I was waved off on the train from Stamford three days ago and met my cousin Matt at Stansted airport. We got a bite to eat and settled down for a bit of sleep before baggage check-in opened. Although I was nervous it was not too bad. In the morning however the airport got very busy and I suffered my first panic attack that I have had for a very long time. Matt was very understanding and helpful and took me to a quiet corner in a closed cafè and “sorted me out”!
Going through airport security was difficult for me with it being so busy and once we were through to the departure lounge I then had to keep going to the toilet to be sick! I didn’t think I was going to be able to board the flight but Matt wouldn’t take no for an answer and although we were the last on the plane with just seconds to spare (literally!) we made it! I slept all the way to biarritz airport and felt much better once we landed. We got a bus to Bayonne train station and then the slow mountain train to St jean pied de port.
Once there we registered in the pilgrims office and got our credentials and maps as well as some advice on weather for the next day. Then we went straight opposite to the albergue that we were booked into for our first night, l’esprit du chemin. This is one of the most amazing places I have ever been to. The lady that was running the show was so kind and helpful, as were all the staff. We were shown to our beds and shown where the showers etc were. Dinner was at 7pm and before we ate we were welcomed and each person was asked to introduce themselves to the other pilgrims and say a bit about why they are walking the Camino. I didn’t feel comfortable with this at all and so Matt introduced me when he introduced himself, explaining that one of the reasons I was nervous and doing the Camino was because I want to overcome my agoraphobia. Everybody was fantastic and Jeanine, the lady running things taught me a meditation technique to try to help me overcome it.
We left in the morning, sent off with a packed lunch of omelette in a French stick, and began the most difficult walk of my life! I had been warned that it would be difficult but I had no idea just how hard it was to be! If you are planning on walking the Camino, please, learn from my mistake – train hard!
I have suffered a knee injury on my first day, the climb was so steep and so long. Lesson learned – this is NOT a race! But we made it to Roncesvalles and booked into a very modern albergue which apparently was fully refurbished last year. After showering and washing our clothes we walked round the corner to a restaurant where we had a few beers and ordered the pilgrims menu. We got a lot for our 9€! Pasta and chorizo to start, followed by whole trout with fries and wine. We then headed back to the albergue for a well deserved rest! I was falling asleep before lights out and despite free wifi was too tired to write for this blog…