It’s been 14 days since isolation kicked in and 2 days since lock-in. With so much negativity, it is unhealthy for the mind. I have been scouring YouTube for Camino-related videos and with the recommendation of Linda at Somewhereslowly, I have signed up to Babbel at a specially reduced rate. These days indoors are the perfect time to learn a new language, and dust down a new one (I’m looking at you, Spanish!). It also has podcasts to tune your ear, so it’s all good.
Ok, back to the subject matter of the post. I can’t believe it’s nearly 6 years since I last walked from St Jean Pied de Port. I had been planning to walk from there ever since I arrived home from Leon in June 2013. I had done quite a bit of research and I actually had planned to meet a few Camino forum members in St Jean when I arrived. For someone who has not walked a Camino, it might seem a bit daunting but if you do the right research, it is quite easy. Once you know the days you are free and you have booked your flights, that is half the battle. You just arrive and then walk! I booked a flight with Ryanair to Biarritz. The next step was to find somewhere to stay in St Jean Pied de Port. Generally, accommodation fills up quick during peak season. I found a great place after looking on Gronze.com, Gite Ultreia. It offered B&B for €15 – practically nothing at today’s prices. I met Jason from South Korea there and we bumped into each other on and off until I finished in Belorado.
September arrived with much anticipation. The weather looked good in the North East of Spain. I got on the flight and before I knew it I had arrived. I met a pilgrim friend, Andrea in Biarritz. We had met on a forum and we were going to walk from the off. After a quick shuttle to Bayonne and a bus to St Jean, we had arrived.
One thing I remember however is how busy the town was. It was full of pilgrims and we arrived in the middle of rush hour. People are dining, viewing the sites and basically wandering around. Oh, do you remember the book “I’m Off Then” by Hape Kerkeling? Well, I am probably the only pilgrim to have not read it yet. BUT…it was made into a film in 2014, and many of the scenes were shot on the Camino. As I was going to my B&B, I was asked to stay put by part of the film crew while a scene was being shot.
The next day proved to be one of the toughest but most rewarding days on the Camino. I was in no hurry. There was no prize. It took nearly 8 hours to reach the monastery in the woods in Roncesvalles but I was glad to see a bunk bed on arrival.
I didn’t have any wine until I had my meal later that evening but it didn’t matter. I was already drunk with the scenery from the day. I was lucky enough to receive a blessing in the chapel beside the monastery after the meal before thinking about the next day.
I keep thinking if I will be walking from St Jean any time soon. I would certainly love to as my love for that part of the world has not gone away. Let’s see when all this madness goes away first.
What a tough first day. I’ve great respect for everyone who has walked entirely from St.Jean to Roncesvalles on their first day.
Previously on the both occasions that I’ve started in St.Jean I stopped in Orrison overnight and then continued to Roncesvalles the following day. In fact I’ve never had the pleasure of staying overnight in St.Jean as on previous Caminos I only ever arrived in St Jean on that noon train from Bayonne (High Noon !!😀) and then commenced walking around 2pm. Boy those first 8kms from St. Jean to Orrison are TOUGH with your body in a constant argument with your rucksack as the rucksack and its straps try to settle on your back and find their grooves. The great reward thought is the communal meal in Orrison. The tsunami of excitement and euphoria of those first few days walking with your new Camino Family just washes you along the path. They are probably my most cherished Camino memories and at times like this we are so fortunate to be able to dip into those treasured memories. Thanks for sharing and reminding us of how lucky we are to have travelled this way……..and will again hopefully sometime soon when these clouds lift👍
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Hi PJ, I am late replying. I have yet had the pleasure of staying in Orisson. But I will one day. You should stay in St Jean some day, it has a great buzz about it and it is cheap enough. I agree about those 8 km. I was never prepared for those. They were tough going. But you just have to take your time, stop, rest and enjoy the views. Hopefully I will walk from St Jean in the next few years please God.