Thursday, March 21, 2013

Day 0: St Jean Pied de Port

Today is a full day of travel.  I wake up at 6 am and after 11 and a half hours and 3 train changes, I arrive at 7:40 pm in St Jean Pied de Port on the last local train from Bayonne.

In the train are fellow pilgrims, as I can deduce from their gear, and a big group of young boys and girls aged 10 to 12 years from Pamplona.  I talk a bit with them. They had stayed in Bayonne for 3 days to learn the Basque language, called Euskera. They say it is an old language from their province of Navarra.

On the train from Bayonne to St Jean --
a boisterous group of young boys from Pamplona
From the train station I follow a person who seems to know where he's going and I am right. He leads me directly to the Pilgrim Office and I am second in line to get a pilgrim passport for 2 euros and a booking for a bed at the municipal hostel, for 8 euros.

At the Pilgrim Office, they tell us pilgrims that the Route Napoleon leading over the Pyrenees is closed as there is too much snow.  The man at the office indicates about thigh-high and mentions something about 4 South Korean pilgrims being rescued and airlifted from there. He then points out in a map the alternate route we must follow going through Valcarlos.  I am a bit disappointed as I was looking forward to this scenic route crossing, but I know they know what they're saying.

I run down to the hostel, leave my pack on my assigned bed and run out again to grab a bite to eat as it is getting late. I have my first pilgrim meal of the trip for 11 euros, after which I go directly back to the hostel as it locks down at 10 pm. I shower then climb up to my top bunk in a room with about 25 other people.

My first pilgrim meal -- this is just the 1st Plate (of 2)

I could hardly sleep even with the recommended ear plugs on.  A cacophony of night sounds, snores, breathing, movements ensues-- to which I probably added my own.  I am guessing I need to get used to this.  My stomach is too full from my late dinner and my body tries mightily to digest all that food.  Plus it gets too warm in the room and soon I am sweating in my sleeping bag and thermals.

St. Jean-de-Port at night

St. Jean-Pied-de-Port Arch

St. Jean-Pied-de-Port bridge


  1. Where'd you stay? tony the virtual pilgrim following in your footsteps. lol

  2. Hi Tony, I stayed at the Refuge Municipal of Saint Jean Pied-de-Port at 55, Rue de la Citadelle ( It was quite comfortable with bed and a nice breakfast for 8 euros. The hostel is also very close to the Pilgrim Office (located at 39, Rue de la Citadelle) where you can get your pilgrim passport that allows you to stay at pilgrim hostels along the Way.

  3. I'm just starting to read your blog and it's gonna make me late for work! :) We are just now planning a week long trip and I'm trying to work out mileage (looking to do around 65-80miles) and on the cheap as I'm a student :) This is a great read! Thanks!

  4. Hi Kelly, thanks for reading my blog! Hope it helps you in your planning. 65-80 miles makes about 100 to 130 kms. Some people have set aside a week or 2 to walk on different portions of the Camino. I am assuming you want to end in Santiago de Compostela. In this case, you can start in Sarria, about 100 kms/65 miles or about 5 days from Santiago. This is the usual starting point of pilgrims who would like to obtain the Compostela certificate (as you need to walk at least 100 kms for this). Alternatively, you could start from Samos, around 130 kms/85 miles from Santiago, adding an extra day. If you plan to do the Camino in stages, you can begin the first part from St Jean Pied-de-Port and end in Pamplona (about 70 kms, 3 days) or end in Logrono (about 160 kms, 7 days). Then on another occasion, come back and finish the rest of the Camino. You can get by on the cheap by staying at the pilgrim municipal albergues. Some are donativos (meaning you give a donation) and others cost from a minimum of 5 euros to a maximum of 15 euros/day (for the private hostels). Most will have kitchens where you can cook, which can bring your food costs down lower. You can buy bread and some meats/cheeses for lunch along the way, and having a pilgrim meal once in a while would cost about 8 to 12 euros. Good luck and Buen Camino!!!

  5. Ah thanks for your reply! We have officially booked most our travel!from July 30! What a pain that is! So we are doing St. Jean to Logrono and will come back some other time to do the rest. Your tips are quite helpful and we are using your stopping points as a guide. I'm so excited...I want to leave now hahaha!

    1. Great! I am sure you will have a wonderful experience! Just in case you're planning on bringing a smartphone, I am writing an app for the Camino for the Android system, something I would have wanted to have. I hope to finish it soon, and will post when it's done. Not too long now till your trip. Buen Camino!

  6. hello gaya! I am back from the camino! thanks again for your tips, they were really practical and useful! I have enjoyed every moment of the camino, but now, I have to slowly get back to reality.. But I must say that you were really awesome, being able to walk 30-40km almost daily..I did that only few days towards the end of the camino..
    Thanks again! Cheers!!

    1. Hi Yeepeng! Welcome back from your Camino and happy to hear that you enjoyed so much! So glad that my blog tips were of some help. Yes, getting back into everyday life after the euphoria of a Camino experience is somehow not so easy, but the lessons and warm memories surely live on. Till next... :-)