The Village People lied. It’s not fun to stay at the YMCA.
In 2009, my family and I spent the summer abroad in England with the studies abroad program Dad was leading. During the week we were based in London and on the weekends we went to another city. One weekend was Edinburgh, another was Paris, and this weekend we were in Bath.
Bath is a lovely city with a rich and fascinating history, so I was glad to go. We’d stayed in some nice hotels during our trip but I was curious about staying in a hostel. It was program tradition to stay at the Bath YMCA. I guess it was really nice in 1979 but by 2009 it was well past its glory days.
My room smelled like a hamster cage. We tried to open the windows to air it out, but the windows only opened an inch to keep people from throwing objects or themselves out of it. Every time someone would open or close a door all the doors on that floor would rattle. We were across from the bathroom, so there was a near constant clatter. Breakfast was not complementary, so we had to pay extra for stale coco puffs and sub-par toast.
All this sounds like a mildly annoying hotel not exclusive to anywhere. Don’t worry, it gets worse.
Saturday night there was a rugby match against Australia. Australia won. Young, rowdy boys from the pub a block away consoled themselves with lots of liquor. They then proceeded to stumble down to the YMCA and camp themselves outside on the picnic tables. From three to five am, they yelled, slurred and bellowed about how much they hated Americans. I guess they were so drunk they forgot they lost to Australia?
The night desk guy didn’t go out and ask them to be quiet, he didn’t call the police. He just let them have free reign.
I was able to sleep relatively soundly through most of this but got the full story the next morning from the groggy students and other hotel goers. The area outside where the little mob had gathered smelled like urrine and beer. It was nasty.
I found this disconcerting. Did they know there were Americans in the hotel? Were they going to hurt someone? I felt unsafe.
Bath was odd for reasons other than the YMCA.
Their seagulls didn’t sound like seagulls but more like devil birds that had swallowed men. Instead of the usual “CAWW” that seagulls make, more like “GAHHHHH! AHHHHHHGHAHAHA.” Some sounded like they were laughing a cruel, psychotic laugh. Not only that, but the wind was blowing so hard that the birds couldn’t fly properly. They would try to fly in the direction of the wind, but couldn’t move and would just levitate there flapping their wings futilely. It was hilariously creepy. Plus, there were these weird statues of creatures that were rabbit on top, naked man on the bottom.
Don’t think I didn’t like Bath! I loved Bath! I loved the Roman Baths. There was great shopping. I met some really neat people. Overall, everyone was nice.
The city is quirky, yet refined. I loved that. I’d encourage anyone I know to visit.
Bath was a holiday I will certainly not forget and want to return to. Just maybe, not at that hostel on a rugby weekend.
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