Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Le jeu son fait
After 33 hours of travel we arrived safely, if somewhat weary, in St. Jean Pied de Port. During the train journey south we stared out at a rictus of hoar frosted fields and frozen ponds flashing past as the TGV sped towards Bordeaux. Our thoughts drifted to the Pyrenees and the cold climb ahead of us. But, as the kilometers clicked off the weather moderated and our spirits climbed with the thermometer. Upon arrival in St. John we departed the train station into a dark empty town. It was right around freezing but calm as we climbed the steep narrow streets searching for the Pilgrim Office. A well practiced Kabuki of gestures augmented my high school French and miraculously we were led through the shadows by kind strangers to an iron gate which in turn led to the only visible pool of light along the stone wall of what turned out to be the Pilgrim Office. A knock on the door ushered us into the presence of two very kind men who registered us and gave us our pilgrim credentials. Antoine then took us up to the municipal albergue where we were to spend the night. He also walked us down to a bar where he arranged a meal for us. The kindness of people in this town is remarkable. It is as though they keep a silent vigil, awaiting the next pilgrim to wander in off the road, anxious to answer their needs. It is now Wednesday and we are off to Valcarlos under a clear cold sky. The Port D'Espagne, our exit from the town, awaits us. Very soon the crunch of gravel under our feet will mark the start of our camino. What an experience so far and it has only just begun.