Spending the night on my own in the Chambres Itzalpea right outside of the city walls of St. Jean Pied du Port…the start of the French Way of the Camino de Santiago and the most-travelled route. First thing I did, besides taking a shower after a long day/night of getting here, is to hit the Camino’s Official Office to receive my Camino passport and get my first stamp from the helpful worker in the black beret. I bought a shell that symbolizes the walk and toured the town: walked up to the Citadel, went through the medieval city gates and saw the old buildings. The feeling of getting the first stamp was very euphoric…after a bunch of zombies he waited on, I think the French guy in the beret at the Camino Office liked my enthusiasm and gave some good walking tips/lodging tips. One thing to note–guidebooks don’t tell you to bring real passport to Camino Office, but they take your number for some sort of accountability. Saw a guy get turned back because he didn’t have a real passport with him…and two euros.
Went into the Gothic church, which was supposed to hold a pilgrim’s mass at 1800, but didn’t. Prayed and sat for a while. Had dinner at a local joint–a pilgrim’s meal I think was 15 Euros. Had a big beer at a bar near my hotel and then went to my room to repack.
To update folks, I flew from Boston to Newark, Newark to Paris DeGualle Airport (sat next to a retired college dean her husband, a retired IBM exec, both who were going on a Viking cruise down the Rhone River). The food was pretty lousy and booze cost extra on United. Both flights were delayed. I landed and grabbed a quick and nice breakfast in the Star Alliance Lounge, then went through an hour of going customs clearing with so many Asian tour groups clogging up the lines. Then took another inter-airport train to Terminal 2D to catch an Easy Jet flight in a very chaotic check-in. I landed in Bairritz, which is a fancy resort town, finally had the chance get Euros from the ATM machine. Grabbed a city bus to the main Bayonne Train Station–I was the only pilgrim onboard and knew some French or I wouldn’t have gotten on the right bus. All three of my flights and train were delayed…frustrating. Caught small train and rode through some very scenic Pyrennes/Basque areas to the starting point of St. Jean Pied Port. Don’t know if it is a blessing or a curse that it is cooler and drizzling rain. Told the guy in the beret at the Camino office that I was going to walk the tougher Napoleon route over the Pyrennes, rain or shine.
Redistributing my clothing to accommodate Jim Brown’s laptop he lent me and my gear/clothing…fought to keep awake until 10 pm…surprisingly wasn’t as jet-lagged as other European trips. Buen Camino!