Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sundays in My City - Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel, Montara, CA - May 24, 2014

For me, the word "hostel" conjures up memories of my youth and schlepping through
Europe with a few nursing buddies, carrying only what could fit in an oversized backpack,
staying with other kindred spirits, of every nationality, trying to see the world, as
economically as possible.  We slept in crowded dorms at hostels, of doubtful cleanliness, boarded crowded trains on our Eurail passes and discarded our threadbare clothes when 
we finally gave up our nomadic existence and returned to the U. S.

In the ensuing years, my travels have found me staying at increasingly luxurious 
properties and in very nice cruise ship cabins, often in the company of my group
of forensic nurse friends who crew friends dubbed "the queens."  The title has
seemed to stick.  I noticed that my hotel reservation at the Umaid Mahal Hotel,
a beautiful heritage property in Jaipur, India was made for "Queen Carmen Henesy"!

Retirement, however, and subsistence on a pension and social security have
necessitated an adjustment in my life style.  Recently, when I went to the the San
Francisco area for a short visit, I had to bypass a stay at the Ritz Carlton...or even
one of the smaller boutique hotels with their hundred dollar a day price tags ( some
with $25 parking fees in the downtown area ).  I got out my unused Hosteling 
International membership card ( only $18 annual fee for seniors over 55 ) and 
checked out availability at the six hostels convenient to me.  While many are booked
heavily during the summer months, I was lucky enough to get one night at the Point
Montara Lighthouse Hostel, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, close to my former
Pacifica home.  I booked a dorm room ( six beds ) and asked for a lower bunk
because of my senior status and frequent nocturnal bathroom excursions.  That
cost me only $27, in a picturesque setting, spotlessly clean, complete with parking,
linens, Wi-fi, and a most accommodating and helpful staff.  We even had our own 
bathroom, tub and shower.

Only four of the six bunks were taken, one by a lovely young women from Germany
and another, by a senior, almost my age who lives in, of all places, in Sacramento,
California and manages an apartment complex.  She is new to that area and knows
no one so we have already set up a date for lunch!!

I enjoyed my evening, watching the sun go down over the coast, near where I had
lived for almost 35 years.  The only negative about the entire visit was that no wine 
or alcohol is allowed on hostel properties.  It would have been so nice to sit outdoors
and sip a nice California chardonnay or cabernet and watch the sea birds soar 
and the waves crash on the rocks below.

I would love to stay at all the coastal hostels in northern California.  Even the private
rooms are so reasonable, especially if they have parking and Wi-fi available....and
some have scenery, indeed, fit for a queen.

I couldn't resist stopping off at Nick's at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, for
their famous Dungeness crab sandwich and eggplant fries, before heading
through Devil's Slide to Montara.  It was my first time to use the new tunnel 
through Devil's Slide connecting Montara and Pacifica.  How many hair 
raising drives I've made through there, wondering if the rocks would come
falling down the hillside on top of me!!!

The lighthouse, is still maintained by the U. S. Coast Guard since 1875, as a 
fog signal station, after several ships ran aground.  Since 1980, in conjunction 
with California State Parks, the hostel has been in operation.

It is the perfect locale for a wide variety of outdoor activities from hiking to whale
watching to kayaking to horseback riding to just relaxing and enjoying the beautiful
northern California coast.

The grounds are planted with local flowers and shrubs - my favorite which has 
always been the cheerful daisy which I have associated with my first visit to San
Francisco when I was 18 - now a half a century ago!!!!  It hardly seem possible.

Hostel staff live in this house, part of the Coast Guard quarters of the original
site.  Guests are asked to vacate the premises between 11:00AM and 3:30PM
daily for cleaning and maintenance.  The grounds gates are locked at 11PM so
guests must plan to return to the facility accordingly.

This is the view of my dorm room.  The mattress were surprisingly comfortable.
Linens were provided and it was wonderful sleeping with the pounding surf

There were two completely stocked kitchens, with stoves and refrigerators,
cupboards, dishes - all immaculate.

The lounge area, complete with a stove, tended to by staff, made for a very 
comfortable spot to meet and talk to other guests - from all parts of the world and
of all ages.

There was more than adequate dining space for those who felt like cooking or
who brought back left overs from the many and varied local restaurants.

A little travel nook to plan the onward journey....very nice to have free Wi-fi!

A place to eat outdoors in warmer temperatures, complete with ocean view.

Even a weed looks pretty in this setting.

I truly have been blessed to live in this part of the world for 35 years...and to 
spend time on so many oceans of the world.

Someday, I'd like to come back and spend a week here...maybe with the other

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