Happy birthday to me!
Yesterday I sat in the gardens in St. Jean Pied-de-Port staring at the mountains and contemplating my Chemin de St. Jacques experience. It was the first day that I wasn’t in walking mode. My routine for the past month was the following:
Up by 6:30 am, at the latest
Either make breakfast or be served. The most important thing about breakfast was how much more was served beyond bread with butter and jam. I supplemented with fruit and yogurt.
Pack my pack, fill water bottles.
On the trail by first light.
I usually started alone but you’re never alone on Le Chemin. So I had companions for a while but then they disappeared and I was back to scouring for blackberries or figs. I always had my antennas out for blazes.
There were always a couple of obvious stopping points on the trail. It could be a church, a water spout or a picnic table placed there by the village. And then I’d find walkers from my gite or other places.
Finally my destination. Some hikers don’t book and just assume that there would be a place for them. Sometimes, they’d have to move on. But I always booked a day or two in advance.
Some pilgrims collapse in their bed for an hour. Others grab a shower before the bulk of the hikers arrived. After a cup of tea, I explored the village – the church, memorial and any open stores. By then, it would be after 3 pm and any store that was going to be open was. I also resupplied for breakfast and lunch.
Back at the gite for a shower, hand wash clothes and put them on the line to dry. By that time, the owner or manager would show up to check us off, collect the fee for the gite and stamp our credential, a kind of Chemin passport.
And I asked breakfast and dinner times and wifi password, if they had wifi. The owner would explain the rules of the house: boots here, packs there and just take what you need in the dormitory.
Dinner was either cooked by the owner – that was the most fun and most common. Otherwise, we’d cook as a group or go out to a restaurant.
After dinner, I’d write up notes, blog and email. A little chatting and off to bed.
Repeat the next day.