Working out some practicalities
Now here is something that I never considered. So I’ve got the day pack on my back and it feels too awkward to remove it to visit the bathroom at the airport; so there I am sitting in contemplation with it still on my back.
Hmmmm…..took a bit of wriggling to ensure that I didn’t actually miss the bowl. Note to self: take the rucksack off!
Negotiating public transport
At Biarritz Airport, it couldn’t be easier to work out how to get to St Jean. The Number 14 bus takes you straight to Bayonne Gare (station) in about 40 minutes for only 1€. There were other peregrinos on the bus too, working their way to Le Puy to start their journey. The journey was buzzing with excitement and anticipation; peregrinos were working their way through their plans and timetables, hoping not to miss connections to buses and trains.
At Bayonne Gare, we bought our tickets for the train journey to St Jean Pied de Port. (cost about 10€). To all intents and purposes, we looked like we were getting a train; we had to validate our ticket in the yellow machine but instead of going onto the train platform, we turned to the bus park.
Yes, the train was to be a bus thanks to works on the line; this is such a familiar story to UK travellers but the Americans we met were a little confused by this idea that the train was in fact a bus! It took about 1 1/2 hours to get to St Jean, tipping us out at the railway station that is at the bottom of the hill!
Wrong footwear, tight jeans, unused to carrying a heavy rucksack (and mine, only the day pack!), the humid afternoon and getting up at 3 am – none of this put me in great humour!
But in the town, we met some Norwegians were trying to negotiate their maps and find out where to buy their Credencials. We had bought another really useful book of maps that showed exactly where they were to be found and we were more than happy to help – they can be purchased for 2€ at the Maison des Eveques in Rue de Citadelle, in the old part of the town. The establishment run by Amie de Chemin was up a street that, in my state of tiredness, felt very steep.
And it was closed when we got there, 5 minutes before the published closing time of 13.00 hours!
But lunch beckoned and we found an authentic looking restaurant just inside the Rue de France.
I wanted this journey to be a reflective, cathartic experience. And 5 minutes after eating my first mouthful of assiette vegetarienne, part of the pilgrim menu at only 7€, cathartic it was. Vomiting is not a great experience in a restaurant that only has one bathroom for everyone! I could hear people waiting outside whilst I gave up everything I had eaten that day!
After traipsing around the Citadelle, (steep up and down but definitely worth a visit for the views it affords over St Jean), obtaining our Credencials and of course, buying the obligatory cockle shells for the packs, we slept, ate, slept some more and headed finally to bed again by 21.00 hours. It was two years since I had first imagined taking this trip and I think I was learning its first lesson: slow down!
Hotel des Remparts was our hotel for the night; 70€ (approx.) with breakfast booked on http://bookings.com. A bit expensive but clean and comfortable and it had a hairdryer! Might be the last one I see for a while!