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El Camino: Day 1 (Saint Jean, France to Roncesvalles, Spain)

Posted on 14 September 2012 by christie

Christie climbing the Camino

The first day…Christie climbing the Pyrenees on the Camino

The hardest decision we had to make today was whether we would lunch in France or Spain? We elected Spain, of course! We knew the first day of the Camino was going to be the toughest. We set out early from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to begin our trek through the Pyrenees Mountains. We met many pilgrims on the road as we stepped out of our albergue at 7:30am sunrise. It felt surreal that we were actually doing 800 kilometers on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.

I can’t lie, I was quite nervous about this first day trekking 28 kilometers over the steep Pyrenees Mountains into Spain. The highest point we were expected to reach is 1,890 meters. The initial 8 kilometers ascent led us through green farm pastures with sheep, horses and country homes perched high in the Pyrenees. The refugio at Orisson was the first major stop where some pilgrims decided to stay overnight and tackle the rest of the 20km mountains the following day. Continue Reading

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Pilgrim’s Passport….. Buen Camino!

Posted on 13 September 2012 by christie

Scallop Shell

The official Credential/Pilgrim’s Passport. The scallop shell is the traditional emblem of St. James

Oh boy…here comes the rain on our first short introduction to walking the Camino. After two amazing weeks with Christie’s mom in Montenegro, Croatia and Barcelona….. we made our way to San Sebastian in Northern Spain. From there we caught a short taxi ride across the border to Hendaye, France. There, we hopped on the train to Bayonne. After a one hour lunch break, we joined all the other new pilgrims on the train to the starting point of the Camino, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in Southern France.


Four kilometers to Hotel Mendy in Saint-Jean-le-Vieux

Saint-Jean-le-Vieux, France
We decided at the last minute to arrive in Saint Jean a day early. All accommodations were completely booked in the town. Luckily, we found Hotel Mendy in a small village four kilometers away called Saint-Jean-le-Vieux. The short four kilometer walk to the hotel was a quick introduction to walking with seven extra pounds. We smiled when realizing that our packing skills were quite good…….. as we passed several pilgrims with packs double our size. On the way to our hotel, we met a mother and daughter named Katherine & Emily. They were from Florida and starting the Camino a day earlier. It was Emily’s idea to do the Camino while she took a semester off from nursing school. Her mother was fortunately able to take a seven week vacation from work. Katherine is hoping her job is still there when she returns to Florida. Continue Reading

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Our Camino de Santiago Begins

Posted on 12 September 2012 by christie

The Camino Begins

Bonjourno…Pilgrim beginning her journey on the Camino

Today we begin an adventure of a lifetime. We land in Saint Jean Pied de Port, France to begin the “El Camino de Santiago” or “The Way of St. James”. I have always dreamed about conquering the El Camino since I first stepped foot in Spain more than twelve years ago. Brett and I had several discussions over the years about the 800 kilometer ancient walk across Spain. After traveling for almost nine months (throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe), we’ve become quite exhausted from hopping around countries. Short visits make it difficult to fully embrace any one culture or gain much spiritual enlightenment. Walking the Camino gives us the opportunity to immerse ourselves into Spanish culture, while delving deep into our souls.

Our decision to do the walk was solidified by watching the film “The Way” directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father Martin Sheen. The film depicts the thirty day pilgrimage across Northern Spain through a tragic father and son story. The father embarks on the Camino in memory of his son who died during the first day in the Pyrenees Mountains. Estevez incorporates a collection of true stories from pilgrims who have taken the journey over the years. The film is indeed inspiring and within the first thirty minutes Brett and I made the final decision to embark on our own Camino.
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