As I’ve written in previous posts, I’ve done my fair share of Couchsurfing with plenty of hosts from all over Europe. While most of them have been fine, I’ve had a few interesting, even weird experiences, with a few of them. I’ve told you about one of my bizarre stays in Toulouse, and in this post, I’ll recap another strange time with another host, this time in Marseille.
Crazy Travel Story #6: That One Time I Stayed with a Creep in Marseille…
In March 2016, I got lucky and had a full week off from work teaching English in my schools in France, as the week I was supposed to be working was when my lycée (“high school”) was going on a field trip to London– I wouldn’t be joining them, as I’d visited London that December, and I wasn’t needed otherwise to chaperone. That said, I took the opportunity to travel, even though I’d just gotten back from a long weekend in le Mont St. Michel with an assistante (because there was no way I was going to stay the full week in my small town, bored out of my mind).
I hadn’t gone to the south of France yet, and I happened to find a mind-blowing deal from Paris to Montpellier for 1€(!). From there, I planned an itinerary that would take me along the south of France to other notable cities like Nîmes, Arles, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, and Marseille.
Like with my February vacances, I looked into Couchsurfing for several of the cities I would be visiting. I managed to get hosts for Montpellier and Nîmes, with hosts who were really kind and welcoming. The nights I spent in their homes were nothing but lovely, and I still have fond memories of those stays.
I was also intending on Couchsurfing in Marseille, so I made a “Public Trip” on the forum. I received a message from N, a local, who saw my request and offered to host me. He had perhaps eight or so References, which were mostly positive. He also lived in the city center, not too far from Palais Longchamps, so with that, I accepted his offer to stay three nights with him.
However, I should’ve seen the warning signs: as I wrote, N had mostly positive References, which meant that he had a couple of not-so-good ones. I did read those, but I thought that they were just personally-bad experiences from those guests. Admittedly, I was naïve, so I just brushed them off and went with the majority of the good reviews.
After my afternoon in Aix-en-Provence, I took a regional bus to Marseille, and from there I headed to my host’s flat. I arrived there, and he received me promptly, already at the doorway to his flat once I reached his floor. We shook hands, and I got settled into his flat. It was around 18:00 by then, and I was starting to get hungry, but being a good guest, I sat on the couch with him to chat and get to know each other. N was originally from Paris, but in Marseille for work as a psychology professor. He also was really fond of reading, as we discussed some French literature. I didn’t find anything particularly strange, except for the fact that he kept interrupting me with his thoughts, which I just contributed to him having a lot to say– looking back, it was a bit weird, but nothing to indicate that he was crazy.
We had dinner around 20:00, as N prepared a simple fish-and-rice dish, along with bread and rosé to go along with it. We continued to converse as we ate, and again, nothing felt out of the ordinary. After dinner, he set up a large mattress in the middle of the living room for me to sleep on, and he retired to his own bedroom for the night. It’d been a long day of visiting and traveling, so I promptly fell asleep.
The next morning, I was washing my face in the bathroom when N knocked on the door and, without waiting for me to answer, barged in when my face was still plastered with facial soap, saying that I couldn’t stay the remaining nights with him. Seeing the shocked look on my face, he explained that he’d just gotten a phone call from a relative that his aunt had just died, and he needs to go out of town to attend to the matter.
Now, I knew something was up, but I didn’t say anything. Shock quickly turned to detachment, as I finished washing my face and proceeded to pack my bags. I was basically being kicked out without much time to find alternative accommodation, but I was more concerned about getting out of there as soon as I could, even if I was reluctant to at the same time.
As N walked me out of the apartment, he apologized for the inconvenience, saying that his grandmother had been sick for a while, and he needed to tend to her outside of Marseille. His grandmother. Just five minutes ago, he’d said that he needed to tend to family matters concerning his aunt, not his grandmother. That was when I knew he was lying through his teeth, and it was better not to stay with him at all. Plus, he wasn’t bringing anything for his two, three-night visit (as he’d told me), no suitcase or anything.
We exited the apartment and from there, we parted ways. He went in one direction and I in the other– I saw him turn around for a brief second to make sure I wasn’t following him, which was absolutely ridiculous since I already knew he wasn’t telling the truth and probably didn’t want me in his flat anyway (for whatever reason, I don’t know and didn’t care). Considering that I was homeless for the rest of my stay in Marseille, I spent the whole day looking for another host who could take me in last-minute but, after several inconvenient ones, I ended up checking myself into a hostel near Vieux Port (great one, by the way) and staying one night there, shortening my time in Marseille.
As I’d written before, I’d read N’s References prior to staying with him– I did read the Negative references, which I’d previously ignored, but upon experiencing what had happened, I realized that there was truth to them. Basically, he had two notably Negative references, with a female surfer saying that she could “never feel comfortable with him,” that he would look at her intently as she spoke and had touched the back of her neck one morning. Another surfer (also female) had said that she’d entered his home and, after a few minutes of chatting with him, he essentially kicked her out with a “family emergency.” Not to forget that all of his surfers were female, so go figure…
I never wrote a Reference for N, even thought I should’ve because who knows if he’d done the same thing with other surfers since then? Not that I was in danger, but he definitely was a bit nuts, treating guests that way. Several months later, I saw that his Couchsurfing profile disappeared and, a few months afterwards, he made a new one, which also disappeared shortly thereafter.
…here’s the kicker: just this April, I’d created a “Public Trip” for Paris, as I was visiting for les vacances. I already had a place to stay, but I was interested in meeting up with locals for a drink or sightseeing around the city. Lo and behold, N responds to me, with his newest profile, offering to accompany me in Paris. That sent chills down my spine, and I ended up blocking him– soon thereafter, his profile disappeared again (not surprised). I wonder if he’d remembered me, as it’d been over two years since the incident, and I’d just changed my profile photo on Couchsurfing. Paranoid as it sounds, I was scared that I’d bump into him while in Paris, but thankfully, it didn’t happen (whew!).
Anyway, that was my experience of staying with a creep in Marseille. While it wasn’t dangerous, it could’ve been, as I didn’t know what N was capable of– did he only host female travelers for sex or something else? And why does he need to fabricate stories to get people out? He was a very strange man, probably mentally unstable and lonely (after all, he was in his mid-forties and lived alone), and I hope never to see him again.
Got any crazy travel stories to tell? Let me know!