel must have comfortable common areas with wi-fi. Since Roots&Boots is in a huge house, the yard is equally as large, with couches, tables and plenty of grass to read or check your email. They’ve also got a bar that serves breakfast for 2€, beers for 1,50€ and enormous bocadillos for 2,50€. The staff even let us use the space after we’d checked out, and we had lockers to store our bags until our late flight out. Roots&Boots also has a huge kitchen with a parrilla in the garden with enough room for many guests to eat comfortably.

The location – Roots&Boots is located adjacent to the beautiful Alameda park and has priviledged views of the cathedral through the alleyways. If you want to be close to the pulse of the city and all of its sites without dealing with the tourists, the hostel can’t be beat, and the prices are on-par with any hostel in the area.

The staff – The three people we came across at the front desk were beyond friendly – they gave us our room early, let us shower the following day after we’d checked out and even gave us leftover shampoo to use.

What didn’t work for me

The hygiene sheets: Alright, I get that the hygiene sheets are the best for combating against bed bugs and smelly pilgrims, but come on! For 15€ or 17€, I think I deserve a clean set of cloth sheets and to have someone put them on the bed for me. What’s more, there were rooms upstairs with real sheets, so what gives?

The lack of bathrooms: When we got to the hostel around 11:30a.m., our room was ready, but I had one order of business: use the facilities. Unfortunately, there was a severe lack of aseos in this hostel. We had to wait to shower, wait to pee, wait to brush our teeth, wait to change. In a hostel that has four floors and four dozen beds, four bathrooms doesn’t cut it.

The specifics

Like any hostel, Roots&Boots offers free wi-fi, lockers, city maps and a fun mix of travelers. There’s also a few computers to use with printers on the second floor. Rates vary by season and type of room, which are bunks of 4, 6, 8 or 10 beds. Expect to pay up to 17,90€ per person per night in the high season for a bed in a shared room.

I used the site Your Spain Hostel to look for and book a room, an excellent resource that focuses on all types of lodging in Spain, from hostels to paradores. Its easy-to-use interface makes searching for a room or bed beyond simple, and the site offers discounts on for groups, as well as vouchers for saving on tours, breakfasts and rentals.

You can find Roots&Boots at Rúa Campo do Cruceiro do Gaio 7, near the Alameda park. Call them at  699 63 15 94 or shoot an email to  info@rootsandboots.es.

My stay was provided by Your Spain Hostel after my long walk on the Camino. But don’t worry – my post is as real as the sore muscles after 200 miles.

Sleeping in Spain: A Guide to Accommodation (and 30€ Voucher Giveaway!)

If there’s one thing that’s weathering the Spanish economic downturn (no doubt tied to the weather itself), it’s the tourism industry. Accounting for nearly 11% of 2012’2 GDP, Spain constantly pushes the envelope within the tourism industry and has grown to be the second-largest in the world!

Where will you be pillow hugging tonight?

One aspect that sets Spain apart is its ample offering of accommodation and luxury brands. Iberostar, Melià and Bareclò hotels are considered some of the best brands in the world, and backpackers can find a haven nestled on cobblestone streets or just steps from a private beach. Still, in an ever-changing industry, there’s quite a bit of confusion as to each type of accommodation, and sometimes where to find it at an affordable price (don’t worry, there’s an entrance to a voucher at the end of this explanation!).

The view from the rooftop bar at Seville’s Hotel EME.

Hotels, like in any country of the world, are plentiful and of varying quality. There’s also been a recent surge of new hotels offering boutique accommodation, quirky decor and plenty of character. Spain’s tourism board has instituted a nationwide ranking, using the Q of quality and between 1 and 5 stars. Hotels are marker with a white H and the ranking below. High season is during the summer months, local festivals and Christmas time, so expected steeper prices and less availability.

The Spanish government now controls a network of historic buildings converted into luxury hotels, called paradores. From castles to convents, a night in the sumptuous lodging will typically run you more than an average hotel, but booking during the low season can ensure a one-of-a-kind experience in a historically important building.

Tiles on the outdoor terrace of the parador in Carmona, Andalusia.

Hostels and Albergues  are often considered a common type of backpacker accommodation, they are as varied as one could imagine. Typically, they can be found in city centers and offer beds in shared or private accommodation, shared bathrooms and common areas such as living rooms, rooftop terraces or kitchens. Most beds in a shared dorm are less than 20€ a night, making it an ideal place to meet other travelers through free events and walking tours.

A typical dorm room in hostels. This one is Grand Luxe in Seville.

Slightly nicer than hostels, pensions (pensiones) are more budget-friendly than hotels and are typically smaller, too. Most similar to boarding houses, one can expect loads of hospitality and often meals!

Thanks to Spain’s varied landscape, rural accommodations are becoming popular, particularly for families wishing to escape city life.

A bed at Almohalla 51, a luxury rural house in Archidona, Spain

Apartment Stays are also becoming a popular way to live like a local in larger cities. Available for days, weeks or months, a piso turístico will allow travelers the privacy of their own space while having access to amenities. Typical rates for a month can be between 500 – 800€, depending on the season.

Camping remains a cheap and popular option for staying in Spain, particularly on the coast. Rates are low, even during the summer season, and most offer on-site food and washing facilities.

No joke, I spent a night here in the Islas Cies.

I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in a tent on the pristine Playa de Rodas in Galicia, an ancient piso in front of the Basilica Santa María del Mar in Barcelona and a friendly pensión within earshot of the tingling churchbells of Santa María la Blanca in Seville. My head has rested in sumptuous hotels from Toledo to Valladolid, as well as old fortresses, which is why I’m excited to present you all with my newest giveaway.

I’m teaming up with Your Spain Hostel to offer a giveaway of a 30€ voucher to be used on Your Spain Hostel on any property in any city you’re interested in visiting in Spain. Simply enter by leaving your email address and telling me in the comments where you’d like to travel to in Spain should you win the voucher (extra points if you send a postcard!), or otherwise!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

From a bungalow on the beaches of Ibiza to a casa rural in Cangas de Onís, Your Spain Hostel is your one-stop destination for unique and quality accommodation around Spain. The site also provides discounts on tours, entrance to sites, food and even taxi pick-up! You can win extra entries by following both Your Spain Hostel and Sunshine and Siestas on Facebook and Twitter.

Happy travels for 2013! Where are you headed, and where do you like to rest your head at the end of a long day of tourism and tapas? Got any great recs?

 

Swanky Barcelona Hostels: Where to Sleep in the Ciudad Condal

The benefits of staying in hostels while traveling are numerous. Hostels offer budget-conscious travellers the opportunity to indulge in affordable lodging and take advantage of cost-saving amenities, such as community kitchens for easy meal preparation. Perhaps just as valuable as affordability, these hotel alternatives also provide residents with fantastic opportunities to engage with fellow travellers in a way that broadens the travel experience and creates friendships that span the globe. Barcelona features a wide variety of geared toward many different types of travellers, as well as numerous cool apartment rentals around the city.

Alberg Pere Tarres
This hostel in Barcelona allows travellers to select a sex-specific dormitory, mixed dormitory or even private room. With 320 beds to choose from, this hostel is almost certain to have availability. Amenities include free internet access, free breakfast, and a community kitchen available for use. Residents are welcome to take meals and snacks at the  restaurant and utilize individual’s lockers to protect valuable items. The Alberg Pere Tarres also boasts 32 accessible beds for travellers who require special assistance.

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Alberguinn Youth Hostel
With both mixed dorms and a female-only dorm room, this hostel is ideal for travellers who desire proximity to football stadiums, restaurants, bars, and ample shopping. Since the hostel utilizes key cards for building access, residents are welcome to visit the wonders of Barcelona without worrying about a curfew. Amenities include free internet access, free luggage storage, free breakfast, and available reception staff at all hours of the day and night.

Alternative Creative Youth Home
Whether seeking a very short stay or a month’s long place of residence, this youth hostel in Barcelona has it all. The prime location in the heart of the city, combined with a curfew-free environment, is a boon for adventurous travellers. Free internet access with specific support for Mac users and security lockers are among the features. Perhaps the best aspect of this hostel is its friendly atmosphere and dedicated staff who are always ready to provide useful information to residents. More sedate adventurers will enjoy knowing that this hostel promotes a respectful community free from excess noise or partying.

Casa Gracia Barcelona
Also located near the city centre, this youth hostel is not just a resting place for weary travellers; it is also an art gallery. Residents can choose form shared or private lodging and enjoy free internet access, a fully functional kitchen, and a living area that is perfect for meeting fellow travellers and planning the next adventure. This hostel features an elevator and is wheelchair accessible.

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Sunshine Hostel
The Sunshine Hostel boasts many of the amenities that adventurous travellers enjoy, such as free internet access, 24 hour reception, communal kitchen access, and free luggage storage. It also provides the sight-seeing and nightlife that makes traveling so enjoyable. In fact, with its central location in Old Town near Las Ramblas, excitement can be found right outside the front door. Once a traveller is ready to relax and unwind from his or her adventures, Sunshine Hostel offers a quiet atmosphere to rest.

Sant Jordi Sagrada Familia
Of all the youth hostels in Barcelona, this hostel specifically offers accommodations and community to skateboarders and travellers who enjoy urban arts. In addition to shared dorms and private rooms, the Sant Jordi features a private terrace with mini-ramp, free internet access, and a large common area that is separate from the sleeping area. This hostel also organizes large parties to introduce travellers to the club scene and nightlife that Barcelona has to offer. Travellers who seek a hip adventure are certain to find a home at Sant Jordi.

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Travellers from all walks of life can find hostels in Barcelona that feature accommodations and amenities that will enhance the travel experience. Individuals seeking a bustling, party-filled adventure or a quiet place to rest on a journey filled with cultural sights and attractions will both find a hostel that is ready to provide a home away from home at hostelbookers.com.

I smell like a European.

Yes, it’s true. I´ve braved hostel showers, leaky faucets and though it hasn’t been that hot, but I think it comes with the territory. Our days have been so packed, I haven’t much time to even get to a locutorio!!

Things here are fantastic. A brief recap of what we´ve done in the last 12 days…
GRANADA: capilla real. catedral. albacin. fantastic dinner.
SEVILLA: catedral, alcazar and giralda, plaza de toros de la real maestrezana. museo de baile del flamenco. plaza de espana. fútbol club sevilla match (INSANE I loved it…they won 4-1, too). met my amazing German roommate. dinners from pan y co to the fancy la juderia and la habanita.
GIBRALTAR: the rock. the barbary apes. old towne.
CORDOBA: la mezquita. casco antiguo. plaza las tenillas.
LISBOA: castello san jorge. bairro alto. cemetario dos prazeres. se. capilla san antoini. earthquake museum. fado. i also went out here with some canadians and had a crazzzzy time! lots of seafood. lots of getting lost and climbing hills. bullfight with spared bulls.
SINTRA: crazy bus rides. castello dos muoros. quinta la regalia. casta pena. GORGEOUS.
BARCELONA: festival de merce means parades, music and a wine festival. sagrada familia. parc guell. la pedrera. manzana de discordancia. colon. bosq en les facades. rugby tuorney. city histroy museum. montjuic. fundacion miro. national art museum. castello montjuic. parc de la cuitadella. musee picasso.

Now we’re in Madrid. Generally, I’ve eaten well, walked a lot and have been so happy to be here, save getting lost a lot! more later….

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