Day 1: From St. Jean

We took the overnight train from Paris to Bayonne. Six folks packed in a little cochette. It was actually not that bad…tight spaces but they gave us water and ear plugs. We were woken at six to watch the French countryside slowly roll by.

We arrived at Bayonne for a cappucino and croissant before boarding the one car train to St. Jean-Pied-du-Port. We saw other pilgrims…some we could tell were returnees with their small packs and scallop shells, others were newbies like us.

St. Jean-Pied-du-Port is the most charming little town. Bustling with activity, shops lined the cobblestone streets. We arrived at the pilgrim’s headquarters and were given our official pilgrim passports. We also received our scallop shells, the symbol of pilgrims along the Camino.

St. Jean-Pied-de-Port

After a light breakfast/lunch of Croque Monsieurs and sandwich jambon serrano, off we went.


We began at 11:11 in 2011. Weather was on our side. Starting so late is usually not ideal because it gets too hot. However, the weather was cool with a light breeze and overcast. A perfect way for a “light” first day walk to get us started.

Croque Monsieur

Except this “light” 10k first walk was straight uphill into the Pyrenees. If it wasn’t for the stunning views or the sights of falcon circling alongside (that is how high up we were), we may have passed out on the way.

Just as we thought our path was going to take us into the heavens, the Auberge Orrison welcomed us. Clean, simple with 5 minute hot showers and a homecooked meal.


We shared a room with three pilgrims: one Frenchman who had three days to walk and aimed to get to Roncesvalles before his sixtieth birthday. A former army general, his daughter’s professional sailing was a sure connection with the German who has been walking for three months, having started in Munich. He has had multiple colorful careers and hit it off with the German-born Dutchman who has been working on the African Continent.



We lucked out; they were delightful and friendly. Our first pilgrim dinner at the wonderful Refuge Orrison was a 20-person family meal starting a much-needed hot vegetable broth with the perfect kick. As it was freezing and rainy, the broth hit the spot. This was followed by some sliced pork and a fantastic bean cassoulet (delicious, but beans in a tight room…could have been dangerous). Some bread followed by dessert: torta de Santiago, a warm almond cake. Of course, the red wine flowed, as did the conversations.


The evening ended early…we retreated to our rooms, joked some, and tried to read. Kat and Z have their beloved Kindles, and Belinda has her Samsung Galaxy Tablet…before you know it, we were out before 9:30…and no loud snorers.

A good night.