After a very brief stay in the HI Downtown San Francisco branch, we decided it was about time we upped sticks and moved on…to a different, cheaper hostel, in the very same city. Also part of the Hostelling International family, because as we had payed for membership we decided we might as well make use of it, know what I’m saying?
In comparison to the cloud of inner-city smell in the Downtown area (you know, the subtle aroma of bin juice mixed with car exhaust, urine and mouldy food from the back of restaurants), approaching the Fisherman’s Wharf hostel was practically like stepping into the countryside! This hostel is located in an old army barracks which is technically situated within one of the USA’s smallest National Parks, Fort Mason, on the cliffs overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, and surrounded by greenery. Quite frankly; it was just bloody lovely!
We were also able to socialise with waaay more people than we had at our first San Francisco hostel, mainly because of the ginormous common areas. Everyone we met had interesting stories to tell- although in reality I reckon everybody in the entire world has an interesting story or two up their sleeve if you dig deep enough. There was a blonde guy from Germany, in his early twenties, who comes over to America by himself every year during the NBA to see as many games as he possibly can. He hires a car for the duration of his trip and just spends the whole time driving back and forth across the country following NBA games. I know absolutely nothing about basketball but I think that’s such a cool thing to do; this was the third year in a row he’d done it.
Then there was an Asian guy with long hair and an even longer moustache who looks very much like he could be an extra in The Last Samurai, except he wore shorts and loafers every day instead of a suit of armour. It’s highly possible that he was consistently on some form of drug, but nevertheless I thought he was absolutely brilliant; a fascinating character if ever there was one. He enjoyed leapfrogging over tables and challenging anyone and everyone to a game of pool. Sometimes he didn’t quite make it over the tables, and sometimes he didn’t quite win at pool, but he took it all in his stride and I admired him for it. There’s a jukebox in the kitchen/dining room and he was obsessed with playing Hotel California,to the point that there was one evening I’m pretty sure it played five times in a row just because he loved it so much. Whenever I hear that song it always takes me back to that army barrack hostel and our pal The Last Samurai. What a legendary chap!
Our friend Canadian Nick the chess lord who we met at the Downtown hostel also appeared a day after we checked in to Fisherman’s Wharf, and he was a right welcome addition to our time there! He taught us all about the Durian (the smelliest fruit in the world), and how to play Blackjack, in preparation for our upcoming Vegas times, and was genuinely what you might call A Right Good Lad! I really hope he goes on to lead a prosperous life and fulfils his dream of having his own architects office (whilst simultaneously becoming a pro chess player who will give the Grand Master a run for his money, obviously).
Fort Mason is located (as I previously stated, soz), on the cliffs overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, right at the furthest end of San Francisco’s famous piers. So whilst it’s true that it’s not particularly central, it’s still within walking distance of plenty of things to do and see, and location-wise is actually a far more interesting (in my opinion, anyway) place to stay than a downtown hotel or hostel. This is a part of the city not so often seen by your average tourist, and on top of the that view of the sun setting over the bay was altogether just darn tooting fantastic.
I’m not gonna beat around the bush here. Although there were a few smaller dorm rooms available, what with the hostel being an old army barracks, the sleeping arrangements are for the most part, army style. As we were on such a tight budget, we went for the most budget room- which contained a grand total of twenty four beds.
Oh my dear sweet Lord. In. The. Heavens. Twenty-four beds is tough to handle. It turned out one night that there were at least four snorers and one screamer amongst the group.
That’s right, you read it correctly.
Now I have had some slight issues with nightmares in the past but this was like nothing I’ve ever heard before. I don’t understand how he didn’t manage to scream himself awake, it was so consistent. Eventually it just seemed to fade into nothingness but then a particularly aggressive snorer got going and before I knew it it was 4am and I still hadn’t slept. I’m a patient person in most circumstances but I began to seriously consider hurling our Rough Guides USA book directly into the face of the culprit. The USA is a large place, therefore the book is a chunky one.
The kitchen is full on ginormous and clean so there’s plenty of space to do your thing and store as much food as you need as well and cook it to your own personal specification. Classic. Breakfast is included in the price of your stay and served in what is also a cafe open to the public on one side of the building. Unlike most other hostels we stayed in whilst crossing the US however, unfortunately this isn’t an an all-you-can-eat situation, presumably in order to prevent guests taking more than their fair share and stocking up for the whole day ahead of them as well as the actual breakfast they’re there for.
The common areas are just full on fantastic here; a large cinema room where movie nights are regularly held, and a bright and airy open-plan kitchen/dining area which doubles as general chillout and pool table room. Coupled with a computer room and the outdoor deck and general greenery that surrounds the building, this all made up fantastically for the one night’s severe lack of sleep that I had. The hostel arranges biking and walking tours as well as your classic communal dinners and pub crawls.
Beds in a dorm room currently go for around $40-$55 a night, although privates are available for roughly double that price. Pricey for a hostel, but in terms of San Francisco a pretty good price with a da bomb location to boot.