The Couchsurfing Virgins
highlights: No accommodation for two nights; Finding accommodation at the last minute; Meeting my couchsurfing host; Going on a guided tour with Violaine; Dinner with Violaine and ticking off a lot of traditional local tastes; Conquering our couchsurfing virginities.
I was bound for Lyon on Wednesday morning. The only hostel I could find online was completely booked out until Friday. That meant I had to find alternative accommodation for two nights before I could stay in the Cool & Bed hostel.
I resorted to Couchsurfing.org, a fantastic concept for travellers to seek free accommodation on somebody’s couch. I put up a post asking for accommodation for two nights, Wednesday and Thursday.
I heard back from Violaine, but as I was offline for sometime I was not able to respond to her invitation until the night before I left for Lyon. Oh my goodness, I left it til the eleventh hour- who knows if I would even get a hold of her in time!
I sent Violainean email asking if the offer was still open and included my mobile phone number for easier communication. She responded not 20 minutes later confirming that it was all still cool! Yes, I at least got one night, as she could only host me on Wednesday, not Thursday.
So here we were, both Couchsurfing virgins. She was a host, I was an invitee.
What should we expect? What if she was not who she said she was? She didn’t have a profile picture and she had never hosted anyone before. Would I be safe with this person? Did she live in a safe neighbourhood? Did she want male company? Would she rip me off, taking my valuables? Would she stand me up?
So many questions were running through my head, but I wasn’t really concerned. I was just glad with the glimmer of somewhere to stay.
She was working until 19h30, so I had some time to kill before I would meet her. I asked if it was possible to leave my backpack at her place during the day and she gave me the apartment entry code and advised me that it would be reasonably safe to leave it in front of her door, inside the building. It was a secure building and I didn’t ever keep valuables in there anyway.
We met on the street in front of her apartment. She was this cool, young and beautiful woman. Blonde hair, blue eyes, cute nerdy glasses and trendy casual clothes. I thought, it’s going to be alright…
We did the French greeting, a kiss on each cheek. It was all very natural, nothing suss, nothing awkward. We went up to her apartment, I dumped my bag. We spoke French. For my gracious host, I offered a nice bottle of vin rouge from Bordeaux.
She was really keen to take me out into the city to check out some touristy places by night. What a bonus this was! We walked through Perrache station, through Place de Bellecour, up to the Funiculaire à Fourvière, and found ourselves at the Basiliqueoverlooking the entire city of Lyon. It was an amazing sight, sweeping vistas of street lights, moving traffic and city as far as the eye could see. Beyond that, the vague shadow of the French Alps could be seen, a misty reminder of where I had been just the day before.
We strolled down the mountain through Vieux Lyon, the old city, and over the Rivière Rhône and the Rivière Saône. These are two rivers that eventually meet to become the Rivière Rhône. The point where they collide is called La Confluence.
A walk through the centre of the city would bring us past Hôtel de ville, L’Opéraand into a lovely cobbled road (in fact, most of the roads piétons are cobbled stone) with restaurants along the side. We popped into a Crêperie for dinner.
It was lovely to get to know one another, learn about each other’s travel history, travel ambitions and general life stories. Speaking in French really was a struggle at times, so we would dip into English a lot. She worked in a hotel, so she also wanted to practice her English. She reminded me of a word that is hardly used these days, peculiar. So now, I will try and use that word more often.
We had Gallette Tartiflette and Gallette Raclettefor our mains, served with Cidre de Breton, a traditional apple cider; dessert was Crêpes à nutella et Chantillyand Crêpes à crème marron et glace.
After dinner we strolled back home, it was getting colder at this point. I wrapped myself up, pulled up the hood. Violaine joked that I was wearing so many layers that I might even be carrying a parachute! Hahahaha
To conclude, together, Violaine and I, broke our Couchsurfing Virginities and we both had a very positive and enriching experience! I am looking forward to the next time I couch surf.
Probably in ToulouseI would say.