Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pilgrimage Day 0: Sandefjord - St.Jean Pied de Port

The pilgrimage is for real. With my backpack, I entered the plane at Sandefjord Airport, Torp, and left for Gatwick airport in London. From there I took a new plain to Biarritz in France. The airport here is called the Aerodrome Biarritz - Anglet Bayonne. The view from the plane of Biarritz made me to want to visit this tourist town on another occasion. Its location by the sea is so incredibly charming. I rushed out of the plane and since I did not have any luggage to retrieve, I was first to the taxi queue. I was headed for the train station in Bayonne. I could have taken the bus and saved a lot of money, but was I was in a hurry and wanted to get started with the journey as quickly as possible. It cost me 30 euros to get to the train station. There, I ordered tickets to St.Jean Pied de Port, which did not leave before another 6 hours. Restless as I was, I went across the river Nive or Adour (these two rivers meet in Bayonne) and spent time walking around downtown.

It turned out that this was a stunningly beautiful city to walk around in. The city, which I learned that "bayonet" has its name from, has about 40,000 inhabitants and has many historical places to visit. I took the opportunity to buy a nail scissor, a nail file and bandages, while I constantly looked at the clock that went much too slow for me just then. The pilgramage had to start soon.Later in the afternoon, I could finally enter a beautiful little train that would carry me to the journey's starting point, St. Jean Pied de Port. The train went along at 50 km per hour, along the river Nive through the French Basque Country. I saw several people who looked like me on the train. Restless people with a backpack and hiking boots. Some had a walking rod with them and other hiking poles. What would they be good for? Only wimps use hiking poles, hihi, I would be able to do without such aids. We sat on the train for several hours looking at each other and out the window at the beautiful French countryside. School children came on and went off the train along the way, and made the trip enjoyable with both singing and playing.

Later in the evening, I arrived at St.Jean Pied de Port. At last! I liked this place as soon as I got off the train and walked with a backpack into the town. My first goal was to try to find a registration office for pilgrims and get my pilgrim passport. This is a document that confirms me as a pilgrim on the journey and must be stamped along the way of approved accommodations. Then I found a hostel for pilgrims.

Here I met a man from Canada and a mother and daughter from Sweden. The man from Canada was actually in search of French relatives in the area, but would take the opportunity to visit pilgimroad when he was here. The two Swedish women had the same plans as I did, but was not sure if they were able to walk 800 km in the three weeks they had available. If they ran out of time, they would take the bus a long distance to reach their goal. The man from Canada asked us where we were from. I came from Norway, I said, and the two women said they came from Sweden. Then you have also traveled a long way already said the Canadian. I was taken by surpize a bit. Had my journey already started? My plan was that it would begin tomorrow. This is day 0 and it seems that I've traveled on my pilgrimage for a whole day without knowing it. The journey began when I left home. I had already traveled far. With these philosophical fragments I found a tavern where there was dinner for pilgrims at a reduced price. Wow, what kind of service is this?

I paid 8 euros for food with a bottle of wine and a carafe of water. A large portion of bayonne ham (of course, I was still in the Bayonne area), French fries, salad and bread. I learned that there is a tradition along the Camino Frances (the French route) that the pilgrim are offered reduced prices for both food and accommodation along the whole route at certain taverans and hostels. It has been like this for hundreds of years. I leaned back in my chair and began to find peace and understand that my pilgrimage had begun before I was aware of it.

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