In my last entry I wrote about how this school trip ignited my passion for travel. Here is the original blog post, written 5 and a half years ago on my old blog – Nobodysaknowitall. As much as the my little opinionated digs make me blush today, I have refrained from editing or deleting any of my original musings to give you a true insight into the very critical and inquisitive 17 year old me…
A very honest guide based my very own screw ups.
This time last year I was half way through my second interrail adventure, around Eastern Europe. I left the UK with only €500 in cash to last me the first 3 weeks – hostels and food included. Come pay day I had an extra few hundred to spend for the last leg of the trip, but also had to relocate to Madrid straight after… I must say I was rather nervous – I hadn’t done a trip that long since Peru in 2013, and my budget back then was over 3 times the amount! With interrail passes and flights included, the whole trip came to around £1200 each. Here’s a rundown of the measures we took to keep costs down, and the sacrifices that were made along the way.
Barcelona > Pamplona > Barcelona > Paris > Lille > Frankfurt > Berne > Geneva > Verona > Rome.
It was my first backpacking experience, and unsurprisingly it consisted of many ups and downs. I saw 9 cities over two and a half weeks; some I’d been desperate to see for years, and other’s that had never crossed my mind until they appeared to be logical stopovers between long train journeys. All in all I have mostly fond memories of those 17 days, so nearly 3 years later I’ve finally decided to get on and write about it…
I consider myself to be of British-Irish nationality; all my life my parents have told me time and time again where my home really is, and until my teenage years every single holiday was had was in Ireland with my family. Before this year I’d actually seen very little of Britain; driving to Hollyhead through Wales is probably the longest journey I can remember my family doing, and that was purely to jump on a boat to Ireland. It was time I explored my other home, and the opportunity arose unexpectedly when my friend offered to drive us up to Newcastle.
I narrowed down the choices and got my group of 24 classicists to vote on where they wanted to go. Although I believe they were marginally swayed by the hostel’s Latin name, the vast majority chose Carpe Noctem Vitae over their sister hostel Grandio, so CNV was where we went, and we were not disappointed…
I’d read plenty of reviews that this Hostel was a great place to stay. On their Hostelworld.com page they boasted about how they were the best of both worlds, combining a love of drinking and crazy nights out with a place you could still chill and get some sleep. On the run up to our trip the Hostel were easy to get hold of and always quick to give me advice. My group had an obscene amount of questions that apparently Google was incapable of answering for them, and so I had to persistently annoy the hell out of the staff team sending email after email. I have never had to ask for so much reassurance from one establishment, and there were moments you would find with my head in my hands reaching for a pillow to scream it, but the CNV guys were so awesome it made my job as Trips Officer 10x easier. On the run up to the trip I was not only excited to go on holiday, but I was excited to meet these mysterious figures behind the emails, to whom I owed my sanity.
Upon arrival an adorable little blonde lady lead us up to 7 or so flights of stairs of a residential building; CNV was situated mainly on the top 2 floors, although other bedrooms and communal areas did exist 2 floors down. Once in, we were each handed a beer whilst a charming group of questionably named gentlemen sat us down and went through the logistics of the hostel, and all the health and safety yadaydada. All of us immediately felt comfortable in our surroundings, and I remember with every extra bit of information they gave us just smiling and thinking to myself “This is the best hostel EVER”, and the looks I kept getting from around the room showed I wasn’t the only one holding such an opinion!
On the top floor one could find computers, a kitchen, rooftop terrace & paddling pool, and a chill out area to play games, alongside laundry facilities and free towels. The whole hostel was decorated with beautiful murals painted by a local artist, something I always like to see. As a party hostel visitors were welcome so long as a paying guest gave them their invite. Whether you wanted to bunk up with 10 others or spoil yourself with a private double (which were lush and had their own balconies), there was something for everyone, fitted with plenty of lockers to keep your things. Although there were no en-suites, a shower was never further than corridor away but of course hot water was scarce and you would often have to queue. Our floor in particular rocked quite a line: with a DISCO SHOWER on one end, the cold water just made it that more of a rave.
One nifty little gadget we liked was the wristband door keys. Those hotel or hostel key cards are a nightmare to keep hold of and in one piece, but these wristbands meant we were able to keep them on us at all times and not one person lost theirs. We were also given paper wristbands that had the hostel address, security code, email, and a number for a taxi that could get you home safe and sound for cheeeaaap. The location of the hostel could not have been much better either; we were a very short walk from Andrassy Avenue and the Oktogon Metro Station. There were supermarkets less than 5 minutes in either direction and plenty of restaurants to choose from. When everyone went out in the evening hey did so as one huge mob, and as a result felt safe.
The hostel did not have its own bar (although it did have a Beer vending machine), and there wasn’t a party 24/7 like its sibling hostels, but that didn’t matter. We were escorted to the party at Grandio and Retox every night and we didn’t feel like we were missing out in any way. In fact, we felt like we had the upper hand since we could come home and get some sleep! CNV has a rule that you come home “fuck quietly or pass out” – thus the quality of your sleep was only compromised depending on how your roomies chose to behave… They also had a rule where the word ‘Mine’ was banned, and the penalty was a slap on the face, ass, or getting down and doing push ups. I never got caught, but those who did took in their stride.
It would be a crime if I were to finish this review without special mention to the CNV staff team. I think out of everything, these guys were what surprised me the most. I have stayed in maaany hostels around Europe; you can get great staff who do their job well and keep the whole thing running, and you can get staff who will occasionally sit and have a chat with you on the sofa and seem like nice guys. But I had never had the pleasure of meeting a staff team who were on the one hand the most chilled out, easy going group you’ll ever meet, but on the other were totally dedicated and passionate about their jobs and taking care of their hostelers. They’d all started out there as travellers and holiday goers themselves, but decided one day not to leave, so they knew from first hand what tricks were needed to ensure the passion and love for Budapest could be passed onto the newbies that came through. One even joined in our game of human Buckaroo, and you could challenge them to a drinking match day or night. My only regret about my stay was that I didn’t leave space in the itinerary to spend more time just hanging out at CNV and getting to know them more.
That said, we’ve all been bitten by the Budapest bug and are already actively figuring how we can get there ASAP. As much as I was fascinated by the history of the city, at the end of the day the highlight of our week was definitely our accommodation, and I have never come away from a trip feeling that way before. If you’re planning a trip to Budapest there is no question about it, stay in Carpe Noctem Vitae
On behalf of Royal Holloway Classical Society 2013-24 – Thank you & WE MISS YOU.
Price (pn): £8-16.
To book your stay & for more information on Carpe Noctem Vitae:
Uhuh, yup, that’s right, apparently as of Tuesday 2nd September I will be living in España, working as an Au pair whilst I learn the español. I am super nervous about it, but also crazy excited this next chapter of my life to begin! Continue reading “Holy Guacamole I’m moving to MADRID.”