The starting point for the Camino Frances. A pretty village in the Pyrenees foothills which still retains a lot of its medieval character.
Controlling the access to the passes at this end of the Pyrenees it has always been an important waypoint and is well fortified. The old part of the town is still completely surrounded by its ramparts with only 5 gates into the town. And the hill above the town holds a massive citadel.
The Romans, Charlemagne, and Napoleon came this way and the stage over the peaks is called the Route de Napoléon. A lovely little town; all cobblestones and old sandstone houses topped with half timbered upper floors. The stone lintels above the old wooden doors are carved with the names of those who lived in the houses in the sixteen and seventeen hundreds. Even the hotel that Raw Travel arranged for me is over 300 years old with the original thick plank wood staircases.
Met some lovely new friends, Roger and Lillian, on the way up from Bayonne yesterday and we had a nice dinner (the set Pilgrim’s menu of the day, of course) together last night. They are a day ahead of me, having left this morning. There is a real sense of community around this journey. Everyone is approachable, friendly and helpful – the hotel people, store keepers, fellow peregrines, and everyone I have met so far. People swap hints and what to look out for, directions,….it’s really quite revealing.
I think I am ready now. I visited the office of the Friends of the Camino (Les Amis de La Chemin de Saint Jacques) in the old town, and have shopped for water and energy snacks. I took Sue Pinkerton’s advice and bought nougat, though I not sure she meant 2 pieces of nougat covered in dark chocolate (Nougat Noir) from a chocolate shop!
I guess to the astonishment of many I should say that I have also gone to Easter Sunday mass in the centuries old stone church which is the Camino starting point. Later I’ll follow the tradition and light a candle in this church before commencing the journey.
Tomorrow I simply turn left out of the front of the church, walk out through the Port d’Espange and head to Roncenvalles. I wish it were that easy……I shall have to channel my inner Indiana Jones.
(These posts may become a little more disjointed as I start the walk proper. If I only have access to my iPad and the wifi in a hotel isn’t good (like here), my WordPress formatting options are very limited)