We picked up a car near the Nîmes train station and headed for our next destination – a Couchsurf near Salon-de-Provence. But as we had a bit of time to kill we decided to do a little side trip along the way. Referring to our guidebook we found a detour to the town of Miramas-le-Vieux. They really seem to like these hyphenated town names here, sometimes stretching to four or five words strung together in a memory-testing place name. We duly took turned off from the highway and headed south.
After about 20 minutes we approached the outskirts of a large town which turned out to be Miramas (note the lack of ‘-le-Vieux’). This ugly modern town seemed to bear no resemblance to the guidebook’s description so we decided to drive on and look for an alternative. Just after exiting the town we spotted a discrete sign up a narrow local road for ‘Miramas-le-Vieux’. We’d just discovered one of the little touring pitfalls – if there is a town called ‘le-Vieux’, which of course means ‘the-old’, then that most likely indicates that there is also a newer, and usually much less picturesque, town with the same name waiting to confuse visitors.
We parked in the public carpark at the bottom of the village and started on the steep walk up. Alex and Eoin started wilting in the heat but perked up when we pointed out all the Glacier (Ice Cream shop) signs. The village itself, when we finally reached it, was high up on a rocky outcrop with views over Étang de Berre (Berre Lagoon). The ice cream was excellent and we found out later from Maryline and Eric, our hosts in Salon-de-Provence, that Miramas-le-Vieux was famous for its Glace with a view.
We reached Maryline and Eric’s place about an hour later, and were blown away by our latest ‘couch’. We had our own maisonette, and there was a swimming pool. Pas mal. Dinner was homemade quiche and salad followed by cheese and my new favourite thing – olive confiture. That’s olive jam, and it’s perfect on crusty bread with some chèvre (goat’s cheese).
One of the revelations of the last year is the great hospitality of couchsurfing hosts. We are endlessly amazed and appreciative of their willingness to take us – absolute strangers – into their homes and, in many cases, even feed us and show us around. We enjoyed three lovely nights of hospitality, chatting around the dinner table in the evening and celebrating Les Bleues’ semi-final win in the Euros with a bottle of Champagne. Thank you Maryline and Eric!