The adventure begins with the glorious task of cleaning up my house. I had arranged for some guests to stay at my house while I would be away. So, I spent quite a few hours cleaning and organizing things into the early hours of the morning. Finally I finished and it was time to leave. Well, leave for Houston. My flight left out of Houston so I had to drive three hours to get there. I arrived into Houston just in time for rush hour traffic. Yeehaw! I eventually made it to my mom's place where I was planning to leave my car. She was kind enough to take me to the airport.
From Houston I flew to Charlotte and from Charlotte I flew to Madrid.
Bienvenidos a Madrid... the airport.
I picked up my checked baggage. This bag contained my hiking poles and a lightweight camera tripod that I could not carry on the plane due to regulations.
I breezed through the immigration and customs services. Then I found this cafe inside the airport.
I had purchased a bus ticket from the ALSA bus company for my journey to the north of Spain. My flight had arrived at 7am, but my bus was not leaving until 10:45am. I had some time to wait. While I was waiting a Moldovan American girl sat down next to me and we began to talk. I always talk to strangers. I learned quite a bit about Moldova, the history, politics, economy and other tribal information. Maybe I’ll visit someday.
Eventually my bus arrived and we quickly departed.
It would be a full day of bus rides. I traveled from Madrid to Sonria to Pamplona to St Jean Pied de Port. There were just a few stops. I had to transfer in Sonria and Pamplona.
After some 48 hours of traveling I was a little tired. Here I am resting in the Pamplona bus terminal waiting for my last connection that would take me to the small town of St Jean Pied de Port in France.
I eventually arrived into SJPP at about 7:30pm. I quickly referenced google maps to look for this place. I walked about a half mile up the main street which was lined with cobblestones to find the official Camino de Santiago Pilgrims Office. It was here that I picked up some valuable information - a map, a list of Albergues (accommodations) and a scallop shell.
Although my journey started thousands of miles away at my home in Texas, this would be my first official sello (stamp) in my pilgrim's credentials.
After gathering the necessary info, I quickly scampered up the street to this place - the SJPP Municipal Albergue. It doesn’t sound or look glamorous by any means... and it is not.
However, inside this door is a welcome and warmth that you would not believe. It’s like walking into a family restaurant or a familiar bar or a fraternal order. There’s immediate understanding, acceptance and community.
The room is shared with others. The bathrooms are shared with others. The beds are metal bunk beds. Pretty basic accommodation, but really it is all that one needs - a roof to keep one dry and a pillow to lay one's head.
I was lucky enough to get the last bed available in the entire Albergue. It just so happens that it was at the end of the room and next to the window. I think that I had the best view of the city.
El Camino provides!
It was almost 9pm by the time I settled in and showered. Everyone else in the Albergue had already eaten and most were getting ready for bed. Pilgrims often start their day at 6am to begin walking.
An Italian guy was nice enough to share with me a tip about a little restaurant down the street that offered tasty meals at reasonable prices. He pointed down the road and held up three fungers. Number 3. It was really all the assistance that I needed. I walked down the street and found number 3. Inside was a wonderfully warm and welcoming French restaurant. I ordered the Pligrims meal which included three course - tomatoes and noodle soup, chicken with potatoes and salad.
And this slightly sweet and lightly tart pear dessert. The French really do know how to dine.
Full and content, with my meal, my travels and where I was at this moment, I walked back to my Albergue.