Mon 14 Sep - Last day before starting the Camino
I had a spare day today in St Jean Pied de Port before starting walking tomorrow.
All my perregrino friends I had just made left hostel Azkorria and then it was just me. I felt a bit lonely for a while as I liked several of them.
There were plenty of Melbournians in the hostel overnight, an Argentinian bloke, a lady from Cardiff and a big girl from Tacoma, WA. Known for "Tacoma Aroma". She tried to convince me that the aroma is no longer there. Perhaps... I am unlikely to find out for myself.
Most of the other pilgrims had also booked the first night in Orrison. It is a less than 9km, app 3 hours hike from St Jean Pied de Port. You are climbing 600 meters though. Enough for the first day.
My morning was then spent washing clothes, getting my first sillo into my Credential and having a shower with nobody around. That will probably not happen again.
My first stamp in my Camino Credencial:
No queues inside the Pilgrim Office at 8am this morning. Only one pilgrim who was being serviced was before me.
Last night it was crazy here. Long queue out through the door. Given that the pilgrim office is perhaps 30 meters away from my hostel, I could go at any time.
My hostel closed at 10am for cleaning to reopen at 3pm so I was ask to leave for those hours.
So I wandered out to have a closer look at St Jean Pied de Port:
This is the Gate of St Jaques. If you started your pilgrimage from further north, you would arrive here.
The story of Porte Saint-Jacques:
St Jean Pied de Port has a very impressive old citadel. Once it was a heavily manned fortress to keep the Spaniards at bay and to protect Bayonne.
You can walk on parts of the Citadel's stone wall:
According to the map, this is the general direction when you walk the Camino towards Roncesvalles. I should get there by end of day 2 if all goes to plan.
They sold some weird and wonderful things at the market. Lots was in cans. Stinky odd looking cheeses. Strange charcuterie.
Somehow I think that Di would have loved it...
The stall holder was unimpressed when he saw me taking this photo.
I also did a bit more Camino discovery.
First another location used in the movie "The Way".
My lunch was a Caesar salad to which I bought some extra nice ham. I enjoyed it some distance away from the crowds and down by the river.
I found a reasonably well equipped supermarket although nowhere near as big as the one in Bayonne. Good enough supply and variety for a suffering pilgrim.
I tested a Citibank ATM withdrawal for the first time. I chose an ATM attached to an open BNP Baribas branch just in case...
The ATM recognized non French speaking person and automatically switched to English. The cash withdrawal all worked fine.
And after debating the pros and cons with getting hiking poles, I finally took action and purchased two of them for 20€ each.
I went back to my hostel Azkurria as they reopened after cleaning at 3pm and chilled.
Tonight's room comrades are a mother and daughter team from Portland, OR and a Danish middle aged guy.
The Portlanders invited me to join them for dinner but finding out that the daughter had also invited up to 10 of similar age to herself (20 years), I politely declined.
The Danish guy was not yet there when I went out for dinner by myself.
I thought that this is the last chance in France to have something a little bit better to eat, I settled for Cafe de la Paix.
They advertised today's special outside, Filet de Canette.
I had no idea what canette was but I ordered it anyway. And it arrived.
Definitely the best meal I had in Europe so far. Canette is duckling, bobbin and it was perfectly barbecued and came in a mushroomy winey sauce.
I returned to base a bit earlier than yesterday around 8pm.
Tomorrow it is Buen Camino to Orisson which does not provide wifi so no blogging. I may still do and post later but I will be out of reach for tomorrow at least.
Current weather forecast for tomorrow is cloudy, not so windy and no rain (perfect) and for Wednesday cloudy, very windy and no rain. Hopefully the no rain part stays and doesn't change.