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Trekcapri’s Camino de Santiago – St. Jean Pied de Port – My Arrival

ONE NIGHT IN PARIS
The Eiffel Tower in Paris.
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Train Station Paris
Taking the Train from Paris to Bayonne
Waiting for my Train
Paris to Bayonne
Bayonne Train Station
Boarding the train to SJPDP
Train to SJPDP
The train is filled with eager Pilgrims.
SJPDP Train Station
The train station is small and so is this town.
Where to go?
Pilgrims trying to figure out where to go.
View of SJPDP
The town of SJPDP is charming and beautiful. Doesn't the mountains look intimidatingly big!
Main Drag in SJPDP
The main street in the old part of town is cobble stoned and steep. Cute shops line the main drag.
Arch way
River View
I remember this scene from the movie "The Way". It was exciting seeing it in person.
River View
The other side of the river view. Just as beautiful.
Pilgrims Office
Pilgrims lining up to get their Pilgrims Credencials
Pilgrims Office
Pilgrims getting their credencials from staff and volunteers at the SJPDP Pilgrims Office
My First Stamp
A friendly volunteer stamps my Pilgrims Credential-Now I'm on my way
ONE NIGHT IN PARIS
The Eiffel Tower in Paris.
ONE NIGHT IN PARIS
The Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Train Station Paris
Taking the Train from Paris to Bayonne
Train Station Paris
Taking the Train from Paris to Bayo...
Waiting for my Train
Paris to Bayonne
Waiting for my Train
Paris to Bayonne
Bayonne Train Station
Boarding the train to SJPDP
Bayonne Train Station
Boarding the train to SJPDP
Train to SJPDP
The train is filled with eager Pilgrims.
Train to SJPDP
The train is filled with eager Pilg...
SJPDP Train Station
The train station is small and so is this town.
SJPDP Train Station
The train station is small and so i...
Where to go?
Pilgrims trying to figure out where to go.
Where to go?
Pilgrims trying to figure out where...
View of SJPDP
The town of SJPDP is charming and beautiful. Doesn't the mountains look intimidatingly big!
View of SJPDP
The town of SJPDP is charming and b...
Main Drag in SJPDP
The main street in the old part of town is cobble stoned and steep. Cute shops line the main drag.
Main Drag in SJPDP
The main street in the old part of ...
Arch way
Arch way
River View
I remember this scene from the movie "The Way". It was exciting seeing it in person.
River View
I remember this scene from the movi...
River View
The other side of the river view. Just as beautiful.
River View
The other side of the river view. J...
Pilgrims Office
Pilgrims lining up to get their Pilgrims Credencials
Pilgrims Office
Pilgrims lining up to get their Pil...
Pilgrims Office
Pilgrims getting their credencials from staff and volunteers at the SJPDP Pilgrims Office
Pilgrims Office
Pilgrims getting their credencials ...
My First Stamp
A friendly volunteer stamps my Pilgrims Credential-Now I'm on my way
My First Stamp
A friendly volunteer stamps my Pilg...
It was a storybook start to fulfill a dream of mine to walk the Camino de Santiago. I flew into Paris where I stayed for one night before taking a train to the small picturesque French town of St. Jean Pied de Port which is the start of the Camino Frances route and my journey to Santiago de Compostela.
Even the sight of watching the Eiffel Tower twinkle in Paris could not compare to the excitement I was feeling of finally starting my Camino journey.  It was a dream in the making for nearly 3 years.
The train ride from Paris to Bayonne was quite pleasant and it gave me some quiet time to contemplate  the journey that I was about to embark on.
On the train, I sat across from a lady who was on Holiday with her family to Bourdeux, France.  She told me that she walked part of the Camino two years ago. She stopped in Pamplona because she fell and broke her wrist.  She still intends to walk the Camino and finish what she started. Another pilgrim, Laurie, who was sitting two rows up overheard our conversation and chatted with us for a while. She’s from Canada and was doing the Camino solo as I was.
Truth be told, I have not been able to have a restful night’s sleep for the past week as I was very nervous about the first stage crossing over the Pyrenees (via the more difficult Napoleon Route) into Spain.  Will I be able to do it?  This is a question I was nervous about and anxious to know the answer to.  Unsure of how I would actually do on this first difficult stage on the Camino, I took out an insurance policy which included “emergency helicopter evacuation” services.
Another pilgrim, Laurie, who was sitting two rows up overheard our conversation and chatted with us for a while. She’s from Canada and was doing the Camino solo as I was. The casual meeting of pilgrims was one of the things that appealed to me about the Camino, because it was amazing how many people from all walks of life and places had the same summoning to walk the Camino de Santiago.
The train arrived in Bayonne and we had to transfer to another smaller train which will take us to St. Jean Pied de Port.  Here is where I saw much more pilgrims also catching the train to SJPDP.  In fact, the train was rather full.
The town of SJPDP is very small and you can literally walk from the station to the main part of town.  There is a hill and so overpacked me struggled to get up to town.  I got a little lost and this fellow pilgrim from Ireland took my heavy bag and carried it up the last part of the hill into the main part of town. He was really nice. I soon found out that my hotel was back down that little hill my good Samaritan just carried my bag up. Thankfully, he wasn’t around to watch me going back down the hill where my hotel was located just outside of the walls.  As soon as I checked into my wonderful hotel, I went looking for this luggage transport office to send my excess stuff on to Santiago. I had heard of the service from other pilgrims waiting with large suitcases at the Bayonne train station.  While on my way to find this office, I was window shopping and Laurie from the train ride recognized me.  She told me that the office was closing shortly and that I should go now before they closed.  I soon find the office and this is where I first noticed my Camino buddies, Jerry and Sharon, who were also transporting their luggage on to Santiago de Compostela.  I actually noticed them on the train ride too, but never spoke to them.  We exchanged smiles at the transport office but still didn’t really talk. I just noticed that they seemed to be very friendly.  Who knew that our Camino paths would cross like this throughout our Caminos and that they would be there in Santiago to greet and help me to celebrate my arrival. They are so sweet.
After arranging for my luggage to be transported on to Santiago de Compostela and my main pack to be transported to Refugio Orisson and after Roncesvalles, I had dinner with Laurie and another pilgrim I’ll call John (as I forgot his name).  We found a nice restaurant and enjoyed a delicious dinner, some Vino Tinto, a yummy dessert and wonderful deep conversations. I sometimes wonder how their Caminos went.  I’m sure it was wonderful.  They were starting their caminos the next day, but I booked an extra day in SJPDP so I can explore.  If your time permits, I would highly recommend spending an extra day in SJPDP because it is a beautiful little town and I was able to wait until the next morning to pick up my Pilgrims Credential (avoiding long lines).  The Pilgrims Credencial is required to not only receive your Compostela (Certificate of Completion), but it is also needed if you plan on staying in municipal albergues.  All you need is to complete the last 100 km before Santiago to receive a Compostela, but collecting stamps (Sellos) along the way from where you first started is a wonderful souvenir to have and a reminder of your journey. I filled up one and used one panel on a second credential I brought along just in case I needed it.
The staff and volunteers at the Pilgrims Office in SJPDP are so nice and helpful. They spend time with you to go over the routes and elevation.  They provide you with documents showing the elevation and distances between town and a list of Albergues with their contact information.  The guy that helped me was so sweet and he even posed for me while I recorded the moment.
Laurie and John had to return to their albergues as they had a 10:00 pm curfew.  Curfew are very common when staying in certain albergues.  They also require pilgrims to leave in the mornings before a certain time (usually 8:00 am) so they may clean and prepare for the next round of pilgrims.  I had no curfew since I was staying in a hotel, but I still wanted to turn in early and get some rest after a long tiring travel day.
I walked back down the hill to my hotel where I worked on reorganizing and repacking my pack before turning in to bed.   The next day I was able to visit the Pilgrims office to get my Pilgrims Credencial which was very exciting.  I also managed to do a bit of sightseeing before turning in early to rest up for my walk up to Refugion Orisson and the official start of my Camino de Santiago.
Here’s a quick video of my arrival in St. Jean Pied de Port.