, , , ,

The 14 days of Valentine tribute to the love of couchsurfing continues.


  • HE: Graduate Student (Masters of Education)

It didn’t take long at our first couchsurf in Porto to make us realize that maybe a bit of couchsurfing would be good for us.  For example, we had driven all the way down from Paris to Portugal, stopping each night to stay in some fairly expensive and unimpressive hotel/motel/gîte/B&B/inn.  We still hadn’t clued in that people might couchsurf for pleasure but surely couchsurfing on our way back up would be at least as good as staying at the places we’d been at.  So while still at our couchsurf in Porto, I went online to find a place for us within driving distance.

Tralhariz view (Douro)

We set off from here (Douro Valley, Portugal) and drove through that distant landscape to get to Pamplona.

Gradstudent responded right away to my request.  He was doing a Masters in Education and his profile photo showed two guys and a dog swimming in a pool.  He lived alone, outside Pamplona.  After getting a bit lost, we got there and found a large, single-family home.  Gradstudent came out to greet us with his dog.  When we pulled into the driveway, he shut a huge metal gate behind us, “for security”.

PANIC!  No one knew we were here.  We didn’t own a phone.  How did a young, single Gradstudent come to have such a huge house in such a desolate area?  Why lock us in?  Who has a profile photo of themselves with a man and dog in a pool?  We walked with much trepidation into what turned out to be a wonderful experience.

Beautiful garlic from the market

Beautiful garlic from the market, Iberia

Gradstudent had made a roaring fire in his huge, stone fireplace for us.  He won the kids over by showing them how to warm their shoes by the fire while at the same time toasting bread over the flame with a skewer.  The kids loved playing with the dog and the two cats.  Well they did until he showed them that on the third floor there was a whole playroom with tons of toys and games and treasures.  Huh?  Well, Gradstudent grew up in this house with his parents and siblings.  When he was a teen, his parents bought a house in downtown Pamplona and the family moved there.  They kept their old house but did not use it.  Gradstudent got a job and went to live in Madrid.  Eventually, he decided to become a teacher and went back to school in Pamplona.  He would not be earning any money but didn’t want to move back home.  His parents offered to let him live in the old house while he completed his studies.  His couchsurfing sister told him that it was unethical for him to be living alone in that huge house and not open it to couchsurfers.

Staying with Gradstudent was our first introduction to what I came to realize was a prevalent theme: the underused property.  As we continued our journey, I became more and more aware of all the vacation properties, granny suites, inherited apartments, camping trailers and other perfectly good housing that sit vacant.  If you are in a position to offer any of these to fellow travellers, please consider it.  FYI, we didn’t trash anyone’s property, make explosives, steal their stuff, smoke dope in their garden, play loud music, crash their family parties, spill juice on their carpets, snoop into their private stuff, or make fun of them behind their backs.  Just saying, in case that’s what you’re scared of.

I call these arthritic trees.  They can be found from southern France to northern Portugal.

I call these arthritic trees. They can be found from southern France to northern Portugal.

GRACIAS Gradstudent for laundering the bedding for 7 people.  It was so nice the way you opened and prepared all the rooms you normally don’t use.  We enjoyed seeing your rooster and hearing about your plans for a garden.  I loved the trick you showed me to just leave dirty dishes in the sink with a bit of water in them and when you come back a few hours later and swish around a bit the dishes practically wash themselves.

I made this hat for Gradstudent because I think of him and his house and his pets and his landscape in terms of earthtones.  Everything was reddish, brownish, beige-ish and harmonious.  A grounded hat for a grounded person.  I call it fire-toasted bread.  It is made with Manos del Uruguay yarn knit on 5 mm (US 8) needles.  Sorry but I don’t remember which pattern I used.

Earth tones for a grounded man.

Earth tones for our man.

Today’s Quote of the Day comes from Lastborn.  This week she shared with me what I could tell was a mind-blowing recipe she learned while we were in Paris:

Take any kind of eggs.  Then eat them with ketchup.  It’s delicious.