Camino de Santiago Blog: Day 1, St. Jean Pied de Port
Today Sarah and I begin our four week or so walk across the Pyrenees and northern Spain along the fabled Camino de Santiago (sometimes mistakenly called Camino del Santiago). I am traveling very light, with only an iPad and smartphone to take pictures and write with, but I am going to attempt to do a short daily update. Please excuse any mistakes and formatting errors as this is kind of an experiment and I am not sure how much patience I will have working with tools not really designed for the job.
Sarah and I arrived late in the afternoon in St. Jean Pied de Port, France from London via Biarritz. A little chilly with some sun and lots of clouds, but the beautiful drive through the French countryside in full Spring bloom lifted us up in anticipation of the weeks to come. Luckily, even after the long run on Sunday, we were both feeling fit and not even a little sore from all the effort.
Sarah and I have set aside 28 days to walk from St Jean Pied de Port, through the Pyrenees, then onward, 850 kilometres or so to Santiago de Compostela along what is known at the Way of Saint James or the Camino de Santiago. The walk began as a pilgrimage to see the relics of the Apostle James after his grave was discovered in Spain in AD800. Since then, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, and others just looking for an excuse to take a nice walk, have trekked across northern Spain to Santiago, making the Camino the most famous pilgrimage in the world.
St. Jean Pied de Port, one of the traditional starting points of the Camino, is a charming medieval French/Basque village at the foot of the Pyrenees complete with city walls narrow cobblestoned streets and quiet sidewalk cafes. After checking in to Maison Ziberoa, a little B&B near the center of town, we left to wander the streets and pick up our Camino de Santiago “passports” at the Pilgrim Office below the citadel, just inside the city walls.
We hadn’t eaten a proper meal all day so we picked, pretty much at random, one of the many restaurants near the river in mid-town. Using what is left of my already pretty pathetic French language skills I confidently ordered “Ris al’ Agneau” from the list of daily specials and Sarah ordered the “Poulet Basquaise” from the menu. After about 20 minutes (and half a carafe of wine later) a beautiful quarter chicken cooked with chorizo, bell peppers, tomatoes, olives, onions and rice arrived for Sarah. I on the other hand, expecting lamb and rice, was brought lamb sweetbreads (pancreas), sautéed in olive oil, pimento, green bell, onion and garlic. The aroma was more intoxicating than the wine, but was it a mistake? No, it was delicious! I never would have ordered it on purpose, but I will happily order it again.