It’s kind of crazy when you think about it. I showed up in a small town in France with the directive to look for yellow arrows or seashells which would lead me 500 + miles across Spain. And… it worked.
I arrived to St Jean Pied de Port, a small town in the southwest corner of France, by train. There were other pilgrims on the train (I could tell by the backpacks and the walking sticks), so I followed them into town. I started chatting with Harry, an older gentleman from LA who said he had previously walked the Camino and vowed never to do it again. And yet here he was. I wondered what drew him back. I wondered if I would feel the same at the end of my trek.
As others pealed off into hotels and hostels, I made my way to what I thought was the pilgrim’s office. While listening to the volunteer tell me about what trails to take and which to avoid, I wondered if I really was in the right place. Had I seen a sign on the door? I don’t remember seeing a sign. Was I actually at an albergue (a hostel only for pilgrims)? I looked around. It could have been the reception area for an albergue, I guessed (having never been in an albergue before). Would he soon ask me for money? I looked at him and asked him, rather confusedly, “Where am I?” He laughed and said I was in the pilgrim’s office in St Jean Pied de Port. I thanked him. He drew me a map, directing me to the local municipal albergue.
I arrived and placed my things on a lower bunk bed, saying hello to other pilgrims I had seen on the train. After a few attempts, I found a restaurant that was open and ate a mediocre meal. I fell asleep, wondering what it would feel like to be on the Camino (it didn’t feel like I was on the Camino yet, though I guess technically I was).
In the morning I woke early, mainly due to others stirring in the room. I began what would become a familiar routine of packing everything back into multiple dry bags and stuffing them into my backpack, then double, triple, quadruple checking to make sure I hadn’t left anything behind. In the kitchen, I quietly ate a slice of white bread with butter on it and drank a mug (perhaps the largest mug I’ve ever held) of strong black tea. I listened to the others talking. I filled my water bottles. I walked outside. I looked around. What now? I didn’t see any of the magical yellow arrows I was supposed to follow. I wasn’t even sure whether I should head left or right on the small street I was on. I heard others coming so I busied myself with tying my shoes and adjusting my backpack. Groups of people took pictures together, documenting the start of their journey. What I didn’t know then was that these people had just met. They seemed so friendly, I assumed they had traveled together to start the journey. I engaged in some banter, and when they started walking, I followed. And as we walked, I saw the first shell. I was on the right path…
7 thoughts on “Beginning”
Can’t wait to read more and hear all about it!
CLIFFHANGER! Next instalment pls. Nom nom!
Finally a nibble from the story we have all been waiting for! Can’t wait for another bite and to see your smiling face.
Love your stories, Lori!
Yay, the stories!
I’m going to live vicariously through you, Loriloo! Can’t wait to see how the journey unfolds!