I have traveled widely and in years past, enjoyed staying in hostels. Meeting new people, making new connections, and at a fraction of the prices of big city accommodations. Sadly, just as the entire service sector has degraded and customer service has become a thing of past, so, too, has hosteling. In the wake of 9/11, many hostels in the U.S.A. closed their doors, lest they be thought a breeding ground for who knows what. Some of the best ones, in New Mexico, Idaho and California, shuttered their doors for good. Sacramento's HI hostel also closed, but only long enough for the entire building to be moved a few blocks away. I had stayed here previously and enjoyed my time immensely. Not so now.
I had called ahead to ensure proper check-in time, and was told it was 2:30 pm. I was there, on the dot, having found metered street parking one block away. Upon entering I saw the desk, which seemed to be unattended, until I got up close and saw a woman sitting there. The desk portion is high and unless someone peeks over the top, they cannot be seen from the front door.
I said I had called earlier and was told room were available without a reservation for the evening. She then asked if I had a reservation. For a second or three, I thought I was in a Seinfeld episode. I said no, handed over my I.D. and said I would be staying for one night. She ignored proffered small talk and was curt throughout check-in. She explained, by rote, all the rules and regulations, including no food in the dorm rooms. She mentioned that secure, gated parking was available, for an additional $5 fee. I said I would take that, and she then asked if I had a car. When I said yes, and that I had parked on the street, she immediately looked surprised. "Did you feed the meter?" She asked. When I replied that I had done so, she said, "Good. Most people staying here just assume they can park for free on the street."
After this exchange, I paid my fee and then went to my car, saying I would got to the room when I returned. She explained the gate controls, gave me the code and I was out the door. ot my vehicle and drove a back alley to get into the lot. The alley is very narrow, and if coming at the gate from the side opposite the code box, it necessitates exiting your vehicle, entering the code and dashing back into the driver's seat as the gate opens. Check for traffic before turing onto the alley.
After parking, I grabbed my overnight bag and went back inside, taking my linens and towel and heading upstairs. The dorm rooms are very well secured, with heavy electronic lock which are opened with a three digit code. I entered and found that my assigned bed had been already taken. I dropped my things on a chair and went back to the desk. The clerk was annoyed that another person had taken the wrong bed and she offered me my choice. I told her the number and again climbed upstairs. I made the bed, laid out what I needed and saw that the room contained a bank of four (4) lockers. I carry locks, and thus was able to utilize a locker for my valuables.
As I locked up my things, I glanced down and saw that a waste basket contained banana peels, an apple core and the wrapper to a store bought Danish, all food items, and all things not allowed in the dorms. Finished with "moving in", headed out again, walking downtown. I returned about three hours later and worked for a while in the very spacious dining area, using the free WiFi signal on my own laptop.
When i finally headed to my room, I found the it dark and switched on the lights, thinking it was vacant. Turned out that the person who had taken my original bed was in it, with his tablet. I apologized, shut off the lights and made my way to my own rack. I had noticed before shutting off the lights that this person had a mug of something steaming and more food wrappers on the floor nearby.
I slept well and awakened about 6:30 am. I arose, and noticed the same person, in the same position, still working his tablet. Oh, well. I made my way to the communal showers, and by the time I returned, the room was empty. I packed my things securely and headed downstairs to breakfast, which is included in the price, as it is at many hostels in the states. That day the offering was fresh bagels, with packaged cream cheese and jellies, coffee and tea. The bagels were substantial and very fresh. Toasters are available, as are all manner of dishes, cutlery, cups, napkins, etc. Refrigerators are also dedicated to staff or guests.
I ate my fill, drank my beverages and went back upstairs, where I brushed my teeth, gathered my things and stripped my bed. Made a few trips downstairs and to the parking lot, where I was able to safely and securely, repack. At check-out, it is required to sign a log-out sheet, which I did. I also told the clerk, the same woman from the day before, about all the food in my room, something about which she did not seem too concerned. I then left.
All in all, a much different, less warm, less welcoming experience than that of 12 years ago. Times do change, unfortunately sometimes not for the better.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Enjoy a rare opportunity to relax in the comfortable elegance of a beautifully restored 19th century Victorian mansion. one of California's best travel deals and America's most unique hostel. The 1885 mansion features lavish sitting rooms, stained glass skylights, elegantly carved stairways and chandeliers, plus amenities including a fully equipped guest kitchen, game room, outdoor patio, internet access, on-site laundry and parking. Located five blocks from the Capitol and six blocks from Golden1 Center Arena. Private and shared rooms available. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Sacramento International Hotel Sacramento