There was 5 of us that would be walking the Camino in October 2016, my husband, my sister, my sister’s friend and her brother. We were all new to the idea of spending a vacation to just walk, so we decided this would be a small taste of the Camino. Not being an athletic bunch, we planned to take our time walking the 67.7 km from St Jean Pied de Port to Pamplona in 4 days. This stage is usually broken down into 3 in the guide books. Our Itinerary was:
- Day 1: St.Jean – Orisson 8 km.
- Day 2: Orisson – Roncesvalles 16 km.
- Day 3: Roncesvalles – Larassoana 27.7 km.
- Day 4: Larassoana – Pamplona 16 km.
My husband and I arrived in France earlier than my sister, so we had a couple of days to explore Paris before starting our Camino. We headed to St. Jean Pied de Port by train from Montparnasse to Bayonne (approx. 5 hrs), then Bayonne to St. Jean(approx. 1 hr). Let me also add that we came to St. Jean without having researched anything on the Camino except for watching the movie ‘The Way’ and a couple of YouTube videos. We were so lucky to have exceptional weather for our walk because we didn’t even bring any rain gear. If it wasn’t for my sister, I would have probably tried to do the walk with my Skechers but luckily she pushed me to buy hiking shoes.
As usual it was my sister that did most of the planning for this trip, including our awesome stay at Gite Ultreia in St. Jean Pied de Port. We stayed there two days. In hindsight, it wasn’t necessary to stay two nights since we were so excited to get started. However, we made the most of it, exploring the beautiful town of St. Jean. We walked around the historic Citadel, catching a beautiful view of the town from up the hill. We also did a bit of shopping. There are plenty of shops selling walking sticks and other hiking gear.
Of course, one of our first stops was at the Pilgrims office to pick up our pilgrim’s passport. We also received our first stamp and a small map of the trail for the Pyrenees, including elevations. Looking back, I think this was the only map we had while we were on route. We ended the day by grabbing some groceries and fixing ourselves dinner for that night and sandwiches for the following day.
Tips for Walking the Camino in October:
- Decide how long you’re going for
- Check a guide book to see which routes you want to take. There are plenty of choices. I recommend John Brierley’s ‘A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago” for the French Way.
- Bring good hiking shoes. Take a couple of hikes with your shoes before starting your Camino.
- Research on what to pack I’ll be posting a packing list soon. Walking the Camino in October wasn’t too cold but it’s good to bring clothes to layer.
- Decide how you’re getting to St. Jean. We took Air Iceland from Toronto to Paris (approx. $600 cad per person with a free 7 day stopover in Iceland). From Paris we took the train to St. Jean Pied de Port (approx. 127 cad per person). There are also options of flying into Biarritz and taking the train from there to St. Jean.
- Once you are on the Camino make sure you always have enough cash to last 2-3 days, some places only take cash and some towns do not have banks or bank machines
- Pick up your credencial/pilgrim’s passport at the pilgrims office in St. Jean, address: 39, R. de la Citadelle
- If you’re staying in St. Jean, check out Gite Ultreia. They have beds (16 euros per night) and private rooms w/ bathroom available (48 euros per night) https://www.ultreia64.fr/en/. They have a complete kitchen, friendly staff and clean facilities.
- Try this delicious specialty Basque cake….