As you can tell by the title, I have decided to devote a “mini-series,” as I call it, to some exciting, intense, and just plain weird experiences during my travels in Europe. To say the least, a lot of these “crazy travel stories” have come from my time doing Couchsurfing, staying in hostels, or just wandering the streets of the city that I was in. Hopefully, you’ll find them interesting, even shocking, but overall entertaining. Enjoy! 🙂
Crazy Travel Stories #1: That One Time with a Basket Case…
Let me be honest here: never would I have thought that my stay in Toulouse, France during the February holidays would turn out to be a combination of frightening, stressful and, well, just plain odd. Turned out that that was the case.
…a basket case, you would call it. I had plans with a Couchsurfer to stay three nights in Toulouse, and thought that all was set. My Couchsurfing host (let’s call him “Mac”) was especially considerate, insisting on calling me twice beforehand to confirm my stay chez lui. Which I found super courteous and all, but little did I know that that was a warning sign for something…strange to await me once I stayed with him.
I arrived in Toulouse in the evening around 19h00, when everything was already dark. Took the metro over to the stop near his flat, where he received me. Super friendly guy, all smiley and everything. I was really surprised when we “faire la bise” (a French greeting to kiss each other on the cheeks): not that I was surprised that we did it- after all, I got so used to doing it during my time in France. Rather, it was how he kissed my cheeks: instead of just gently touching cheeks and making the “kissy” noise as most French people do it, he directly put his lips on my cheeks, which really threw me off. I don’t believe it was meant in a romantic/sexual way, but it was way too much; I don’t even think that French people even normally do that! Admittedly, his lips felt a bit…cold and slimey (ew…) on my face; I attributed his actions as a “Toulousian” thing (perhaps people from Toulouse are just friendlier and kiss directly on the cheeks- probably not!), but in any case, I definitely got a bizarre first impression of him.
We walked over to his flat, where he was kind enough to prepare a light supper for me. After dropping my stuff off and showering, we dined together, talking and getting to know one another a bit. Things were going well, and aside from the weird kiss greeting, I found Mac to be a very nice guy, albeit very talkative. Eventually, we turned in for the night, with Mac retreating to his bedroom and I taking a mattress in the living room.
Brushed my teeth, freshened my face, and went to bed around 22h00. Then suddenly, I was woken up around midnight to the sound of someone screaming. Mind you, it wasn’t just a brief, sharp yell- no, this sounded like a cold, bloody murder. I jolted awake, startled, thinking, “What the fuck?” Then I realized that it was Mac who screamed! I put two-and-two together, and registered that he was having a nightmare. I let it pass, and went back to sleep.
Was promptly woken up around 3 in the morning to him screaming again. Again, I was startled awake, but this time I was getting not only scared, but also very pissed: was he going to continue this all night?
Even worse, I needed to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. In order to access it, I had to pass through Mac’s bedroom, in hopes of not waking him up and having him scream at me. Unfortunately, I was not quiet enough, and he yelled at me when I was trying to pass through. Now, at this point after having heard him scream bloody murder in his sleep, I was super cranky and pissed. I asked him, “Was that you screaming all night?” Mac, still disoriented, mumbled something like, “Oh, I don’t know,” and went back to sleep. I scuttled into the bathroom, did my business, and rushed back out into the living room before he made more of a commotion. For the rest of the night, I avoided having to go to the bathroom, in fear of disturbing him. Seriously, that was scary and way strange.
After that night, the rest of the time I stayed with him just got weirder and weirder. He woke up the next day, and left the flat without saying goodbye to me. I assumed that he was just going to get groceries and would be right back. But an hour rolled by, then two, then four, and he still didn’t return. I spent the whole morning bored in the flat, waiting for him to return since I wanted to go exploring Toulouse, but didn’t have the key to his place to lock it. I even tried calling him on his cellphone to ask when he would be back, but turned out that he didn’t even bring his phone with him (it was on the cabinet in his bedroom- I saw it ringing when I was calling). Way beyond odd.
By 13h00, I was sick of waiting around and decided to go out on my own; I left a note on his desk, saying that I was going to explore town and would be back in a bit. Went out, saw Toulouse, and headed back around 15h00.
Funny enough, I ran into him along the way back; he was at the local bio store, chatting with the locals. I waited for him to finish talking with them (a long time; apparently, he had been conversing with them since the morning- how insane!) before we headed back to his flat. On the way, he apologized to me about the night before; he said he was having a nightmare (called it!), and was sorry if he had frightened me. Of course, I had to play it off as nothing, as part of being courteous, but still…that’s one heck of a nightmare!
We had some mini-tartines for an afternoon snack, and chatted a bit. He got a call, and immediately after hanging up, he told me that I couldn’t stay with him anymore, since his mother was coming in last-minute to visit him the next day. First reaction was shock; mind you, I had the same thing happen to me with another Couchsurfer in Glasgow (which was not considerate at all), and I couldn’t believe that it was happening to me again. No doubt was I pissed, especially after everything I had experienced up until that point during my stay. In the end, we compromised: I would stay that final, second night with him and leave by noon the next day. Thankfully, I had a back-up Couchsurfer in Toulouse to reach to request a last-night stay before I left for Spain, so it sorted itself out in the end.
After that sudden, *inconsiderate* change of plans, I still allowed myself to spend the rest of the afternoon with him, allowing him to take me around Toulouse (although I’d already seen everything). We wandered from neighborhood to neighborhood, stopping often (and randomly) for him to start having five, ten-minute conversations with the locals, even complete strangers who were a little…out there (aka we came across some pot-heads at the park, as well as a very, very strange middle-aged man there, too). I was definitely getting very uncomfortable, but I just kept it to myself.
Even Mac was becoming stranger and stranger to me: still very talkative, but would ask many questions, constantly interrupting me, and changing the subject. He was very hard to follow, to the point of incoherent-ness. He had *sort of* given me a reason as to why he was, well, incoherent: apparently, he had a brain tumor ten years before, and had it removed at a hospital in Los Angeles (my hometown), and since then, he’s been having faulty memory (and nightmares, to boot). Not sure if I should believe him, but considering that he was so odd, I might as well.
Had dinner that night (he prepared a lovely leek-salmon tart, along with some white wine), and turned in afterwards. Woke up the next day, and after saying goodbye to him while he was still sleeping, I left at 11h00 to meet up with my other Couchsurfing host, with whom I stayed my last night in Toulouse. Also was an oddball, but was so much better than Mac. A refreshing change, actually.
Overall, I wouldn’t considerate my CS experience in Toulouse a completely bad one; true, Mac was utterly a basket case, but at least he wasn’t dangerous. I admit, he had his *extreme* eccentricities, but he was also very kind, preparing nice meals and conversing with me, especially in French which I needed to practice anyway. I wouldn’t choose to stay with Mac again if I were to return to Toulouse someday, but at least meeting him gave me an exciting story to tell, am I right? 😉
All right, I’ll be posting more of my crazy travel stories in the near future! Until later. 🙂
— The Finicky Cynic
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