Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Getting Over The Pyrenees - Part 1

St. Jean Pied de Port was as lovely as I remembered - and now I was part of the Pilgrims! It gave the scenery a whole new meaning when Narcisse and Marie Helene dropped me off in the late morning and walked me up to the pilgrim´s office. Soon I was seated and got my briefing by a former American pilgrim who was spending her birthday volunteering at the office.
After I got my pilgrim´s passport and my first stamp I ventured on to find the location of my auberge, which I (well, Janicke in her perfect french)had reserved in advance. It was right on the camino route, but not open until 2 pm, so I wandered around St. Jean and took in the sights, found postcards, stamps and sat at a cafe to write them. I tried to find an internet cafe, but didn´t succeed.
At 2 PM I walked back to the auberge, and was met by the very friendly hostess, a former pilgrim, and she showed me up to the dorm on the 3rd floor of the very old building, full of atmosphere! I dropped off my backpack, and went downstairs to use the internet there - it was slow, but at least I could check my mails and start my blog.
It was a lovely, but cool afternoon, and I did my laundry at the laundry area, then hung them outside in the backyard under some old fruit trees. Because of the cool weather I moved them in at night, and was happy to find them dry the next morning. It was overcast, cool and soon a light rain fell, as I started on the path out of the village and up the mountain. I was happy to know that I had a bed secured some 8 km up the mountain at the auberge Orisson. It took me about 2 1/2 hours to reach the auberge, and I was pleased to see other pilgrims there, and especially to find the bunk rooms nice and clean, and split into female and male - it makes the dressing so much easier! I changed into dry clothes and washed my dirty clothes in the sink, and then tried the dryer - it did not work, so I hung them on the line outside, under the eve - not very hopeful that they would dry in the rainy weather!
Then I went down to the restaurant and had a warm soup, a glass of red wine, and settled in to a cozy afternoon writing, sketching and painting, as I watched other pilgrims coming and going, and felt very content to be part of this amazing experience of the Camino!
After a nap it was time for dinner, and we all soon were seated along the long tables and benches, chatting in many different languages. After a hearty dinner of soup, lamb, basque bean stew and a wonderful basque cake, lots of red wine and water, we were asked to introduce ourselves in whatever language we spoke, and under much laughter and cameraderie we got to know a bit about each other! In the coming days I found that we had formed a certain bond by sharing this evening, and we looked out for each other whenever we met again along the route.

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