Friday 25 April 2014


O'Manch is leaving us tomorrow: tying up his few belongs in a handkerchief, cutting a stick out of a hedgerow and going on to seek his fortune in London Dublin.  He's got a few leads and contacts but he intends to hunt out a place to stay and a job to come back to after he returns from eSpain, whither he is Ryanair-booked for the first half of May.  For the short week that's in it, he's booked into a couple of different hostels. I have a wide experience of hostels in Dublin, I haven't heard of anyone who has spent more bed-nights in more different hostels in that city.  When I came back from a long walk in Spain ten years ago this summer, I had a part-time job in Dublin so it seemed foolishly extravagant to rent a room when I was only going to use it 2 nights a week.  On the Camino de Santiago, I'd slept in a wide variety of different places, some scabious, some humble but clean, some quite smart.  There was effectively no correlation between the amount of money you were expected to pay and any objective assessment of quality of accommodation.

It therefore seemed foolishly extravagant to spend €50+ on a hotel when an occasional Dublin bed could be had in a hostel for €12 including breakfast.  Very shortly after that I discovered which cut you a great discount with a credit card and a couple of days notice.  I consciously decided to try a number of different places as a scientific experiment. Data! Most people don't do this: they are so restless that having gone to one city and stayed somewhere good bad or indifferent, they never go back to that city again. They never find out if the accommodation was scuzzy that week because the regular cleaner was sick. You have to take with a pinch of salt the star ratings that appear on booking consolidators: each one is but a clatter of anecdotes.  So here's The Blob's data-driven list.

All of these places include breakfast (tea, toast, cereal, fruit, OJ) and clean sheets, bring your own towel and flip-flops for the showers.
  • Isaac's - original and best; a converted warehouse a minute's walk from the main bus station. It's noisy and friendly, has a functioning kitchen. The lobby is the dining room which is kind of welcoming. No en suite bathrooms. El Asturiano stayed here when he was fresh off the boat from Gijón: within a few days he'd networked a job and a place to stay.
  • Jacob's - owned by Isaac's but purpose built round the corner, the lobby looks like that of a 3 star hotel and is often milled with people as another tour-bus disgorges its load of American or German tourists but none of them are eating their dinner: the kitchen and dining room are in the back and have no windows.
  • Avalon - a bit out from the City Centre but still within walking distance. Spacious communal areas,  Busy and friendly. I was woken, the whole dorm was woken, at 0400rs one morning as three Aussie back-packers started a water fight.
  • Kinlay House - which sounds like a homeless shelter but isn't, is a converted Victorian office building with a magnificent staircase and consequent high ceilings at least on the ground floor. The street door is always locked so you have to get buzzed in, which strikes me as unwelcoming.  Nice breakfast.
  • Times, College Green - all the accommodation except reception and luggage is upstairs which is rather nice - you can look down on the busy street and the back of the police-station from the kitchen. The building is old and rickety and maze of stairs and corridors.  After all the experiments this is where I finished up as a regular sleeper.
  • Times, Camden Lane - should be quiet (it's certainly hard to find the first time) as it's down a little laneway between Camden and Harcourt Streets. But in fact the night-street is deafening as drunken revellers pour out of Copper Face Jack's looking for somewhere to urinate.  The partying was pretty wild inside the hostel as well and, as an early riser, I used to clear up the broken glass before I sat down for a morning cuppa.
  • Ashfield House - 100m from O'Connell's Bridge and round the corner from The Times College Green.  Tall & thin with steep stairs. Street outside is very busy and the place always seemed dark with little natural daylight.  But that's the case for a number of other places.
  • Abigail's - right on the river with views across to the North-side and all upstairs.  It is built like a continental boutique hotel but with 6 people in each room instead of a couple.  They don't start breakfast until 0900hrs, perhaps to discourage itinerant workers in favour of hangover nursing back-packers.
  • Litton Lane - pokey, perky hostel located on a narrow lane up from the river: more or less opposite Abigail's.  It is decorated with musical material because it used to be a recording studio where all the greats cut a disc.
Don't stay in about half these places if you think there is likely to be a fire. Actually the fire-regulations need some consideration because, although the Dept Environment has produced a 60+ page booklet for fire-safety in hostels "The recommendations in this Guide are advisory only and are not statutory requirements". So you don't see this on any of the websites:
O'Manch has partly taken my advice and partly gone off researching on his own - following the stars or a notional score out of 10 on, which he claims gets him a cheaper bed than  I've talked about the Illusion of Control before, but probably not enough. You can do all the research you want, pour the data into an ExCel spreadsheet and analyse it up the wazzoo. But your happiness, or at the least the quality of your night's sleep, will depend on the particular cohort of people with whom you are sharing your room on the night. There is no prior data available for:
4.5 for roncadors/snorers
who will be oblivious as they ruin of your equanimity.  But
3.5  for axe-murderers
will ruin much more.

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