Towns Along The Way – St Jean Pied de Port

I have left this series unattended for quite a while. In fact, the last post from this series was in January when I briefly spoke about towns beginning with the letter R. I have decided to jig things up with the remainder of towns from the Camino Frances. And there are many. I will start with the town furthest from Santiago and walk towards the Cathedral. One day I will get there. Maybe I should have done this from the off 🙂

So..we begin…

StJean

St Jean Pied de Port (map), or “Saint John at the Foot of the Pass” is in the Pyrénées department in Southwestern France close in the Pyrenean foothills. The town is also the old capital of the traditional Basque province of Lower Navarre. It is also the traditional starting point for the Camino Francés. If you start your Camino here, you are 8km from the Spanish border, however those 8km may as well be doubled if you factor the ascent. The town is made up of one long main street, crossing over the River Nive as you exit the town.

Getting to St Jean is not as easy as you think. You can either fly to Biarritz and catch a train from nearby Bayonne. It is the nearest city to St Jean and Ryanair offer regular flights. For those of you who live outside of Europe, you many have to fly to Barcelona or Paris. You can travel to St Jean directly from those places also. There are plenty of places to stay in St Jean once you arrive (Gronze). If you are planning to walk during peak season, it is advisable to book a room in advance as you are not guaranteed a bed on arrival. I have stayed in Gite Ultreia and highly recommend it, however Gite Beilari is well known and well liked. Many of the people you meet here will walk with you for much of your Camino.

stjeanpdp-pilgrimofficeThe old town of St Jean Pied de Port is really one old cobbled street, the rue de la Citadelle which runs down hill from the 15th century Porte St-Jacques to the Porte d’Espagne. The street crosses the River Nive on a old stone bridge and there are many pictures of these views strewn across the internet. Up above the town is the citadel which once held great importance in Saint-Jean-Pied-du-Port. St Jean Pied de Port is very geared up for the pilgrims with restaurants offering pilgrim menus and shops selling anything you might have forgotten. A top tip is to visit the local Lidl to buy some snacks for the arduous walk the next day. The pilgrim office will either give you a credencial or stamp your own one, which you need in order to stay in the albergues along the way and also have maps and useful advice. Heed any advice the volunteers there give you, especially if you should cross the Napoleon pass or if you should walk via Val Carlos. The weather plays an important part in this decision.

Your next stop after leaving St Jean is Orisson after 8kms of uphill. But remember to enjoy the views 🙂

Saturday and all that’s in it!

I’ve just arrived in from a busy day in Croke Park at the Ireland v France game. Not really sure how Ireland played as I’m not really that much of a rugby fan but I’ve come away with a little more French than before. “Official match programme..6 euro” is what I normally scream in the best north Dublin accent going, but today, as the french were passing, I tried to brush up on my Leaving Certificate French with “Le programme officialle – – 6 euros!”. Much to the bemusement of some of the French who still couldn’t understand me. I must brush up.

After the snows of last week, there were doubts that the game could go ahead but it went ahead on time @5pm. Cue the rudimentary tasks of counting money and and it’s time for me to leave the ground and head home. I never mind working there and always watch the Dubs or the Irish soccer team play but I’m out of Croke Park as quick as I can when it comes to Rugby. Some may totally disagree with what I do but it might be an idea to ask some rugby fans if they followed the Dubs or Tyrone along the Championship road. It’s a matter of taste really.. Next up is the Ireland v Georgia international on this Wednesday but I am unsure if I can get there on time with work. It’s a tough ask to get to Drumcondra from Sandymount in half hour..after a tough day at the office too :).

There is not much more for me to say about the day other than following up on my previous post. I have downloaded a trial version of Ecto, a nice little desktop tool for blogging. It looks really good and an easy on the eye interface. This piece of software has a 21 day life span and then I have the option of buying the real deal after that, so if all goes well I will buy it. I will let you know. I had great difficulty in setting up the blog settings as I’m a complete amatuer and after much searching I got it working!

Now to watch Match of the Day and laugh at Chelsea’s season falling apart. Ciao!