September 3rd 2014 – Day 0
Dublin to St Jean Pied de Port via Biarritz
I didn’t sleep much that night. Excitement, anticipation, apprehension..you name it…I had it. I had walked the Camino before but it felt like I was doing this for the first time. The flight from Dublin Airport was due to take off at 9am so I was up and out the door close to 8am. After a quick drive, I was at Dublin Airport ready to board the plane. I had my bag packed for the last number of days and even after 3 previous trips, I was looking for room for improvement. I had it down to 7kg which was more or less average for a distance of 230kms. I wanted to walk to Burgos or as far as possible but my last day of walking needed to be September 14th, which was a Sunday. I had chosen Burgos as I had been there before and I loved the Cathedral. It blew me away to be honest. Being a major city, it seemed like an ideal place to stop. It would mean me walking a few 30km+ days, but I had done that before and I knew that it was in me.
I had been in contact with Andrea from Lisburn a few weeks earlier (via the Camino de Santiago forum) and we agreed to meet in Bayonne and venture to St Jean Pied de Port. We had also agreed to meet some other forum members in St Jean for a few pre-Camino drinks and some food. I was looking forward to that.
The flight to Biarritz was made up of pilgrims and businessmen going about their day. It was delayed by 20 minutes due to low cloud in Dublin but weather in Biarritz was next to perfect so I was eager to get out there. I checked my bag in, sat on the plane and waited for the flight to take off. After close to an hour and a half, and a near-faultless flight, we arrive in Biarritz. The sun was splitting the stones as I stepped off the plan. Phew!
After a quick trip on a shuttle bus from the airport, I arrived in Bayonne Gare and I meet Andrea. I apologised for the delay and make my way to buy my ticket for the trip to St Jean Pied de Port. The ticket costs less than €10 and we both wait on the train to bring us to our destination, After a quick wait, a one carriage train arrives, which is far too small for the crowd waiting to board. We get on and manage to get a seat, hoping that this train will move shortly. Not to be. Ten minutes later, a man jumps on the train shouting in French. I had no idea what he was saying but after a while we found out that there was a bus also travelling to St Jean, and that some of us could take that instead. Myself and Andrea agreed to take that which was probably a better choice. The train stood still in St Jean as the bus pulled off.
After an hour, we arrived in St Jean Pied de Port. There is a bit of a walk to take to get to the main village but when I got there, we are greeted by large crowds. It is busy. People are dining, viewing the sites and basically wandering around. I also notice a film crew on Rue de la Citadelle where both my hostel and the pilgrims office is located. We are told to stay put for a few moments while a scene is being shot. The whole street is at a standstill. I find out that the crew is from Germany and is shooting a film based on a popular book by a German author. Hmm..that should bring more people..I think to myself. It is busy as it is. The stagehand looked exasperated at being asked the same question over and over so I was glad when the scene was over. Myself and Andrea agreed to visit the pilgrims office, collect our credentials and check in to our respective hostels which were booked before. This didn’t take long and I found the volunteers in the office extremely helpful. The weather forecast was for plenty of sun, but there may be some rain so I was aiming for the Napoleon route the next day.
I checked into Gite Ultreia for a fab €15 per night..brilliant value. I buy a few things for the next day including a wooden pole, and meet Andrea, Trevor and Jason for some food before we called it a day. We were pretty tired but excited. The restaurant named “Cafe de la Paix” served the best pasta and spaghetti and it is recommended. Trevor and Jason weren’t due to leave St Jean for a few more days so we bid them goodnight and goodbye. We may even meet them on the way further down the line. I decided to leave at 7am the next morning so ventured back to the hostel to get some well earned rest.