Getting to the start of the route in southern France poses a problem for many pilgrims. It is easiest to approach from the French side of the Pyrenees, but usually cheaper to fly into the Spanish side, which is why I bought tickets in and out of Madrid. The logistical problem is how to get back in to France from Spain. The ideal solution was to get off in Paris but we didn´t want the airlines to charge us a fee or cancel our return flights. Turns out getting off in Paris was as easy as just asking. Thanks, Delta! We asked nicely,they obliged. No tears necessary.
Once in Paris, we planned to take an afternoon train from Paris to Bayonne from Charles Degaule Airport, but the only high-speed train left out of Paris at 11:10 pm. So Heidi and I had the entire afternoon in Paris where we visited Notre Dame, walked along the Seine, and had lunch at a park in the Marais district. Sometimes it pays to hold your plans loosely in your hand – you never now when something exceptional will drop in your lap, like a day in Paris, as one example.
We “slept” on the overnight train then got a connecting train to St. Jean Pied de Port at the base of the Pyrenees in the morning arriving in SJPP at 9:30 am. I had a great idea to send clothes ahead to Santiago so I´d have something clean to wear at the end of my journey when I meet a friend there. The postman helping me at the post office decided to put my clothes in another box. As he was removing my clothes, item by item, he came across my underwear, which completely nonplussed him and he completely forgot to put my shoes in the box. Okay, so that was a bit embarassing having the postman handle my underwear, but there you go. This whole sending-clothes-to-Santiago deal took one half hour. By this time we were running really late, so we hoofed it to the pilgrims office before we begin.
The town of SJPP is so flippin´cute. We could have stayed the night and started fresh in the morning. After sleeping on the plane, walking around Paris all day and sleeping on the train, we were tired. But, as will all new journeys, we were so eager to begin. The trail is steep and it takes 8 hours in the heat. Great…it was 11 am when we start. We decide to go for it because we´re so excited to start the journey. Due to heat, strenuouness and lack of water, Heidi got a bit overheated. We were not certain if she could continue for a while. In order to keep us going I decided to take the contents of her pack to lighten her load. It worked. I carried 30 lbs up to the pass, but felt super strong. It is funny that the post before this one is all about me trying to lighten my pack especially for days like this, but in the end I was strong enough to offer help to a friend in need some. We made it to the refugio by 7 pm (a full 8 hours), tired and ready for bed. Good start to the first day.
Having trouble finding free WiFi, so we´ll probably have to stick to Internet cafes. Will post again when I am able.
First day: 25.7 km