Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Ignored reservation causes a lodging problem in Spain

In 1936, the idea of inexpensive lodging for young travelers appealed to me.

Youth hostels were new in this country, but in 1937, I proposed a summer hostel tour for a few Christian College students who planned careers in physical education. The idea was not accepted. Thirty years later my children and three friends bicycled in England on rented bikes and stayed in beautiful old country houses, castles and other buildings that had been made into youth hostels — inexpensive accommodations for people "traveling under their own power."

In l966, Nancy, Walt and a friend, Barbara, returned for a 900-mile bike tour on the continent and in England, Scotland and Wales. We usually cooked two meals a day in "members’ kitchens" and met travelers from various countries including Japan, Iceland, Australia, New Zealand and others. Youth hostels made this international experience possible and at minimum cost.

I was asked to present an all-school assembly for Christian College’s students; many were eager to make a similar trip. In 1969, two girls asked me to take them hosteling and bicycling in Europe. The dean asked, "Could you handle the planning, the flights, reservations, first aid and bike repairs?" Yes.

"The girls would pay all of their expenses?" "Yes," I said, "they’ll also need bicycles, rain wear, saddlebags, and I can get them at a reduced price from our son Walt who owns a bike shop. The students would keep their bicycles after the trip." It was approved, and I began to plan this first tour, 45 days, for seven young women and me.

The dean approved granting one hour’s credit in physical education for several hundred miles of pedaling on all kinds of terrain. "The college will charge a matriculation fee for any traveler not enrolled in the college at this time," he said. I immediately studied maps, hostel accommodations and interesting things to see and do. The itinerary included three days each in Iceland, Paris, London and Spain.

The two girls who initiated this trip were eager to go to Spain, so they could practice their Spanish. As we pedaled across the border from southern France, they clammed up and were too timid to speak a Spanish word!

To make matters worse, the San Sebastian hostel that had not responded to my reservation letter with international postal coupons for reply and an international bank check to secure our reservation.

The hostel warden brushed me off in Spanish. I told him of my blue mailer with extra postage and check for down payment; he summoned a helper who spoke a little English. He explained that this hostel is always closed to travelers in summer.

"But I sent return postage for an answer." Suddenly, I spied my own blue mailer on the desk, unopened! Where could eight tired bicyclists get lodging for three nights? It was the toughest situation I faced, in any of three European trips I lead for Christian/Columbia College students! The warden’s helper explained that it was holiday time, with mammoth fireworks exhibits and dancing in the streets every night. "Most places are filled," he said. I had budgeted $50 per person, and we were lucky to find two small third-floor rooms with a shared toilet and tub!

The gals were great troopers! We attended the festivities, ate in our rooms a lot and spent lots of time on our tiny balconies watching Spaniards whoop it up all night.

After the fireworks display, we were leaving the beach in a tightly knit crowd when a girl whispered, "Mrs. G, our backsides are being fondled!" I said, "Step in front of me!" They did. I gave the guys a dirty look, and the problem was solved.

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