10 July 2015
Yesterday as we predicted Alan walked into St Jean to find a place to eat and to have an initial look around town. The very first thing he did was to go into the Eglise Notre Dame du Bout du Pont, which is the largest Gothic building in the Basque Country next to the cathedral in Bayonne. Here he said prayers for a safe Camino, for his family and for some friends that are poorly and sorely in need of God's help. This act alone he felt made us true pilgrims at last.
Then he wandered around town, stopped at bar for a beer and wrote in his diary, walked on looking at the sights until could sit in a restaurant and order a meal.
It was while walking around town that he bumped into the Frenchman. They stopped to chat a bit and then parted. In the restaurant after another beer Alan ordered the pilgrim's menu. This consisted of soup, chicken and chips and a crepe all to be washed down with 25cls of red wine and 50cls of water.
As he was eating the hot, filling and tasty vegetable soup the Frenchman reappeared, so Alan suggested he join him.
His name, now introductions seemed in order, was Jacques, he was retired and came from Strasburg. Imagine if you will an Englishman with very poor schoolboy French and a Frenchman with very poor schoolboy English and you have an idea of how the conversation went. Jacques ordered the same meal, but drank cider instead. After the meal the men went their separate ways.
This morning we all overslept, but as we were not going anywhere it didn't really matter. Breakfast was very French and we shared a table with a French couple. Large cups of coffee served with croissants which one dipped into the coffee.
After breakfast we walked into town to get our pilgrims' pass stamped, which you see above, so now it's official that we are on the Camino.
The route tomorrow follows Napoleon's route into Spain and is thus called the French Way.
Our route is the red one on the left above and the profile of what we have to climb is as shown!! We are only going as far as Orisson tomorrow which is some 10 kilometres from our pension, but we have to climb some 2100 feet to get there. The highest point on this first stage is quite a bit higher than Snowdon! But even then it is not the highest point on the route to Santiago.
This you can see from the sketch above is over 1400 metres or 4200 feet! This is also where the Cruz de Ferro is, the iron cross where pilgrims leave the stones they carry. But more on that when we get there.
Alan is off out again to find a place to eat and to buy some victuals for the journey.