After 30 hours or so of travel, we are today in St. Jean Pied de Port, a small French town at the foot of the Pyrenees. We spent the morning walking the cobbled streets – it was as quaint and as beautiful as you might expect.
Last night, though exhausted, we had a marvelous introduction to the Camino. We stayed in our first albergue, called Beilari. The hospitalero was an amazing man named Joseph. We arrived just as those staying at the albergue were having a communal meal (cooked by a delightful woman from San Francisco named Elizabeth) and introducing ourselves to each other. About twenty of us said just a bit about ourselves and why we were walking the Camino. The food was fabulous and plenty – served family style. We learned that only about 6 percent of those walking the Camino are from the U.S.. Around the table were people from Ireland, Canada, Australia, Denmark, France, Brazil and Argentina. We communicated with a mix of French, English, and Spanish – and lots of sign language and awkward smiles.
We slept in a room with 8 people in 4 sets of bunk beds. All was quiet by 10:30 p.m.. Showers were cold and quick in one shared bathroom space. Tight quarters but all were polite and kind.
I have a feeling the spirit of this place is unique and that Joseph seeks to make this a great beginning for all the peregrinos (pilgrims) who are walking. I felt so much better this morning, and though I wore earplugs last night – I am not sure I would have needed them. (I just asked Lena if anyone was snoring, and she wondered if it might have been me.)
Tomorrow we begin our hike with a fairly short day – about 8 kilometers (5 miles) – but seriously uphill. We won’t need to start too early, we are trying to be gentle with ourselves.
This morning I woke up about three in the morning, in the dark and quiet, and had an amazing feeling of relief and gratitude. This journey is finally underway.