Travel to St Jean Pied de Port

Mar 26. Day 0.

Our bus from Pamplona to SJPP leaves at 1430 hours. Prior to falling sick, I had thought the free morning would have been a great opportunity to see Pamplona’s sights. Our hotel is located in the historical quarter which is very central.

Our respective health did not seem to improve over night. My cold has worsened and Joon’s cough is stubbornly holding on with multiple greeny hands.

My sleep last night was the most interrupted since I flew out from Seattle.

It struck me that this illness is perhaps a way for us to empathize with those who begin their Camino in less than optimal health. I had been reading and praying about ‘humility’ as we travelled (having the right e-books on the Kindle has been a boon to me). Could this be a response to my prayers?

We took a leisurely walk outside from 9-11am. It was 10C/50F. Definitely needed my fleece sweater.

Pamplona was founded by Roman general Pompey in 75 BC! This is seriously old.

Our first stop was City Council, as its facade is world-famous Baroque. Would you agree?

Pamplona’s City Hall

Several blocks away was the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Real. A Spanish Mass service was just beginning. It was lovely hearing the chanting as we decided to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet in the Divine Mercy chapel.

Facade of the Cathedral. This tower has a large bell, 12 tons.

Interesting main altar with its iron gates

Divine Mercy chapel

As we walked these old streets, there are interesting facades and shops.

Someone taking pictures of this facade caught my attention.

Mouth watering jamon ham sandwiches

These were priced at Euro 3.95. Packaged for eating on the go, no?

Fishy display!! Love it

Close up of the fishes in the display window fronting the street.

We returned to the hostel and relaxed before checking out at 12pm. This Hostal Arriazu is highly recommended – black out curtains, comfortable beds, quiet, modern bathroom, self serve and locking luggage cabinets if you need to leave them behind for a while, a great map of the area, coffee machine (1 Euro), microwave (latter two in reception lobby). Euro 44 for the night.

We decided to take a slow walk, restaurants only open for lunch at 1pm. The bus station was underground with shops and a cafeteria. Latter is passable, one of those diners along American freeways that is a forgettable experience.

A number of backpackers started coming into the cafeteria at 2pm. This bus is un-numbered (i.e. no designated seats on the tickets). Hopefully, it’s not full. The bus had about 11 passengers, and about 8 of us dis-embarked at SJPP. The ride was only 2 hours, but a long two hours via mountain roads, with many twists and turns. The bus did lurched from side to side many times.

Our bus driver went up to the front of the bus prior to driving off, speaking in Spanish and holding a blue plastic bag. I told Joon it was probably about discarding trash. Half way through, we figured it was barf bags, which Joon unfortunately had to use.

TIP: If you are the type who takes Dramamine when traveling, do skip lunch prior to boarding this 1430 hours bus.

Our routine on the Camino is quite straightforward. Once we check in, it’s unpacking the essentials and doing a quick hand wash of our clothes.

Joon rested while I strolled about SJPP. Went up some walled walkways, stopped in a church and a grocery store (for some fresh oranges). The storekeeper’s ‘Au voir and Merci’ reminded me that I was now in France. I was still using my limited Spanish of ‘gracias’. This also explains the fashion stores I saw during my walk about.

During my walk, I realised our accommodation didn’t have a staffed reception area (they had previously provided instructions on how to get my room key from a locked box). Net, I contacted them to inquire about luggage transfer. Fortunately, someone responded in French (the staff who speaks/writes English had probably left) and I could guess the core essence of the message. I then called the luggage transfer services and was able to arrange this before they closed at 7pm. The Pilgrims Office was several doors away, so we got the extra credential/passport that we needed (one in Spanish because I had ordered a book, the other in French). We got some additional info, they close at 8pm.

TIP: If you are planning to use luggage transfer services, arrange it while offices are open. Express Bourricot handles luggage transfer from SJPP up to Roncesvalles, after which Jacobtrans takes over. E/B can be reached at +33 661 960 476.

E/B mentioned that they had 60 customers today. During the peak season (May thereabouts), they can average 500 a day!

Symbols of St James the Pilgrims

Evening view across the streets of SJPP

Joon preferred not to eat dinner, fortunately I had bought some oranges during my walk about , and I had a protein bar.

We will be waking up tomorrow to the morning sun as our room lacks any curtains or shutters. An unexpected experience to relish.

Our Camino Frances begins tomorrow!

Post script: I brought and used a soap bought when we visited the Dead Sea. A way to connect these two pilgrimages!

Author: Ben & Joon

Residents in the great Pacific North West. Living life as it happens, learning our purpose and trail blazing our own paths. Namaste.

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