Camino de Santiago (SJPdP to Roncesvalles

I did not have an appropriate pilgrim attitude at the end of walking today, but I did enjoy the start.

I woke up at 3:00 am (thank you jet lag) but didn’t start doing anything until about 5:40, when others in our albergue began stirring. We had a free breakfast of hot chocolate and bread, which I ate the French way (or what I was told was the French way) by making the hot chocolate in a bowl and dipping my bread in. At least one other person was doing the same thing so I didn’t feel too out of place.

We started walking about 6:40 and were immediately joined by a girl named Sunny (possibly not spelled that way). Her name matches her personality – she was amazingly positive. She and Andy outpaced Dad and me within the first 8 km, after which she left to press ahead, but not before admonishing is to catch up.

Dad and I struggled with the relentless steep uphill, so when we finally saw Orisson, where Andy waited, it was a huge relief. We had some pineapple juice and some Basque pastries we saved from yesterday, then set off again. Andy moved faster than us, but he always waited for us to catch up at some point.

It was misty the entire day, so we had no fabulous views of the Pyrenees, but we also stayed cool all the time. This was especially good for Dad, who really struggled for the last two thirds of the walk. He kept at it, though, and we made it to Roncesvalles, footsore and weary. (The last part of this journey was when I had my non-pilgrimy thiughts, as I cursed the downhill path when ever a turn failed to produce the albergue.)

The albergue has cubbies for our backpacks, which I don’t remember, and pretty good showers, which I do. Dad and I are in one set of bunk beds and Andy’s in the cubicle next door. The guy at the desk made sure to give Dad a bottom bunk.

One thing I remembered loving about this albergue is that for 3.50€ they’ll wash and dry your clothes and deliver them to your bed. We had about a load and a half, so I put some of mine in with a girl we met on the descent to make two full loads. Now we have clean clothes for the next few days! (I did have to retrieve one sock from the dryer, but given that it’s wet outside I’m not going to complain.)

Now we’re taking advantage of the free wifi while we wait for dinner at 8:30 (early on Spain terms). Tomorrow we’ll base where we stop on how Dad is feeling.


Camino Countdown (One More Sleep)

We’re in St. Jean Pied de Port! It was a hot and kind of blah train ride down here but we made it!

The trains were alternately hot and cool, and I felt kind of icky riding backwards at first. By the time we arrived in Bayonne I felt well enough to eat most of my spaghetti carbonara at lunch, although I did start  having one of my dizzy days (where the world spins all day until I can sleep it off). We met two sisters from LA, María and Maribel, who are also going to start walking tomorrow.

We had some time to kill so we walked down to the river to admire the view, then across it to see a double decker carousel and glimpse what we could of the cathedral – we didn’t have enough time to walk all the way there and back. Then we turned around and headed back to the train station. We punched our tickets and waited for the train on the platform, since the station interior was an oven.

The train was full of nothing but pilgrims, with all of the luggage space taken up by backpacks. When we arrived in St. Jean we took a cursory look at the map, but mostly just followed everyone else to the pilgrim office. The office was a sweat box but the lady who helped us, Helene, was really nice. We paid our 2€ apiece for our credencialesc and set off to the municipal albergue.

For 10€ each we have a top bunk, shower, and free breakfast. I’m right next to the door so my earplugs will come in handy. After dropping our packs, we wandered off to find hiking poles for me and for Dad. Andy says he doesn’t need them. We came back to the albergue for showers, then left to find food for tomorrow and dinner for tonight. Tomorrow we’ll lunch on fruit, cheese, and crackers, with some special Basque pastries. For dinner we had a pilgrim meal – tasty, of course.

Our waitress at dinner spoke English, which was great, but she occasionally asked me in French to confirm her understanding. I’m not sure why she picked me but fortunately the words she asked me to confirm I knew! I also managed to talk to the couple at the next table when I admired what was in their stroller – a huge Maine Coon cat! I told them that I had one too and I got to pet theirs. You can see the cat in he picture with this post.

Things are pretty well settled here in the albergue now, so I’ll post this and maybe a few pictures to Facebook. Until then next time I have wifi – au revoir and buen camino!

Camino Countdown (Pilgrims in Paris)

I don’t think I will ever get sleep on a overnight flight. I arrived in Dublin without even five minutes of shut-eye, but I did manage a bit on the flight to Paris. And I dozed fitfully on the train from CDG to the stop for our hotel. 

We were in the attic of our hotel, and my bed is under the window with a sloping beam above my feet. It’s on the 5th floor (6th if we were in the US) but there is air conditioning so it’s not stuffy. Unfortunately we only overlook other tall buildings so there’s not a great view, but it is close to the station, which is good since our train leaves just after 7:00 am. 

The key to beating jet lag is staying up to a reasonable bed time, no matter how much I wanted to sleep, so we went wandering. We scoped out Gare Montparnasse and printed our tickets, then walked to the Jardin du Luxembourg. School was out for the day so there were plenty of kids playing with the little sailboats, kicking a soccer ball, or gossiping. (Side note: teens gossiping sounds the same in every language.)

When the gardens could no longer keep me awake, we took a long walk to the river. I listened to a cello player while we admired the boats and buildings. Then we turned our feet back towards the hotel, stopping for dinner along the way (croque monsieur for me, of course!). After dinner we grabbed some food for breakfast from a small market, the showered and crashed. Eight o’clock is a perfectly respectable bed time. 

We have free wifi at the train station this morning so I’ll take advantage of that to post. Next stop: St. Jean Pied de Port!