3 months preparation and I was now ready to embark on my journey from London. I had searched the internet, camino forums and hiking shops for the lightest of everything – sleeping bag, clothes, toiletries, backpack, shoes, hiking poles etc and had packed and re-packed my bag about 5 times in the week leading up to today. It still weighed 9kgs without water. So be it.
The journey from London entailed travelling on the 07:01 Eurostar from St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord, then taking the metro across Paris to Montparnasse station, then the TGV from Montparnasse to Bayonne, and finally a train from Bayonne to St Jean Pied de Port, arriving at 19:33. I had 12 hours of travelling time to contemplate what I was about to start… I sewed my camino forum badge and part of my finger onto my backpack, I flipped through the guidebook, I ate French pastries and I thought about my reasons for doing the camino.
When I arrived in Bayonne, the train platform for the St Jean train was overcrowded and the station staff were asking for volunteers to take a bus instead; they insisted there was no possible way everyone could fit onto the two carriage train. They also said the bus would arrive in St Jean sooner, and after an already long day I volunteered for the bus. I met Hans, Chantal, Amy and Luisa while waiting for the bus and was happy to have met some friendly faces. The bus eventually arrived after the train had left but did bring us into St Jean a few minutes before the train arrived.
I went straight to Hotel Ramuntcho to drop off my bag and then walked around the corner to the pilgrim’s office and stood in the queue outside with many other pilgrims waiting to receive their pilgrim’s passport. I thought the pilgrim’s office would be closed when I arrived in St Jean – that’s why I had booked 2 nights at the hotel to allow time to go to the pilgrim’s office the following morning and then start walking the next day on the 2nd… It was only after speaking to the other pilgrims on the bus did I find out it would still be open when I arrived. It was quite emotional receiving the pilgrim’s passport, I had a tear in my eye when the lady who served me stamped my passport with the first stamp and said “Buen Camino.”
Now I had the passport I was having second thoughts about staying in St Jean for 2 nights, I felt like I had to start walking. I went for a stroll around the town, took some photos, then went for dinner and bumped into Luisa. We had a lovely dinner together, then went back to the pilgrim’s office to pick up a scallop shell (I had completely forgotten to get it the first time I was there), then we said goodbye. Everyone I had met today was starting the walk tomorrow. I needed to get back to the hotel and cancel my reservation for the 2nd night; I was starting my camino tomorrow!
Reading through ….. I’ll try not to like every post! Lol
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am doing the camino nxt yr april n whilst reseaching i found your page. full of info n tips i will surely use. i hv one question. i hv already bought my camino passport online, would i still need to visit the pilgim office since you mentioned they stamped your comino passport which i assume is a MUST in order to start the journey.
If you already have your your credential (pilgrim passport) then you don’t need to go to the pilgrim office in St Jean Pied de Port, however they do have lots of information and maps they can give you so I would recommend popping in if you’re there during their opening hours. If SJPP is your staring point, your first stamp could be your accommodation that night. Buen Camino!
I think I will do just that…I assume d maps r free? another question, wat did u do 4 money, did u bring a whole stack or wthdrw at atm. how much did u hv on u at any 1time n do thy accept credit card at the restaurant? cheers
Many of the small villages / hamlets that you’ll be passing through on the Camino won’t take cc so it’s worth carrying some Euros on you and stocking up in towns that have ATMs. If you’re staying in hotels then chances are they will take cc but albergues don’t.