Cloister in Los Arcos on the Camino de Santiago

Cloister in Los Arcos on the Camino de Santiago

Thursday, March 3, 2011

St. Jean Pied de Port here we come!

Another baby step

The Monkstown Friends listened to my plans for the Camino and many approached me after my brief talk to offer me money and pledges. I was surprised and delighted to receive in the post a very generous sum of money from a Friend who also sent me a lovely encouraging note.
Michael Fitzgerald who produces the excellent blog provided a link to mine, so I will return the gesture and offer a link to his –
Biarritz here we come! Courtesy of Ryanair we are due to arrive in the early afternoon of Monday 16th May. Looking at the websites for Biarritz I discover it is beautiful place. I am sorry we will not have the time to enjoy is marvelous beach and the surf for which it is famous. Maybe we will find another time to visit this elegant seaside town once the haunt of the British Royal family during the summer months.
Instead we will take the airport bus (euro 1.20) to the train station in Bayonne, Previously the capital of Aquitaine, the province owned by England for three hundred years from 1150.
I have booked our train tickets (euro 8.80) to St Jean Pied de Port on the 18.00 service that will get us to our destination in 90 minutes. I have great hopes for the train journey. The track seems to snake though lovely countryside, filed and forest as it snakes its way to the terminus at St J P de P.
Disappointment turned to joy in my efforts to find accommodation in St J P de P. The hotels recommended in the guide books were all quoting euro 50 – 60 per night which seemed a bit heavy.
Thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Google I found a marvelous hostel, house, home – Gite Ultre├»a – of Bernard and Fafa – an ancient four storey house in the middle of medieval town, on the cobbled Rue de la Citadelle. The UK Tripadvisor site was ecstatic about this hostel which opened only in the last year and has got rave reviews. We have tow rooms one of four and one of two beds,
The following morning we can make our way to the Pilgrims office and get our Credencial (passport) and to the tourist office to buy scallop shells, staffs, hats and other important objects.
As we have only 8km on day one (admittedly climbing 2,000 feet!) we have the time to explore St J P de P and its ancient houses of pink and grey schist. I am looking forward to viewing the two Gates – Port de Saint Jacques at the French side and the Port d'Espagne as we leave the town on our way up the mountain. The walk along river Nive is recommended. We can pop into the lovely Gothic church as we leave and light a candle for Haiti. For me it will be a time to consider the first query
Are you convinced of the reality of God and do you respond to His Spirit at work within you?
We might even espy the local rugby player Imanol Harinordoquy (not be spelt or even spoken when drunk) the towering back row forward for France.
Then off we go into the wide open spaces of the Pyrenees. John Brierley says that we should be able to get glimpses of the Griffon Vultures (wingspan 2.5m, I am glad I weigh a tidy 85kg) and other birds of prey, the Falcon, the Sparrow Hawk and the Kite. We should come across the wild ponies known as the Chamois and the Manech goats, famous for their cheese. Being May we should see wild flowers including orchids, violas, narcissus and the pale blue irises that will keep us company the whole stretch of the Camino.
By early afternoon we should have reached just over 2,000 feet and have sight of the Auberge d’Orisson which is run by Jean Jacques Etchandy. We are booked in at euro 30 per night which covers Dinner Bed and Breakfast (in stark contrast to some of the prices I encountered in St J P de P!!). There is an outside terrace and hopefully there will be no cloud – or at least we area above the cloud. Have a look at the lovely photos on the website
Sterner stuff lies ahead with the 17km walk to Roncesvalles (21km adjust for height) – but that is literally for another day.
Finally thanks to my friends in De La sale Churchtown for their support and to Michael and Vincent – every penny counts!

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