Sun 13 Sep - Reflections and observations 1

Some reflections and observations on the day when I will finally arrive in St Jean Pied de Port. 

It is mid morning in Bayonne and I have just spent 9€ on breakfast in the hotel. 

Given that it is Sunday and I thought that if you fill up myself now, I can probably snack through lunch and get myself a nicer dinner once I arrive in St Jean Pied de Port. Which would be just after 4pm if things go to plan. 

The breakfast price was for convenience, certainly not for the ingredients. Although I drank 2 cups of tea and 3 espressos with my bread. That should keep me going a while...

Hotel Cote Basque check out is 11am. The train from Bayonne to St Jean Pied de Port will leave just before 3pm. Hence, I got ample time to wander the streets of Bayonne later. 

Here are the reflections and observations:

Weather forecast:

The TV was on in the breakfast room this morning. There is severe flooding in the Marseille area. Looked really bad. Fortunately for me, it appeared that the weather system came directly south from the Mediterranean and should not reach where I will be. 

I have obviously closely followed the weather forecast for the Pyrenees for the two days that I plan to cross it. Invariably there is rain and wind forecast there somewhere. Different weather provide different information so that doesn't help. 

I am a bit worried about my planned day 2 and the descent towards Roncesvalles. I have read enough to realize that the descent can be quite slippery. Falling and taking a hit with my right arm could be disastrous. 

What can I do? 
Wait for the day and see what the weather forecast is then. Be careful obviously. Go slow. Get some hiking poles in St Jean Pied de Port may help. 

There is an alternative "bad weather" way to Route Napoleon across the Pyrenees. However, that would bypass Hostel Orrison where I booked my first night and it would mean a very long close to 30km first Camino walking day. Not my preference but it is an alternative. 

Itchy red body spots in the morning:

I have woken up the last 2 mornings with itchy red spots on my body in a few places. First reaction, bed bugs. But it happened at Lise and Greg's place too. I am a bit allergic to cats. But the same happened this morning. In different places to the first morning. 

A bit of investigation makes me believe that the gym gear that I was sleeping in triggered an allergic reaction. I don't know for sure of course but I discarded the gym gear this morning. 

Despite unisex dorms in the albergues, I now intend to sleep in my undies and my base layer, at least for now. I do have a pair of leggings as well. Who cares anyway? We will all be a bunch of dirty and smelly pilgrims with limited resources anyway. 

I don't think that the spots are from bed bugs. I have had an itchy allergic reaction to my neck in the past which did last a while. Time will tell. Bed bugs would be a disaster though. Please don't!

French people seem so serious:

Obviously that is different if you know them and are part of their tribe, but for an outsider, non French speaking person, they seem quite reserved. 

Coming from Australia where everything and everyone are mostly so laid back, this is different. 

The one exception that comes to mind was the lady from whom I ordered the pizza. She was immediately keen on understanding some English and we were "cracking jokes" without either of us understanding the other. 

Service people though seem mostly so stern faced as do people on the street. 

Or maybe they close up because of their lack of English when they realize that I don't speak French. 

Hey, maybe it's me! Maybe I need to lighten up more and they will lighten up with me. Worth a try! 

Heck, I am the visitor in their country so I should really speak a bit of French. Which I find a difficult language. Spanish so far seems so much easier. 

Baguettes and espressos (and food in general):

The French, well the Parisians at least, love baguettes and espressos. 

Lise told me about local area restrictions for taking holidays. The bakeries are required to ensure among themselves that there is always a bakery open in that local area. A sort of self regulation. They take their baguettes seriously. 

And not only for breakfast. They buy their baguettes with something inside it for lunch and many seem to buy them late in the afternoon as well. 

Espressos are drunk in their small cups in cafes everywhere. For this tiny quantity of coffee, the Parisians seemed to be able to drag out a cafe visit for a long time. 

Restaurants differ dramatically to Australia. They seem to be more aligned to the U.S. There is a sameness to them. The predominantly decorated in red corner bistro was very common in Paris. The food on offer seemed similar from bistro to bistro. 

We found the same in the U.S. where burgers and salads were on offer everywhere. In Australia, there is such a variety of food types from all corners of the world that there is no predominant type of food anymore. 

But having said all that, tradition is tradition and people know what they like.

That concludes this post. 
A few words from a lazy morning lying in bed post breakfast in Bayonne. 

Once I am on the Camino, the postings will be more irregular. There wouldn't be wifi everywhere and there are likely to be times when I would not be able to recharge the phone as competition for power outlets may be tight. 

Besides, posting in a blog is not the purpose of the Camino anyway. 

Buen Camino... Very soon :-) 

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