Day 0: In Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

After nine months of thinking about the movie “The Way” and four months of planning, we’re finally here in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France about to begin our own Camino tomorrow. I’ve seen so many pictures and videos of this historic little town that I’m getting a huge sense of déjà vu now that I’m actually here.

I thought that after the flights to Paris and Biarritz without much sleep, we’d be zombies by the time we made it here to SJPdP, but the adrenaline kicked in just in time and we managed to stop by the official Pilgrim’s Office, get checked in at the very comfortable Errecaldia Bed & Breakfast, and even have our first “pilgrim’s meals” (I had the regular one and Kathey had the vegetarian version — perfect!).

The Pilgrim’s Office said the higher Napolean route is closed at the moment because of a late snow, but we’d already planned to take the lower route tomorrow and stay the night in Valcarlos, so it’s not a problem for us. After breakfast in the morning, we’ll check out of this B&B, walk out the front door, and just keep walking.

I’ve had various little pains in both knees over the past few days, but I’m convinced that they’re just stupid random pains that won’t turn into real problems. All of our training has been great the past few months, and these pains come and go without any real reason for them, so I’m choosing to ignore them. That being said, I brought a knee brace just in case I need it for the first couple of days as we cross over the Pyrenees mountains. Then my knees just better get with the program and shut up.


Checking in at the Pilgrim’s Office. We got our scallop shells here, which will go on the back of our packs to show we’re peregrinos (pilgrims). :-)

Tomorrow we start following these route markers.

Off to bed!

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12 thoughts on “Day 0: In Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

  1. Wow! Amazing nail art Kathy :). the scenery looks lovely and provincial.
    Ignore the pain is a good mantra Russell :). What a wonderful journey! Can’t wait to see more pictures. Cx take care

  2. Have a great time and walk softly. :) Love the hair and nails.

  3. I’ll be following your blog!!! My husband leaves from SJPdP on May 25 so he’ll be a week behind you. Kathey – how are you liking your Osprey Jib 35? I have such a short torso (but long legs to make up for it ;-) that I have been considering having my local REI order in the Jib for me to try. Have enough capacity with the 35L?

    Buen Camino

  4. Hey guys, another first-rate travel blog. Looks like a great trip – crossing my fingers that knee holds out, Russell. You’ll need to be in top form to keep up with Kathey!

  5. The pictures loks really great! Just hoping you wont get the rain that our News showed! Take Care of your knees Russel!!

  6. Hi Susan,

    It’s very exciting to have a fellow Camino-enthusiast following our blog! :-)

    I love my backpack! I tried on all the XS designed-for-women backpacks I could find and none of them fit well. Then one night at REI I half-jokingly said that I sometimes buy kids shoes, maybe I should try a kid’s backpack. The salesperson looked a little skeptical but he went and got the Osprey Jib, adjusted the straps and proclaimed that it seemed to fit me perfectly, how did it feel? It felt great! And it has the same features and quality of the adult backpacks; it isn’t a flimsy toy.

    It’s definitely large enough for all my gear: sleeping bag, clothes, toiletries etc. The side mesh pockets aren’t practical for water bottles but I prefer using a hydration system anyway. There’s a special pocket that holds my Camelbak water bladder and a hole for the tube to fit through. I like the whimsical drawings on the red part of the backpack. There’s a whistle built into the chest strap which I thought was really cool until I realized that most, if not all, backpacks come with that feature these days. The inside of the backpack’s lid has a list of “Top essentials for your trip”. 1) map 2) compass/GPS etc. Number 9 is “Your parents and/or a good friend”. :-)

    Two minor negatives: it doesn’t have a zipper at the bottom to get to the item at the bottom of the backpack, I have to take everything else out. But I have all my gear in stuff-sacks so it’s not that big of a problem to pull them out and put them back in. The other thing is the zipper pull-tabs have a sandpaper-like coating. They’re good for gripping but the ones on the “hip pockets” rub my arm so I have to tuck the pull-tabs inside the pocket after zipping it closed. Not a big deal.

    Anyway, I think it’s definitely worth asking REI to order one for you to try. Happy hiking!

  7. Gorgeousness! I suppose if you get tired, the scenery more than makes up for it! I wonder not so much about your knees as about your lower backs…doesn’t carrying a loaded backpack for long distances really take a toll? How do you combat that?

  8. I am enjoying your blog -and wishing I could do this! I’ll settle happily for reading this and watching the videos and the movie. Good Adventuring to you both!

  9. Liz: yeah it can be hard on the back as well. I think the four months of training we did is really paying off though, because we’re doing pretty well — both our knees and our backs. It took a while during our training walks to know how to adjust everything on our packs but we’re pretty used to them now.

  10. Thanks so much for introducing all of this to us!! Trying to figure out a way for Doug and me to go!! Hum…….

  11. Thanks so much for this wonderful blog, so informative. My husband I are walking from St Jean to Pamplona starting next tuesday. We are both Irish pensioners and avid walkers . We are also taking the Valcarlos route and staying in the albergue in Valcarlos on Wednesday night and then on to Roncevalles next morning. I will be using your blog as an initial guide. Its as good if not better than any guidebook. We hope to do the next stage, probably for 2 weeks, from Pamplona next May or June.
    Thanks again.

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