- Arrival day: Eurostar from London to Paris, then the TGV from Paris to Hendaye and a short walk across the bridge to Irun in Spain
- Accommodation: Albergue de Peregrinos de Irun, € donation
Thursday 5th September, 2019
I’ve spent all day packing my bike panniers and making sure I have everything for a two month loop of the UK, leaving in two days’ time, on Saturday. The only thing left to buy is a decent lock because the one I had for Japan (a thin cable combination lock) isn’t good enough for anywhere other than Japan! I’m nervous about this trip for two reasons: the weather and I’m worried my bike will get stolen.
Friday 6th September, 2019
I wake up to two emails about my blog. One asks if I’ve been on a camino recently and they both end with ‘Buen Camino.’ This gets me thinking… I haven’t walked a Camino since researching the Portuguese guidebook. And then suddenly I remember the Camino del Norte* and everyone I ever met who had walked it, saying that September is a great time of year.
*Camino del Norte – an 840km walk from Irun to Santiago de Compostela along the northern coast of Spain, passing through the regions of the Basque country, Cantabria and Asturias before arriving in Galicia.
I do a quick search of the weather forecast in some of the key cities along the Camino – San Sebastián, Bilbao, Santander, Santiago and they all show sunshine and warm temperatures (~25 degrees celsius). I compare this with some of the key cities along the loop of the UK that I had been planning – Bath, Manchester, Inverness etc and they all show long-range forecasts of rain and cool temperatures (~15 degrees celsius). The idea has been planted and I’m quickly warming to it. Ok, can I get there tomorrow, the same day I was planning to start cycling? Yes, I can get a free Eurostar ticket with points (thank you Howard), and the TGV is available for €93. (I offset this believing that walking the Camino across Spain and staying in albergues will be cheaper than cycling around the UK and camping). Decision made, I leave to walk the Camino del Norte tomorrow morning.
I book the train tickets then empty my panniers, grab my hiking poles and pack my backpack. Have I made the right decision? Only time will tell…
Saturday 7th September, 2019
It’s an early morning start as I’m getting the first Eurostar from London at 06:18, arriving into Paris at 09:47. Except that the first train is delayed leaving London by half an hour… I’m excited/nervous so I can’t sleep on the train and instead watch the passing scenery. My plan when I arrive in Paris is to walk the 6km between the Eurostar and TGV stations (Gare du Nord and Montparnasse) for two reasons, as a warm-up walk and to see if I can spot any Space Invader street art which I love. (I have the app and you get points when you spot new invaders)…
Alas, because the Eurostar is delayed by 30 minutes, I now only have 1.5 hours to walk the 6km and make the connection, which would be fine if I didn’t keep finding invaders and stopping constantly to collect the points on the app! Seven invaders later, I’m practically running to Montparnasse with my overloaded backpack (the tripod I’m carrying will be sent home at the first chance) and a hot spot is already developing on my left foot! Well done Kat, great idea! I arrive at Montparnasse with seven minutes to spare, just long enough to buy a baguette for the 5 hour journey (11:47-16:35), but not long enough to withdraw any euro, oops.
Arriving in Hendaye in France, it’s a 3km walk across the border into Irun in Spain. I’m expecting to see arrows around the train station, but never find any. I do however, pick them up on the Spanish side, and can follow them all the way to the municipal albergue.
I have no idea, arriving after 5pm, whether I’ll get a bed at the albergue or not. Worst case scenario, I’ll stay in a pension. I join a long queue of people waiting to check in. It’s a slow queue, but when I finally make it to the desk, the welcome is very warm and the news that there are still beds left is a relief. It’s a big and beautiful, clean albergue, run on donations, and I’m glad to be here. Now for a quick dinner before an early night and the beginning of the Camino del Norte tomorrow.