Dear Christine and Renee.

It was a good day to travel. The taxi from our hotel in Biarritz was on time to the minute and delivered us flawlessly to the railway station in nearby Bayonne. The train was in the station early as it was the origination point for our destination, Saint Jean Pied-de-Port. We had the luxury of 1st choice adjoining seats and relaxed as the small 2 car train filled to capacity, mostly with Camino bound passengers.

A young gentleman wearing sandals, shorts, and a loose-fit tee-shirt boarded shortly after us, definitely not a pilgrim. To our surprise he was the engineer!

We departed on time for our picturesque 1 hour transit up and into the Pyrenees Mountains. There were a few whistle stops and at least a score of tunnels which must have been cut over 100 years ago. We seemed to reach back in time as we drew closer to SJPdP.

A medieval bridge
Nearing our destination
The station at SJPdP

Very little has changed in this medieval village since I was last here 11 years ago. That is really no surprise since most of the buildings on the narrow cobblestone street where we are staying date to the 1600’s and 1700’s.

One of the village gates.
Near our Pension
In the distance the bridge to the Camino

One proudly displays a stone above the door declaring it was once St. Francis Xavier’s ancestral home.

The church just down the street, Notre Dame du Bout du Pont, sits just inside of the fortress wall that once encircled the village and dates to the 1300’s. We hope to attend Mass there tomorrow.

We stopped at the Pilgrim Office to register and were told that it is fortunate we are not starting our Camino tomorrow (Sunday) as a major storm is predicted. Monday is our departure day and the weather forecast is excellent. More good luck.

In 2013 I bought a beret, wearing it in the evenings on the Camino. Today I was again tempted at the sight of an upscale shop featuring this traditional French and Basque headwear. The shopkeeper did the fitting for both of us. He explained that his excellent English derived from his time living in Miami where in his youth he was a professional Jai Alai player.

Does the hat make the man?

One language “disconnect”: We stopped at a small bar for tapas and mineral water. Somehow the proprietor misunderstood my request. Britton turned to me and said, “Grandpa, that doesn’t look like water.” I awoke from my daydreaming stupor unable to stop the gentleman. I stared at two large beers he had poured for us. I drank one and left the other to the unknown.

In the States distillers call what disappears from the whiskey barrels over time the “Angel’s Share”. Maybe some “Camino Angel” (not named Britton) drank the second beer.

Love to both of you. Peace, Dad

Written at Saint Jean PdP, June 8, 2024.

PS. Yes, there was food…

10 thoughts on “Train-ing to Saint Jean Pied-de-Port

  1. Let the adventure begin. Looking at that plate of food, you had better start walking before you gain weight. Beautiful pictures, as always, thanks for taking me along.
    Be safe old friend.

    • Thank you so much, Bill. I actually have had a little difficulty finding my appetite so far. I’ve lost 15 pounds in the last 2 months. It was intentionally to be prepared for this walk.

  2. Did you EAT all that? Wow! Yes, thanks for “taking us along”! Great pics and descriptions! May you definitely have great weather! Onward!

  3. Let me begin by saying – EVERYTHING is better with bacon!! If you do NOTHING else – if you only make it to Burgos… or Leon – or anywhere in between … you are sporting the height of fashion, your crowns have been crowned, you have completed your traveling suit in the best way possible – a Basque Beret! (insert French kiss). Dare I say?? I bet it would be Pauline approved! (insert heart emoji). Well played Pete!! No matter how many times I see the pictures of SJPdP … I smile and wish I were there again!

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