Bayonne to St. Jean Pied de Port

April 16th, 2010

Well, I made it to Bayonne last night with minimal difficulties. The TGV train from Paris to Bordeaux was amazing. Fast, efficient and very comfortable. When I arrived in Bordeaux, I noticed there was another train leaving for Bayonne much earlier than my scheduled train. I thought about trying to change my ticket to the earlier train. Unfortunately, I am still deathly afraid to attempt speaking any French so I decided to just wait around and see if I could find Viviana and Kimberly.

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While at the train station, there was a protest going on outside. Apparently it was about wages for the SCNF workers union.

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I also noticed this guy who apparently was living off his bike, as evidenced by this picture:

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Well, I was out in the terminal as the 1530 train to Bayonne was leaving and lo and behold, I see a woman frantically waving at me from the train. It was Viviana, my internet friend from Toronto who I was planning to meet up with for the Camino. Her and her partner, Kimberly, are doing the Camino and we met on one of the Camino forums.

I finally made my train to Bayonne, only it was not a direct train as I originally thought. They have been doing a lot of work on the train tracks in this part of France, so I had to change from a train to a bus in Dax. My bus was an hour later than it was supposed to be on the ticket I bought. Oh well! The funny part is that my couch surfing host ran into Viviana and Kimberly at the train station and they told her what time I needed to be at the bus station the next morning.

My couch surfing hosts were wonderful. They fed me a delicious dinner. It was a salad with beets, tomatoes, tuna and corn. It was so good, I had seconds!

I spent the evening with them watching “Bones” in French and learning about Basque culture, including food I should try while on the Camino in Basque country.

I had to be at the train station early this morning to catch a bus, so I went to bed early and woke up early this morning. I am not really jet lagged anymore and have adjusted quite well to the time difference.

I made it to the train station and tried to buy a bus ticket (again, there is work being done on the train tracks, so they are running busses instead of trains) to Saint Jean Pied de Port. It was 8.60 Euros. The only problem was the prepaid Euro Mastercard I tried to use would not work in the machine. So, then I went to the cash machine to use that, but then I didn’t have enough Euro coins. So, then I went to the ticket counter and waited in line with everyone else, while watching the clock get closer to 0810, the time the bus was supposed to leave. Luckily, I got my ticket in time, made my way to the bus and put my backpack in the cargo hold and got on the bus. I was starting to get nervous that the Canadians might not make it and then two minutes before we left, there they appeared! I was so happy to see them! We chatted about our respective journeys so far and had a great time getting to know each other. It was about an hour and a half to St. Jean Pied de Port (SJPdP). The bus ride was beautiful and the scenery out here is AMAZING. I am sure you will hear me say this again and again, but it is really pretty here.

On arrival to SJPdP, we met another American from Oklahoma. He was a young guy, studying in France, on a break and getting ready to walk to Pamplona. He was planning to leave right after getting his Pilgrim Passport, so we all made our way to the Pilgrim Office for Passports. I was fortunate enough to have gotten mine before I left. The woman in the Pilgrim Office was very helpful and efficient.

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After our visit to the Pilgrim Office, we walked across the way to our hostel, L’Espirit du Chemin, to see if we could drop off our bags and check in. They were just finishing cleaning and allowed us to place our bags in our rooms. We then set out to wander around the town seeing the sights.

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I am really glad we had today to rest and relax before our big day tomorrow. We went to the Citadel, walked along the river, took lots of pictures and basically got to know one another better. We went into the local church and I lit a candle and said some prayers for our journey. It was a nice, old church. They even have Taize prayer services, but I couldn’t figure out when. After the visit to the church, we found a place to grab a sandwich. I had a three cheese Panini, which was basically a long baguette with three different cheeses, pressed in a Panini maker. It was delicious! I found a place with post cards and later tonight we plan to go buy food for tomorrow’s lunch and try some Basque hard cider. Apparently, it is a local drink and we are all looking forward to trying it.

Tomorrow, we hike over the Pyrenees. I am excited, scared, worried, and confident…..all at once!