It being December, I'm reminded of a night I spent at a stone mansion in Quakertown, getting a taste of a Pennsylvania Christmas. Not having been to the manor born, this mansion experience provided a little taste of the high life.
But actually, it was a youth hostel. I was researching a travel story for The Washington Post on hosteling and I called the Weisel Hostel because it's within driving distance of Washington, D.C.
My hosts welcomed me to sign up for the night but apologized at the same time. Since they live in the 100-year-old country estate, as well as run the hostel there, they were inviting their neighbors for a Christmas open house the night I was going to stay.
It wasn't going to be a quiet night, they warned. But I was welcome to join the festivities.
I arrived after dark at the huge stone house in Nockamixon State Park (the hostel is operated by the Bucks County Department of Parks and Recreation) and let myself in. The first to greet me was Gunther, the dog.
Next were hosts John and Geri Ann McLaughlin and their two girls. I was to be the only paying guest that night. So I had a huge private room with my choice of any one of 10 bunk beds. Top or bottom.
What a great place. In the middle of nowhere. And that night, all decorated with red bows and welcoming lights. (That's the one problem with U.S. youth hostels. They're often far from public transportation. I went by car).
A couple of hours later, the "partying" began. My $15 guest fee got me not only a bed, but food and entertainment. Christmas caroling around a bonfire. Hot chocolate in front of an indoor fireplace. And a huge selection of homemade cookies. And no need to help with cleanup. There were plenty of neighbor teens who were conscripted for that.