Personal Journeys


September 05, 2004|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

Lighthouse hostel: a tempting treat

By Peggy Rowe


On Cape Vincent, N.Y., my husband, John, and I came upon the end of a narrow, country road running along the St. Lawrence River and saw a beautiful sight -- the Tibbetts Point lighthouse, overlooking where Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence come together.

When we saw a sign that the former lightkeeper's house was actually a hostel, John remarked, "We've never spent the night in a hostel."

"It's for young travelers who can't afford a motel," I said.

We went inside the hostel, where a manager told us: "Hostels are no longer just for youths. Just last week two doctors from India stayed. It's $17 each, plus $1 for clean linens. The doors are locked at 10 o'clock sharp."

"I have arthritis," I said. "I have to stay someplace without steps."

We were informed that the hostel accommodates 26 guests and that there was a large bedroom on the first floor that faces the water. "So far, only four men are staying," the manager said. "You'll share the downstairs bathrooms."

John pictured a night spent in the shadow of a towering lighthouse, while I imagined standing in the bathroom line with four strange men. We promised to discuss it over dinner and said goodbye.

"Imagine waking up in that beautiful place. Listen to this," John said later, opening the brochure the manager had given him:

The sun's rays spread for miles, shedding their golden reflections across the lake and into the river channel with its islands and tree-bordered shores.

My reasoned response: "Share a bathroom with four strange men? When hell freezes over! They could be druggies, or party all night, or smoke in bed."

John read smugly from the brochure: No smoking! No alcohol! No drugs! Disorderly conduct not allowed!

We returned to the hostel, signed the guest book and paid $35. We were invited to use the kitchen and encouraged to tidy up after ourselves.

Then we were introduced to the other guests -- not the threat I'd imagined. They were a priest on his way to a retreat, a father and son biking around Lake Ontario and a student from Washington state.

Our oversized bunk beds were comfortable and clean, and we had everything we needed. We opened the windows and let in the fresh air. The beacon on top of the lighthouse cast a warm glow -- six seconds on and four seconds off. We spent an uneventful, pleasant night.

Tibbetts Point is one of three lighthouse hostels in the United States, and it's open between May 15 and Oct. 25. Reservations are recommended.

John has since done research and learned that there are farm, city, tepee and ranch hostels as well. Would I spend another night in a hostel?

My guess is yes.

Peggy Rowe lives in Perry Hall.

My Best Shot

Catherine McCubbin,


The walker's Ireland

This picture makes me think of Tir na nOg, the mythical Irish land of eternal youth and sunshine, where there is always a bard to sing for you. The photo was taken from the Sky Road outside Clifden, (Connemara, County Galway) looking down on the town in the early morning. Forget about leprechauns and the Blarney Stone -- if you truly want to experience the unearthly beauty of this amazing country, get off the beaten track and start walking.

Readers Recommend

Bonaire, Caribbean

Jim Shelley, Reisterstown

Bonaire is a sleepy little island in the Dutch Caribbean with crystal-clear water and stunning coral reefs. It's a diver's and snorkeler's paradise. After a day in the warm Caribbean water and sun, this waterside bar in Kralendijk makes an excellent late-afternoon haven. Having been there four times, I fall more in love with the island with each visit.

Brugge, Belgium

Marc Pollack, York, Pa.

My friend Patti and I stumbled upon Brugge in western Belgium last fall. It is an ancient town with medieval buildings, beautiful canals and great restaurants. One night after dinner, we got lost going back to our hotel and wandered the empty cobblestone streets late into the night.

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