Camino -1 day: St Jean Pied de Port (walking tomorrow)

I had a spare day today in St Jean Pied de Port before starting walking Camino Frances towards Santiago de Compostela tomorrow.

All my peregrino friends that 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. Among the others, there was an Argentinian bloke, a lady from Cardiff and a big girl from Tacoma, WA state in the US.

I knew that the last town was known for “Tacoma Aroma”, plenty of paper pulps in the area. The girl 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 a bed for 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 spent washing up my clothes and having a shower. With nobody around. Not likely to be so for the foreseeable future.

I also visited the Pilgrim Office and got my first sello (stamp) for my Credential de Peregrino booklet:

This is outside the Pilgrim Office in Saint Jean Pied de Port.

Standing on the inside looking out..

No queues inside the Pilgrim Office at 8am this morning. Only one pilgrim couple finishing up 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 there at any time.

My hostel closed at 10am for cleaning to reopen at 3pm so I was asked 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 Jacques. If you start your pilgrimage from further north, you would arrive here.

The story of Porte Saint-Jacques:

St Jean Pied de Port has an impressive old citadel. Once it was a manned fortress to keep the Spaniards at bay and to protect Bayonne.

And the story of the Citadel…

Great views from the top of the hill where the Citadel is.

You can walk on parts of the Citadel’s stone wall:

According to the map, this is the general direction towards Roncesvalles on the Camino. I should get there by the end of day 2 if all goes to plan.

And this is how it looks at the opposite side of St Jean Pied de Port. I will be back here walking the Camino tomorrow.

Monday is market day in St Jean Pied de Port. So I went to have a look.

They sold some weird and wonderful things at the market. Lots were in cans. Stinky odd looking cheeses. Strange charcuterie. Somehow I think that food-loving Good Mrs would have loved it…

But you better speak the language… The stall holder not impressed when he saw me taking this photo.

I also did further Camino discovery. First another location used in the movie “The Way”. They included a sequence looking down back at St Jean Pied de Port from around this spot. Martin Sheen’s character walks up this hill… just as you have to do if walking the Camino.

Signs in central St Jean Pied de Port.

Refuge Orisson is tomorrow’s destination.

Yes, there seem to be plenty of signs in relation to the Camino in St Jean Pied de Port. The pilgrim trail appears to be a big deal here. It must contribute a lot to the local economy.

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 well-stocked supermarket although nowhere near as extensive 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 recognised me as a non-French speaking person and switched to English. My cash withdrawal worked without glitches.

And after debating the pros and cons with getting hiking poles, I finally took action. I 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 from Portland, OR, USA; Daina and Rhys. And a Danish middle-aged guy named Allan.

The Portlanders invited me to join them for dinner. Finding out that the daughter had also invited up to 10 of similar age to herself (20 years), I declined.

The Danish guy was not there when I went out for dinner by myself.

I thought that this would be the last chance in France to have something nicer to eat so 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.

The canette arrived.

Canette is duckling or bobbin and arrived barbecued in a mushroom and wine sauce. It was delicious. Definitely the best meal I had so far in Europe.

I returned to base a bit earlier than yesterday at around 8pm.

Current weather forecast for tomorrow is cloudy, not so windy and no rain (perfect).  For Wednesday it is cloudy, lots of wind but no rain. I hope that the no rain forecast remains and that it doesn’t change.

Winding down for a while at Hostel Azkurria before bed…

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