Friday, 1 November 2013

Rasputina @ Purple Turtle Camden + A Review of Travel Joy Hostels Chelsea

Hello all! How are you today? I slept for a long time today as I went to London on Wednesday and returned yesterday. I went to see one of my favourite bands, Rasputina as they were doing a UK tour and I couldn't miss the opportunity to see them. I'm not sure if they've been to the UK before or if they will come again so I didn't want to miss out!

I went via coach as it is super cheap - if I book in advance I can normally get single tickets for £5 each (for some reason coaches don't offer return tickets, probably because they are so cheap in the first place) but I left it a bit later this time and got two single tickets for £7 each - shock horror, two whole pounds extra! XD It takes a little longer to get there by coach than train but as long as I have music, a book, Gameboy or DS, snacks, etc. I'm fine! My bum ends up hurting and my left ear from my headphones pressing on my scaffold piercing for four hours but it's a small price to pay! XD

I went with my friend Jess and we hung out in Camden for a bit like proper stereotypical Goths. XD The gig was at The Purple Turtle, an indie/alternative bar near Mornington Crescent so we didn't wander too far away. We went to a cool alternative pub called The Devonshire Arms before, met a couple of Jess's friends and then headed off to the venue on our own.

There were two support acts on - Jo Quail, an experimental cellist and The Memepunks, a mash-up act featuring keyboards, an accordion, cello, vocals and other elements. They did awesome mash-ups including one of the Firefly theme tune + Bon Jovi's Dead or Alive (as much as I dislike Bon Jovi it went very well in a tongue in cheek way) and Inspector Gadget + The Cure's Love Cats! They were really cool and warmed us up nicely! Rasputina were so awesome - their outfits were so cool and cute, Melora was cool and cute and the songs were awesome! She had her 'old time American settler' voice on and introduced each song in such a way. Some of the songs she played included 1816, The Year Without a Summer, Saline the Salt Lake Queen, Humankind as the Sailor and even a cover of Barracuda by Heart. XD

I decided to stay overnight in London as I wasn't sure what time the gig would end and my last train/coach was around 11.15pm-11.30pm. I definitely didn't want to leave the gig early, rush to the station and even risk missing the trip home anyway so I strived to find a place to stay in London on the cheap. I tried a few hotel comparison websites but the cheapest hotels in London start at £50 and I definitely couldn't afford/justify that on an event that was only costing me £25 for the transport and tickets.

I had the fleeting idea of staying in an Internet cafe all night but this quickly dissipated as I realised the money I would spend hiring a computer for 5-8 hours was the same price or even more as booking a hostel. I was reluctant to book a hostel as hostels in the UK aren't usually very nice and conjure up imagery of dodgy homeless people, drug addicts and getting your stuff stolen whilst you sleep. Thankfully there are a lot of reviews for hostels on hostelbookers.com and hostelworld.com so you can get an honest review from people in similar situations to yourself. There were a few VERY cheap hostels - I'm talking £5-£8 a night but they all had varying reviews and only around 60% recommendations, claiming they were dirty, noisy, dodgy and the staff didn't care. Also they weren't in a good location for me - I needed somewhere either close to the venue or close to Victoria coach station, preferably the latter. A lot of the reviews for the cheaper hostels recommended paying a couple of pounds extra to stay somewhere a lot safer.

In the end I decided to go for Travel Joy Hostels - they are a chain of hostels and have one located in Pimlico/Chelsea that was around 15 minutes away from Victoria coach station. The first thing that made me feel more at ease is the fact they are a chain of hostels and have them all over London - they must be relatively successful to have a chain of hostels all over London! The second thing that made me book them immediately is that they had one of the highest ratings out of a selection - 90%+ ratings and recommendations. They were £11.99 a night so I booked one night and paid a 10% deposit.

When Rasputina finished, I had to make my way to the hostel. I got the tube to Pimlico and got the tube station manager to call me a taxi as my phone was dead. He was so nice and helpful, even telling me to come back and find him if the taxi didn't arrive as he didn't want me waiting around on my own late at night (I got into Pimlico around 12am). I didn't know where the hostel was so I agreed to pay a mini cab £10 to take me there, only to find it was about 5 minutes away and on the main road overlooking the Thames! I was a bit annoyed but I'd rather have paid £10 than walk there and risk getting mugged and raped, especially since I didn't know it was a pretty nice area at the time. XD

Travel Joy Hostels is part of a pub called The King William IV and has a door on the side of the pub where you can check in via an electronic screen late at night. It gives you a code to open the door, another code to open the inside door to the hostel rooms and the same code to open the door for your room too. It also told you your room and bed number but me and an Asian couple in front of me were having trouble with the door and by the time we got it open, my details were gone and I'd forgotten them. XD So I checked in at the bar, paid the rest of my night's stay and was given information about the hostel. The staff were amazingly helpful, one of the most helpful staff I've encountered! They walked me through the whole checking in procedure, including a £1 door card deposit I got back when I checked out and gave me a leaflet about the hostel, one about London in general, a tube map, a bus timetable and map and a card to get discounts on Vodka Red Bulls and Jagerbombs. The man at the bar even drew me a little map on how to get from the hostel to Victoria coach station in the morning!

The thing I was worried about was that even if a hostel and its surroundings are nice, it's the other people staying at a hostel that make or break a hostel stay. If a hostel is in a popular or busy location and is very cheap, you might get scary druggies, mentally ill or homeless people staying there who might steal your stuff and make your stay very unpleasant. Obviously there are homeless people and drug addicts who are nice people at a bad time in their lives but you never want to risk it with your own safety. However, when I checked in and went up to my room, there were about 5 people there and they were all asleep! So I put my stuff under my bed, changed clothes, took my make-up off, brushed my teeth and went downstairs to the common room to charge my phone and ring my boyfriend to let him know I was okay.

When I woke up at 7am, there were a few people awake in the shared bathrooms getting ready as they were travelling, sightseeing in London, etc. and I had no problems leaving my stuff in my room and getting ready in the morning. When I'm in a hostel or hotel, all I care about it being able to sleep safely at night so the fact I was able to do this makes me so happy. Why pay hotel prices if all I want is literally a bed to sleep in and I don't use the features/benefits of a hotel?

However, what made this stay awesome is all the free stuff that is included for the price of a night's stay in a hostel! They give you free towels and bed linens that you take downstairs when you check out to get your £1 deposit back. They give out free soft drinks all day and night which includes coffee, tea and hot chocolate, plain and fizzy water, lemonade, apple, orange and cranberry juice, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Tango! Seriously, you can just ask at the bar and they will give you any of those drinks for free, as often as you want. Because they are a pub as well, they also give you a discount on Vodka Red Bulls (£2.50), draught drinks at £3 between 6pm-9pm and discounts on bottles of beer and cider any time. I don't really drink but this would be very good with friends. They have free lockers you can store your items and valuables in which is a must at hostels but other hostels usually charge you per day! As I mentioned before though, I didn't even feel the need to put my stuff in lockers as I arrived late and departed early but I would make use of them if I stayed longer. They also have a tub of free earplugs at the bar for anyone to use! I tried to use them but they just kept falling out of my ears haha...

Not only that but breakfast is included in your night's stay too. A few hotels and hostels offer free continental breakfast and I never expect more than a bit of toast and cornflakes but Travel Joy Hostels breakfast includes omelettes, pancakes and smoothies made to order for you!!! They have a little setup near the breakfast tables and you just ask for what you want - they have various fruit for the smoothies (and I suppose pancakes) and various fillings/toppings for omelettes. They also have cereal, toast, fruit juice and yoghurts. I didn't have enough time to try their omelettes, smoothies and pancakes so I just had some apple juice and muesli but I saw the guy refilling the muesli and it's not even Tesco Value or anything similar, he was filling it up with Alpen! Wow!

They also offer discounts to many London events and attractions including The London Eye and Madame Tussauds. They have a couple of PCs to use like an Internet cafe and you can pay £1 to use their WiFi each day and the first 30 minutes are free. They have free salsa classes on Wednesdays and open mic nights on Friday. If you need a padlock, plug adaptor, bed light or hairdryer, you can rent them for £5 each and get your deposit back when you bring it back.

These are features I haven't even seen in hotels and if they are included, it's normally for a premium price or extra add-ons. It's the little things like these that make you feel much safer, more at home and like the staff care about you. I wouldn't normally write a review on hotels but I just had to mention this hostel as I will definitely be going back there when I need to stay overnight in London - it may even work out cheaper to stay overnight when I wouldn't otherwise if there is a cheaper train ticket available earlier the next morning. It is an especially great place to stay if you travel to London on the coach or arrive at Victoria train station. I walked to Victoria coach station the morning I departed; I set off at 7.50am and got there at 8.15am so it took 25 minutes but I didn't know where I was going, asked for directions and my feet hurt a little from wearing platforms haha. If you know where you're going and are wearing comfortable shoes, you could easily walk to the station in 15 minutes. I would book through HostelBookers as you only have to pay a 10% deposit - the prices for a night's stay varies on how much in advance you book it, what days, etc. so be sure to check around and possibly through different booking venues. Also clear your cookies and cache after each time you search as some comparison websites make the prices slowly 'creep up' the more times you check a website so that you think the prices are going up and book it for more than you could've paid!

I'm really glad I took the time to choose this hostel and I had a really good time seeing Rasputina! Have you guys stayed in hostels before? What are they like all around the world?

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