Couchsurfing. A term I had heard of only once when one of my more wilder than wild friends told me that this is what she had done for 6 weeks throughout her travels in South America. A concept designed primarily for travellers to stay as ‘guests’ in homes around the world, to experience and share their adventure through the eyes of a local. The definition is pretty much within the title, surfing from couch to couch, continent to continent. I remember thinking at the time, was my friend absolutely nuts to do this? I mean with certain parts of South America hardly being considered the worlds safest. My experience is sort of one I will have to sugarcoat ever so slightly for the parents that’s for sure. Which is kind of what i did, having being not so rest assured that my mum and dad would appreciate, nor understand me staying at a strangers house, on their ‘couch’, and in particular in a room with medieval swords, axes and cross bows (and a knife) mounted on the wall (yup, this did happen) in a foreign part of the world (but please, lets not judge a book by its cover here.)
So begins my tale of couchsurfing in the South of France…
My reason to ‘couchsurf’ in the first place was that I had five days off from work to play with and having studied french during my school days and that one year at Uni [before I quit and changed course, sick of learning about French transportation …] I wanted to return back to the South of France and practice with the locals. I kind of also sought after some time on my own, time to reflect and create new stories with a completely different set of people instead of always travelling with my friends (i dont want to preach, but i HIGHLY recommend travelling alone, it works wonders for the soul, really.) I looked online at various websites that allowed you to stay with french families, but the cost of this was quite high. I then remembered my friend and her couchsurfing experience. So I got myself verified on the official website: https://www.couchsurfing.com. Always a last minute wonder, i spent the best part of a few hours the night before my flight scouring for the perfect host. I had to apologise three times to people for “not reading their bio correctly” before sending my request. One in particular a male with a penchant for naked Asian travellers (I obviously did not fit this bill). This also angered me a little as this is isn’t the point of the website, but I guess there will always be people who abuse the concept/ and my eyes! (eternally bruised from those images..)
I eventually came across a friendly face, and after exchanging a few messages i came to learn that Steve, my soon to be couch surfing host, also worked in the aviation field, and would be working that day at the airport when i landed.
Harnessing a lot of memories in the South of France, having spent much time here accompanying the old flame ‘C’ on his numerous trips to play bodyguard to Elton John (yup, true fact- I have indeed sat my bum down in Sir Elton Johns bedroom…but thats another story, for another time..) it felt good to be able to fly back on my own accord and make some new memories, and erase those kind of sad ones. Already well established with the area, i made it my mission to revisit my favourite places and finally rewrite the fairytale.
Steve was the perfect host, charming and friendly and i would come to learn that he probably had one of the kindest hearts I’ve ever come in to contact with. With a penchant (i say that politely…more like crazed obsession) for American Diners & the Medieval Ages, his house was- somewhat different to the norm. A kitchen completely transformed in to a diner Jonny Rocket would be proud of, every detail down to the license plate decor & jukebox was intricate and perfectly placed. Purple strobe light installed & salt and pepper shakers, complete with napkin stand and stools, breakfast here was somewhat different to the usual. My ‘couch’ was a blow up bed in the ‘souvenir’ room. A boudoir dedicated to his love for all things Medieval, cross bows and axes mounted on the wall, with a sword collection to rival that of Game of Thrones (thank god i started watching this post couch-surfing experience). Yes, it was a little alarming and yes, the thought did enter my head- what the hell am i doing, but sometimes you trust your intuition and i knew this guy was harmless. Each person, be guest or host all have to be verified by the website too, so realistically you shouldnt encounter any problems. That didn’t stop me from waking up in a pool of sweat during my first night upon hearing the open window bang, and my sans contact lensed eyes making the outline of some jackets and hats hung on the door-as a menacing person ready to kidnap me. OBVIOUSLY i threw myself up off the bed in a fashion my gym teacher at school would have been proud of, and ran out of the room shouting like some sort of crazed maniac. One of those outrageously awkward moments, startling my ‘host’ in the hallway like a child in the night, now who thinks who is weird?? This poor guy must have been wondering who the hell have i brought in to my house. AWKS. Once i had realised that it was just indeed a mountain of jackets & hats hung on the door (and not the flipping grim reaaper) i fell asleep, wondering how breakfast in the ‘diner’ was going to go down.
I left my 5 day couch surfing adventure with the biggest smile on my face, two new friends a new chapter of memories (and a whole page of slang i can now say in French, some which probably, ought to be NEVER said in any language let alone French ). Revisiting some of my favourite places, a party in Antibes that turned from day to night, back to day again (uhhhh- that story is definitely not going in here), and being at one with the locals roaming around the old town of Nice i cant thank Steve enouh for not only allowing me in to his home, but for chauffering me around like an old friend.
If you ever find youself swanning around the South of France, make sure you tick these off the list…
VilleFranche Sur Mer [favourite], Èze, Nice Promenade and old town, Juan Les Pins & Antibes.. [info to follow]